Abundant Life for a Dying Man

No Strain on the Train(1)God drew up Keith from his deepest pits of despair and breathed new life into his hopeless self. Keith now loves and lives for Jesus – he has nothing better to speak of than His wondrous grace. Scott, Keith’s father, also tells the story of God’s work in their family.

Keith’s story, as told by Keith:

I am half Japanese and half Caucasian; my Dad is Caucasian and my Mom is Japanese. I have one brother who is 2 years older than me. My dad met my mom in Japan, and they got married. When I was three years old, they divorced. My mom moved back to Japan, and I and my brother stayed with my Dad in Colorado. Every summer, me and my brother would go and visit my mom in Japan (and still do to this day). At a young age, I had a lot of anger issues – I would throw fits of rage and just had a bad temper. From the age of 6 or 7 until the age of 12 or 13, I took medicine for anger. Now that I look back on it, I was acting out of confusion of losing my mommy at such a young age. I had abandonment issues with women.

My dad re-married when I was 5, and we moved to Arizona where I live now. I never knew my mom’s love so I would latch onto any woman that came around. I loved my step-mom. She had three kids, so the 7 of us joined together as one big happy family. The Brady Bunch makes it look so wonderful and easy, but it just doesn’t work out the way the TV shows portray it. The parents would take the sides of their kids when there would be fights and disputes among us. Christ was not in the family; if he was, it might have worked. But that does not matter now.  After 9 years of trying to work things out with the one big happy family, my dad and step mom got divorced when I was 14. I was crushed. I felt like I lost my mom again. There was already a hole, and it was as if someone had stitched up my heart, just to rip it open again, leaving me utterly hurt, confused, lost, sad, depressed.

After my step-mom and Dad split up, I fell into a deep, dark depression. I had thoughts of suicide. I cut my wrists to take the pain from heart and focus it on my body. One night, I was planning out how I would kill myself. Scared, I went and told my dad (he already noticed a big change in my mood and overall how I carried myself), so he took me to the hospital. The psychiatric nurse evaluated me and concluded that I was a danger to myself and admitted me to an in-patient Drug and Rehab Clinic. During those four or five days, I saw a girl addicted to meth and a girl addicted to heroin. Now that I look back on it, the Lord was always with me, watching over me even though I never accepted him in my life. He was preparing me with these girls in the rehab place for later on in my teen years (which I’ll tell you more about later).

When I got out of in-patient rehab, I was doing pretty good. I got back on the medicine I had taken as a child. Shortly afterward, my grandma (dad’s mom) died of emphysema. She was the one stable woman in my life who was always there. I remember when I played baseball, she would be in the stands with an oxygen tank cheering me on!! Funny thing is, she was the loudest out of anyone – the one I could always hear. She motivated me to make plays just for her, just to bring her joy. After she died, I was at a loss.  At 15, I started to smoke weed, cigarettes and drink alcohol. In high school, I went the “Cool Kid” route: partying, drugs, not caring about school, just barely getting by in life, going the way the world says you should. I smoked weed and cigarettes from 15 till I was saved. I dropped out of high school 2 times: Sophomore year and Junior year, and I still have yet to graduate. When I was 17, I started to do ecstasy. I did it for about 8 or 9 months straight. It started off every other weekend, then every weekend, then twice a week and taking about 2 to 5 pills at a time. I lost my virginity around the same time to a girl who worshiped the god of relationships while I worshiped the god of finding my Mom’s love.

I had a best friend Marissa who I knew since I was 5 years old. She was such a loving, caring, bright soul. She could walk into a room and make it glow with her presence. Her smile could make anyone happy. If you were having a bad day, all you needed to do is glance at Marissa’s smile and you couldn’t help but smile yourself. We stayed in touch ‘til Junior year of High school – when she committed suicide by shooting herself with a shotgun to the stomach. I was just so confused, hurt. All the pains from the past came back, ripping that hole in my heart wider and wider  - my mom, grandma, girl I lost my virginity to, step mom, and now Marissa. I was still doing ecstasy and started to do cocaine for about 3 to 4 months.

