I grew up with three older brothers and one younger sister. My parents moved to the United States in 1983 from Vietnam. Their parents, my grandparents, told them, “You will find a better life in America.” There were a lot of Vietnamese people who left for the U.S. in boats, and actually only half of them survived. So my parents got on this jenky wooden boat and set out to America, after waiting a year in the Philippines because the government was tracking refugees who were leaving the country.
I think about that all of the time. God’s faithfulness was with me even before I was born.
My parent’s ended up in Southern California and I was born in Chino Hills. I was the youngest of the brothers; they basically raised me because my Dad was always working. Growing up I wanted to be just like my brothers: fit and able to get the girls. I also wanted to be different than them and learn from their mistakes. They had gotten girls pregnant in high school and didn’t go to college. So I set out to be the best person I could be. I felt like I had to finish what my dad needed me to do, which was to graduate college and make money.
We were not at all a religious family. We went to church once when I was 5, but I think that my parents only went that one time because they wanted to be “good” people. Our house was so stressful. There were so many arguments about money and divorce.
My parents would constantly complain to us that we weren’t appreciative. My siblings would steal money from each other. I couldn’t take the stressful environment, so I immediately left when I turned 18.
In high school I was a really big jerk. I left all of my friends to hang out with my girlfriend at the time. I didn’t care about anything but her. We headed to UCR together and after freshman year, she dumped me. I was so broken. Our break up combined with the college lifestyle led me to party and pursue frivolous things. That summer was the first time I smoked marijuana and went to parties to drink. That November, I start taking ecstasy. At one point, I even went to Vegas and was high on ecstasy for three days straight.
That same November, a friend invited me to church. Because I’m a naturally curious person, I decided to go. I was very agnostic. I thought there was a god, but I never knew anything about him. That night God spoke to me. During the message, I started bawling because I never knew God cared so deeply for me. Immediately, I felt this release of pressure in that moment and that I didn’t have to prove my worth to my parents anymore. I went up and talked to one of the ministers and told him, through tears, that I want to try this Christianity thing. He prayed for me and that was the first time anyone had ever prayed for me.
After my third year of college, my friend told me about Sandals Church. It was close to UCR so I went and checked it out. I loved the pastor. I had always had a dream of being a stand up comedian and I felt like the pastor was hilarious. He was preaching God’s word so powerfully and it was also very engaging. He makes his job seem so easy. I couldn’t stop coming back.
Every week, he would challenge me in new ways, and I would listen I did everything he said. "You need to find a community group," so I found a group. "You have to serve," so I started serving the church.
My community group of guys have become my brothers. We encourage each other to love and to do good things that honor God. We talk about being real. We even talk about our sexual sin. I had struggled for years with pornography, masterbation and having sex with women. In group, we were reading from scripture and it says to stop your sexual sin and I felt so strongly about it. I knew God was asking me to stop. I can say now that God has given me freedom from those things for a year and half. I still have temptations every single day, but God deserves so much praise because nothing is impossible with Him. I’ve changed so much.
At UCR, there is a group called “Challenge.” I joined that group on campus to grow in my relationship with God, and I began to be mentored. The leader of that ministry was a guy named Jeff who works with Sandals Church and the “Challenge” ministry at UCR. Jeff helped me understand the truth of the Bible and how important it is to hear God’s word, read it, meditate on it, and memorize it. I learned how to live life with a lot of spiritual discipline through this group.
I have been bold in memorizing Scripture. The average is to memorize 2 verses a week, and I decided to memorize 4.
When you memorize the Bible, God’s vocabulary becomes your own. I believe in Him more every time I memorize His word.
God’s word helped me to overcome my sexual sin. I realized as I memorized His word, I knew that He didn’t want that behavior for me. I would pray and pray, confess to my group, “Guys, I had sex again” and then read the Bible and pray. The truth is what will set you free and that is the only truth for me.
I’ve graduated college and have committed to joining the UCR Challenge ministry. I want to share with the students of UCR the experience that I’ve had with God and invite them to experience Him too.
Jesus said in His last words on earth to “Go and make disciples of all nations and teach them what I have commanded you.” Now I know my life’s purpose, God wants me to tell people about Him.
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