A Buddhist Hears From Jesus
(Please listen to Allison’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)
My name is Allison and I am half Chinese, half Vietnamese. It’s actually a really cool story, how my parents met. My family, on my mom’s side, owns the oldest Chinese restaurant in San Antonio. It’s over 80 years old and, and my mom grew up in a Chinese American home. My dad was a Vietnamese refugee. During the fall of Saigon, the government took everything and my grandpa apparently owned a restaurant at the US army base. So when it fell, they took him as a P.O.W., but my dad and my grandma were able to get out of the country. They became refugees in San Antonio, Texas. My grandma just did whatever she could to provide for the family. That went from, you know, cleaning toilets to whatever it was and so, my dad would come alongside her in middle school and high school to just provide and be the man of the household. And anyways, he ended up getting a job at the restaurant as a bus-boy Hong Fong. And what’s so cute is he bet $20 he’d get a date with the boss’s daughter, which is my mom. It’s so that’s how my parents met. My grandpa, after being a POW for 17 years, or prisoner of war, he ended up becoming sponsored. So he came to America a few months after I was born. My grandparents essentially resided in Houston with me and my parents. And I just remember growing up, we always had four bedrooms and one of the bedrooms was always a Buddhist praying room and a Buddhist temple. So that was the household that I grew up in.
My mom started going to this book club. Well, turns out, at a funeral, she ended up encountering the Lord, heard the gospel, and said, “I want to be a follower of Jesus.” So she accepted Jesus that day. Turns out that book club was a Bible study and the moms, the neighborhood moms had just loved her and honored her and showed her the love of Jesus for you know, for I don’t even know how long. And that should be the happy story, but as a young girl, that’s actually where a lot of the turmoil came because she was the daughter-in-law of Buddhist monks and so yeah, my dad constantly threatened with divorce and wanting to leave the family because he, he married a Buddhist, not a Christian. However, my mom was extremely faithful and still wanted to be married to my dad and my dad obviously loved my mom. And so, despite it being rocky at some points of their marriage, my mom really clung on to her faith in secrecy. And she really honored God by honoring her husband. I remember even as a little girl, I would go up to my mom and say, “Mom, like why can’t you be Buddhist like the rest of us?” and she goes, “One day you’ll understand, Allison.”
Fast forward to me. I was a typical Asian student; always made all A’s and extracurriculars and did, you know, what was expected of me on the academic and extracurricular side. I ended up getting a full ride to UT Austin and I was going to become a medical doctor. So I was a biology major and going to UT Austin. I went crazy. I came from a strict background and household, so the minute I got released into college, it was free game for me. So I really started partying, a lot of drinking, a lot of promiscuous sleeping around, just kind of all of that and eventually drugs were brought in and it was just one thing after the other. I thought I was living the best days of my life; however, that’s when I also hit rock bottom.
I remember having my first panic attack in front of the Chick-fil-A, and waking up in the hospital. And the doctor comes up, when I woke up and he said, “Ma’am, when is the last time you’ve eaten? I said, “I don’t, I don’t remember.” And he goes, “Well, ma’am, you’re 88 pounds right now and you’re on the verge of heart failure. Whatever you’re doing, it’s killing you.” He diagnosed me with depression, anxiety, eating disorder and started putting me on all these medications. You would think with all of the medications, things would start to get better, but it got worse. The suicidal thoughts kept occurring more and more and more to the point where I had two suicide attempts in college and my parents thought it was best to take me out. So I medically dropped for a semester, and this is where I could have turned to the Lord, but instead I ended up blaming my parents. It was their fault for, you know, putting all these, this high stress on me. It’s their fault because they wanted me to be a doctor but I didn’t. It was their fault, x, y, and z. So I came back [to school] my senior year and said, I’m going to live my own life and I’m going to take my life into my own hands. I’m going to be, I’m going to go into politics. I graduated from college, I went into politics and on the surface everything looked so good.
I had a very quick, booming political career with a lot of campaigns and you know, I had almost every guy at my fingertip and, and everything again, looks so great on the outside. But I was even more depressed than, than before. I remember being at the Capitol, and I got news from someone, honestly, it was, it was a Christian and he was calling me out for something that I did. At that point I thought Christianity was just a way of life. I knew nothing about Jesus. I thought it was you be a good person and you’re really nice. And, and I really started questioning like, “Do I even? Well, I’m not even a Christian. Like, Why? Why does this even matter?” And I remember just spiraling, carrying the lies of the enemy. Like, Not even Christians accept you and they’re supposed to be the most accepting people. You know, this is going to be your life. Everyone sees you as this used girl, you know. You’re, you’re never–it was just lie after lie after lie and it just, it was a snowball effect. And I remember just stumbling and crying to the bathroom, and I’m just sitting on the floor. I just started screaming out to God and I said, “God, if You are real, and You’re as good as everyone says You are, reveal Yourself to me. Because if not, this life is not worth living.” And His presence filled the bathroom, and I met Jesus and I don’t even remember every detail of our other than it was bright, and white, and pure and holy. And it was the complete opposite of the life that I was living, where I’m sitting on a bathroom floor, crying out, having a whole thing of pills in my hand. It’s at that point, what do you have to lose? And I remember someone saying this. So these aren’t my words, but it’s something that I think back to that time. “When you encounter the Lord, You are so convicted of sin and how far away you are from a righteous and holy God. And yet you feel so fully loved and accepted.” And that feeling, you can’t explain that that feeling. Why would you not want to say, “Yes, Jesus, I want you.” And so that was May of 2015.