I left to Japan that summer to see my mom as I did every year.  When I came back, all my “friends” were not doing ecstasy or cocaine anymore; they were starting to do heroin and even meth. (This is what the Lord prepared me for when I was in rehab. He is the all-knowing wonderful, holy, awesome God.) When I was in rehab, I told myself then I WOULD NEVER DO THAT STUFF EVER IN MY LIFE. I saw the destruction that the Devil can do with his drugs, all devils candy. Drugs are just instant gratification, a fake copy, imitations of what God Almighty wants to give you. I stayed away from those old friends, and spoke out how much I was against that kind of stuff. But I was still smoking weed, drinking, smoking cigarettes. Thank the Lord I quit all the hard drugs.

At 18, I decided to go back to high school. I went to apply at my old public high school but because I was a senior and did not have enough credits, they did not allow me to go back. I was then forced to go to a Private school that pretty much takes in all the drop outs and bad kids. It was a small school with gates all around it. Three Sheriff Police Officers would rotate every day of the week watching closely at all the kids. Kids smoked weed in the bathroom, dealt prescription pills, heroine, ecstasy. You name it, they had it. I started to snort and take prescription pills. I met a girl there who had the same abandonment issues as me; her dad left when she was a baby. You’d think that since we had the same hurts, we’d be perfect for each other right? Well, the sad thing is when two people come together like that they are fatal together. We would bring each other down. We just stumbled and fell. We had sex about 3 weeks after becoming a “couple.” It was lust, not love. We were together for about 8 months when she broke up with me. I was torn, broken; the hole in my heart was so big I couldn’t see the other side. I fell into a deep, dark, horrible depression.

I was in my room with a shotgun in my mouth, loaded, ready to pull the trigger. But the Lord put something in my mind and reminded me of all the pain Marissa had caused for everyone, including me.  I then proceeded to ask myself, is there heaven or hell? My dad has been a Christian since he got out of High School, so I knew the basics growing up. I stopped myself. I had a shotgun where you had to pull back the hammer. I was shaking and inexperienced with guns, so I went outside my room to ask my dad to do it. He freaked out, as any parent would, and called the police. Knowing what would happen from going to rehab before, I wrestled my dad for the phone as he was on call with the operator. Because I wrestled for the phone, I got a domestic violence charge. I went to the hospital but was released later that night.

Later on that year, I got a D.U.I for driving while high on marijuana. I fell into such bad guilt, shame, and just overall condemnation. I started to look into the Devil’s work, the way his worshipers worship him, cults, and the way people gain power from him. When you invite God and read his Word, goodness, happiness, and love come into your life. When you invite the Devil into your life, he only comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He trapped me; he made me feel like this world I was living in, we are living in, was already hell, and I might as well just kill myself now. Why wait my whole life in hell? I should join him in hell now. I was such a negative person. For those 3 months, living in such condemnation, I had a negative thing to say to everything; you could hold up a beautiful baby, and I could point out something negative.

The night I got saved, I was walking home from a friend’s house. He lives down the street from me, and we would just smoke some weed, chill out, and play video games. As I was walking home that night, a voice told me to go home, listen to YouTube, and sing. (I know now that was God’s voice and it has never been so loud in my ear since I was saved.) I thought, “Okay, weird voice I do not know, I’ll do it.” So I got home, opened up YouTube, and sat there kinda testing the Lord. He said to search Coldplay. “Coldplay? Okay, whatever.” The Lord was speaking to me through these songs. The lyrics to Talk went like this:

Oh brother I can’t, I can’t get through
I’ve been trying hard to reach you,
cause I don’t know what to do
Oh brother I can’t believe it’s true
I’m so scared about the future and I wanna talk to you
Oh I wanna talk to you…

Lord was speaking to me about my brother who got saved about 8 months ago. He is my best friend, and I couldn’t talk to him about how scared I was about the future. Another song was about hearing conversation and not understanding what they are saying. That was about how my dad and my brother would give Glory to God, and though I could understand what they were saying, it was like a whole different language.

