The Tirade That Made Me a Christian by Vivian Mabuni

“After an unwelcome move halfway across the world, I vented my anger to God. Then I learned to give him control.”

Here’s the captivating story of salvation as recounted by Vivian Mabuni

I can still perceive the smell of the incense. My dad would light three sticks of it, prop them up in a bowl of uncooked rice, kneel, and bow till his forehead met the ground. Three times he would bow—slowly, reverently—and the room would grow gloomy and silent. I can recall watching the smoke curl in the air and vanish into the dining room lights.

Special delicacies, family traditions

Platters of our favorite Chinese delicacies occupied the dining table. My mouth waters thinking about the sea cucumber, bamboo shoots, abalone, extra-large shrimp, flavorful shiitake mushrooms, and special vegetables we purchased from the only Asian supermarket in our area—which was still more than an hour away.

A single chair, positioned away from the table, represented the spirit of my grandmother. Each dish symbolized a special offering to honor her memory. She had died from lung cancer, and I had never met her personally. I only recognize her from a portrait in my dad’s office. When I was a little girl, this portrait scared me—was too sure her eyes were following my every step.

After all the family members have taken turns kneeling and bowing, my dad would take the incense out the back door, and we would sit down to enjoy the feast.

A glimpse of a new life

Vivian Mabuni grew up in what she described as a culturally Buddhist household. She recalled her early life. Read on.

By “culturally Buddhist,” I mean that religion didn’t have effect on my daily life. When it came to rituals like honoring the spirit of my grandma, I was only involved in the motions.

Our family resided in Boulder, Colorado—a beautiful city snuggled in the mountains. The fresh mountain air was scented with pine—and at times pot. Boulder is filled with granola-type hippies, plenty of new-age crystals, and throngs of the spiritually open-minded.

Growing up culturally Buddhist in an immigrant home, I knew no other thing about American holidays except for what I learned at school. Christmas revolved around presents and Santa Claus. Easter had something to do with a giant white bunny, jelly beans, and colorful concealed eggs.

Secret of the newly found glow

During her sophomore year of high school, a friend Vivian Mabuni sat next to in math class, Jean, went through a remarkable change in disposition. Intrigued, she asked her the secret of her newfound glow.

“Well, Viv, I became a Christian. I have a personal relationship with Jesus now. He died to forgive my sins, and now I’m born again and made new. The glow is from my new life in Christ.” she replied. Vivian was devastated. Her story continues.

Oh, no. Disappointment filled me from head to toe. Jean was funny and smart. How could she get scammed into becoming a weird Jesus freak? But over the course of the year, the change in her stuck, and she continued to alter before my eyes.

God-shaped vacuum

God worked in her life in precise and unexplainable ways. She liked to say that human beings could never be satisfied with relationships, shopping, awards, or achievements. God had made people with a God-shaped vacuum that only He could fill.

My heart felt unsettled. Even as a teenager, I could already see the pointlessness of going after bigger, brighter, better. The temporary thrill of winning an award or buying something new to wear could not relieve the emptiness I felt inside.

Attending church

I started going to church and attending the youth group, majorly to check out the cute boys at first. Before long, I started asking questions and learned that I wasn’t expected to have blind faith.

Over time, I grew fascinated by the person of Jesus, who spoke words of radical hope. His invitation to enter a relationship with the God of heaven proved compelling. The summer before my junior year of high school, I gave my heart and life to Jesus—or so I believed.

I understand that Christians were supposed to read the Bible, so I bought a copy at the bookstore. But no matter how much I read, so little made sense. To be honest, I found the Bible pretty much boring. I also knew that Christians were supposed to pray, but whenever I attempted it, I would get distracted or fall asleep.

Something wasn’t working

On Sundays, if I happened to wake up in time, I would drive by myself to church. I wept through every song during worship. I wanted to know God, to love him and live for him. However, I would drive home, and life went on as usual.

I would return to my selfish ways and take matters into my own hands. Christianity wasn’t working for me, so I planned to toss it  indifferently aside like just another teenage phase.

A tumultuous experience

Then my life got turned upside down. My dad underwent a midlife crisis and moved our family from Boulder to Hong Kong. I had great plans for my senior year. Now the plans were dashed.

I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t read or write Chinese, and I didn’t speak Cantonese (we grew up speaking Mandarin, a completely different dialect).

Everything was diverse: the currency, the climate, the culture and customs, the ferry, the red taxicabs, and even the railway system.

I remember sitting on my bed in our little flat, tears burning in my eyes. Furious and confused, I unleashed my frustration and let God know exactly how I felt.

A sincere prayer

But at the end of her tirade, Vivian Mabuni included a heartfelt prayer: “In my heart of hearts, I want to know you and do your will. I need a church and a youth group, some Christian friends. And if you do that, I will give you my whole life. I’ll hold nothing back.”

Straight into God’s hands

Shortly afterwards, I got involved with the debate team at Maryknoll Convent School, the all-girls Catholic school I attended. One of the top schools in Hong Kong, it sat at the corner of a boisterous intersection in Kowloon.

The girls at Maryknoll were polished and confident. I’d never been in a more academically challenging environment.

Classes there were taught in English, but the students bantered in Cantonese. When I learned that the debate team competed in English, I decided to partake in it. The girls on my team became my closest friends.

After one of the debates, a boy from a rival boys school approached me. “Excuse me,” he said. “Are you a Christian? Would you like to come to our youth group?”

Impossible by your efforts

The following Friday, I attended the meeting, hosted at a Christian and Missionary Alliance church close to our home. That night, I learned that the Christian life wasn’t just difficult to live—it was impossible to live, at least by our own efforts. God supplied the power source. Reliance upon him and his Spirit empowered us to live as Christians.

When we moved to Hong Kong, all the things I had held on to so tightly were suddenly stripped away. But in their place came a spiritual breakthrough. For the first time in my life, I willingly want to give God total control. Once I made this commitment, Scripture came to life in a brand new way. And God’s Spirit to started lead, guide, comfort, and convict.

A worthy mentor

In Hong Kong, I met consistently with a mentor who showed me how to study the Bible and live out my faith. I asked her numerous questions, and she faithfully invested her life in mine. I wrote her name next to Hebrews 13:7 in my Bible (“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.”), and since then, I’ve included the names of several others who have aided my spiritual growth.

Over the years, I’ve often needed to recommit to God’s rule and reign. This was particularly true as I puzzled over my career path after college and suffered through financial challenges, family and ministry heartbreaks, and a cancer diagnosis several years ago. But each time I placed my heart, life, plans, hopes, and dreams into God’s hands, I found that his faithfulness is unwavering.

Source: Vivian Mabuni

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