Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Journey from Buddhism to New Life in Christ

As we are currently back in the States on furlough, away from the mission field of Eastern Europe, I noticed that one of my articles had been posted on another website called VN Salvation.  So I contacted the President of that ministry, Hai Chuong, to introduce myself and get acquainted. I was interested in knowing if he was in Vietnam or the States, and was surprised to find out that he is only two hour's drive from me here in North Carolina, USA! So we had a great chat on the phone, during which he shared with me how he came to the States from Vietnam and how he came to know Christ.  Here is his amazing testimony of his search for truth, his harrowing journey as a boat person, and his miraculous conversion to Christ.

The Testimony of Hai Chuong
At the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, after twenty years of conflict and thousands of bombs being dropped, there were two million South Vietnamese dead, fifty-eight thousand American soldiers dead, and 504 Australians dead.  Since the communist Viet Cong had won, they began to round up anybody that had fought against them during the war and put them in prison.  The South Vietnamese people were scared; therefore, hundreds of thousands of them fled their homeland as refugees.  In 1979, I was one of those people who fled from Vietnam with my family as a refugee at the age of eighteen years old. 

Boat people, courtesy Wikipedia
We were known as boat people since that was the best way to escape.  Families had to sell all their valuables in order to buy a boat or pay a fisherman money to get out. Some of these boats were only three by ten yards in size and made of wood.  And then we had to secretly gather together in small groups of three to five, so that we would not be noticed, because if they caught us they would either shoot us or put us in prison.  And then once we escaped, we knew we would never see our families again, whom we had left behind.  We were on the Pacific Ocean in this small wooden boat, packed in like sardines, which was a terrifying experience.  There were many dangers and hardships to endure.   As people became sea sick, they would vomit right on the boat where they were, and they would also relieve themselves right where they were.  There were Thai pirates that could come on board and plunder our belongings or capture young women to rape or be sold.  There was the threat of thunderstorms, shipwreck, or running out of supplies and starving to death.  That is why one million South Vietnamese people died trying to escape the post-war horrors of communism.

My family has total eight brothers and sisters. We left Vietnam at three different times within a year, and ended up in three different countries as refugees – Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia – none of which we were welcomed in. We had some relatives in the United States, so we got in contact with them and managed to emigrate to Wisconsin, USA.

We were Buddhists from a Buddhist country, but a Lutheran church sponsored us. We attended the church services, but did not understand what they were saying. Although they were very kind to us, we declined their offer to get saved or become a Christian.

However, I had been looking for Truth since I was a child.  As a child, I had seen so much death, including my father’s death in 1974, so I determined that I would look for the Truth when I grew up.  I knew that whomever could conquer death had the Truth. After five years in the U.S., we received a letter about some of our relatives passing away. I was so shocked by that terrible news. I still wanted as much as ever to know Truth.

Although I was a Buddhist, I didn’t really know much about Buddhism.  My parents told me, “You’re a Buddhist, so live a good life.”  But they did not really give me much of the teachings of our religion.  So as an adult in the States, I tried to learn Buddhist teaching. The more I read, I realized that Buddha cannot save you. Buddha said you must save yourself! And he himself died, so how could he save anyone?

Nobody ever told me about Jesus.  As a young person I had watched a movie about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But they only showed Him die on the cross, and did not explain why He died or show Him rise from the dead.  I was scared of the blood there on the cross. So I didn’t like to think about that. I even had Catholic friends in Vietnam, who could have told me the Truth, but nobody told me Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  In Vietnam, some Buddhists had black magic power like voodoo, but the Catholics had no power in their lives, and I wanted to know who had the power to overcome death.  I thought, “What good is it to worship a man like Jesus if He has no power?”

In the U.S., I did not feel I could find the answer I was looking for.  Death had so much power! I thought that nobody could overcome it. 

Then a friend of my oldest sister in Houston, urged my sister to open the Chinese restaurant, since he knew how to cook. My sister listened to him. I lived with my sister's family at that time in Houston, and my sister opened a Chinese restaurant in Arkansas. Since there was a military base there, a refugee camp was set up, where there were many Vietnamese refugees.