Then a month later, I went on a mission trip to Nepal, and it was the first time That I actually saw the cost of what it was to follow Jesus. It was hurricane relief, or sorry, earthquake relief from the 2015 earthquakes. And I was meeting young girls that were getting beat by their fathers, by their brothers for being followers of Jesus. I was meeting little girls that would be starved, or they would get the scraps after the entire family ate, because they would not denounce their faith. And at that point, you know, I’m two months into professing my faith. And I said, God, what is my cost to follow you in America? You know, I complain about waking up for the early service. You saved my life, everything that I have is Yours. How do You want to use me? So missions kept popping up over and over and over again. Through a whole bunch of divine appointments, I said yes to going on the World Race, which was 11 countries in 11 months. The Lord brought me to four countries in Asia, three countries in Africa, and four countries in South America and I saw what it was for the body of Christ to follow Jesus outside of the westernized Christian mindset. And it was beautiful. It really opened my eyes and seeing the joy that they have that, that’s supernatural. Like, there’s there’s no possible way they could be in these conditions, persecuted, you know, even in human trafficking, but they have the joy of the Lord because they know that Jesus is their Savior.
It wasn’t theology that got us to say, “No, we’re not Buddhists anymore, and we’re going to follow this man named Jesus.” But it was an encounter of the Lord.
The reason I guess I’m on here is because I posted something on Facebook. I went to the Upper Room prayer intensive, just this last month, and I was I was sitting out around standing outside just talking, and I see a face that I haven’t seen in probably over a decade. We lock eyes and he goes, “Allison?”, and it clicked to me. The only reason I recognize this face is because we both attended Buddist Youth Camp together in high school. We just started sharing testimonies and where the Lord had brought us and turns out, we both encountered the Lord during a suicide attempt. It was him in college. For me, it was the year after college. And, you know, when you encounter the Lord and you, you experience Him, you can’t shut up about Him. And so, you know, I feel like my testimony is unique, but it’s not because it happens all around the world but no one I know, in a lot of the Christian circles that I knew, and in Texas that’s not talked about. It’s not hearing the voice of the Lord. It’s not encountering Him. It’s just the idea of Him, and my heart is to actually have people experience Him because when you do, it changes everything. It transforms your entire life. And so because of that, I wanted to share the story of how Joseph and I reunited after a decade at an Upper Room conference.
So I shared and I was very vocal about how we both heard the voice of the Lord. His testimony was powerful because he said, he has talked to Buddha his entire life and the one time that he started crying out to God during a suicide attempt… You know, he remembered hearing a Christian say, If you speak to Jesus, He will speak back to you. And so that was brought to his mind. And he’s like, What do I have to lose? And so during his suicide attempt, he started talking to Jesus and the very first voice he heard was not of his own voice; it’s a voice he’s never heard before. Because of that, he knew that was God’s voice. Because he said, he spent his entire life talking to Buddha. I mean, this, you know, Joseph was such a devout… I mean, he was a way better Buddhist than I ever was. He even went on pilgrimages to China and shaved his head and had done Buddhist rituals, all of these things. You know, completely sold out and even got more of his family more involved with Buddhism. So he was like the poster child, I feel like, for Buddhism. And God got ahold of him when he screamed out to Him and spoke to Him.
And I think at the end of the day, even just that theology of, “God doesn’t speak outside of the Bible.” That just breaks my heart. I, you know, I said, “This might offend a lot of Christians.” on my Facebook [post] because I’ve already lost a lot of friendships, people who really just don’t believe that God speaks. So everything about my ministry or everything even about my life is blaspheme to them. And, and so I said, You know what, this is God’s testimony. This is God’s glory, how He’s done this and reunited us and so I’m just going to post it. Within 72 hours, about 1,600 people liked it. It was shared over 700 times, and I don’t really actually care about the numbers, but it was just the testimony that went out — that God still speaks. He still encounters. We’re not fictitious people. You know me, you know, I’m an average person and if God can encounter me as an average person, then He absolutely wants to encounter every other person. And so it was just a beautiful story. And even what’s more beautiful than that is hearing the amount of people that reached out within that week of, Hey, I also was a Buddhist, and I had a suicide attempt and encountered the Lord. And it was story after story after story, and it’s like, “God, am I supposed to start a support group for ex Buddhists?” I mean, it was just so many and it was the same story!
It wasn’t, it wasn’t theology that got us to say, “No, we’re not Buddhists anymore, and we’re going to follow this man named Jesus.” But it was, it was an encounter of the Lord and so it’s been an adventure. And why not?