A Long Road to God
by Jimmy Lam
Last Easter, at age 87, I professed Jesus Christ publicly as my personal Savior. I had always known God existed, I even confessed my sins to Him from time to time, but I didn’t know God personally, nor had I welcomed Him into my daily life.
The story of my 87 years is quite colorful, and I’m grateful that everything I experienced ultimately led me to God.
A New Land
I came to the U.S. as a 15 year-old boy when my family moved from Toyshan in Guangtun province, China. My father, who had worked as a wine maker and cook to support his family of fourteen children, heard that America was an open country that offered opportunities for newcomers. So in 1935, when an American company came to China to recruit workers to do maintenance for the railroad connecting San Francisco and Albuquerque, my parents, some other relatives, and many of our villagers signed on to the contract. Altogether several hundred Chinese workers, along with their wives and children, boarded a large clipper ship in Shanghai and sailed to America.
We Chinese interacted very little with white or other people in America. We just worked hard every day. We lived in communal camps, and the wives served as cooks for the crews, did laundry, nursed the sick, and did house work. Teenagers like me also worked. The work crews didn’t all eat at the same time, but rather when a worker was hungry, he would take a break by going to the food stand to eat, and then return to work.
Our lives changed drastically about four years later when the work with the railroad came to an end. Trains that were powerful and fast, capable of doing automated track maintenance, began to be used. So the Chinese workers were let go. Since we had come as contract workers and not as immigrants, we were asked to go back to China. Most of us had no land or home in China to return to, so we opted to scatter to different towns. At that time, the Chinese Expulsion Act which Congress had enacted was in effect, and it required that we be shipped back to China. We were loaded onto a boat from the campsite, but somehow through an unofficial agreement with the sailors, the Chinese were allowed to jump boat at various harbors on the way to San Francisco. When the boat neared shore somewhere in southern California, my family jumped into the water and swam to shore. We all made it, even my younger brothers and sisters.
From this time, my family drifted into several places—Los Angeles, Santiago, Beckerville, Santa Fe and San Francisco. My parents opened a Mom and Pop roadside restaurant in Santa Fe, serving Chinese noodle dishes and western fried food mostly to truck drivers.
Serving the Generals
In 1941, the year the U.S. declared war with Japan, I was working at odd jobs when one day I walked by a post office and saw an army recruiting sign which read: “Uncle Sam Wants You.” I enlisted that day, and about the same time, three of my brothers enlisted in the army and one sister enlisted in the Women’s Army Corp. Two of my brothers later died in the battlefield during WWII. I continued to serve as a full-time reservist until 1964.
During the war, I was fortunate to be selected as one of the security guards for two great generals. First I was assigned to General Eisenhower. We traveled with him and checked out each place before he arrived. When he learned that I could cook, he often asked me to cook his favorite dish—grilled minced chicken. One thing about him I remember is how he would twirl a pencil rapidly in his hand when he was thinking, then break it when he had made a decision. Later when the war moved into the Pacific, I was transferred to serve as one of the personal guards for General MacArthur. The general had a popular image of being very stern looking, but he actually was very kind and showed great care to those who served him.
A Tragic Turn of Events
Before I left the States for overseas duty, I had gotten married. While I was stationed in the Philippines, I was given permission to adopt a child. One day as I had been passing by some garbage cans near the base where I worked, I saw a group of ragged, young boys begging, “Candy, candy.” With them was a small child about two years old clawing in the dirt. My heart went out to the little boy, so I went to the Red Cross and asked how I could help this child. I was given permission to adopt little Joe, and by the end of the war, I was granted permission to adopt five other needy children.
But a tragic turn of events happened. Before disbanding our group, General MacArthur planned a farewell party to give merit citations to each of us for our service. My wife was invited to fly over from the States for the party. She was also going to bring our adopted children home. Seven church volunteers traveled with her to help during the transition with the children. But the plane they were on, flying over the Pacific Ocean, was shot down by a terrorist. There were no survivors. Two months later, when the flight black box was recovered, I could hear my wife screaming, “Jimmy, Jimmy, I wanted to see the children.”
Life at Home
Following my wife’s death, I experienced a really dark period in my life. I began working long hours each day, first as a policeman in the city of Napa, California, and later as a security guard at the Sacramento Airport, where I continued to work until this year. I also worked part-time as a supervisor for three laundromats, and on weekends, I cooked for special function dinners for local churches.
Besides work, I poured my energies into taking care of my adopted children— six from the Philippines, and later one from China, and another from Mexico. Three of the children eventually chose to return to their mothers who wanted them back. For the sake of my children, I decided to remain unmarried. It didn’t seem good to me to burden a woman with eight adopted children from overseas. But I was fortunate to have fine Christian people in the churches where I worked to give me support and advice regarding the children.
Growing up, the children were all good kids. We never had any serious problems in our home. The children scheduled themselves for various house chores, like cooking and cleaning, and I saw to it that they did their homework. We didn’t have a TV to entertain them, so at night we would have pow-wow sessions to untangle any problems they had at school or disagreements at home. In Sunday school they learned how to use biblical principles as a guide for what is right and wrong and for solving interpersonal problems. I always told them not to keep their problems to themselves but to open up and seek help. As adults, all my children have done well in their careers—and made me proud.
About ten years ago, I experienced the second darkest period of my life. An unscrupulous owner of a trailer park, where I had parked a trailer, accused me of not paying rent for several months. In court he demanded compensation by confiscating the trailer and my house, and a highly biased and discriminatory A Long Road to God judge gave him all my property for his compensation. The truth is I had paid all the rentals by check, but the owner had connived by not cashing them. This injustice took away all I had— all my valuable family and personal mementos—and it knocked all the sense out of me. It so affected me that I could not sleep, eat, or think. I didn’t want to live, and ended up hospitalized for deep depression for over a year.
During this time, a retired pastor, Pastor Harold, from Napa Grace Church counseled me and helped me come out of this long, dark period. He helped me understand the biblical teaching on forgiveness, and how the eternal things of God are more important than the temporal things of this world. Until this time, I had not studied the Bible much, even though I had been associated with churches and Christian people.
Overcome by God’s Love
As a result of my association with Pastor Harold, I began attending church every Sunday and listening to the pastor there explain the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. I began to realize that I was a sinner and I needed a Savior. So last Easter, at the ripe old age of 87, I decided to make a public profession of my faith—to profess that I believe in Jesus, the Son of God, who died to take away my sin and give me eternal life. I know that God is a God of love. Throughout my life, He has been watching over me. He helped me survive the trials of this life and rear my children to adulthood. He has also surrounded me with Christian people who have shown kindness and love to me and my family.
Every day now I experience the love of God in some special way. He has made me feel like a new person— physically and spiritually. Two days after my baptism, seven painful and incurable lumps in my two legs, due to diabetes, began to heal dramatically. I call it a miracle! My adopted children and friends tell me they can sense the newness of life within me because of my faith in the Lord Jesus.
It makes me happy to think that in my life I have been able to give something back to others, especially my adopted children. And with God’s help, for the rest of my life, I want to continue to help troubled youth.