(Shared on an occasion or two when I lived and worked in Raleigh, North Carolina, 1995-1997)
Testimony of DJ Chuang (circa 1996)
Never in my childhood dreams had I expected to be here sharing this story with you, but then again, all the while I was growing up, life had been more or less free flowing, and I was just a slave to circumstance.
To give you a better understanding of who I am, I want to start from the beginning. My parents were married in Taiwan, after leaving Mainland China just before the communist takeover in 1949. They were both math teachers early in their careers, and later my dad worked in journalism and printing. There were three boys in the family, including myself. I’m the oldest son. Our family was pretty well off; we had a live-in housekeeper and my mom didn’t have to work. The housekeeper took care of raising the kids, cooked the meals, cleaned the house. Mom was able to relax and enjoy life.
I don’t remember too much more about Taiwan.. An opportunity opened up, and our family moved to the United States, the land of opportunity. This was when I was eight years old, and my youngest brother was just a year old. My parents knew that they were giving up some security they had established, but they wanted the best for us kids, and brought us to this land of freedom. They knew that they had to endure much hard work. Mom would no longer be a maiden, but would have to toil. She had to learn to cook, household chores, and so on. At the same time, they knew that we kids didn’t have to endure the harsh competition of school in Taiwan. Perhaps you’d seen some of those documentaries about schools in the Orient. There indeed is great competition: Kindergarten started when I was 4; I took entrance exams to get into first grade at the private school, and there would be exams every year for entrance sake, and so on through high school and college. Very demanding work. School ran 10 months out of the year, and during summer and winter break, there was homework assignments. Basically, Orientals are overachievers, and they have a small head start and they put high demands on education.
Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, things were strict. What dad says goes. What dad says is right. Obedience was demanded; disobedience promptly punished. Values and respect for elders were taught in school and at home. Emotions were not shared amongst family members; I never heard “I love you, son.” My family is not very close. But my parents did care for us, and my parents were concerned with what we did with our lives. They desired that we kids spend free time to read books and study, to better our lives, to prepare for life. So that we can be better than the rest, to excel, to be rewarded for our effort. So that we can live comfortably and not have to struggle as our parents did. Time for play wasn’t important: dad always said that I’d have time to play when I grow up and have things established. Dad enjoys reading, and always pointed out those 14-year old geniuses that graduated from MIT with straight A’s. (MIT is the epitome of colleges, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Dad would often compare us to these geniuses, hoping we’d study harder and achieve.
That’s my family background. It wasn’t particularly fun, and I certainly wasn’t your average kid. There was no joy in my childhood, and I really looked forward to the day I would leave home and grow up and be an adult.
My family moved to Winchester Virginia to run a small motel business. I was twelve years old. Now, we had no extended family in the States (no cousins, aunts, and all that), and didn’t know anyone in Winchester as we made this move. An American family visited us, and my parents found them friendly. They invited us to go to Sunday School and church. My parents thought this was a great idea, we could learn morals and values, learn how to be good people (better known to you as law abiding citizens). My parents knew about Christians, and knew they were good and nice people. My parents agreed that we kids should go, and we went. Before we went, my parents warned us that if they ever asked us about baptism, just say no, because that would be too great a sacrifice: it would mean losing control of my life, having to submit to some authority, having to give up a portion of the money I earn. Dad taught us that we needed to maintain control of our lives, at all cost.
A couple from that church faithfully came by our home every week to bring us to Sunday School. Their kids had grown up and went to college or something. My brothers and I was in Sunday School during my middle and high school years. I learned about who Christ was and learned about the Bible. But it didn’t seem to make a difference to the other kids there, and it just looked like something people did. My parents went to church about twice a year, and they didn’t see much in church either. It seemed as if people just went to church, paid their respects, went home and just were nice moral people. I was seeking something deeper, with more purpose, and more impact on life. Something that provide comfort in my uncomfortable home.
