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Updated: May 23, 2023

by Deborah Chan, Disciple of Christ. Group leader of a house discipleship group.

Rev Leslie Lim started a house discipleship group in April 2019 and challenged my husband and me to be the house captains. In June 2019, Philip Chan*, a brother of one of our dear friends, joined us after being challenged to grow in Christ. He was a good student in elementary school and he was his father’s hope for the family. However, Philip started to hang out with bad influences and formed bad habits in his life like lying, skipping classes, stealing money, and being addicted to gaming. Eventually, he dropped out of middle school without finishing it. At that time, he received Jesus Christ but he did not let God change him; he was a runaway son.

When we first met Philip in 2017, he was a jobless young man who came to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) looking for something better. Philip was still in the pit of life: partying, spending money recklessly, and having broken relationship. He needed God to heal his broken spirit but he still did not go to Him. By the time he came to HCMC, he considered himself as an atheist who trusted in no one but himself. Then, we reconnected again in 2019. After all the dramas Philip went through, he admitted that he needed God and wanted to be changed. Thus, the journey of God’s mighty transformation began.

It was not easy for Philip. Since he joined the discipleship group until end of 2019, he did not have a stable-income job. He worked as a newbie real estate agent. For more than half a year, he did not make any money yet he accumulated debts. He did not even know how much debts he had but he was always late for paying rent, or not paying rent at all. He would go on a couple of days without eating and would try to excuse himself out from the fellowship with the other group members.

Although he did not share, we could tell that he had a burden; it was so obvious on his face. There was no joy in Philip’s life during that time. We sat him down and had talks with him. Eventually, Philip started to open up and shared with us that he had borrowed money from relatives, friends, and hot cash (credits) with very high interest. The burden of finance had gotten the best of him, together with his pride, he did not want anyone to know. Together with Pastor Leslie, we prayed for him, taught him how to manage his money wisely, and worked with him to have a plan to repay all his debts. Through much prayers and persistent tough love of keeping him accountable, Philip was able to pay off some of his debts.

Yet when he told us he had paid all of his debts, he was not truthful because of his ego. Pride was still a struggle which God was going to break from him. In the beginning of 2020, secretly, Philip started to accumulate debts again. He tried to hide from us, thinking it was safe and we would not suspect. When he earned money, he would pay his debts first, and borrowed some more because it was not enough. He started paying rent late again, asking for late payment month after month with different kind of excuses until we confronted him. It was not because of the rental issue, but because God had impressed on us that Philip was dishonest and that he needed to be rebuked. It was a devasted moment for Philip. He thought he could lie to God, and continue to live his life in sin’s bondages.

But God is a gracious Father who disciplines His child for his good; He never intends anything harmful for His child. We wanted to teach Philip about the fear of God and that he needed to be honest before Him because our God is all-knowing, we cannot hide anything from Him. We taught Philip the lesson of being accountable to his earthly leaders just as he is accountable to God whom He cannot see. Furthermore, he will be accountable to God on that Day. But most of all, God was moulding Philip into becoming His servant with clean heart and hands. God stripped away Philip’s pride that day. Philip was drowned in shame and guilt but at the same time, he was liberated; he was no longer keeping any secret sins.

It was also a test for me as a house captain. Seeing what Philip had gone through and all the lies he made up, I thought how we could continue to bear with him. In previous talks, Philip agreed that if he ever lied to us again, he would have to move out of the group. But God’s grace and mercy is more than what we can think or understand. Jesus’ way is more gracious and loving than us! Through the prayer and encouragement of Pastor Leslie and Auntie Linda, God changed my heart, melted down the anger, and put more of His love in me so that I could look at Philip with the love and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. Together as a family of God, we received Philip back into our fellowship. We forgave and were committed to love, encourage, and pray for Philip even more. All we wanted to see was what God has wanted for Philip. Thank God for His work not only in Philip’s heart but also in all of the group members’ hearts. Philip continued to stay with us for two more years until he came out when he got married at the end of 2021.

Two and a half years of Philip’s journey with the discipleship group is a testimony of Jesus Christ’ victory and transforming grace. God had seen Philip before he could choose Him. His love for Philip was both intense and tender at once. Philip had run away time after time, and God was there waiting for him all the times. God wanted to let this son see how the good work He had started in him will be brought into completion until the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although a major part of Philip’s life is moulded yet we praise God that Philip’s life is still under construction.

In our discipleship group, Philip experienced the love of God’s people as we committed to pray and love one another by God’s grace. We are washed by the Holy Word of God week after week, and challenged to forgive and to live out the truth that we have learnt. We have the opportunity to share our Christian life in practical ways and see the spiritual transformation taking place. Philip came into our discipleship group when he was at his lowest point: no job, in debt, lost with no direction, wasted life in sins. He came out with a repentant heart, a debt-free and more, a married young man to a godly wife and as a result, both his parents are believers now. Truly, when God changes us, He would not do it halfway, but He desires and will bring us to a complete total change. Philip’s life has been transformed in his time at our group and it will definitely be an encouragement for us to want to keep on seeing God’s mighty work in others’ lives in the discipleship group where agape love rules!


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1 Comment

Dear friend, I am glad to learn of the manner in which you had dealt with your struggles, and I am especially pleased to share the joy of God's transformation in your life. Praise be to God for He is loving, merciful and extends grace to all who call upon His Name! Be encouraged as you place Christ in the centre of your daily walk. By His grace, He will strengthen and empower you to deal with issues that come your way. Take care. Shalom..

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