Then my sister decided to close her restaurant, and she began to look for someone to buy it from her.   But she could not find a buyer. She began asking $63,000 and even though she lowered her price to $30,000, she could not sell it! She made trips back and forth between Texas and Arkansas, which was very difficult for her, because of the travel and staying in motels. So the process of trying to sell the restaurant was hard for her. While working at the restaurant, my sister had met a Vietnamese Christian woman, who really liked my sister. Then one day that Vietnamese Christian woman invited my sister to stay with her at her house, whenever she was in Arkansas.

One day that woman told my sister, “Can you listen to me this time? Let us go to church, and ask the Lord to sell your restaurant. If He does, then you will become a Christian. If not, you don’t have to do anything.” So my sister did so. Even though Christianity seemed to us like just an American religion, my sister did not want to displease the woman, because she was so kind to her.

At the Vietnamese Church in Arkansas, they had worship and then a time for prayer requests. My sister’s Christian hostess stood up and asked everybody to pray that the Lord would help her sell the restaurant.  Miraculously some Chinese businessmen came and bought the restaurant that same day! So the Christian woman said to my sister, “You remember your promise!” So my sister became the first Christian in our family.

I was single at that time, living in Houston with my sister and her family, still searching for the Truth of overcoming death.  My sister did not even believe in Jesus, but she did not want to displease the lady, so she went through the motions of becoming a Christian. But when she returned to Houston to her own place, she figured the lady would not know if she did not attend church or follow the Lord. However, the lady knew Christians in Houston. So she arranged to get my sister connected with a Vietnamese church there, and my sister began to go to church in Houston, since she didn't want to show the Vietnamese Christian woman she was fake. I was upset with my sister. I said, “Why did you become a Christian? You didn't ask us!” I confronted her. Then she told her story about the miracle God did in selling her restaurant and how she became a Christian. Of course, after hearing that, I could say nothing more, but I was still against it, since it was just an American religion to me.

At my sister’s place in Houston, where I lived with her as a single man, eventually her husband became a Christian.  People from their church would come to the house for Bible study.  I always avoided them, since I did not want to get into confrontation or conflict. One day the Vietnamese pastor knocked on the front door. I would not have answered the door, if I knew it was the pastor. But I didn’t know, so I answered and he came in for an unannounced visit. 

During the visit, he talked with me, and I tried to be polite. He talked and it seemed like he just kept on talking. I wanted to get out of there so badly. Finally the pastor stopped talking and said, “Before I leave, did you know Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead?”  At that moment, it was like the lights went on inside of me.

I asked, “What did you say?”

He replied, “Did you know Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead?”

I said, “No. How did it happen?”

He said, “He died and rose from the dead in three days.”

I said, “That's real! That's true!” It was the Truth I had been searching for all my life!

Then I recalled how my grandfather had died, while my grandmother was sleeping close to him and heard him call out that he was thirsty.  I recalled how my grandmother had given him water, and he lived a couple more years. I wondered if Jesus was weak like that after He returned to life.

The pastor said, “No, He was strong and fully alive.”

I asked, “Did He die again after that?”

“No. He conquered death. He never died again. He appeared to His disciples for forty days, and then ascended into heaven where He lives forever at the right hand of God.”

I told the pastor, “If that's the Truth, I will become a Christian.”

Hai Chuong
And once I became convinced of it, I said, “That's the Truth.” Then I became a Christian.

Like I said already, I had always thought, “What good is it to worship a man like Jesus if He has no power? If you cannot overcome death yourself, how can you save others?  If you are drowning, how can you rescue anyone else who is drowning?  But if you can overcome death, then you can save others.” 

My friend, Buddha cannot save you.  He died and his bones are in the grave.  He has no power, and he even said that you must save yourself.  But Jesus Christ is the only One who has conquered death.  He died on the cross two thousand years ago for your sins and mine, and He rose from the dead three days later.  He lives forever and He is able to save you, if you will repent of your sin and ask Him to forgive you.  When you invite Him into your heart, He will give you new life, abundant life, and eternal life, so that you can live forever. 

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (Joh 14:6)

He also said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (Joh 11:25-26)

 -- Hai Chuong

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Photo of boat people courtesy Wikipedia.

Author's note: Please see Opportunities to Serve the Body of Christ.  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog, such as The Truth Set Me Free!, The Joy I've Come to Know, and The Lord Healed My Backsliding.  You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.