One day in my high school senior year, a young truck driver stayed at our motel. He brought a Bible with him to share with us the Gospel. Even though we told him that we attended Sunday School, he still asked us to pray to receive Christ as our personal Savior. He explained the Gospel to us in a clear manner that it was apparent to me now that being a Christian is not being a church goer, not giving offerings every week, not being a moral and upright citizen, and not doing a bunch of fun things in a clean atmosphere. Being a Christian is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ died for me while I was yet a sinner (Romans 3:23) Christ could give me abundant life (John 10:10).
My father, my brother, and I bowed our heads to pray with him. I think they did this just to humor the guy, but I did sincerely pray with him and wanted a new life. My life didn’t change. I didn’t know who to tell, and no one seemed to be available to help me in being a Christian. I did not want to be just another church goer.
I had excelled in math and science courses in high school, so I entered Virginia Tech in electrical engineering. I had really enjoyed spending time on computers during high school, and Virginia Tech was computerizing their curriculum; in that, they required all engineers to purchase a computer and use it. Everyone always dreams of working at a job where they enjoy the work, and I thought this would be how I would have it made. I knew I wouldn’t get involved with the college drinking and party scene, but I was sure I could find a nice niche for me to enjoy my college years. At least, it had to be better than living at home. I had a confident knowledge of Christianity and wanted to give it a rest so I could enjoy my college years on my own terms.
I adjusted very easily to the freedom and environment at Virginia Tech. I enjoyed a change of surrounding and adapted with enthusiasm, to discover new things, to rearrange my room every quarter, to go to class using different routes, just to be different. At the same time, while I was enjoying all the various stimulations, I was depressed much of the time. I had grown up at home with a scowl on my face, and I think it stuck. I didn’t need a reason to be depressed, it just came easy for me. I fostered a “I don’t care” attitude, wallowed in moodiness and unpredictability (I couldn’t predict what I was going to do from moment to moment either!). For a few months during college, I followed up with my roommate and got familiar a little bit with the student radio station. I took a few opportunities to disk jockey, spin a few records, and enjoyed sharing my musical taste with my audience. (That’s how I got my name “DJ”)
Something did start to change within myself during my college years. Not only were my college years stimulating and educational, I was trying to respond to God’s grace. Two weeks after starting college, I went to a dinner held by the Chinese Bible Study Group. I met some nice people and continued to visit with them on Friday nights. As I studied God’s Word, I was reassured of my faith in Jesus Christ, and I confirmed my decision and by being baptized on the Saturday before Easter in 1985. Baptism was important to publicly announce my faith. But afterwards, I did not feel any real difference. I had hoped that after I took this step of obedience, God would make it easy to be a Christian for the rest of my life. I just didn’t know how to go about it, and I didn’t get a satisfactory answer from the faithful Christians that continued to share the gospel. I remained in fellowship at church and Bible studies, but my Christian maturity was slow in growth. I got involved with a girlfriend who wasn’t a Christian, and my faith failed to take root. For almost four years, I tried to keep one foot in the world and sin, and with my other foot in Christian things.
After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in Electrical Engineering, I wanted to work for a while. Studying just wasn’t lots of fun for me, even tho’ I did fairly well in school with not too much effort. I know God had blessed me with some great talents. My dad had desired that I study through a master’s or doctor’s degree, for he so much valued learning, and I assured him that I’d probably work a few years and return to school later. I took a job in Southern Maryland with a small Navy contractor. The company was small and the people were nice. But my Christian faith was really weak from my unequally yoked relationship. I had enough biblical knowledge to be dangerous, but barely enough to harm a fly.
About a month after I was established in the area, I met a Christian on a computer bulletin board. We conversed, and in spite of our differences, he could see a need to be established in Christ, to have a closer walk with the Lord. He invited me to visit a group called Christian Business Men’s Committee (CBMC) and to SAYSF Bible Church. Through the discipleship program called Operation Timothy (which is modeled after the Navigators’ Design for Discipleship), he helped me to establish a firm foundation in Christ and God’s Word. My relationship with my girlfriend ended, and my relationship with Christ developed. It was no easy task to breakup, having built such an emotional attachment, but God’s grace and strong Christian fellowship provided much healing. It was great to see committed men, men who were older than me, actively interested in people and sharing the gospel, and living out their Christian lives, with deep purpose and direction. It wasn’t just the be good and have high moral standards, be kind to your neighbor.. There was a vibrant difference in the Christians here, as each person contributes to the Body Life of Christ, and I’m blessed to be led by God’s sovereignty to this obscure county in Maryland.
