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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Stephen Vance
By sjvance2 @ 9:59 AM :: 8966 Views
 

Background

I was born and raised in North York, but I now live in Scarborough where my wife and I share the Gospel in the Chinese community. After completing my degree in computer science at University of Waterloo, I worked at IBM developing their database product, DB2. However, I became convinced that God was calling me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ full-time, so in 2001 I left my software position at IBM to devote my time to spreading the good news about Jesus Christ. Many of my co-workers thought it was a crazy decision – why leave a successful career to serve God? But in the years since then I have discovered that God’s way is always the best!

I was raised in a wonderful family along with two sisters, and I have many happy childhood memories. Both my parents were school-teachers, so we were encouraged to learn and read books from childhood. Our family was also a spiritual family, where we read the Bible daily, and sometimes twice a day. And my parents also prayed with us. I knew through their own quiet faith that they had something real and valuable above everything. We attended Sunday School and the meetings of Lansing Gospel Hall regularly. But even though I learned the Bible, I was not a Christian. I had never personally accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my own Saviour. I did not have the knowledge that when I died I would be taken to heaven for sure.

Salvation
God spoke to me many times about my own salvation, but I don’t remember being concerned about it too often as a youth. One particular memory I have about spiritual things and the future was the first time I thought about death. We were traveling home by car from a piano concert that we had played at, and we stopped to let two girls cross the road. Another driver, however, did not stop and nearly ran over the two girls. I remember it took my breath away to think I had almost witnessed a death – and it made me wonder if I was ready to meet God. It was a frightening experience.

But this all changed on Sunday, March 27, 1988. Earlier in the week my cousin said he had found salvation from God. He was now ready for heaven, and I was not—a division between us. I went to a Gospel meeting that Sunday night, all absorbed with how I wanted to be saved, but I just could not figure it out.

When I got home I went straight to my room. I struggled with it. I prayed. But nothing worked. And so in desperation I asked God that if there was any way that I could be saved and know it, He would show it to me. And suddenly it came to my mind—when Jesus Christ died at the cross, He died for my sins, and that was enough to provide for my salvation! It was so clear, and I knew for sure I was saved! I did not then know the Bible verse “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). But I had experienced it—I had called, and now I was saved!

Changed
When a person gets saved, Christ enters their life and things begin to change. I didn’t realize this at the time, but started to recognize it later. Shortly after I was saved, God put a desire in my heart to read the Bible – I started reading God’s Word every day, something I have done ever since. God has been a wonderful teacher! I also began to pray regularly, and it was wonderful to see my new Father-God answering the simple requests I would bring to Him.

I was quite shy as a teenager, so I didn’t tell anyone I was saved for over a year. But friends at our church later told me they could tell I was saved, because I started to treat my two younger sisters more nicely. Two years after I was saved, God put a desire in my heart to be baptized, and that was a really special step in my Christian life – baptism doesn’t make a person into a Christian, but it is a way of announcing that I was now connected to Jesus my Lord. That happened for me on September 23, 1990.

During my studies at University of Waterloo and my early career in IBM, I encountered many people who doubted the Bible, and this started to plant doubts in my own heart regarding my faith in God. For a brief period I wondered at times about the existence of God – and it was a very difficult time for me spiritually. I started reading the writings of others who had struggled through similar thoughts. I was blessed by C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, Ravi Zacharias’s Can Man Live Without God and Jesus Among Other Gods, and John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. I came to see that the Cross of Jesus is the most beautiful demonstration of the truth of God’s existence. God showed His sympathy for our suffering and difficulties by suffering with us in this world and for us when He died for our sins on the cross. No other god ever did that.

Called
Soon after I had been saved, I became burdened to know God’s plan for my life. Together with a family friend of mine named Jonathan Robertson, I often wondered whether God would want be to serve Him in fulltime ministry. My regular prayer in private was that I would be encouraged in this direction by some preacher. God answered my prayer in my first year of university, and an evangelist from New Brunswick named Murray McCandless invited me to help him preach in a Gospel Tent campaign in Nova Scotia. I joined him and was very privileged to witness God working in very special ways bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ.

Over the next five years I became more involved in evangelism, not only in summer tent campaigns but in outreaches to children and adults in various churches. The conviction grew in my heart that God was calling me to preach the Gospel full-time. One time God spoke to me through the Bible story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people using just five loaves and two fish. The Bible tells us He asked His disciples to distribute the food – and as I read the passage I became convinced God was telling me that He wanted me to help distributing the Gospel message. I was very thankful for the nurture and encouragement from my home church, Lansing Gospel Hall – and so in 2001 with their recommendation I left my job at IBM to serve God by preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Since I lived in Scarborough I began to spread the Gospel through children’s Bible programs, home Bible studies and summer Gospel Tent campaigns in Agincourt. I came to meet many new Chinese immigrants and it has been a joy to share Christ in this community, and to see God work.

One amazing experience my wife and I had seeing God working was in the summer of 2006. We live by faith, and have no salary from a church or a religious board. We trust God to meet our needs, and He moves different Christians and churches to send us gifts. Sometimes we have more than other times, but God is always faithful to meet our need. In the spring of 2006 He tested our faith in this way. We were at a low time financially, and were actually quite discouraged. We were in the process of planning a summer tent campaign that would cost around $10,000, and we only had $3,000 saved for this effort. So we prayed that if God wanted the effort to go ahead, He would provide in time for us to decide what to do – and we did not talk to anyone else about this issue. Just at the time when the decision needed to be made, we were at a wedding 300km away and met a man we had not seen in over 15 years. He was a retired man who saved his monthly cheques from the government and invested them in GIC’s whenever he accumulated $10,000. But he indicated that God had told him in a dream that the next $10,000 should be sent to us. We could hardly believe it – God had answered our prayers, allowing us to continue to preach the Gospel, and He did it in a way that no human being could engineer!

I believe in miracles – I believe in a God who works miracles – that is my God. And the greatest miracle of all was that day back in 1988 when He showed a teenager in Toronto who was on his knees praying to be saved that Jesus had died on that cross 2,000 years ago to save a sinner like me! The more I read the Bible, the more thankful I am that Jesus Christ “carried our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). I thank Him daily, and I love Him since He loved me first.

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