- 來美三十年，先後就讀: Westminster Theological Seminary 及海外神學院。
灣區約有二百廿間華人教會，Morgan Hill與Gilroy 卻一間都沒有，而從南聖荷西或Gilroy只須十五分鐘車程就可到達漠甘山(Morgan Hill)，很方便地讓南聖荷西、Gilroy與漠甘山的華人認識並敬拜主。感謝神！藉由灣區眾基督之家長老和同工們的禱告與支持，使我們得以拓植基督之家第七家，成為我們極大的祝福！讚美主！祂是從無變有的神，是在沙漠開江河的神。我們很興奮地期待神自己繼續在漠甘山行奇事，歡迎你一起來見證並參與漠甘山第一間華人教會的建立，興旺主的福音，擴展神的國度，榮耀祂的名。
Testimony of Rev. Onephanh Vilay
From Born to Born Again
I was born and raised in a Chinese family in Laos, oldest among six siblings. When I was in third grade, there was a Chinese missionary couple by the name of Rev. Barnabas and Mrs. Mary Cheung from Hong Kong, who spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They invited our family to their church’s Sunday School. My father allowed us to go because he thought that all religions were good and taught people to be better—at least, the children who went to a churches or Buddhist temples did not become juvenile delinquents. So all my brothers and sisters went to church almost every weekend. We learned a lot of stories in the Bible, played and made friends and had a good time. However, I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I did not become a better person as my father had expected. I cursed, yelled, lied, stole, fought with other kids, etc. I was bad and my father was disappointed in me.
Then one hot summer, something happened that dramatically changed my life. I still remember very clearly that it was a very hot day. I believe it must have been 100 degrees or so.
School was closed for summer vacation. My friend asked me if I would go swimming in the Mekong River. Since I was bored and did not have anything else to do, I went along with my friends even though I didn’t know how to swim. I thought to myself, since I do not have to swim, I can play in the water close to shore. Little did I know that as soon as I jumped into the water, my two feet could not reach the bottom. I was extremely nervous and afraid. I was in a panic and struggled to reach the surface of the water, but it seemed that the more I struggled the deeper I sunk. No matter how hard I tried, my body never reached the surface of the water. The fear of dying overwhelmed me. I was drowning and running out of breath. Then I remembered the Sunday School teacher saying that if we ran into trouble, we should ask Jesus for help and He would save us. So I cried out in my mind, “Jesus, save me!” One of my friends eventually jumped in the water and dragged me up to shore after he noticed I was struggling in the water, and to his amazement, I was alert and walked up to the shore with him without going through CPR.
I knew deep down in my heart that it was Jesus Christ who saved me from drowning. When I got home, I sincerely prayed to Jesus and invited Him to come into my heart as my Savior and my Lord. My life began to change after I believed in Jesus Christ. My father accepted the Lord a year later, and my mother also became a Christian the year after my father.Praise the Lord.
From Changing Career to Changing Lives
I came to Philadelphia in 1981 and met my wife, Kien, who is Cambodian Chinese. We fell in love and got married in 1984. In 1989, my wife and I sensed the Lord’s calling to leave the American church in suburban Philadelphia that my wife and I had been attending since 1981 to join a newly planted Chinese church in the Olney area of Philadelphia. Since then, I have been actively involved in church ministries. I was an Adult Sunday School teacher, worship leader, interpreter, cell group leader, and chair person of the deacon board of the church. I also held a full time job as a computer data communications analyst in suburban Philadelphia.
After being a deacon for some years, I began to sense that God might want me to go in full-time ministry, even though I knew how hard it was to be a pastor from working closely with my own pastor. In fact, using common sense, it was not a wise career move. However, the sense of accomplishment at my current job could no longer satisfy me. It seemed that deep down in my heart, I yearned for something more for my life,something that would make a direct impact on people’s lives. The best way for me, personally, would be working full-time at a church. Despite the feeling of inadequacy and incompetency in serving the Lord in this capacity, the sense of calling kept coming stronger and stronger. I talked to my wife about the feeling that I had toward full time ministry. We prayed, reasoned, and debated over this issue. Could it be that I just wanted to fulfill my vow that I had pledged when I was young, or was it because of something else? Finally, we came to the conclusion that all we had to do was to trust and obey the Lord and see how He was going to lead us. We prayed that we would be able to discern God’s will clearly. In April of 1994, one of my prayers was that God would lay me off from my current job. Two weeks later, I was notified by the company that I was being laid-off. We took it as a confirmation of God’s calling for full time ministry.
Though I was involved in youth group, leading worship, interpreting sermons into different dialects and languages, leading Bible studies, leading cell groups, teaching Adult Sunday School, preaching and counseling, the experiences that I gained from these ministries were mostly learned from trial and error. However, I did have some informal training at my church, which my pastor conducted, but it was not enough. So I enrolled in a seminary in September the same year and also took some courses at the Westminster Theological Seminary.
From East to West
Beginning in September of 1997, I worked as an intern pastor at Chinese Christian and Missionary Church, which is located in northern Virginia. From 1999 on, I became a full-time associate pastor of that church. After seven years of pastoral ministry, I found it harder and harder to be a pastor without a well-rounded, sound, biblical and theological foundation. After much prayer, the Lord opened a door in San Jose, California for me to further my theological education. My wife and I both agreed that this was the Lord’s leading, so in August 2003 we moved from Virginia to California for my education at the Overseas Theological Seminary, to study under the Rev. John Tsang, a legend among Chinese churches. I finished school with a Masters of Divinity degree in June 2006.
From OTS to FAC to Morgan Hill
During my study at the Overseas Theological Seminary, I had opportunity to preach at Friendship Agape Church several times. Though FAC was small, I was deeply impressed and touched by the love the members had for God and for each other. The FAC co-workers were also very dedicated in serving the Lord. As I was approaching graduation from the seminary, the Lord graciously provided me to serve at FAC. Praise the Lord.
After serving FAC for four and a half years, we could have stayed comfortably to pastor the church until retirement. However, the Lord has other plans for us. He called us to leave our comfort zones to plant a Chinese church in Morgan Hill alongside with the Rev. and Mrs. David Kuo. There are about two hundred and twenty Chinese churches in the Bay Area, but none in Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Morgan Hill is only a fifteen minute drive both from south San Jose and Gilroy. With the prayer and support from the many Home of Christ Churches in the Bay Area, we are starting up a brand new Home of Christ Church in Morgan Hill. Praise the Lord. He is known to make ways in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, and something out of nothing. We are excited to see how the Lord will continue working miracles to establish this first Chinese church in Morgan Hill. You are welcome to witness and be a part of this exciting journey. May the Gospel of Jesus Christ be preached and His kingdom advanced. To God be the glory.