Two School of Theology 2012 graduates testify of the transformational power of God in bringing hope and victory into their lives during the SOT graduation services over Sep. 22-23 at Singapore Expo.
Compiled by Yong Yung Shin
Yasumasa Aoki, 64
Hello everyone, I am Yasumasa Aoki from Japan. I am grateful and honored to share my testimony today. Since 18, I’ve been in the Yakuza, an organized crime syndicate in Japan. As a teenager, I landed in youth prison twice and five times in juvenile homes. Between ages 16 to 20, I spent only six months out of prison. As an adult, I was jailed another three times.
In the Yakuza society, power is obtained through violence. As a Yakuza leader, I committed acts of violence with a katana (a traditional Japanese sword used by the samurai). I did a full-body tattoo and chopped off parts of my fingers as part of a Yakuza ritual to show penance or apology. I was also into alcohol, gambling, fights, drugs and other vices.
At age 47, I was caught by the police in a case considered taboo even among the Yakuza. Three people died and five committed suicide because of this case. I was sentenced to 15 years of prison. The police also told me that a rival gang was after my life and there was a bounty of USD500,000 on my head.
True enough, an inmate from the rival gang attacked me and smashed my head with a hammer. I was admitted to hospital with a skull fracture. When I woke up, there was a Bible by my bedside. When I read Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me,” I felt peace for the first time in my life.
During my prison term, I was relocated to a prison in Kumamoto for hardcore prisoners. There I met Pastor Yoji for the first time. His church, Kumamoto Harvest Church, is one of CHC’s affiliate churches in Japan. He came to the prison to minister regularly.
In September 2005, I was baptized by Pastor Yoji. I will never forget the gratefulness I felt that day, that Jesus would save a wretch like me.
Pastor Yoji continued to help me in my spiritual growth. He gave me a set of devotionals compiled by Pastor Kong. Soon, I started a small group meeting with some of the inmates using these devotionals.
On 3 March 2011, I completed my 15 years’ prison term. I started attending Kumamoto Harvest Church and heard about City Harvest’s School of Theology.
I met Pastor Kong last year during his trip to Fukuoka and I was very ministered by his preaching. I had a deep hunger to know more about God so I prayed fervently for a way to go to SOT. By God’s grace, I received a scholarship to come SOT. At SOT, my mind was renewed by the Word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit each day.
Here, I’ve witnessed the staff and members of SOT and CHC loving and accepting people who were different such as me. In my view, the Cultural Mandate and the Crossover is about loving people different from us with God’s love.
Through the SOT lessons, ministry, missions and cell groups, I’ve learned to broaden my heart so that God can use me to make a difference in this world.
I am now 64 years old and I’ve spent half my life doing worthless things, but I have a dream to start a halfway house for former convicts to provide a safe environment for their rehabilitation and bridge them to the mainstream society for employment.
It won’t be easy but I’ve learned in SOT that with God, all things are possible!
I thank God for His provision and care for even the smallest needs in my life here in SOT. God has given me a wonderful team, Team 18, whose leaders, Mark and Hansen, have encouraged me throughout the seven months.
I don’t understand English. Yet, God is truly a provider. He sent Richard, my teammate who speaks fluent Japanese. Because of him, I could communicate with other classmates.
Thank you Pastor Kong, Sun and Pastor Bobby for accepting me for who I am. To God only be all glory!
Tan Si Ling, 21
My name is Si Ling. I want to share with you about how God’s grace has seen me through the challenges in my life. I was born with speech impediment. The doctor told my parents that there was a hole in my throat that would cause me to lose clarity in my speech and pronunciation.
The doctor suggested that I undergo an operation as soon as possible to seal up the hole so that I could speak properly in future. But due to my family’s financial difficulty, we were unable to afford the operation fees. My family chose not to proceed with the operation. At age five in kindergarten, my friends couldn’t understand what I said and many of them made fun of me.
I refused to go to school and would throw tantrums each day when I was forced to. This went on till I reached Primary 2. By then, my family had scrimped and saved for the operation. I underwent the operation at the end of 1998.
After the operation and a series of speech therapy sessions the therapist told my parents that this was the best they could do. I grew up with a very low self esteem and didn’t have many friends.
When I first stepped into City Harvest during the Candlelight Service in 2010, I was very touched by God’s love through the people.
They talked to me and treated me as normal. Although I was shy, they kept pressing in and reaching out to me. I felt accepted by this loving bunch of people.
At the end of 2011, after I had graduated from Singapore Polytechnic, my leaders encouraged me to sign up for SOT. I prayed about it and felt the peace to enroll.
Before my SOT interview, I found out that my brother had borrowed money from a loan shark and we had to settle the loan as soon as possible. We also had to move out of our house to avoid the loan shark’s harassment. They would splash paint on the door of our house and threaten to lock us in our house.
My family lived in fear every day, afraid that we would not be able to leave the house the next morning. With the financial burden, I was contemplating not to go to SOT but to go out to work and help pay off the debt.
But I felt faith arise in my heart that God will provide a way for me to be in SOT. Indeed, God really provided for me. I managed to engage two tuition assignments which provided me with more than enough income to cover my monthly SOT school fees and personal expenses.
After I joined SOT, the loan sharks miraculously stopped coming to disturb us and we are in the process of clearing the debt slowly but surely. Our assignments and tests at SOT include mock cell groups and preaching tests, and this was where my fear came back to haunt me. Although I was afraid that I would fail due to my speech impediment, I decided to step out in faith and overcome my fears, and completed all my mock cell group sessions and preaching tests with confidence and faith in God.
During my mission trip to GPdI Church in Indonesia, I was asked to preach an offering message during the Sunday morning main service. It was my first time preaching on stage in a church to more than 100 people. Truly it is not by might, nor by power but by My Spirit, says the Lord.
Through SOT, I’ve received a deeper revelation of who I am in God. Church, we do not need to fear external factors as long as we have a revelation of who we are in Christ. In God, we can overcome any fear in our life.
God can use any of us to touch people’s lives as long as we are willing. Do not limit yourself in what you can do. All things are possible through God. God uses the base things of the world for His glory. If He can use a person like me with speech impediment, He can use anybody.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Pastor Kong, Sun and Pastor Bobby for believing in me. I also want to thank my zone supervisor, Wayne, my cell group leader Julian, and SOT Team 1 for encouraging me throughout these seven months. Thank you for accepting me for who I am. To God alone be all the glory.