More than Rubies
Chun-Va Hwang, Orchid Lam
CGYG and LIFE fellowships are two important fellowships in the English congregation. Brothers and sisters from these two fellowships are serving actively in many ministries. David and Chun-Va Hwang, who have been serving as counselors for these two fellowships sequentially for more than 12 years, have been devoting themselves to building brothers and sisters up with God’s Word. Their faith, love and action have impacted many lives. The fellowship continues to grow under their ministry, and their family has also grown from a newly wedded couple into a family with four children. How does Chun-Va balance her role as a wife and a mother of four with her ministry responsibilities? What is her attitude towards her childrens’ education and towards material possessions? With those questions, I visited her so I could interview her. It was a Tuesday night. David was not at home, as he was leading pre-Bible study that night. Eleven-year-old Rebekah opened the door for me. Welcoming me were the smiling faces of their four kids. Chun-Va was preparing a roast ham dinner. After having dinner together, the kids played quietly aside. Chun-Va shared with me all God’s preparation and blessings in her life, and the lessons she has learned through these years.
Preparation and Calling
When I first went to church with my family, I was too young to understand the faith. There was an old lady in the church who took an interest in me. She always invited me to her home, and also taught me to play the piano. One day, she brought me to visit an art museum. We stopped at two renaissance paintings. One painting was of a beautiful and glorious heaven, the other painting was of a horrible, awful hell. She asked me, “Which side would you like to be?”. Of course, I chose heaven; I was horrified by the scenes of hell. The lady said “Well, if you don’t believe, you will go to hell.” “OK, then I will believe,” and that was my first expression of faith. After that, she taught me many Bible stories. I actually learned most of my theology from Hymn book. Back then, I was in a Chinese congregation with my family, but my Chinese was not good enough to understand sermons. In the Hymn book, the hymns were written in both English and Chinese, so it was much easier for me to understand. The basic theology was thus brought into my heart through those beautiful hymns.
My real growth in Christ was during my college years, when I was studying nursing. I went to a couple of fellowships during that time; one of them was a fundamental Baptist church. The pastor in that church was not highly educated, and all he preached was about Christ and His cross. After a year staying with this church, I had a good understanding regarding Christ and His cross. I also went to a Brethren church. I was an aggressive feminist back then, but God used those two churches to change me. I got to know many gentle and submissive women. They were beautiful and highly intelligent, yet they chose to be submissive. Their lives were filled with joy and contentment. In contrast, although I was constantly struggling for power, I didn’t have that kind of happiness and contentment. I was deeply attracted by their strength and inner beauty. It was also during that time, I met David. After married to him, I fully realized of the joy of being a submissive wife. Of course, David also respects me and trusts me, and many times he asks for my advice. Having him as my spiritual leader is such a blessing.
After David and I married, I moved to Toronto to be with him, as he was attending Medical School in University of Toronto. I started to look for jobs, but at that time, it was difficult to find a job in my area. I couldn’t find a job for 7 months, and God used that period of time to prepare me. One of the church elders, Mr. Toong, told me, “Chun-Va, this is the best time in your life. You don’t have children yet, and don’t have a job. You can use all your time to pursue God. Once you have children, you will never have this kind of time again!” So I studied the Bible and read many books from people like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, Elizabeth Elliot, John Piper, John MacArthur and JI Packer. Through God’s Word and all the spiritual books I read, the Holy Spirit continued to lead me to grow.
David and I didn’t serve at church for the first two years when we were in CGC. Although we went to fellowships and Sunday schools, we didn’t feel we were growing in our church. For a period of time, almost a year, we had been praying about moving to a different church, but we didn’t have peace about it. One night, I watched a show called Lions of the Safari. That night, I couldn’t fall into sleep. I kept on thinking of those wild ferocious lions. I remember thinking, in the early days of the church in the Roman Empire, of how the believers were thrown into lions’ dens or arenas, and were forced to renounce their faith, otherwise, they would be torn into pieces by the lions. I asked myself, if my faith were tested in the same way, would I be able to stand the test? I could not confidently say yes, as I just watched how vicious those lions were. And it bothered me that I could not affirmatively say yes. That night, David, for a completely unrelated reason, couldn’t sleep as well. We eventually realized that we both couldn’t sleep, so we talked with each other and discussed our position before Lord. We both wept as we realized we had been complaining about the church, but had not done anything at all to serve the Lord. We prayed for two hours and repented before the Lord. We also committed ourselves to the Lord, and open our lives to be used in any way to serve the His people.
