THERESA DING CHONG

Hospitality Coordinator

 

“Everybody is skeptical about taking a chance on people but had he not taken a chance on me, I would never be in the position I am today. There would never have been a ‘me.’”

 

A lifetime of psychological trauma from being abandoned by both parents as a child left Theresa tormented and broken. The love and support of a stranger-turned-father-figure brought her restoration and gave her the opportunities she needed to envision and achieve a normal life for herself and her family.

 

From as far back as I could remember, my life was always full of hurt and pain. I grew up an orphan. My mother gave me away when I was three months old but kept my brother. My father disowned me. While my mother took me back into her home five years later, our relationship was never able to develop and so, when I was 11 years old, I ran away, never to return. Thankfully, two elderly sisters took me in. However, they did domestic work for a living and were very poor so they could barely afford to send me to school. When one of the sisters died, money became extremely scarce and, because of this, I left school at the age of 14 and began to work.

 

I was a bright student but my leaving school at such a young age meant that I had no academic qualifications. Since no one was willing to take on someone with no qualifications, I had to settle for whatever menial jobs I could find. Struggling and lonely, I found myself in a relationship with a physically abusive young man and I became a teenage mother. We lived together for a few years until one day, he put us out and I had nowhere to go with my now three children. My mother again refused to let me stay with her.

 

Feeling completely hopeless, with nowhere to turn, I thought it best to take my own life. I took many sleeping tablets but before I could succeed, someone found me and took me to the Emergency Room where I was snatched from the brink of death. That same person took me to her home and nursed me back to health in her garage for three months. After that, I got a job in a mall that allowed me to find a very modest place to live with my children.

 

But I was still struggling. We were off the streets but I was mentally and emotionally weak. I had nobody. I was barely keeping it together for myself and my children.

 

At the age of 27, I was starting to quickly slip back into deep depression. I found myself at my wit’s end. I needed help. I needed my life to change. One Friday night, someone invited me to church at Trinidad Christian Center and, on that very night, I gave my life to the Lord and a new life began for me. For the first time, I began to experience deliverance and freedom from many of the burdens I had been carrying all those years. During this time, I met Dr. de Bourg (then Pastor) and he extended himself to me and began to help me along the path to restoration and wholeness. His biblical teachings schooled me in the Christian life and helped me to develop a sense of my worth and value. I never had a father and, as time passed, Pastor took the role of a physical father in my life. He was so much more than just a good mentor or effective Minister of the gospel, bible teacher and counsellor. He was a father. He demonstrated the heart of a father to me in so many ways. He would often, for example, clear his fridge and give me whatever he had so that I could feed my children. Those things really touched me and showed me that he was for me, that he truly cared about me and my family.

 

Not long after I gave my life to the Lord, my then-boyfriend did the same. We were soon married and he became stepfather to my three children.

 

Even though I had entered into a new way of life, my scars were so deep that they took time to heal.

 

Within the first few months, I made great strides but I found myself in a situation where, in order to maintain the progress that I had made, I had to move from the place where I was living with my husband and three young children. My husband suffered with sickle-cell anaemia and could not do strenuous work. I was effectively the breadwinner and things were extremely tight. I knew that we needed to move for my very survival but I could not see a way to make that possible.

 

At this point, Pastor de Bourg intervened and paid three-months rent for my family to move into a new place. He also went further and helped me to buy land on which I could build a house for my family. I remember telling him one day about a construction site that was getting rid of building materials. He immediately wrote me a blank cheque to purchase a truckload of wood and other building materials. A blank cheque! Who gives you a blank cheque?! Pastor helped me build my house by providing materials and labour. Finally, I had a place to call home, a place of my own where I could live with my family in safety.

 

Eight years later, my husband died and life became more difficult. My children were ages 17, 15 and 13 at the time and my salary wouldn’t cover my expenses. I was going under financially. Once again, Pastor stepped in and ensured that my family had groceries and food for a year, following my husband’s passing.

 

When my only son (my eldest child) joined the national Coast Guard, that helped ease the financial burden. Things began to look promising and we started to see our way. However, at the tender age of 22, my beloved son died in a car accident, when he fell asleep at the wheel. The sudden and tragic loss of my son devastated me and it was very hard for me to heal at home where I would be forced to drive past the site of the accident every day, so I migrated to North America for nine years. I returned home a few years ago and, when I did, Pastor de Bourg welcomed me back with open arms.

 

Today, I am comfortable and I am content. I work as a Hospitality Coordinator in charge of Customer Service at a premier private medical institution. I now have three beautiful grandchildren. Both my daughters have good jobs, are doing well and are living better lives than I ever thought possible all those years ago. I am thankful that I was even in a position to pay for one of my daughters’ university education.

 

I cannot thank God enough for Dr. de Bourg’s investment in me. Everybody is skeptical about taking a chance on people but had he not taken a chance on me, I would never be in the position I am today. I would never be the person I am today. There would never have been a “me.”

 

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