I broke down after that, I started to cry madly, thinking to myself, “What am I doing with my life? I need help. What am I doing?” I felt so dead inside, but I was still living. I walked outside my room, and my dad was in the living room. I told him, “I can’t live this way anymore. I need help. I know I need God.” I knew there had to be God because I knew very well there was a Devil. My dad said “Well, what do you want to do?”
“I want to go to church with my brother Sunday and find God.”
“You don’t need to go to church. You can just pray.”
“I don’t know how to pray.”
“Just say what you said to me; talk to him like you talk to me.”
So I prayed, confessing everything to him, crying out to him. I confessed then that Jesus Christ Is Lord! It took the Devil 3 months to grip my soul to the point where I was ready to kill myself. In 30 seconds, the Lord breathed a breath of life in me. I had felt like the weights on my shoulders were lifted from me. I stood with my chest up, chin up. I felt the love, joy, peace, compassion, life, grace and mercy of our wonderful Lord and Savior.

From then on I have taken up my cross. I have quit weed, cigarettes, alcohol cold turkey. I have direction in my life, purpose. I am having an outreach at my house with my dad, brother, and a guy from my church for all my old friends who are in the same condemnation as I was in. I went to a missions conference. I am on the worship team. I prayed about my domestic violence charges, and the Lord COMPLETELY took it out of the records, and I am free from that charge! I am currently serving and paying for the fines for my D.U.I, and the Lord blessed me with the minimum sentences for it!!! I love the Lord with all my heart, and I am a changed man. I have done a 180 degree turn in my life. None of it could have been done without the sacrifice, grace or mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. I LOVE HIM AND PROCLAIM IT EVERYDAY! I LIVE MY LIFE, NOT FOR ME, BUT FOR HIM TO REIGN THROUGH ME!!! JESUS CHRIST MY LORD AND SAVIOR!! HALLELUJAH :)

Today, Keith is studying to be a drug psychologist, and he dreams of being used by God to change big churches in America – to fight against the spirit of religion with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

 

As told by Scott, Keith’s father:

I was saved at around the same age as Keith (19). Though I was gloriously saved, graduated from Bible College, served in many varied forms of ministry including missions, something was amiss in my own heart. I kept a part of myself from the Lord. I often lived a worldly life in mockery to God. I lived life my own way, and yet I desired God’s blessing. This led to much hardship for myself and those around me, including my boys, Daron and Keith.

It wasn’t until after my second divorce that I came to the Lord depressed, brokenhearted, defeated and humbled. After too many years of living life as a double-minded man, unstable in all my ways, I gave Him my all at last.  Many things were restored to me, including the joy of my first love with Jesus, prayer, and ministry to my family. I did not raise my children in the ways of the Lord. I felt deep remorse and regret, and I’ve spent hours in conversation with the Lord about it.

First, an answer to prayer came for my mother who was dying of emphysema. Weeks before she passed, God graciously moved in her life. She confessed faith in Christ and died with His precious presence watching over her.

Next, my boys came one by one. Daron had been attending a church of loving people for quite a while, but he seemed content to never really commit his life to Christ. His breakthrough came in August 2011. He believed that Christ died for his sins. He now lives for Him! He told me a few of the secrets of his past; something he would have never done before. He is radically changed person.

Keith had been seeing counselors since he was young, been on meds, and admitted to a hospital for depression and suicidal thoughts. In all his troubles, I always tried to get him help in these ways instead of seeking God’s help.

Last summer, Keith was going through some real tough times, and I was at a loss again. Instead, this time, I had nowhere to turn but to Jesus. I had an idea of the drugs he tried, but not as to the variety or frequency. He was intrigued by the dark spiritual side, and, for 3 months prior to being saved, he wouldn’t talk to me or look me in the eye. I prayed and trusted God to do a work as there was no other way. Since his brother was saved, it was hard for me to believe that the Lord would exclude Keith. I told Him how that wouldn’t be right. Keith would hear Daron’s and my spiritual conversations, but he didn’t participate in them at all. He couldn’t. He’d walk out of the room.

