My Life Rebuilt
By Esther Chan*
As a teenager, I wandered around with hopelessly vulgar friends, but I always held my bottom line—I would never be physically or sexually abused by anyone! Now, as an adult, awaking from a drug coma, I realized I had been sexually molested by a complete stranger!
A Childhood of Upheaval
The man I knew as a father sneaked into Hong Kong from Mainland China as a fugitive when I was a little kid. Soon after my mother married him, she found out that he had another wife and two daughters, all of whom came out of China later to live with us as one big household. I was sent to live with my grandmother until I returned home at age eight to witness the stressful conditions my family lived under. My father was addicted to heavy drinking, abused all members of the family, and drove my mother to attempt suicide. Mother was a gentle and timid person who had no skills to cope.
Two years later, my father died of cancer. Having never received love and protection from him, his death left me with the terrible impression I had always had of him. I hated him and felt much relieved when he died, thinking I could never ever forgive him for the way he abused my family.
Like a Floating Buoy
Because I always felt that I was living in a war zone, I could not open my mouth to release the anxiety I felt in my heart. Constantly lamenting why I had to come into this world, I floated along in life without purpose or meaning—with no goal, just an empty existence. Always puzzling about the meaning of life and suffering immensely, I was like a floating buoy in the sea, lost in the tides of infinite water currents with no anchor or destination.
Until I entered Form II in middle school, I had been a good student. But I began following a bunch of wild kids in the neighborhood, started being truant from school, and was expelled by my school in Form IX. Rebellious at heart, I ganged up with my sister to steal goods from local stores, so that over time stealing became a compulsion for me, and I felt comfortable stealing by myself.
At age 13, I began using narcotics and soon became addicted to drugs. The highs of drugs led to bizarre fantasies and delusional sensations, always ending in continual compulsion to pursue repeated highs. I was caught and arrested for doing drugs at age 16 for the first time. The judge, suspecting that I was mentally ill, sentenced me to be treated by mental health professionals and receive therapeutic treatments.
Feeling worthless, I obsessed with suicidal thoughts and yearned to end my life as a hopeless person without significance. In my school years at a Buddhist elementary school in Hong Kong, I had been taught about a guilty life of preexistence that led to difficult situations and suffering in this life. Caught in this constant puzzling, remorse, and uncertainties, I wanted to escape by ending my life by my own choice.
In Prison and Out
At age 19, I met my ex-husband and lived with him without any sense of security, while taking drugs to escape reality. Two years later, I was arrested for drug trafficking, and detained in a women’s prison, which was a scary place to be! After being released from prison, we got married and had a baby girl when I was 23. Discovering later that my ex-husband was having an affair, I developed insomnia and other physiological and mental disorders. To escape reality, I reverted back to taking drugs and had to hand the care of my daughter over to the custody of my ex-husband.
During the four times I was in and out of prison, I had the opportunity to hear about the love of Jesus from prison pastors. They tried to convince me that God was willing to forgive me, a sinner, but I was not able to embrace the truth of unconditional love. Buddha had failed to save me from my miserable life, and I wasn’t ready to give Christianity a try.
After getting out of prison, I lived in the home of a boyfriend whom I had grown up with. His mother persuaded me to go to a Christian church with them where I made a public stand to believe in Christ. However, there was no true repentance or submission to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I did, however, begin to hate myself with utter disgust, and I prayed to God for help.
The Incident of the Hundred-Dollar Bill
Later, a bizarre incident turned my heart to want to seek God. I was renting a room in a squalid area where scoundrels and prostitutes gathered and lived in filthy, inhumane lodging conditions. I always took caution to avoid speaking to anyone who lived there. Once, after injecting some drug, I stepped out to the street in a trance and began a conversation with a man. Afterwards, I awoke from this encounter to discover that I was lying naked on my bed, and a hundred-dollar bill was lying beside me.
At that moment, I recalled a companion of my youth who had broken her addiction through a gospel program, and I wanted to give it a try—to break my addiction once and for all! The hundred-dollar bill incident was the critical issue that led me to call a medical social worker to ask for the “gospel treatment.” For some 30 years I had lived a sinful life, but through the hundred-dollar bill incident, I became willing to seek the help I needed through Jesus Christ.
The Grace to Quit
Today at age 46, I am completely out of the pit of drug addiction and am clean in body, soul, and spirit! On my own volition, I entered Barnabas Christian Love Service for drug addicts in Kwai Chung Mental Hospital in Hong Kong to get treatment through biblical means. The loving support of sisters I could confide in was essential in my recovery process. I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ taught with truth and sound doctrine, and I became a born-again Christian. Because of God’s unconditional forgiveness to me—which I felt deeply and received—I was able to forget all the grudges and hatred I felt toward my parents. I even forgave the abuse of my ex-husband. Having a new identity in Christ, I abandoned all my previous wayward wanderings. At age 35, I completed the entire two-year rehabilitative course of therapy through gospel means, and from then on, I have never touched pot or drugs again!
Beginning a New Life
During the two years I lived at Barnabas, I was able to take many courses of study, such as the art of tree-tending, a lifeguard course, writing classes, and classes in computer usage. At the end of my stay, as a successful ex-drug addict, I was able to give my testimony at different local schools. That’s how I met my future husband, Andy. He had had the same drug experience as I but was recovered and working with male addicts in a Lutheran institution.
Two years later, a Christian plastic surgeon hired me as a nurse’s aid to work in his clinic. I often had opportunities there to share about my past and the calling I had to help other addicts. Within that year, I was called to return to Barnabas to work as a counselor for drug addicts. I knew this was God’s calling, and I thanked Him that as an ex-addict, I could return to serve other drug addicts. By this time, Andy and I were married, and this job change allowed us more time together in the evenings.
Then one day, I received a phone call from the executive director of Barnabas. She informed me that there was a vacancy for a part-time position for a “Sharing Minister” and urged me to apply. Believing this was the will of God for me, I responded, and God answered my secret prayers openly by giving me such a meaningful job suited to me. Shepherding work had always been my burden—to serve frontline in sharing the gospel with addicts.
I was also given the opportunity to enroll in theology studies at the seminary. In November 2020, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry and in February 2021, began full-time ministry at Barnabas.
Looking back, my previous life was filthy, broken, resentful, and bitter—until I met Jesus. He broke my bondage to sin and rebuilt my life anew. By His amazing grace I am now able to serve Him and others. All praise to Him!