Soon after, the counselors of CGYG asked me if I would join as a women’s counselor. A couple of months later, the church leaders also asked David to be a counselor as well, so that we could serve together as a couple. To us, that was a clear calling from God; God listened to our prayer and called us into this ministry. In retrospect, that’s probably why we had been praying to change churches, but never had peace in it. God led us into CGC not only for our own personal growth, but also called us to serve Him, to build others up.
Serving and Ministry
After David and I became the counselors of CGYG, we put our emphasis on teaching God’s Word. Because God’s Word is powerful, it is the very life of the believer. We must be deeply rooted in God’s Word; if we are to produce any fruit. We started by changing the way Bible studies were done in the fellowship. We put a lot of effort in preparing each Bible study, and into training those leading Bible studies to properly handle God’s Word. Over time, Bible studies have become the best attended programs in the fellowship, and we are thankful to see brothers and sisters in the fellowship growing towards maturity through the ministry of God’s Word. It has also been a joy to see many brothers and sisters in the fellowship becoming leaders in various church ministries as they have been growing and putting the Word into practice in their lives.
David is responsible to provide overall spiritual oversight of the fellowship, especially focusing on teaching God’s Word. As a women’s counselor, I am responsible for teaching and discipling women, and to provide an example of Godly womanhood. My calling can be found in Titus 2:3-5 “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
I also do one-on-one discipling with women in the fellowship. Through these 12 years, each year, I will disciple up to 4-5 women. Some of them just came to faith and need to be guided. Others are in preparation for serving as leaders in ministries. I typically meet with them once a week or every other week to disciple them and to help them grow in their faith. I have also led or helped with women’s group, to discuss issues like singleness, dating and marriage. Over the past six to seven years, many brothers and sisters within our fellowships have been getting married, so I started pre-marital counseling with those sisters who were engaged. We discussed issues like the Biblical concept of marriage, and the roles of wife and mother, to prepare the sisters stepping into marriage. Until now, most of the married women in the fellowship have gone through these pre-marriage sessions with me.
As I am teaching others, I need myself to be constantly growing. I read the Bible systemically, one to two chapters per day, mediating about it and praying over it. I also read other spiritual books, including books from those authors I mentioned above. Recently, I have been reading many biographies of saints such as Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin. After my oldest daughter Rebekah was born, I missed a lot of sermons during Sunday worship, because I had to stay in the nursery with my children. I had to compensate for that through reading and through listening to sermons on CD. For this reason, I like driving; it is the best time for me listen to sermons on CD, as I won’t be distracted by my children while I am driving.
Children and Family
To first seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness is my principle. Therefore, we won’t allow our ministry be limited because of our children. Even in their early ages, we need to show them that as a Christian, God should always be put in the first place. We take them to church and to fellowships. They also have gotten used to having brothers and sisters in our home. When I meet with women for discipleship, the children will play quietly around me.
We want to help our children cultivate a Biblical worldview in their childhood. It is very clear in the scripture that parents should play a primary role in their children’s education. I taught them Bible memory verses when they were just able to talk. I started with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)”, and then “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)”, followed by “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 6:23-24)” etc. These few words are a summary of Gospel. They have to know these words (and more), to lay a solid foundation for their future.
We started to have a regular family devotion time when Rebekah was three. Every night when he’s home, David will read one chapter of Bible and discuss with the kids. We started with children’s version of Bible stories. As Rebekah (11) and Anna (9) now can understand the NIV version, we started to read NIV version 3 years ago. When David puts Stephen (6) and Simeon (4) onto bed, he will also read to them a Bible story from a children’s version.
In addition, I am very careful about what they read or what they watch. I try to encourage them, for example, to read children’s versions of biographies of men and women of great faith, or other spiritual books. I sometimes bring them to road trips or museums, with the purpose of helping them know God better, for example through His wonderful creation.
David is very busy with his work and research, especially during times when his grants are up for renewal. He also spends a lot of time on the fellowship ministries. To support him, I take a major role in educating our children. I also take care of most responsibilities of home management. I do feel tired quite often. After Rebekah was born, for more than 10 years, I could only sleep 5-6 hours every night. But although I feel tired physically, I am very satisfied spiritually, as many brothers and sisters grow under our ministry. When they are facing difficulties, they trust us and consult with us. The confidence and trust from brothers and sisters in the fellowship are a real blessing.
