The last church I visited

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April 8, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 8
Richard Chan,

My wife and I arrived in Vancouver in 1994 with our two sons, aged 9 and 12. I had been an air traffic controller, then law enforcement officer in Hong Kong. As a landed immigrant in Canada, I found some odd jobs before going back to school at the B.C. Institute of Technology and beginning a career with a mechanical engineer consulting firm.

My family was completely secular, but I had attended an Anglican high school, so after graduation I accompanied my buddies to their Baptist Alliance Church, where I was eventually baptized in my mid-20s. However, as I started my career, I stopped attending, using the excuse that I had no time for church.

As a young family beginning a new life in Canada, we also felt far too busy to attend church. My wife held down two jobs, we were raising our two sons and we had no contacts.

Around 2010, I started feeling the desire to reconnect with God, and I began visiting some churches in my neighbourhood, both Chinese and Canadian.

In May 2011, I was diagnosed with stage four gastric cancer, which had metastasized to my liver and some lymph nodes, and was given about a year to live. Around this time, as I was beginning an intense course of chemotherapy, I visited Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond, B.C. This was the last church I visited.

I wasn’t comfortable disclosing to my new church about this personal issue, but a social worker at the cancer clinic urged me to consider sharing with my pastor for the spiritual support I needed. When I met with Tim Kuepfer and shared my situation, he suggested that we have a special healing prayer session. My entire family, including my mother who was living with us, joined some of the elders, friends and pastors for this service of prayer and anointing with oil in April 2012. This was a very powerful experience of God’s love for me.

I became a member of Peace Church on Jan. 12, 2014. My mother also became a Christian and was baptized recently. I joined the choir for awhile, and also two different Bible study groups at the church, attending as my chemotherapy treatments allowed. I am also an usher and was privileged to emcee the Christmas banquet last year. I see all these as opportunities to serve God.

Just recently, the doctors changed my chemotherapy treatment again and the effects seem milder. I am blessed with a few more good days between the treatments. I have experienced God’s love for me, no question about it. I don’t know how long I will live, but for the past three years I have been focussing on God’s love for me, rather than on my physical suffering. There is only so much that medicine can do at this point, but this does not shake my faith in God.

Every morning I come to Peace Mennonite to pray in the sanctuary along with my mother. Prayer is our interaction with our living God. Each morning I ask Jesus for his Holy Spirit, and pray for his forgiveness through his love for me. I thank and praise him for his grace to me every day. I ask that he would increase my faith so I can love him even more. I ask God to use this part of my faith journey to fulfill the purposes for which I was created in the first place. God helps me to focus on his joy in the greater plan, rather than on my sufferings.

Romans 5:3-5, which I received in a Sunday sermon, has become my motto: “We glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

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