This story all began with a mission team from Church of the True Light, Singapore in the beginning of 2000 at the invitation of Church Missionary Society. The team leader was Pastor Derek Lim, the able assistant to Rev Gregory Chiang. The team ministered in View Hill Fellowship. Derek came back with a wonderful report of VHF and told me that the Rector of VHF, Rev John Steele knew me. Months later, we planned a trip taking my family for a holiday driving from Brisbane to Great Ocean Road passing through Bendigo and meeting up with Rev Steele. John and I were Moore Theological College mates in Sydney. On the morning of our departure, Rev. John Steele mentioned to me that a group of ministers of Bendigo had a vision of starting a Chinese ministry in the city because this city has a long association with the Chinese dated back to the Gold Rush days 150 years ago. He asked me whether I would consider and pray about the possibility of coming over to start this ministry. I promised to take this matter to the Lord.
This followed by the official invitation in March, from the church Council of VHF and the Rt. Rev. David Bowden, the late bishop of Bendigo.
At this invitation, my beloved wife Priscilla，my co-worker, and I decided to return to Australia and to Bendigo to start this Chinese ministry. I used the term “return” because Priscilla and all our three children are Australians and I am a permanent resident of Australia dated back to 1973. For 20 years, we have been ministering and planted 5 congregations in Singapore. It was time for us to do something in Australia. The vision of ministering in Australia had been at the back of my mind for a few years after my three months ministry in 1995 at St Andrew, Katanning, (the town with a population of 5300 people) Western Australia. I was sent from Singapore Diocese to take care of this country parish. I saw the growth of the parish from 15 to well over 30 after three months. There were 53 people in my last service. We were very encouraged to see the growth in this country parish. The parishioners were loving people who hoped to see the parish to make a turn. I left the parish with a burden for this parish and for Australia. I believe the church in Australia can grow. It is the will of God for His church to grow.
My coming to Bendigo took months of prayers and preparation. Finally, I came over at the end of August 2001. Priscilla came back a little earlier in June with our youngest son, Xuan Dao to start school in Bendigo Senior Secondary College.
To begin the work, we started meeting up with three local Christians (Xiao Jun, Jason McGowan and Dr Arthur Chiang), who shared the same vision of a Chinese church. We then started to have monthly social dinner gatherings in our home. The first dinner was on 26th September. Through these gatherings we got to know many Chinese residents. Five of them form a part the present congregation. Two were non-Christians who have been faithfully attending our services.
The first service of the House of the True Light was on December 2nd 2001. In the first service, one person was baptized. My former parish, Church of the True Light Singapore sent finance and teams to support the start of this work. The official opening was much later on February 6th, 2002. Again members of True Light Singapore and ex-members living in Melbourne came to support us. Truly it is the will of God for us to be here in this business of church planting.
There were not many Chinese in town in those days. Hence, we decided to greet any Chinese in town and anywhere and introduce ourselves to them. This was how Jesus started his ministry by walking around and talking to people in the street. He gathered his disciples just like that. We also walked around Latrobe University and introduced ourselves to any Chinese students whom we came across. There were not many Chinese students. But we were able to gather two. Then we started a cell meeting in Jason and Xiao Jun’s home. We invited our new friends to our home for meals and started relationship building. With the increase of Chinese immigrants and overseas students in Bendigo, our contacts increase. There were more than 60 people accepted Jesus. Forty five were baptized. The number of members is now around 50. The Sunday attendance of our Sunday services has not increased a lot despite of so many conversions over the last 6 ½ years. This is because many converts left Bendigo for home in China or for Melbourne and Sydney in seeking for jobs after they have graduated. One is now serving in a house church in Shanghai. A number of them are serving in several Chinese churches in Melbourne. One member is now serving in World Vision. Their departure is a lost to House of the True Light, Bendigo. But it is a gain in the Kingdom of the Lord in many other parts of the world.
Now there are 5 cells going on every week. In the cells, we discuss the existence of God, the character of God, the person of Jesus and so on. All the cells are emphasizing on teaching and evangelism.
The finance of the church grew from about Aus$5000 per year at the beginning to Aus$63,000 in 2007. We thank God for the generous financial support from the Diocese of Singapore and its parishes. Other support came from Sydney and Melbourne. As the Lord has never failed us for the last many years; we are sure that He will continue to supply all our needs.
Where to go on from here
House of the True light will go on to bring free-thinkers to Jesus and train them up for the Kingdom ministry in Bendigo and beyond. We have been able to encourage 3 members to take up the Moore Theological correspondent course. One member has completed 6 units. The other two just begin. One member is now enrolled in Victoria Bible College. We will continue to focus on training and sending our members into the mission field.
To God be the glory!
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My testimony is really like a greeting card to my God. I think my heavenly father has changed me a lot from inside out. ‘Set apart for God; belonging to God; pure; godly: “be holy, because I am holy” ’ (Leviticus 11: 44). This is my most favorite scripture in the bible. I like this verse because God has taught me the most significant thing in my life – forgiveness.
I have been a Christian for almost three years. After I became a Christian, the first step I took was to forgive my father. He was the nightmare of my life when I was a child. Because my father is a gambler, and every time when he lost his money, he would choose to beat me until I was bleeding. During that time, my situation was hopeless and helpless. I couldn’t share my feeling with anyone about my child abuse experience, even to my mum or other relatives. The reason is that I don’t want my parents to be divorced, and the only reaction I had was to cry in order to release my pain. Because of that, I really struggled with my relationships with male classmates; I am just scared that they would beat me in the same way as my father did. Since then, I was never willing to talk to guys, and my heart was closed until the time I could forgive my father.
I really thank God that He helped me to make this significant step in my life. With His healing, my heart is opened again. Because He is my mighty Father, I have been set free. Hosanna in Hebrew is a word of praise meaning “save”: ‘Hosanna in the highest’ (Matthew 21: 9). This is the word that I want to pray to my Lord and I feel very grateful because Jesus Christ is my redeemer. His unending love has created this miracle for me, and His amazing grace has touched my heart to let me forgive my father.
Nowadays, my relationship with my father still hasn’t become close enough. However, I always remember these two verses in the bible, ‘the Lord is my strength and my song’ (Exodus 15:2); ‘through Him who gives me strength’ (Philippians 4:13).That’s why I really want to restore this relationship, and I pray that God will keep giving me the strength to make it better. I believe in you, Jesus, with all I am.