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Esther’s Testimony

12/15/2016Esther Tung

A warm thanks and appreciation to Reverend Lau, the congregation of the Home of Christ Church and Susan Chan for this opportunity to be ordained.  It is such a blessing and joy to be present with you all.

My journey towards ordination starts with my parents who brought me to church from birth. I grew up always in the house of the Lord as they gave me a strong foundation of Christian teaching and example. They helped to set up many churches and Christian fellowships in Australia. 

I watched how they served the Lord with passion and love and saw many people’s lives changed. 

I myself received Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of 12 in one of the churches that they helped to start. 

When I met Jesus on a personal level for the first time and knew the joy of having such a love that is unconditional I understood what my parents were doing and I myself started to be involved with ministering and sharing the word to other children around me and in the church, teaching in Sunday school and leading youth groups.  Though there were struggles and difficulties there was also great joy seeing people come to a relationship with Jesus and want to live their lives for Him.  I knew that I wanted to serve the Lord all the days of my life. 

Around the age of 15 a pastor from overseas came to stay at our house. I don’t remember his name but remember he was in a wheelchair and elderly. One day he spoke to my while I was in my teenage angst (so often crying and shouting at my parents). He called me over and quietly spoke to me, saying ‘I don’t tell many people this, I only share when the Lord tells me to. I have a gift of prophecy. The Lord told me that you will be a special kind of Pastor.’ 

I was surprised as I’d never had anybody speak like that to me but also encouraged because despite my growing pains the one thing I loved to do was serve the Lord. 

Then at 16 I went to a conference by James Hudson Taylor the III with my parents and my sister. At the end of the conference he did an altar call asking for those who felt that the Lord was calling them to Full Time Ministry in China to come up the front. At the time we were living in Australia. I was so moved by the Holy Spirit I went up immediately. 

That was when I told my parents that when I graduated from high school I wanted to study theology and become a Pastor. My parents were wise and said that it was better that I studied some other courses first and worked in other fields to get some life experience before I became a pastor. Though I didn’t understand I obediently did a Bachelor of Commerce and Arts while serving in the University Christian Group called the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students.  Afterwards I worked for the Australian Government in Social Security. That’s when I came across the poorest people in Australian society, long term unemployed, refugees, single parents, elderly and prisoners. 

At the time I started studying for a Masters of Divinity part time, working towards my dream and calling to be a Pastor. 

Finally after 9 years of part time study I completed the Masters degree and was able to start in my calling. I was employed immediately part time by the church I was attending at the time as an Assistant Pastor. 

As soon as I started what I thought would be my dream job, it quickly turned to a disaster. I have such respect for church pastors because it is the hardest job in the world.  When you serve the Lord as a volunteer there’s so much grace and encouragement for you. However after becoming a paid Pastor people start having expectations and many opinions as to what can be improved or what was not done well. You are expected to be a preacher, leader, hospitable, manager, counselor, friend, visionary, administrator, a good cook, creative, organized, strong and sensitive all these things to perfection. 

Anyway after two years of serving in this capacity my life went into a downward cycle and I was deeply depressed and burnt out. I quit the ministry and left my life behind leaving Australia completely disillusioned and broken.  How could it all go so wrong? Did I fail God’s calling? Was I mistaken and that actually this calling was not for me?

I left Australia for Asia not knowing where God wanted me to be, not knowing my purpose in life as I always thought it was pastoring but at that point it was the last thing that I wanted to do. It was while I was wondering aimlessly in Hong Kong that I was contacted by a friend whom I had known in Australia.  He was also visiting HK and heard that I was there. He asked me what I was doing in HK I said that I’m looking for work, maybe with an NGO or any other work. But 2 requirements were that I was not wanting to work in a church or any Christian organization and I did not want to teach. This friend said to me that he had just been to a wedding and sat next to a guy who gave him a business card. Since he is not staying in HK he would give it to me, but he said ‘Unfortunately it’s a Christian organization and unfortunately it’s working with prisoners.’ I told him that I was ok working with prisoners as I’d done that before in Australia but I was not sure about the Christian thing. Since I had nothing better to do I went to the interview. After talking with a staff member he told me to go away and pray about it. If you get a calling then come back and volunteer for us. I had not had any other calling since the one about being a pastor. I thought ‘that’ calling was invalidated. So I doubted I would get a call. Also I didn’t want to volunteer I wanted a job. So I went to China. 