Our years in ministry have not been without challenges. There have been times when the burden of ministry took its toll on our marriage and family life. There were times when I would feel insecure, as if I felt that David cared about everyone else except me. Coincidently, those were also the times when my relationship with the Lord was struggling as well. We learned many lessons about married life and about serving together through those challenges. For me, I needed to express my feelings more clearly. For David, he needed to protect the time he spends with me more proactively. Family is foundational to our ministry; we must put effort to protect it. We made many changes because of those challenges. TV was put aside, as we didn’t want to waste our time on TV. After the kids go to sleep, David and I will spend some time together, and share with each other what happened through the day and things that are on our minds. David also arranges vacation time that is set aside just for me. Every spring and fall, when the kids are at school, he will take a week off so we can spend a lot of time together and do things we both enjoy during the day, and then with the kids in the evening. After those challenges, our relationship is even better than before, as we are more cautious about protecting our time together, and we put more effort to building our marriage relationship.
Forsaking and Obtaining
When I was young, I saw my parents quarrelling over money. I made up my mind back then, that when I grew up, I would never let money bind me. When I was twelve, I started to pray for my future husband. I prayed to the Lord “Lord, I don’t know if it is your will that I should be married. But if it is the case, I pray for a man after your own heart, a man who is generous towards you.” And God answered the prayer. He brought David into my life. We have never had any disputes on issues related to money. I quit my registered nurse job after I became pregnant with Rebekah. At that time, David was still a medical school student. Quitting my job meant that the whole family had to depend on his graduate student stipend. But both of us felt it was more important for me to be with our children than it was for me to be making money. You can always make money later, but the opportunity to educate your children in a Godly manner comes only once and will soon pass. It is because we decided back then that I would give up my job and stay home with the children that I can now do so much both at home and in ministry. And all the time, though things were tight sometimes, the Lord always provided for our every need.
In regards to tithing and offering, I believe in the principle laid out in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” The more we are given, the more we are required to give, for this is the pathway of blessing in the Lord. Besides giving to CGC, we think it’s also good to support missionary families and other ministries outside of our church. In terms of personal purchasing, I tend to be very frugal. Especially for items that might not be needed immediately, such as clothing, I never buy at full price, but only buy discounted items. Money can be used in many more valuable ways. If I knew it to be God’s will for us to support a specific missionary family, and we didn’t do that, I would have no peace buying something for myself instead of supporting that missionary.
In Psalm 90, Moses told us we all need to number our days (Psalm 90:12); as our days and lives will soon pass away, there will be a day when each of us has to give account to the Lord. It is my prayer that the Lord will teach me to number my days aright, and grant me a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). From time to time, I examine myself before the Lord, and ask His help to fight against sins within me. I hope on that day when I face the Lord, he will say to me “My good and faithful servant, you didn’t waste your time.” It is my deepest desire that in the day when I will be with the Lord in heaven, when I am free from all the bondage of sin, I will receive words of affirmation from our Lord. And for this life, in every day, I believe that as I seek first God and His righteousness, He will protect and bless every aspect of my life.
It was already past 10pm when the interview was finished. David was not home yet. Chun-Va invited me to join their family devotion time. Little Simeon picked two hymns for us from the hymn book. The beautiful voices from the children told me that those hymns, which once instilled God’s truth into Chun-Va’s heart, had now become an integral part of her children’s lives.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:10-12)” In her husband David’s heart, Chun-Va is the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. In an e-mail following up my interview with Chur-Va, he related to me that she is not only his wife, but also his most important partner in ministry. David is very thankful for the love, care, prayers and companionship Chun-Va gives to him. He is also very thankful that Chun-Va sacrificed her career and devotes herself to support him. It is because of Chun-Va’s selfless giving of herself to take care of their children and of the day-to-day affairs of their household, which frees up David’s time, that David is able to give himself to his work and ministry. To all of us women in the fellowship, through Chun-Va’s action and teaching, she sets an example for us of a woman after God’s own heart. “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Proverbs 31 28-31)”
Narrated by Chun-Va Hwang and written by Orchid Lam, based on an interview of Chun-Va. Both Chun-Va and Orchid Lam attend the CGCT English congregation.