Then one night, he came running out of his room while I was watching T.V. (I always tried to stay around because I feared for him, not knowing what he might do while alone. I am glad I was there that night!) He told me how he felt dead and that life was hopeless. He saw the change in our lives, and he couldn’t understand the spiritual things we talk about. He knew the dark spiritual side because he had studied it some. He wanted to give his life to the Lord but didn’t know how to pray. I told him to talk to God the same way he talks to me. He said OK. For about 20-30 minutes, he was crying and calling out to the Lord, telling him that he believed in him and that he died for his sins and that he wants to live for him. Daron came home a little later quite surprised. He gave Keith some excellent advice, and then the three of us prayed together for another 30 minutes or so. Glorious!!

So how has he changed??? From depressed to full of joy. From negative to totally positive. From seeing the devil as the one who rules this world to seeing the hand of God working beautifully in all things. From being irresponsible to working daily and taking care of his business. From being a kid who used others and not caring about it to one who is sensitive to others’ feelings. Often he’ll tell them he’s sorry if he feels he’s wronged them in any way. From being a people pleaser to a God pleaser no matter what anyone thinks. He’s changed from a person who couldn’t fall asleep at night or get up in the morning to one who sleeps well and wakes up early to worship Him in prayer and song. He went from being one of the crowd to one who has a deep burden for the crowd to be saved. He stopped drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc… in a moment! He likes the songs the birds make and the beautiful sky. He loves to pray and often pours out his heart now to Him who has a jealous love for him. He has found what he has been looking for all his life. It can’t be found anywhere else or from anyone else: the perfect and unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness of our Lord. He has changed in every way!!! Both of my boys have! Our home was once one of three people going their own separate ways. Now we are three people united daily in prayer, sharing our lives and the things of God! Awesome!!! Glory to the Lord as it has ALL been a work of His hands and mighty Spirit. He is the only way!!

Keith and Scott

Photo by Joshua Wong

Becoming a “Jonathan”

Photo by Nathan Chang
Angie is a young adult, desiring to grow in love, faith, and service. She finally sees where she fits and the role that God has called her to… but now what?

For the longest time, I felt disconnected with people at church. While I hungered and thirsted for God, it seemed like others didn’t; people were comfortable and complacent. So, I began questioning whether I could grow at Pathway Community Church (PCC). Is there something wrong with the church? Or with me? I talked this over with a friend, and I decided I need to take action. I was tired of not growing spiritually – so that meant either leave PCC and find a new church or stay and be a catalyst for change.

December, 2011, I attended a missions conference where Francis Chan shared that revival begins with humility. That first night, I could not sleep. I realized that I was prideful to think that people at church weren’t hungry for God. I confessed my sin, repented of my judgmental attitude, and sought His forgiveness.

The next day, Francis Chan challenged us to surrender and obey God; then, on the third day, to be a catalyst of change. He shared the story about Jonathan and the armor bearer in 1 Samuel 14. Though the odds were not in King Saul’s favor, Jonathan trusted that God would help them. While King Saul and his men were hiding, Jonathan and the armor bearer came out of their hiding place and killed 20 men. Then God took care of the rest: He shook the earth and the enemies trembled in fear. Victory!

At the end of the night, Francis Chan called those who wanted to be “Jonathans” to come forward. I told God, “No. I don’t want to stay at my church. It’s so hard. I want to be a part of another that’s growing so I don’t have to exert so much time and energy.” God tugged at my heart, “Be a Jonathan.” Out of obedience, I walked up to the front and knelt to commit myself to God.

When I got there, God so moved me that I started weeping; I wept so desperately that I gasped for air. I could feel the physical presence of the Holy Spirit on me as a heavy burden on my back; my whole body began to shake, and it tingled with mini electric shocks. I never experienced God in this way before, but God was so very clearly speaking to me. He wanted me to stay at my church. “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:18)” A sister laid her hands on me while I was weeping and shaking. She waited for me to finish crying before praying with me. As she prayed, God reminded me that He has walked with me and will continue to be with me as I become a Jonathan for my church. I am not alone.

