Testimony – To do again.

I am the biggest sucker for anything inspirational. Growing up, I could never get enough of the Chicken Soup for the Soul (a book filled with short inspirational stories). I always have resonated with movies that had an underdog character -the one who fought hard and overcame a huge roadblock in their life. My mom would recall stories to my brother and I about people with bold faith who weren’t afraid of risk, and because of their faith, it propelled them to make a profound impact on other people’s lives.

I can still remember so distinctively these stories. I still remembered the story about how a single mother in poverty raised a son and the son later became a heart surgeon. She would assign her son’s book report despite she couldn’t read and she would pretend to check them. He later became a successful doctor. It was only last year that I found out the name of the surgeon who not only turned out to be the first to perform surgery on conjoined twins but also a candidate in 2016 Presidential election. If you haven’t guessed by now, it is Ben Carlson. 

As I was listening to a podcast titled open doors, I couldn’t help to think how God has opened many doors for me in these last few years. I have taken an Old Testament course two years ago, and my professor explained that it was important for us to talk about our testimony because testimony essentially means “to do again”. At the end of our Friday morning class, she would ask if anyone had any prayer request. I remembered one of my quad mates asking for prayers for a new job. Literally in the same week, a girl in her class approached her about an opening at a clothing boutique, and she was hired instantly. 

The next week I was thinking what the heck, why not ask for the class to pray that I would get a job too. A few weeks later, I was hired at Chick-fil-A as a marketing assistant, which also served as my internship which was a requirement for graduating in the Communication department. Aside from the definition of testimony, testimony is a way to encourage others who need encouragement, or it’s just your personal story of God’s faithfulness throughout your life. 

I’ve been wanting to share my testimony on my blog because although I love updating everyone with my constant food posts and updates of my whereabouts in Shanghai, but I would have never had these opportunities if it weren’t for God’s hand in all of this. Six years ago, I surrendered my life to Christ in Kansas City, Missouri. I guess I could call myself a born-again Christian. I was brought up in Sunday school and around church activities, but I stopped caring about middle school. 

Anyways, I was at my brother’s church and I remember feeling so broken inside. I remember asking God out of desperation and saying, “ My heart is pretty much all numb, but I have this small hole in my heart but could you please enter it if you can…” I went back home to California that weekend, and I lived my life pretty much the same before I left. But then I remember, going out to clubs or out in general, and it just wasn’t that fun anymore. I was appalled when I saw guys groping other women with their hands and it was seen as “having swag.” I’m not saying I am above all of it, but it was weird really, those places just didn’t have the same type of appeal to me anymore. 

Then I remembered I purchased a bible, and I started trying to read it in the morning. It was actually quite difficult because I didn’t have much background knowledge. Meanwhile, I was in Culinary school and I was about to drop out. I didn’t want to pay for an expensive degree to only have the title of being a chef. The truth was I didn’t even wanted to be a chef, I just loved being around anything food-related, and learning about food.

That is when I came to the conclusion that I needed to go back to community college. Thankfully, my grandma helped me out paying for all my college tuition, books, and even gas, and extra spending money for a year and a half. It was the most humbling time of my academic life. I placed so low in my placement test for both English and Math that I had to take two remedial classes before I could take a class that would actually transfer. I was in an ESL class among many people who were foreign exchange students. 

I somehow became eligible for a program called LART at De Anza. LART basically merged both English and math class into each semester, so that as long as students passed each class, they were guaranteed to complete all their required English and math classes in three-quarter semester. Also, LART students were given guidance counseling for transferring. 

During that fall semester, I remember fasting my first time ever for direction with school because I could not even imagine going to a 4-year university. My community school counselor had just informed me that transferring out for me would take me about five years.I remember googling that night, Christian universities. At that stage of my life, I really wanted to be in a Christian university. I looked through all the different Christian colleges, and none of them felt like one I was excited to go to. I was about to close my computer thinking I had already checked all of them, and I saw that I missed Vanguard University. I clicked on the webpage, and I read the mission statement, and it was like “this was the one.” 

Despite that I saw the tuition fees, I signed for their mailing list. I remember kneeling on the edge of my bed and saying a short and simple prayer, “ Please bring me to my Dream school.” A few months later, I applied not thinking much of it. I got in, and I was so excited! However, I was scared. Where was I going to come up with all this money in such a short period of time? 

I just knew I had to be there. I ended up getting some scholarship money, and I took out a loan through FAFSA. I went there that same year. I only had enough credits to be a sophomore, but I was in a hurry to finish in two years. During the university’s winter break, I signed up for Sociology and Psychology online at a community college which was three weeks long and intensive. That summer I crammed five more courses between my university and community college. Because I took all those additional courses while doing the normal 18 full-time units in the semester, I only had to stay at my university for two years. I was able to take two more classes and get a minor in religion as well. 

Two months before graduating, I went to a job fair at my school in hopes to find a job. I found a grad program that gives students opportunity to live, study, and work in China. This opportunity was too awesome to pass up on. During college, I found that I actually really enjoyed learning and being in school. Also, being a Chinese American, I never felt fully connected with my roots, but also having those strong urges to want to know more about my Chinese culture and heritage. I almost felt like the program was tailor made for me. The program had just extended it’s due date for the application. Luckily, I had a lot of the information for the applications because I was also applying for law schools that semester. It happened all so fast I had my interview, and two weeks later, ( a month before I graduated) I received an email notifying me that I was accepted, followed by an acceptance package that month.

I was very indecisive about doing the program. There was just too much uncertainty. This was one of the biggest leap of faith. Honestly, i didn’t have any clear indication that I was suppose to go or not. I just knew that I prayed about the opportunity and the door opened. For those who know me, know that I am not much of a traveler and I’m not too adventurous compared to the other students in my cohort. So it was quite funny that I am in Shanghai. I have just hit the 4 month mark, and I am almost finish with the Spring semester. It has not always been easy to adjust and balance everything, but it’s been quite an amazing journey. 

To wrap this all up, I am sharing my story because I wanted to describe how God’s grace and mercy has been evident to me more than ever in these last few years of my life. I know for a fact that these events didn’t happen because of a coincidence or by my own pure determination to make things happen but it was clearly a divine presence intervening on my behalf for every step of the way, and even now. So many times, I have felt inadequate, but God either sent me people to help me in my most vulnerable times, or he encouraged me through his word when I lacked confidence. That is literally what helps me get through the days when its rough. 

I honestly am really flattered when people say that there proud of me when they see how much I’ve changed, but at the end of day, not any of these accomplishments would have been possible if I had not submit my life to Christ. I know myself, and I know my weaknesses all to well. I am far from perfect. I go through vicious cycles all the time, of doing well messing up and asking for forgiveness. One of the benefits, of knowing Christ is that I am more honest about who I am and what are my shortcomings. However, it’s literally in the times where I felt that I have been at my lowest where I have experienced God in the most real ways ever. 

Thank you for reading this. I know this was pretty lengthy but I hope it provides you some type of encouragement to always share your stories and testimonies. You never know who you can inspire with your stories. 

With love, 

Sam

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