Over the past two years, I’ve been involved in the ministry of CBMC. It has been a great blessing to be involved with men who know the importance of the Gospel and are ready for the opportunity to share the Good News. I’ve had the privilege of interacting with Godly men through the CBMC network and I’ve grown through their training seminars. One of the peculiar things they did was get together every week to faithfully pray for men who don’t know Christ personally, praying for opportunity to share, praying for their reception to the Gospel. I didn’t understand how it worked, but it was made clear me as God answered my small prayer in a big way.
One of my office-mate friends, who also attended Virginia Tech, accepted my invitation to come to a CBMC dinner meeting. Beyond my wildest expectation, my friend who seemed to have it all together with money and car and home and things and girlfriend would want to come to this CBMC dinner.
At the CBMC dinner, a fellow businessman shared his life with us, a testimony of what he had gone through in life, and where he is in life today. A testimony of how God touched his life through the person of Jesus Christ as revealed through the Bible, the Word of God. God worked that night, and my friend was receptive to the testimony of God’s grace at that dinner. I saw him accept God’s grace in Christ, and saw God really change him from the inside out. I know nobody has the power to change a life like that except Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord! I had the privilege to disciple him through Operation Timothy, and the discipleship process continues. He is walking with the Lord.
As I began to know who God is, and the deepest desire of His heart, and also to understand who God had created me to be, I realized my unique background can be greatly used for His purpose. God had blessed me with great talents that I sometimes hold back on instead of using it fully to bring glory to God. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of doing something good enough instead of doing it well and best. Paul says in Hebrews, to run the race in a manner to win.
In seeking His will for my life, I offered my willingness and availability to God. I offer my very life, as a living sacrifice, to let God use it as He has created it for. I know He knows the very best for me, and will fulfill me as only He can. Life doesn’t have to be a struggle with the fellow man or the rat race to keep up with Joneses. I trust that He will guide me and empower me and reveal His will to me. I began to notice that I have an interest in theology, and that I am not the driven task-oriented personality which typifies an engineer. I also recognize that my circumstances are openly available for a period of training: I have no debts, no house, no furniture, and no family obligations per se.
I realized that God has created me for a unique purpose. I know that I can profit from intensive Christian training to be used in greater ways. The thought of going to seminary was at first a curiosity, but as I had the opportunity to talk with full-time Christian workers and pastors, I found a special interest in what they were doing. I too wanted to study the deep riches of God’s Word so that I might share the Gospel with confidence, in encouraging others to be obedient to Christ, and in my own personal walk with God. I did not want to attend seminary just for the wrong motivation: I didn’t want to just learn more bible knowledge for my own sake. It was important that if I went to seminary, whatever I learned must be used for God’s glory and so that I might teach others and spur others to either come to know Christ or to grow closer to Christ.
As I considered more seriously to attend seminary, I found out about numerous opportunities in full-time Christian work. I know missions to foreign lands are available, churches around the world to be pastored, translation work with Wycliffe, Christian work through InterChristo; and in talking with some Chinese pastors, I know that there is a great need in the Chinese church for someone of my bicultural background–to help bridge the gap between the Chinese generation with old traditional mindsets to the American-born Chinese with a western mindset. The differing values can become quite a clash, or it can be harmonized. With opportunities abound, which one was God’s choice for me?
This summer I spent a week to retreat from the daily routines here in Maryland, and spent time in prayer and counsel, seeking the Lord’s guidance. Do I pursue seminary training? The week ended, and I felt God’s leading. There was no voice or vision, but that calm assurance. The evidence was clear, and God would reassure me with many things that this was His will.
