video with transcript - Ascribing his sisters' strong faith for his own conversion to Christianity
Life’s Anxiety and Security – Steven Ma
It has been two years since our last interview with well known artist, Steven Ma. In this interview, this reporter took advantage of this opportunity to have Steven shared some hitherto unpublicized personal experiences and feelings. Hence, through this magazine Steven reveals publicly for the first time his conversion journey to Christianity.
In his 20 odd years of taking care of his cancer late mother since very young, Steven's life was filled with all kinds of anxieties including suffering depression from losing his mother in 1999.
But now he finds much security in his faith, and a rationale reason for gratitude on death.
When friends found out that I was going to interview Steven soon, all asked me this very same question: “Isn’t Steven a Buddhist?”
Let Steven himself respond to the question: “Since young I attended Catholic schools. When I grew up I was an atheist all along. But many people thought I believed in Kun Yam (Chinese Goddess of Mercy); actually they misconstrued. Even my mother when alive was not a believer of Kun Yam, just that she was very fond of Kun Yam’s countenance so collected Kun Yam figurines as an art collection. So whenever I was outstation for work, I always bought a Kun Yam souvenir for my mother. At that time, the house was filled with Kun Yam souvenirs so friends thought we believed in Kun Yam. Actually we weren’t.”
SARS Evinced the Fearlessness of Doctors
When Steven was six years old, his mother unfortunately was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal (nose-throat) cancer. At junior high, Steven had already shouldered the care-taking responsibility of his mother. Having to tackle and resolve problems at such young age on his own cultivated his ‘believe in myself’ personality, therefore, he had never felt the need to follow any religious faith, until the year of SARS when his Christian 2nd older sister uttered a statement that changed his whole outlook on life.
“My 2nd older sister and 2nd brother-in-law are devout Christians. 2nd sister is a nurse while 2nd brother-in-law is a physical therapist. 2nd sister, of course, had hoped that I would one day believe in Christ but they rarely imposed their faith on me. The first time I was moved by their faith would have to be back in 2003, the year of SARS. At the time the situation was truly dire, many doctors and nurses couldn't endure it so one after another left the hospital. But of course, there were many who willingly stayed back, and some of them even contacted SARS and unfortunately died from it. When I saw how dangerous the epidemic was, I became panicky and called up my 2nd sister who was on duty that day.”
Steven said to 2nd sister: “Don’t work today. If something happens to you, what am I to do?”
Listening to her younger brother who loved her deeply, she replied: “My faith will support me.”
Steven’s voice became agitated, he said: “That’s not enough wo! Dr. Tse Yuen Yee was also a Christian but she was infected anyway. I’m not asking you for anything but at this moment would you at least let me as your younger brother be a bit selfish?”
2nd sister solemnly said to her younger brother: “Steven, if everybody thinks like you then every medical personnel would listen to his/her family member and leave the hospital. If one day you contacted SARS, or that father was infected with SARS, then who would take care of you both?”
At hearing his 2nd sister’s response Steven instantly got goose bumps; fighting back anxiety he said no more.
Steven said: “She said: “This inner strength came from God, it made me reflect deeply on my faith, which is the spirit of self-sacrificing for others." At that moment, I didn’t know how to change her mind because she had a valid justification.”
Felt God’s Son’s Love in Movie
In 2004, the movie, The Passion of Christ, by renowned Hollywood actor, Mel Gibson, finally got on the silver screen.The movie depicts the last twelve hours of Jesus Christ’s tribulations before he died. The cast used Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic (Jesus’ mother tongue) in their dialogs, effectively drawing the audience into the scenes as if they were personally experiencing the whole drama. Audiences all over the world were deeply moved.
He said: “One day I rented the movie home to watch. When I saw Jesus betrayed, saw him carrying the cross making the painful trek, and being crucified on the cross, my tears flowed unbidden. The movie depicted these scenes very realistically, and moreover, the actor portraying Jesus truly matched the image of Jesus in my heart. At the time I did not believe in Christ yet. As I watched I thought: “For real somebody truly went through all this? So pitiful! There is truly such a person (Jesus)?” If that is true then it is not just a movie but something that has a direct relationship with my life, because a real person actually sacrificed himself to wash over the worldly sins. Moreover, when he was being crucified on the cross he still pleaded with His heavenly Father to forgive those who had wronged Him for they knew not what they did. When I heard these words I fell apart. If I could meet Jesus of His time I would be a very happy person because that person though knowing I had sinned was still willing to use “for he did not know he has sinned” excuse to forgive me and even sacrificed his life for me.”
Afterwards, Steven happened to encounter some fellow Christian brothers and sisters from HK Artists Christian Fellowship, and had listened to numerous sermons from different pastors, allowing him to further understand Christianity. About four years ago Steven prayed for guidance for enlightenment, later he told his 2nd sister and pastor of his conversion decision.
Found Peace in God’s Embrace
Believing in Christ for four years, Steven is most happy he now has an older brother to share his burdens with.
He said: “Among my parents' 5 children, I’m the only son. I think a man has to shoulder all responsibility, so from young I seldom shared my troubles with family members. After believing in Christ it’s like having an older brother listening to my outpouring of feelings. I had always wished for an older brother, to be able to lay my burdens on him. God eases my hurt and wounds; my life no longer lonely. Hereafter, I have a listener, a God who understands my feelings and is tolerant of my flaws and weaknesses. Before him I can completely admit my own helplessness. This gives me much comfort.”
In March, last year, Japan had a 9 point magnitude big earthquake that in turn caused a devastating tsunami; the event shocked the whole world. After watching the news on tv Steven had a nightmare.