After coming back to PCC from the missions conference, God confirmed my decision to stick with my church. I heard my pastor describe the vision for the church, I agreed with where the leadership saw Pathway heading, and I felt like we were on the same page. I was excited to see change, and I wanted to help my church grow. Compared to where I was previously, God completely turned my attitude around.

One month later, I saw the missions lead position advertised in the church bulletin (the same one I had previously declined), and I wondered if this was where God wanted me to serve. I had no experience leading missions, nor did I feel qualified, but I asked some brothers and sisters to pray for God’s leading. I only wanted to be obedient. During that time, my quiet times and church messages all pointed toward taking a step of faith. I even encouraged a young sister in Christ to take a step of faith. It was as if I were telling myself to have faith! But I didn’t know if I had enough faith to be the missions leader, and I lacked experience. Then God asked, “Are you willing?” and a few weeks later, I stepped out as a Jonathan by becoming the missions leader at PCC.

It would have been great if that’s all it took to make change happen. But, months passed, and I didn’t do much. Even though I had a passion for missions and many hopes for my church, I felt alone, and I struggled a lot. Finally, 6 months later in August 2012, I decided I really needed help. An experienced friend gave me two simple steps to follow: first, form a committee, and second, formulate a vision statement. So, I made an announcement at church, personally invited people, and started praying. We now have a missions committee of three people, and we are currently working on our vision statement!

I am amazed at how God has changed my heart attitude from selfish to obedient. I look forward to how God will shape the church and grow me as a leader. God is bigger than we can ever imagine or hope, and He able to work when we are willing. I hope you will consider how God is calling you, and I hope you are willing. God wants your whole heart so that He can do something amazing.

Angie

Photo by Nathan Chang

Just Another Ordinary Life

Photo by Megan Mark Photography

Linda has been to multiple missions conferences and gone on several short term trips, but still, she’s felt like her life was just so exceedingly ordinary. What might God be calling her to? Does he have something more?

I am a CIA (Chinese Indonesian American).  Born and raised in Indonesia, I went to college and now work in the US.  Growing up in a non-Christian family, I encountered Christianity through attending a Christian School. The things I learned in school and at home about God were mostly contradictory. I longed for the true God but got confused. You see, my heart longed to worship, but who should I worship? I  remember praying at my great-grandmother’s grave,”I am not sure if you are ‘the God’, I just want to claim that I am currently praying to the one true God, whoever You might be. You have to help me.”

Fast forward some years later, my prayer was answered; I accepted Christ when I came to the US. I was so fired up in response to His grace, I took any church volunteer post offered. I was energized, then, burnt out. Energized, then, a bit more burnt out. After going through that cycle, I started to focus and listen to God.  I went to WCC and other missions conferences, and I began to feel in my heart that there must be something more.

I told myself that WCC 2013 would be my last.  I’d attended so many missions conferences and been on so many short term trips, but, here I was, still, in the bay area running my ordinary life. Don’t get me wrong; I know that everyone’s calling is different and unique. It can be right where we are, or maybe somewhere else. But, how could I know for sure?

I “happened” to stop at a ministry booth. I talked to someone about a position working in a foreign country. I’d have the opportunity to learn the language and live there, and I might get the chance to share about the Gospel. I asked many questions; it seemed interesting because I’d served in a similar position for many years. But when I left the conversation, I just pushed the thought aside.

A while later, I heard a missionary speak about going. What he said kept ringing in my head:”It’s not about our abilities. It’s not about what we can or cannot do. It’s about taking the first step and seeing how God will lead.” My thoughts turned toward the conversation I’d had at the ministry booth. Should I apply or not? I applied.

Now, during this time of waiting, I keep going back and forth between wanting to go and wanting to stay. I’m afraid of being rejected and disappointed. But at the same time, I’m afraid of being accepted. The thought of leaving my comfort zone scares me.

