Wednesday, April 20, 2016

From Formed to Transformed (God's Amazing Grace)

I am honored and happy to be invited to share my spiritual journey experience with you. It’s wonderful to know that we belong to the same Pauline family although we come from different parts of the world. Blessed Alberione foresaw the power of the social media that would connect us all together. He is indeed awesome and amazing…

I come from a typical Chinese Buddhist family, with loving parents and a total of 7 children. When I was conceived, my parents already had a son and two daughters, each with an age gap of between one year to two years. It was a burden to keep me. They felt they had no choice but to terminate the pregnancy! The Chinese medicine which my mom took was definitely a lousy concoction because it not only did not terminate the pregnancy but made me even more determined to stay on! Frightened by the outcome, my grandmother immediately loaded my mom with health tonics to boost my health and growth. I must have been super eager to come into this world -- I was delivered in the hospital elevator, amazingly with no defects or handicaps! That was the beginning of the many great works that the Almighty God has done for me! This first episode revealed that God has made me solely for His purpose. I am unique and special.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."  --- Jeremiah 1:5 

After I was born, my dad was still determined to give me away, feeling it a burden to have so many mouths to feed. But, my mom would not let me go. It was too heartbreaking for my dad to see her cry at parting with me. Another battle won in staying on in the family, but the battle goes on... 

This episode confirmed my understanding of a mother's love for and bond with her baby after carrying her for nine months in her womb. Therefore, I am pro-life and strongly against abortion.

My first contact with the Catholic Church came when I was six. My parents sent me to my grandparents on weekdays so that I could go to a good convent school. Life was miserable at the beginning. The separation was awful and I will never forget the parting and reunion once a week. It left a big scar in my life and made me terrified of parting and separation. As I grew up, I would cry easily when I saw strangers saying goodbyes at the airport or at a funeral. Twenty years later, the priest at an Exodus Experience retreat helped me work through these events that had caused me such agony. 

In this episode I first experienced the healing power of God. 

When I was seventeen, I joined the Catholic Students’ Society during my tertiary education. My fellow Catholic students influenced me to the point that I decided to get baptized and become part of the group. My dad strongly objected to my baptism. He tried to persuade me to wait until I got married, so that I could follow my future husband's religion. I went ahead without his consent. He was very upset with me and started to say things like, "I wish I had given you away…” That was how my past was revealed to me. At first I was upset and hurt. But their present love for me compensated for their past decisions. They never loved me less than my other siblings. My dad was my hero and the love of my life. It's no wonder that God then began using me to bring Dad to Him. I found out that Dad had left the Catholic Church sixty years ago. God brought first me and then my younger sister to the Catholic faith. Then my dad was able to go back to God, on his dying bed, through our intercession. His amazing grace!

After I graduated from school and started working, I became a "Sunday Catholic."

Like many practicing Catholics, my spiritual life was based on the five precepts of the Church:

  1. attend mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation
  2. confess my sins at least once a year
  3. receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season
  4. observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church
  5. help to provide for the needs of the Church
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2041-2043)

The turning point of my life came when I was twenty-six. I was invited to a Parish Renewal Experience. That weekend, I discovered I was a Singaporean Catholic and not a Catholic Singaporean. My identity had been reversed! I was born for a purpose, made for everlasting life. Reformed from being a Sunday Catholic, I became a follower of Christ who wanted to build His kingdom on earth!

I joined the Youth Group, the Legion of Mary, and participated in programs and retreats like Choice and Exodus. The Charismatic Renewal Prayer Group began in our church and needed members to help. I attended the Life in the Spirit seminar and was transformed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  From a shy and timid person, I became a charismatic shepherd, leading in praise and worship!

Little did I know that God had a bigger challenge for me when I turned thirty: marriage. The four years of faith formation in the Renewal prepared me for the big cross that I had to carry, my married life. I am grateful for the challenge of my marriage. Because of my husband, I came to depend more and more on Jesus and grew closer to Him. The church became my refuge but I always returned home, reminded by the nuns or priest to keep the promise of my marriage vows. My husband is a good and generous man, just difficult to live with. And God had given me two girls, who by His grace have turned out beautiful and wonderful despite our dysfunctional marital relationship of twenty-seven years. The challenge to conform to the Church’s law that marriage is a covenant has made me a stronger person and has helped keep my family together.  

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.   ---  Romans 8:28

My first encounter with the Daughters of St Paul in Hong Kong was in the early 90s in our parish, at their book display outreach activities. The sisters invited me many times to visit their convent but I was too busy taking care of my toddlers. Then in 2007 I met Sister Grace Lee, a Singaporean FSP stationed in Macau. She invited me to join the APC in 2008. And so I became a Pauline Cooperator. The irresistible charism of St Paul and Blessed Aberione’s desire for us to become modern day St Pauls provided me the Way to lead a sanctified life.

I now yearn to be transformed by my Lord, Jesus the Master. Prayer is the oxygen to my spiritual life. Every day, I attend morning Mass to be in communion with Him, read His words, and adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. The secret to my spiritual growth is building a close relationship with Him, who is the Master, Way, Truth and Life. This disciplined life not only brings me closer to my Lord, it also makes my life healthier with the “early to bed, early to rise” habit. My purpose now is to lead a sanctified life, to glorify God in my marriage, and to spread His gospel of love so that more people will enter His kingdom with me.

I have been formed, deformed, reformed, conformed, and transformed by Jesus Master, The Way, Truth and Life, my Living God. Amen!

Cheryl Pong, a Singaporean married to a Hong Konger, has lived in Hong Kong for the past 27 years. She is blessed with two adult girls, one working and the other still in a graduate school. She made her commitment to the Pauline family in June 2011. She helps in her parish adult catechism class, with catechumens age ranging from 17 to 70. But her greatest joy is that God brought her back to the Charismatic Renewal Prayer group last year, after leaving the group for 25 years. With the Power of the Holy Spirit, she hopes to live out St Paul's spirit that "it's no longer I that liveth but Christ that liveth in me:" Galatians 2:20. 


Maryann Toth said...

Cheryl, thank you for sharing your heartfelt life and faith journey. Sharing our stories is a wonderful way to evangelize. We are so blessed to be part of the same Pauline Family. God bless you!

Rae Stabosz said...

Finally got home from my cruise and I see your first contribution published. Thanks so much, Cheryl! It turned out great and I'm glad everyone gets to hear your story.