A Prodigal Brought Home

Growing up in a Christian family, I followed my pastor father everywhere throughout the Far East in his ministry. But I did not follow him in being a good student or having interest in Christianity. When I was seventeen years of age, my family moved from East to West and settled in the U.S., and that turned out to be the beginning of a long nightmare that tragically plunged me into a dissipated lifestyle. I rejected all rules and conventions for a long period of time until, finally, the Lord woke me up and brought me back to Himself and to safety.

Vicious Cycles of Addition

At a state University in New York I was a sloppy student with no serious mindset to achieve anything from my education. During my four years of college, I became friends with other students who were experimenting with truancy, heavy drinking, partying, and the habit of getting high on drugs. Because of my lifestyle, my health began to deteriorate. I lost a lot of weight as a result of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and loss of appetite due to abusing so many different kinds of drugs.

I made it through college somehow with a degree in Literature and Creative Writing. I got several wellpaying jobs in the publishing and advertising industries as typographer and production manager. I also traveled extensively while working for the technical support division of an international company. All the while, my wanton lifestyle continued, and my drug addiction escalated. And my parents had no idea I was involved in these shameful habits.

In the 1970s, the advertising field paid well. I had a steady income with many perks. But I spent all my money on drugs. I began with alcohol and marijuana and soon became addicted to amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine, and opium. I was also a habitual gambler, going when I could to Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe. Once, while working in Lake Tahoe, I spent three days and nights without sleep, gambling in casinos at night after working all day.

During this time I was in a dangerous car accident and my father flew from New York to San Francisco to see me. But I told him I had no time to meet with him because he had not made a prior appointment with my secretary. Later, my mother told me that my dad was so agitated by my behavior that he forgot his jacket and camera and left them behind when he boarded his return flight. The vicious cycle of addiction I was in caused me to reject my family and friends.

Touched by a Prayer

Around 1983, my father came to visit me again, and brought me to a seminary in Berkeley to see Rev. Paul Contento, a missionary who had returned after serving many years in Vietnam. He prayed a simple and brief prayer: “Thank you, Lord, for giving me this opportunity to see Pastor Wong and his son Michael.” His prayer touched my heart because I realized Rev. Contento had given his life to Christ and served in a foreign country far from home. And upon returning to the U.S., he served as a seminary professor and lived on campus in student quarters. As Rev. Contento prayed, I sensed God’s presence in a real way. I wished I could pray like he did, and when I got home that evening, I got on my knees and said a prayer. I said to God: “Let me know if you are real. Let me know in whatever way you choose.”

I needed to know whether God truly existed. If He did, I would pray for His mercy. If He didn’t, then I would continue living without hope or purpose. For years I had tried to get off drugs with no success. I felt empty and adrift. Too many nights I believed that my life would finally end as a result of tachycardia. I associated with drug dealers and pimps and put myself at risk going out in the wee hours of the night to buy drugs. Over and over I was on my knees, asking God for help. But I was stubborn until God’s time had come. He freed me from drug addiction, cigarette addiction and gambling—once and for all.


Many times during my struggles as I lay in bed unable to sleep because of the freebase cocaine I was using, the image of my mother would come to my mind. She seemed so small and helpless the day I waved goodbye to her from a Greyhound bus as I made my way to New York City to meet with a friend for a cross-country drive to California. She watched me from the curb as the bus departed. I knew her heart was breaking, not knowing if she would see me again. Those were times when I pleaded with God not to let my life end, for how could my parents go on living if their only son died from an overdose.

During many sleepless nights, paranoia led me to recall one hymn that I learned during childhood: “Thank the Lord for saving my soul.” During the long nights of tachycardia when I felt death was near, I bargained with God, promising that if I could survive another day, I would go and worship Him on Sunday—“If you’ll just let me live through the night!” But what God wanted was not just an outward act of attending church on Sunday—He wanted my heart!

During the fifteen years I was caught in addiction I was never in my right mind. I skipped work, missed meals, and buried myself at home. Whenever I found enough energy, I would get more cocaine and continue feeding my addiction to freebase. I used barbiturates to get to sleep, and speed to get through the day. I was so weak at times I could not drive myself to and from the office. I relied on taxicabs wherever I went, including trips in search of drugs. When my guilt became unbearable, I would flush the drugs down the toilet, only to buy more the next time I had enough strength to get out of the house. I neglected my friends and family, didn’t pay my bills, and spent all I earned on drugs.

A Change Within

One day God broke through and spoke from the pages of an illustrated children’s book on the Life of Jesus. As I looked at pictures of Christ’s life on earth in a children’s Reader’s Digest publication, a strange sense of peace and comfort filled me. In 1985 I started back to church and was given a Bible. As I read it I began to feel a change within. I had a desire to re-establish ties with my parents, so in 1988 I moved back to Ithaca, New York, to be with my parents. I resigned my work and left San Francisco—and all my addictions! The Lord had changed me from the inside out.

A graduate student at Cornell University at my dad’s church was willing to spend time discipling me and answering my questions as we systematically read through the Word of God. Then I came to the point when the Bible was so captivating that I told my father I wanted to study at seminary. This happened in 1990. I enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary with my parents’ financial support.

In 1993, I married Tracia, and graduated that year with a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies. With my wife’s support, I earned another Master’s degree in Counseling and Development, and later on, a Doctoral degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas Woman’s University. I worked for a while for Dallas County Mental Health and Mental Retardation. Then in 1995 I responded to an altar call after hearing Luis Palau speak at an Ambassadors for Christ mission conference. I dedicated my life to serving God in whatever way He led. In 1998, responding to God’s calling, I began vocational ministry and was ordained a year later.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” – 2 Corinthians 5: 17.

Brought Home by Love

After I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was given strength to change gradually from dissipation to discipline. When I began my new life, I thanked my Lord and my parents. My father had always loved me unconditionally despite my rebellion. He gave me money to make a down payment on a home—but I used it to buy a car. He wanted to visit me when I was injured, but I rejected him. Yet my father always responded to me with forgiveness. When I was home in the summer during college years, my father would take me to an American church, sitting beside me to ensure that I heard God’s words, even though he understood very little English.

Because of the love of my earthly father, I know and feel the love of my heavenly Father. The love of my mother is also inspiring. Growing up with asthma, I was taken care of meticulously by her day and night. When I was caught in my addictions to the point of dying, it was the remembrance of my mother’s love that provided the impetus to hold on while my heart was pounding. The unconditional love of my parents led me to consider the surpassing love of God that brought a prodigal home at last!

(This article is a synopsis from original article in Chinese, “Prodigal Son Returning Home” by Kelly Yu, telling the story of Pastor Mike Wong in first person, translated into English by Philip Yu.)

(Philip Yu is a violin teacher residing in New Jersey, USA. He is the husband of Kelly Yu, contract editor of Chinese Christian Mission. Pastor Michael Wong is a good friend of theirs, and at present is serving at a Chinese Church in Bellevue, Washington. )

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20120402
Reprint please credit to Challenger, 20121012 2012. CCMUSA.