I don’t know what the outcome will be. When it’s time to make the decision, I guess I will know then. But for now, I have taken the first step and will take that second step prayerfully. The facts is I am a daughter of our King no matter what I do.

I am thankful for the WCF community who has made it possible for me to walk this journey. As for not attending WCC anymore, it’s not a firm decision. If I am still here, you might see me around =p

God bless you all!

Linda

Photo by Megan Mark

Processing is Process

Kari moved straight from college in the middle of Los Angeles to the most remote and undeveloped part of Japan for 2 years. Now that she has been back in LA for 6 months, she is starting to understand why God took her there and why He brought her back. This post has been slightly modified from it’s original.

I was not excited Friday night when we arrived at the retreat center.  I was flat out intimidated. What am I doing at a missions conference? I don’t want to go; I just got home.

I forced myself to go to small group Saturday morning.  Again, intimidated.  But afterward, Keith pulled me aside and prayed for me.  I could tell when you were talking that you’re holding onto a lot of bitterness.  You need to let it go.

I met up one-on-one with Erin.  I was honest about where I was with God and life.  She asked the hard questions.  Having been my big sister for over a decade, she knew how to get me to answer.  And I wanted to answer.  I wanted to sort things out and work things out.  And she challenged me, the way only a big sister can.  Sit until God shows up.

So I did.  I slipped out after worship and went to the prayer chapel.  I sat in silence for a long time.  God, where are You? Where have You been since I moved home? Where are You, God? And then it came out. All the bitterness I held against God for bringing me back.  All the loss I suffered while in Japan.  It all poured out as hot tears into open hands.  This isn’t a one-time deal.  This is going to be a process.

I returned in time for communion.  For the first time since I moved home, taking communion felt right.  I’d finally let go of the bitterness and anger, and things felt right again with God.

That evening, we had a prayer concert. Prayer is powerful, and I was intimidated. Sharon pulled me outside.  I’m just going to pray for you.  And I felt more at peace.

And Erin introduced me to Vince.  He asked me about Japan.  And I shared.  And shared.  And shared.  He listened and asked questions.  I told him how I was angry, but God met me at the river.  I went to church to serve the body and wash dishes.  I worked crazy hours so I could spend time with my coworkers and not appear lazy.  I was the village designated driver and got to share my testimony because of that.  I got to spend time with my brother for the first time when he came to Tokyo.  God used my brother to comfort me when I got the call from my parents that Sho had died.  God used Sho’s death to open a door to share the Gospel with my adult night class.  God opened the door for me to share the love of Jesus with Sho’s parents now that I’m home.  My two friends from Shibecha came to LA for 10 days and we got to pray for them before they went back.  And I got so excited, easily the most excited I’d been in 6 months.  Then, he asked if he could pray.  I want to pray for your village, for Shibecha.  No one has ever wanted to pray with me for the tiny village where I left a piece of my heart.

Then Katie introduced me to Kevin.  I shared about Japan.  He shared about Taiwan.  And we talked about the good stuff and the hard stuff and the cultural stuff and the American stuff and the “what’s next” stuff.

Kevin introduced me to Edmond.  He asked me about Japan and the earthquake.  And I shared.  He told me to write a book.  I laughed.  I get the first copy, and I want it autographed.  He’s not the first person who has told me to write a book about my experience in Japan.

I didn’t want to be at this conference.  I didn’t feel like I belonged at a missions conference because I had just returned.  But God knew it was where I needed to be.  I needed to process.  I needed to sit in the prayer chapel and cry.  I needed to be surrounded by people with fresh ears, who wanted to know more, who wanted to ask questions, who wanted answers.

And I know now that processing is a process.  And 2 years will take a while to process.  Much like my session in the prayer chapel, this isn’t a one-time thing.  Processing is a process.  It’s going to take a while, but at least I’m starting to move.

Thank You for like-minded people and passionate prayer warriors.

Kari

Photo by Megan Mark