He said: “My house faces the street Princess Margaret Rd. That night I dreamed that there was a huge wave over Princess Margaret Rd (公主道) (tn: in Ho Man Tin). I became panicky. At that moment I suddenly heard a voice speaking in Mandarin said to me: “Child, don’t be scared! Everything’s fine!” The huge wave immediately subsided. And the dream ended. I went right back to sleep. The next day when I woke up I felt very relaxed. This dream had given me the security I never had in the past.”
The Lord truly understood what Steven most wanted in his whole life. From young, having to take care of his cancer mother Steven lived in constant fear and anxiety everyday. He constantly worried that should his mother suddenly have a relapse he might not be able to react quick enough, thus making her suffer even more. This cultivated in him a heightened sense of danger, and imbued in him a sense of insecurity.
He said: “In all things, I still hope for the best but even more, I prepare for the worst. My thoughts veered very much towards catastrophe. Even today, there are things I cannot change. Like whenever I’m inside a plane I worry. Worry that the airflow may affect the flight. Before believing in Christ I would become anxious and would take all kinds of travel sickness pills. Once inside the plane I would instantly fall asleep. But now before boarding the plane I’ll say a prayer to God for a safe trip. But if accident happens I’ll tell Him I don’t fear death, as everybody will die once sooner or later, just that the dying be quick and not be drawn out torturous before going to the heavenly home.
“Also, when staying in a hotel, the higher the room is the greater the anxiety. So I always check out the emergency escape route in case of fire. That’s just my personality. Before believing in Christ I've had even more anxieties. Actually having a heightened sense of danger is not a bad thing, just that in my case it may be exaggerated thus putting myself in a constant vigilant mode. But what to do, it was cultivated in me since young.”
So what had happened to young Steven to make him think that life is littered with dangers?
Steven Accompanied Mother through Adversity.
Steven was six years old when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and during that period she had had three relapses. She was 48 years old when she passed away after losing the 22-year battle with cancer. She had always lived with Steven, who together with his father took total responsibility to care for her. audio ref para#3: Steven's emotional recount of his mother's death (revealed for the 1st time the deep-seated secret of his guilt over her death.
Steven said: “Mother’s cancer first two relapses got worse each time it happened. And each time she lost more of her faculties after a relapse until in the end she was left with only one eye with blurry vision at that. The senses of taste, hearing, and smell as well as the neck flexibility were all atrophied. Those past 22 years I accumulated an abundance of anxieties and fear because Mother would suddenly go into convulsion, (tn: or suddenly spurt blood ) or suddenly passed out so in the middle of the night Father would come knocking on my door to have me sent Mother to the emergency care in the hospital. Or I would suddenly receive a hospital phone call informing me of my mother’s health condition such and such. That was our daily life. If she was “just a little bit off” I immediately thought ahead of what could happen to her and to be prepared. So I lived everyday in constant anxiety and fear. Now, I refuse to have a telephone installed in my bedroom because I don’t want it ringing in the middle of the night, nor do I like people knocking on my bedroom door (in the middle of the night).”
In 1999 Steven’s mother passed away. Missing his mother greatly Steven slipped into depression, (tn: and even considered suicide) and after a prolonged period he gradually came back up from the pit. Reminiscing on his mother, Steven abruptly clenched his fists, and said: “When Mother was alive, caring for her had become my life goal. When she left I felt as if I'd lost my whole heart. ” (tn: ref audio #3: and then there is the festering guilt that he had hastened her death because she gave in to his plea to take the surgery despite her intial reluctance.)
Family always holds the first spot in Steven’s heart. Though not from a wealthy family, his family of seven was very close knitted. Growing up in Sham Shiu Po Pak Tin Estate, he and his sisters were close to each other as they played together in the public park playing the seesaws and slides. When grown, his young little sister was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. His 2nd sister close to childbirth got infected during her pregnancy, subsequently impairing her newborn son’s brain. And then there was his mother years’ long torture by cancer. (tn: And his maternal grandmother suffered some kind of illness and like his late mother also spurted blood in his presence.) Steven would rather all those things have befallen him instead. (tn: He omitted to mention his own heart disorder.)
Hope to look past life and death
Having taken care of his mother for 22 odd years, Steven is quite knowledgeable in nutritious food and basic medicinal remedies. Years ago he even published a book entitled: “I am a sick patient’s family” sharing with his readers his experience in caring for his sick mother. In recent years, Steven was also invited to an organ donors organization to share his outlook on life and death.
Recalling his mother, Steven became misty-eyed but still he hopes to transmit through different platforms a positive outlook towards sickness and death. He said: “First, don’t fear death; 2nd: cherish your family. Why don’t fear death? Because everybody will die one day. No matter how scared, still will die in the end. If live with fear everyday then it is the same as never having truly lived. Before believing in Christ, death to me is a deep sleep. After believing in Christ I know I will go to a better place, and will reunite with brothers and sisters. Feel more peaceful thinking thus. I’ve already told my family and friends. When I die they must, must, send me off in a Christian memorial service.
“I once attended a Christian funeral service. Felt very peaceful. God tells us that the believers will return to the heavenly home, and will live in a better place and will no longer feel mortal pain, but will return to the Lord’s embrace. This gives me a comforting reason when grieving for a death.”
Steven thinks that since everybody will die someday, when alive then should live a good life, and also at the same time take responsibility for one’s deeds. As actor he said: “Don’t look down on movies or tv shows because they do impart an educational value. Every time I acted in a series I know I was embodying an educational character conveying different information to the audiences, so I will take responsibility for my series and will not participate in series that I think have no values. This has always been my principle. Which is why I’ve no regrets with any of my series. If in tv series production, we can maintain this kind of attitude and be steadfast in our stance, we can disseminate our God's given ideals.”
credit: baidu sm; Torrie_恩 2012-11-1 23:53