At first, I couldn’t understand why God would choose me. For one, I am not the most eloquent speaker and communicator. And I make mistakes and realize my limited abilities. But then I read in the Bible that Moses wasn’t an eloquent speaker either, and I noticed that the men God used were not super-spiritual men, they were men with human weaknesses, but with humble and willing hearts; and God is able to do greater things than I could ever do on man’s own strength. His strength is perfected in my weaknesses. When great things happen beyond my own capabilities, it just demonstrates so much more the power of God. This was reassuring to me.
But God also gave me some tangible circumstances that affirmed my decision. I found out that my discipler had been praying for me for over a year that God would lead me toward seminary. I don’t know how he could have seen how God might use me in this way, because I was certainly not a mature and seasoned Christian. That was great comfort and reassurance. Then as I began to tell others about my decision to seek seminary training, and I was met with encouraging words. I was emotionally overwhelmed.
I’ve been blessed to meet several men that graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), and to see God’s hand at work through the ministry of DTS. The video library at SAYSF contains many messages produced by DTS, and they provided great inspiration and challenge. I was impressed by the quality of training and I had great respect for integrity of DTS. I know that the training is rigorous and it will train me well for further Christian service. I confirmed this with many other Christians and pastors.
I put my application in for Dallas Seminary, and awaited their response. I trusted God would provide the acceptance, if this indeed was His will. I also trust God would provide the finances needed, knowing that I don’t have the resources in and of myself to attend school. I selected their four-year Th.M. (Masters of Theology) program, specializing in systematic theology, to attain a complete seminary training. I am also hoping to add some courses in cross cultural ministries so that I might better work with differing cultures. It was a long wait for their response.
The response came on a Friday, the Friday of the weekend that I was planning to go visit my parents. I had been accepted by DTS! I hadn’t told my parents of my decision to seek seminary training, and the time had come to tell them. I wanted to be sure that God was going to work things out for my acceptance, and to be able to show that to my parents. God’s timing is too perfect. So that weekend, I prayed hard for the wisdom to approach my parents and tell them what had happened. I knew it would be difficult for them to understand, since they’re not Christians, and it seemed to them that I am giving up my career to do something that doesn’t mean a whole lot to them. As it happened, as I was leaving Sunday afternoon, I told dad that I am considering returning to school to study. Dad was excited that I would come to such a decision on my own! But I continued.. I am going to study the Bible, at a place they call seminary. The initial thrill turned into deep concern. I left that afternoon, and my parents had some time to discuss and research my decision. They called Dallas to get information about the school, and read some books about full-time Christian work, and were mostly concerned for my welfare and well-being.
In the meantime, God continued to confirm this big decision in my life. A week later, I received a Presidential scholarship that would assist me with my tuition for two years. God had already initiated provisions for my financial need! I talked with my parents two weeks later to share with them this great news. They were willing to allow me to go to seminary, acknowledging that I am grown up now, and know I am able to make responsible decisions. But they still show great concern for my finances. When I told them about the scholarship, they said where is the rest of the money going to come from? I know God would provide through His people. They also shared concern for my career after seminary. I told them that after seminary, it’s possible that I could return to the engineering world, trying to tell them that what education I have will not go to waste. My computer skills can be used in the professional world as well as Christian service. If only I could reassure them that God is in control and will provide for my life. For God loves me, and values me more than the sparrows; it’s great assurance to me that I don’t need to worry.
I left for Dallas in January 1991 with all my worldly possessions in my car. During my time in Dallas, God taught me many many things, and I still have much to learn about the Bible and life. God brought people who believed in me, and supported me as a person, thus my ministry could start to blossom. Through many struggles and discussions, God has seen me through it all. After 4.5 years of study, I completed a master’s degree. God also brought to me a new wife. I graduated on Saturday, and the next day, Sunday, I was married. Yes, if you have one of those stress charts, I topped it all. The summer transition really gave me needed rest, and the Lord continued to minister to me.
The door to ministry opened up in Raleigh, North Carolina, about 5 hours from my hometown. Our move here was a fun time, probably the most fun move we’ll ever have, as 4 of our friends drove with us in our caravan across half of the country. I am currently serving as youth pastor of Raleigh Chinese Christian Church. The ministry here has proved to be a great fit, and the transition smooth and quick. Glory to God in the highest!