Font Size » + | -

I was born in Guangzhou (Canton) China shortly after the end of WWII, the oldest of four children. After the Korean War, my mother took my brother and me to Hong Kong to be reunited with my father, who had left China after my younger brother was born. My two younger sisters were born in Hong Kong.

I was first exposed to Christianity in Hong Kong when I attended a church-sponsored grade school. My father also gave me a Chinese–English Baptist hymnal so I could learn to play the harmonica. The Lord began speaking to me at an early age.

In 1959, when I was twelve, my family immigrated to America, to Seattle. Shortly after our arrival, my mother learned from my grandmother that my father had taken a second wife. This disclosure had a devastating effect on the family. We four children did not experience anything close to a normal family life. I hated my father for what he did.

My way of dealing with this deep hurt and disappointment was to prove to myself that I could succeed on my own despite growing up in a dysfunctional home. This choice was not so much to show other people; in fact, it would be very un-Chinese to defame the family name. I never mentioned our family situation to any of my friends or classmates. Nevertheless, from high school through college, my main ambition was to do well academically.

Ricky Poon with his family.

Ricky Poon with his family.

God was not on my mind too often. My parents had to work tough jobs, and I didn’t want to live that kind of a life. Coming of age in the late 60s and early 70s, I distrusted the older generation and the establishment. I lived what I thought was a moral life. On the surface, I was a kind and caring person. In truth, I lived for self-gratification, filled with the pride that came with the belief that I was so much better than my father. I lived with the lie that somehow I was better than other people. I was the dutiful son, a good model to my younger siblings, and excelled academically. I thought that as long as I was “good,” people would accept me. I still was not able to let go of my hatred for my father and did not realize how trapped I had become in my own bitterness.

Things changed in 1974 when I began working in Portland, Oregon, as an engineer. My future wife, Irene, and I were introduced to each other by our uncles, who were war buddies in China. Irene was living in Taiwan at the time. We corresponded by handwritten letters for two years. (Irene wrote in English and I in Chinese.) A coworker invited me to a Mandarin Chinese-speaking church. I agreed to visit only because I wanted to improve my Chinese. Nonetheless I felt the love of the Christians at that church – a love that did not expect anything in return. Finally I visited Taiwan, and it was “love at first sight!” Irene and I were soon married.

Spiritual healing came when the Holy Spirit spoke to me through God’s Word. Reading from the book of Romans, I realized I was not as good as I thought. I found that no amount of good works could offer me salvation from my sins. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB).

One night in March of 1977, I was convicted by the words of Isaiah 53, particularly verse 5 (NASB): “But He
was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”

I understood the pain that Jesus had endured so I could be saved. I cried and knelt down at my bedside. I admitted that I was a sinner, asked for forgiveness, and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I understood that God accepted me the way I was and that salvation was by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I experienced true forgiveness for the first time. I was able to finally forgive my father. Outwardly I may not have demonstrated a lot of change, but inwardly I knew I was a new man. I was freed from the bondage of hatred for my father and from the lie that I have to be perfect to be loved. Irene and I were baptized on the same Easter Sunday in Portland, Oregon.

The day before my father died, he admitted his guilt openly for the first time and asked his children’s forgiveness. He revealed that he was baptized in Okinawa during the Korean War. (Hence the Baptist hymnal he gave me in Hong Kong.) That was a shock after having known him as a devout Buddhist for twenty years. I read Scripture passages to him and led him in a prayer of repentance and reaffirmation of his faith in Christ. The next morning, June 20, 2003, he was gone.

As I look at my life, I can say with confidence that God’s plan is the best plan and God’s timing is always the perfect timing.

About the Author

Ricky-Poon-AuthorRicky Poon is a member of the Board of Directors of Inste Global Bible College (IGBC) and IGBC’s Assistant Dean of Chinese Ministries. He also served as a member of the University of Oregon President’s Diversity Advisory Community Council.

About The Author

Open Bible's Publication Since 1920

Since 1920, Message of the Open Bible has been a medium to celebrate all the wonderful things God is doing through His people in Open Bible Churches – from personal testimonies, to news-related stories, to inspirational articles by quality authors.