In China a missionary friend taught me to spend quality time with God removing all distractions. Taking only a Bible, pen and notebook I was to head to my room and spend 3 hours with God. While doing this the Lord led me to a passage in Isaiah 42:7 which talks about prisoners.  I was surprised as I had never seen this word in the bible before. So I prayed and flipped to the New Testament where I was led to Matthew 25:40 which mentions prisoners again. I was shocked and flipped to the Psalms and the passage that stood out was Psalm 69:33 which mentions prisoners again! I asked myself was this a calling from God? It was undeniable that He gave me three passages about prisoners that I had never seen or taken notice of previously. Afterwards I had concerns that I would have to volunteer as I wanted to get paid not work for free. However the Lord then gave me Bible passages about not worrying about money. 

Anyway I went back to KSA and told them I had received a calling and I’m ready to volunteer. This time I met with Susan who interviewed me. She heard my story and took down my ID then said she would call me back. I didn’t know that the permit process takes one month. So during this month of waiting I had many doubts and even suicidal thoughts as I really felt so lost and didn’t know what I was doing. Until one day I was talking to God and I said I’m at the end of my rope. I give you one last chance. Either You help me or I will die. That was the first time I heard the Lord speak like an impression on my heart He said ‘It’s about time’.  That’s when everything made sense to me. The reason why things were so tough was because I was trying to do it on my own strength.  I wasn’t asking God for help but I was always asking God to make my own plans work.  I finally surrendered to God and said I would not start learning to listen and follow rather than do it in my own strength and beg for blessing.  I doubted and thought maybe I was confused about the calling as I was so desperate for something to do. So I said Lord if I am not in a prison by December I will follow You to wherever You want me to go. The next day after this prayer I get a call from Susan and I was arranged to visit a prison the following week and that was still November (so I am entering into my 7th year in this ministry). So I had my first prison visit at a prison for Long Term female prisoners.  I was amazed to meet such open and humble people who were so vulnerable in sharing their stories with me. I was so excited to see them but it was strange as I was so broken that I could not speak. I had absolutely nothing to say. So instead of ministering to them. The ladies ministered to me. They shared how they were so broken when they came to prison they felt that they lost everything but they found Christ and He was able to do amazing things in their lives, giving them hope and purpose, caring for their families at home. They just trusted in Him and He made things happen and worked for their good. They spoke with such joy and faith in Jesus. I was amazed as I was the one that was free however in my heart I was a prisoner.  I was a prisoner to my fears to people’s expectations to feelings of hopelessness, to the need to perform.  However here these women were before me they are prisoners but their hearts are free, they have joy, peace and faith in God that was so strong and pure.  I wanted this freedom that they had. I asked them to pray for me. Over three months I could not speak but the Lord used these ladies to minister to me. The Lord did amazing healing in me. I knew that it was no accident that he led me to minister to prisoners as I was a prisoner that needed to be set free by Him. I knew that each healing that He brought for me would become a testimony to bring healing to others. As I received this freedom the Lord would use me to bring freedom to others. 

 

At this point I want to thank Susan for her role in bringing me to this point. The Lord used Susan to help me understand that when God calls He will truly look after you and bring His calling to pass. As her own testimony shows. The first time I was called to be a Pastor I used my own strength to try to make it come to pass but I failed. She was the one who taught me to wait for the all sufficient provision from the Lord.  When I was a volunteer with KSA I asked her how one can survive without working as I was wanting to start looking for work. She said ‘KSA employs people but God called you so He will pay for you.’ I believed and continued volunteering full time and indeed the Lord provided. I was also somebody who was very impatient and anxious to do things quickly but she encouraged me to be still and wait for the Lord, learn to listen to Him and follow His guidance then obey quickly.  

I had suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life I never believed I could be healed so I just learned to live with it and manage it. However Susan invited me to join a conference which is all about praying and waiting for the Lord. At that conference the Lord miraculously healed me from a lifetime of emotional suffering. I knew that there is nothing impossible for Him. I could also see from her example at work how caring and praying for the spirituality of the staff can lead to great progress in the organization. I put this in practice with my volunteers and there’s great fruit amongst the English International speaking inmates that I co-ordinate. 

Last but not least my being here today is also thanks to God for His amazing timing and provision but also thanks to Susan’s care for me, my parents support, everything has worked out for good in a beautiful way in His perfect timing. I could not imagine I would be ordained as a pastor, just as God had said I would be, serving in a ministry that is perfect for me. Also I am overwhelmed that the Lord can use such a broken vessel to testify to His greatness as I would not be here except for Him.  So I thank Reverend Enoch and the Home of Christ Church once again as this day you have been used by God to perform a miraculous work for me. Your work is blessed by the Lord and you are part of the wondrous events that will continue to take place in the prisons and through them to the nations. 

May the Lord continue to prosper you and give you more of His presence always. Amen