In early 2004, my dad complained of chest pains after church on a Sunday and headed home earlier for some rest. That was the last I ever saw of him. He passed away of a sudden heart attack that day. In the months that followed, my maternal grandpa passed away of old age while my paternal grandma was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer and passed away soon after. I was only 12 years old, lost and angry about the losses I had to deal with.
The following years were worse – I had to watch helplessly as my mum struggled financially and emotionally. I hated God and couldn’t understand how He could take away three lives from a family that loved and worshipped Him.
I drifted away from God, and stopped going to church. I rebelled against my mum, refusing to go with her to church, and choosing to party through late nights instead. Through it all, my mum’s faith in God never wavered. Week after week, she went to church, attended cell group and prayed for me.
In May 2014 after I graduated from school, I became a flight stewardess. This gave me the freedom and means to do whatever I wanted. It was the dream job many women have as little girls, and it had been mine for as long as I could remember. I enjoyed places and food everywhere — breakfast in Hong Kong one day, lunch in USA the next. I seemed to have it all.
With a salary higher than all my peers, I could afford the luxury bags I had never dared to dream of owning. But I was soaked in an environment where God couldn’t be seen or heard. Nights overseas with my colleagues were mostly spent drinking in the hotel rooms, or watching them smoke, gossiping, or talking about which branded bag they were going to buy next. After all, they’d been to these countries so often they would rather stay in the hotel and chill. None of my conversations were glorifying to God. Instead, they probably made Him sad and disappointed.
I drifted so far away from God that when asked about my faith, I would deny being a Christian. I vividly remember a lull period onboard a flight to Sydney. Somehow the conversation was about religion. When another stewardess mentioned that she was a Christian, she was laughed at. The others said things like “Oh no, we can’t talk about sex here now! She must be a virgin like Mary. Let’s not talk to her since we can’t use profanities either.”
When it came to my turn to be questioned about my religion, I said, “I don’t believe in a God.” I said it in fear of being ostracized and being left out. I was shocked at myself for denying God despite knowing His existence. But right there and then I knew — I was no longer fit to be known as a Christian.
I DRIFTED SO FAR AWAY FROM GOD THAT WHEN ASKED ABOUT MY FAITH, I WOULD DENY BEING A CHRISTIAN.
As a stewardess, I felt expected to put work first, regardless of any situation. I missed out on countless festivities and celebrations with family and friends. And of course, church. I completely stopped attending church services and this job gave me the perfect excuse not to. But this job also gave me the opportunity to meet people and passengers from all walks of life and it was a blessing to be able to work with a different set of colleagues each flight. It gave me the chance to explore different cities with colleagues I could click with and forge lasting friendships with them even till today. The only regret I have is that I wasn’t rooted in Christ enough to be the salt and light to the people I met from all over the world.
In December, after touching down in Milan, I was informed by the pilot that mum was in the ICU and I was to fly back immediately. The hours after were a blur — but at the end of it, I lost my best friend and my everything to a sudden brain aneurysm.
I was devastated.
There I was — orphaned at the age of 22. During my mum’s funeral, I had a strange peace in my heart. I can’t explain it — I was heartbroken and blamed myself for everything. But I felt at peace knowing she was home with God, in a place without tears or suffering. As I packed my mum’s belongings, I chanced upon her Bible reading material and started becoming curious to know how and why my mum could keep her faith despite all that she had been through. I went back to church, yearning for answers.
I attended my church-wide Bible study on Genesis, and felt God speaking to me. In Genesis, we learnt about Jacob who lived a life filled with trials and pain. While he wrestled with God, his faith remained strong even till his time of death. He left behind a legacy worth following, an inheritance worth more than all of the riches of the world. Jacob’s legacy of faith in God reminded me of how my mum left me with an eternal legacy to follow. She lived a life of faith and led by example. Up till the moment she was reunited with God, she was my testimony of faith in God. It felt like a big wake-up call for me to follow this legacy laid out for me. With the help of my sisters-in-Christ during the Bible study, I came to know my heavenly Father once again.
It took me some time to find my way back to God. But I was home again, no longer an orphan, for I had found a Father in heaven. I was like the prodigal son, except it took me almost half my life to find my way back to God. I was also like Peter who denied Him again and again, yet He took me into his family despite of all my shortcomings and gave me a new life. I still feel the loss of my loved ones every day, and I know I may go through many other trials in future.
However, I know “God will never give his people trials in which he will not sustain them and bring them through to everlasting glory (John Piper).”
I can’t wait for the day I get to meet my parents and grandparents in heaven again!