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From a Buddhist to a Christian

Author: Sa-ard Utadache

I am grateful that I know Jesus and I know God is real. I have peace and joy in Him and am living an abundant life. I am joyful to share this good news with people so they can receive the same blessings.

I was born and raised in Thailand, where I became a Buddhist like the majority of the people.

Buddhists believe in Karma, reincarnation, and good deeds. One’s Karma will determine one’s destiny in the next reincarnation, so they try to do good deeds for their next life. They regularly give alms to the beggars or food to the monks on birthdays or special religious occasions.

Most Buddhists in Thailand also believe in Brahmins and spirits, and they have been taught about heaven and hell. However, I always had questions about who holds the key to heaven and hell, keeps the records of good and bad deeds, and manages the reincarnations.

At the end of 1971, I came to study in California. After graduation, I visited my cousin in New York in March 1977. During my visit, two jumbo jets collided on a runway in Canary Island in Spain, killing 583 people in an instant.

My cousin was so frightened that she asked me to return to California by train instead. But I decided to go by plane as I had to be at work the next day. She reluctantly agreed. At the airport, she prayed for me loudly for God to protect me and made me promise that I would go to the church upon my return. I gave her my promise.

When I was safe at home, I asked one of my relatives, a Christian, to recommend a church; he suggested a Chinese Church in Glendale (First Evangelical Church). I went there on Sundays and was surprised and excited to see so many Chinese people at the same place and same time.

I liked my visit and the preaching. Similar to Buddhism, they teach us to do good and be kind to others. Buddhists are supposed to respect what others respect and examine things that you do not know. If the things are good and true, then accept them, but reject them if they are not. So there was no conflict for me to go to church from a Buddhism perspective.

However, unlike Buddhism, the preacher talked about Jesus. I had heard the name of Jesus before in Thailand, but I did not believe He had a connection to me. I had a close Christian friend in Thailand who told me that the world would be destroyed by fire on the last day, and I would be cast to hell, but she would go to heaven because she is a Christian. I told her that Buddha would take me to heaven too, to which she had no answer.

One day the church pastor introduced me to a lady similar to my age; her name was Mei-Ching. She befriended me (we remained as good friends for many years until she passed away). We spent time together every weekend, eating and going places. She even played tennis with me though my skills were terrible.

She told me about God and His love for me. When I asked serious questions about Christianity, she was always gracious and patient. Eventually, Mei-Ching invited me to a Friday night fellowship. People there welcomed me and talked to me like we were pals, and the songs they sang were beautiful. I liked it greatly and attended the fellowship with Mei-Ching every week.

I still did not believe in God, nor did I think Jesus was the one. However, Mei-Ching told me that God’s Son, Jesus, had always been knocking at the door of my heart. If I were to open the door to invite Him to come in, He would come into my heart, and I would become a Christian.

When I was attending the church, I noticed that the people bowed in reverence when they prayed as if there really is a God. They were intelligent people; many were highly educated, and some even obtained Ph.D. degrees. Why would they believe in a God? I thought, “Are they stupid or not? But what if there really is a God? Then I am the stupid one.” So I told Mei-Ching about my thoughts, and she prayed for me. I told her that if there is really a God who loves me, I would like to know Him in a good time, not a bad time. She asked me not to condition God’s timing.

One Friday night during the fellowship, Mei-Ching gave me a paperback book entitled BILLY GRAHAM ANSWERS QUESTIONS – a compilation of Reverend Billy Graham’s answers to people’s questions over the years.

There was one question about faith. Reverend Graham’s answer was, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). And he explained that we exercise faith in our everyday life. We learn and believe many things although we have not personally seen them with our own eyes or have knowledge about them. But we trust the people who told us about them.

Reverend Graham explained further that when we board a plane to go somewhere, we do not meet the pilot or know whether he has the expertise to fly the plane or not. Most of us do not understand aerodynamics or conceive how an aircraft made of steel with many people in it could fly in the air. Yet we get on the plane because we trust the airline company that they will not allow an inexperienced pilot to fly their expensive airplane and kill their customers.

He also gave many other examples. After reading his explanations, I agreed that I had exercised faith every day.

I remembered Mei-Ching told me that I had to believe Jesus first before I could see Him. I wanted to believe Him, so I knelt down and prayed, “Lord Jesus, I want to invite you to come into my heart. If you are real, please let me know.” After I prayed, I was so afraid that I would hear Jesus saying, “I am here.” Nothing happened. So, I thought I was hypnotized by the book, the influence of Mei-Ching, and probably I had prayed to the wind.

The following morning, I told my relative about what happened during the night. He was so excited and came to see me with a beaten-up paperback book. He said it was a Bible and asked me to start reading the book of John.

When I started reading, I felt that God was talking to me and agreed with what the book told me. My heart was saying it is true, it is true. Before, I argued against Christianity fiercely, but now I believe every word in the Bible. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Every time I had a question in my heart, the book answered it one after another. I now had the clarity that God is the one, and He is the ultimate judge of the world. I no longer had questions as I did with Buddhism.

God touched my heart, mind, and soul. I know God exists, and He knows me personally. The Bible tells me that He loves me and allowed His only Son, Jesus, to die for my sins and the sins of mankind on the cross so that we can be reconciled to Him; and on the third day, Jesus was resurrected, and He is alive.

After becoming a Christian, I wanted my mother to know Jesus also and started praying for her. After two and a half years of praying, she invited Jesus to come into her heart. She passed away in 2000 and is home with Jesus right now, and one day I will join her in heaven.

I have been a Christian for over 40 years now. I have been going to church, enjoying the peace and joy of God, which are present with me even in the most difficult times. I have experienced Jesus’ love, His presence, and healing. I have rejoiced in God’s leading, His guidance, and blessings. I would like everyone to know that God is real, He is a God of love, and He loves and has a good plan for everyone.

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