Tony Ta had it all. A successful career, a wonderful wife and a beautiful family. But despite all that, there was a huge void he could not fill. And it seemed like the more he tried, the emptier he felt. But through Alpha, that all changed.
When I was just a baby, my family escaped Vietnam and landed in a refugee camp in Malaysia before settling down in Australia. The Vietnam war in the 1970's saw communists taking over Vietnam, resulting in thousands fleeing the country and many who died trying. My family was one of the fortunate few who survived the ordeal, selling most of our gold and possessions to afford a passage to Malaysia.
However, our boat was hijacked by pirates and what little left of our belongings were snatched. Life became extremely difficult on the boat as food was scarce and people were falling ill. Had the boat trip been longer, I would've been thrown overboard as I was just a baby and had nothing to contribute. Fortunately, we arrived at Pulau Bidon, an island off Terengganu before that happened and it was there that I celebrated my first year of being alive.
A little after we arrived, my father fell ill and was taken to the hospital. He shared a ward with an elderly man whose condition was much more severe in comparison. In fact, that elderly man was told he would not have long to live. Ironically, that man outlived my father and he even offered to pay for a simple funeral for him because we could not even afford that. We spent our remaining year there before we were allocated to Australia where a local baptist church helped resettle us.
Even though we were Buddhist and still practised traditional rites, I remember going to church every Easter and Christmas, singing hymns and praying to God. We were grateful for the church's help but in the end, no one in my family came to Christ. I would spend my primary school years in a Catholic school, where I never went through baptism, confirmation nor received communion, being one of the few non-Catholics to be exempted. Similarly, at University, I met many Christian friends who tried unsuccessfully (albeit persistently) to 'save me'. I scoffed at their efforts and decided that It just might not be for me.
Growing up in poverty, the concept of money and power reigned supreme in my life. After graduating from university, I managed to land a good job, got married to an amazing woman, bought a beautiful house and travelled in style in a Maserati. I also indulged in the many vices of life like drinking, smoking and womanising, thinking I had achieved it all.
Years later, I would come to realise the futility of this so called "good life" as it was suddenly snatched away from me. I had settled in Singapore at the time and thought everything was going to be smooth from here on out. Out of the blue, I was notified that I was going to be retrenched and that I was going to lose everything. Nothing prepared me for this.
It was at that moment, a close friend of mine, Daniel introduced me to Alpha. In the 7 years of our friendship, he never once pushed Christianity on me nor judged me. Like God, he patiently waited for the right moment and used Alpha to bridge that gap. So, I decided to go for it with no expectations, well except for the good food he promised me!
To be honest, I never expected to be affected by Alpha especially since I've had all the previous 'training' when I was young. Little did I know I would be ready to surrender myself to God by the fourth week and be consumed by the Holy Spirit during the Alpha Day Away. What took me by surprise was that Daniel was going through life's very test, falling very ill and spending most of his time in the hospital, but never once did his faith and love for others wavered. That heart broke mine and I was ready to embrace a new outlook in life.
Overall I enjoyed myself but the most memorable moment for me during Alpha was when I had two of my questions answered: is there more to life and why am I here? These two unanswered questions plagued my life and to have Nicky Gumbel answer it so logically, succinctly and so matter of fact made me chastise myself for not thinking of it sooner. It was simply refreshing.
I'd like to say that my life is perfect now and that every day I walk in the righteousness of Christ but then I'd be lying. Life is not without its tribulations but I am happy to say that things have indeed changed for the better since Alpha. I have learnt to find rest in God, lighten my burden with the yoke of Christ and appreciate the simple things that has slipped my mind before. (Like's my wife's cooking!)
If I could describe my faith now, I'd say that I hunger and thirst for Him more and more each day. I am desperate for Him to reveal more of Himself and I yearn to learn more about God's heart and nature. MUCH MORE. So, if you are considering Alpha, all I can say is - you've got nothing to lose but so much more to gain.