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Beyond Buddha to Beloved Child of God

Each morning Alexander Chu awakened to the smell of incense burning offered in front of Buddha statues. His home was like a temple. On each wall hung a Buddha portrait, totaling more than 30 deities throughout the house.

You might think the family lived on a street in Thailand or China yet his home was in Lawrence, Kansas. His father was a science professor with a Guggenheim Award, and his mother was a so-called “tiger mom” who kept the pressure on Andrew and his two sisters for straight A’s.

My Taiwanese family lineage includes generations of Buddhists, so religion was destined to be integral to my identity formation. Yet outside our home, our neighbors pursued an entirely different faith. Somehow, I managed to go through 18 years of life without ever hearing the Good News of Jesus.

In the mid-1990s, Andrew arrived at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. His dorm was full of fervent Christians. These InterVarsity Christian Fellowship students were the first Asian American Christians he had ever met. Andrew said, “Living with them, I began to realize that the Buddhism of my upbringing was not in my heart.”

Growing curious about Christianity during his sophomore year, Andrew asked a friend if he could join him at an IVCF gathering. There for the first time he heard God’s promises declared in worship songs and saw men and women praising him. He joined GIG (Groups Investigating God) and began studying the Gospel of John. Andrew said, “The authority with which Jesus spoke amazed me; it’s as if his words jumped off the pages, addressing me directly.”

Before I could place faith in Jesus, I needed to know there was a rational basis for Christianity’s foundational truths. I attended a retreat sponsored by InterVarsity, where I took an apologetics track. I heard well-founded explanations of the inspiration of Scripture, the problem of evil, and the uniqueness of the gospel. I found that Christianity was the most intellectually stimulating worldview I had ever encountered.

During my junior year I started reading John Stott’s pamphlet “Becoming a Christian.” While reading, I grew convinced of my sin and need to be forgiven. I knelt down committed my life to Christ. I had grown up in a sea of deities, yet never had a relationship with any of them. On that day, I experienced the living God, Emmanuel: “God is with us.” A peace overtook me. That night I became the first Christian in our family’s lineage.

For months he prayed about how to tell his parents what had happened. When he was at home for winter break, he sat in the living room to read Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents. His father was stunned by his reading choice, but also pleased by the dutiful title of the book. When he asked why Andrew was reading it, he told him that he had become a Christian. His parents insisted that the family religion was Buddhism. Both parents held out hope that he would come to his senses and return to the Buddhist faith.

As the years passed, I started to discern a call to vocational ministry. My parents said that if I followed through with this plan, they would cut me off. Sensing disunity in our home, I decided to stay and care for my father, who was battling heart disease. My presence and devotion built mutual respect and helped preserve our relationship. In God’s timing, my family softened to my hopes of becoming a pastor. My parents continue to share their Buddhist experiences with me, and I continue to share my faith with them. My mom regularly prays to Jesus to bless and protect me.

Editor’s note: Andrew now serves on staff as pastor of outreach at a multisite church in the Chicago suburbs.

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