Interviewers: Elva Choi and Jamie Kwon
Interviewee: Troy Yoon Heo
Elva & Jamie: Who is Yoon Heo?
Troy: Who is Yoon Heo? Oh man, I don’t really know… Yoon Heo is constantly changing. I am a different person right now than I was a couple years ago. I’m a lot more mature now. My interests have changed, my lifestyle has changed, the way I view the world has changed. Also, my relationship with God has changed too. When I first met God, it was very humbling... I was like, “Wow I don't deserve God’s love,” but now I feel like I have a more intimate relationship with Him. And, I definitely have more trust in God so when I said it changed, I basically meant my relationship with God grew stronger.
So how would you describe yourself back then, before you met God?
Troy: Well, I was very lost in life. I didn’t really know what my purpose was and I didn’t have any goals. So before I met God I was very selfish and had many fleshly desires- I just wanted to have fun and do whatever I wanted.
So fun was your goal?
Troy: Yes, I just focused on having fun and I was very prideful for no reason. I don’t really know why but, I guess there was a time when I felt very popular - I had a lot of friends and everybody loved me in school.. I don’t know, it was really stupid.
I just thought “Oh wow, people like me and I should be proud of that. I’m a likable person.” I guess I was more proud of it than I should've been because as a kid, I was actually bullied a lot so that transition made me feel very proud of myself.
Wow thank you for sharing that. You said you grew and matured a lot. How is Christ growing you?
Troy: The biggest way is that He gave me goals and I’m not just living my life aimlessly anymore. I feel like the foundation of maturity is having goals and trying to reach them, but also having the right goals. Obviously if you have the wrong goals, that’s not maturing in Christ.I feel like my biggest goal is definitely to be more disciplined in Christ. Jesus is the best role model that you can have... yeah, there are other role models you can have, like your dad, mom, teacher, older brother in church. But, the ultimate role model is Christ and I know it’s impossible to be perfect like Him but trying to be more like Him is what really matters. Also, my second biggest goal is to graduate college and get a job.
Do you have a future profession in mind?
Troy: Yes I’m trying to be a police officer. I know that it’s not something a lot of people want to do but I think the reason why people don’t want to do it is because it’s dangerous. But I want to do it because I feel like it’s my way of being more like Jesus. Police officers sacrifice themselves for the better of the world and I believe that’s what Jesus did for us.
So how long have you been in CPC (Central Presbyterian Church) for and how did you stumble across here?
Troy: I think I've been in CPC for 4 years. And, that’s actually a very funny story...basically I was dragged to church by a friend with bad intentions. Let's just say that (laughs). We sat through the whole service, stood up for worship and after it ended, people actually approached us and everyone was so welcoming. I think the first person to approach us was Simon. He asked us if we wanted to go eat dinner with the others and we were like, “Yeah sure!” and it was at that dinner where all the older brothers and sisters explained to us the Gospel. I feel like their welcoming presence and friendliness drew us to come back and not do what we were going to do before. So yeah that's basically how I started coming to CPC.
It’s crazy how God knew all of this… He knew your original intentions and still He showed His grace in the fact that He still loves you.
Troy: Exactly. That’s a big chunk of my testimony of how God worked inside of me and it was just truly great. It’s almost as if a spy came into the country and wanted to mess up that country but as he lived there for a while and becomes conformed to the society, he realizes, “Oh this is not bad.. I’m just gonna abandon this mission and live here.” So that’s how I felt. When I look at my life before I met Christ, I just could never imagine it. Even people who knew me from back then say I've changed a lot. Sometimes I look back and I’m just truly amazed and it is really God who could do that. You can’t do that by yourself. No one can do that by themselves. No rehab facility, no prison, no 12-step program and no self-help book can ever do that.
Do you have any regrets on things you did before you met Christ?
Troy: Yes, I have many many regrets. The way I acted, the way my mentality was... but you know, even though I regret it, there’s nothing I can change. It’s all part of God’s plan for me. And because I was in that place of living such a sinful life, my change was that much bigger and more glorious to God.
Based on your experience and the things you went through, how can you encourage parents who are struggling with disobedient, rebellious kids or even those who are stuck in a sinful, hopeless life?
Troy: Well I believe from what I’ve seen so far, kids who got pushed into going to church and religion, were the ones who wanted to rebel that much more. As I was growing up, my dad was very tough on me and he was very strict. He didn’t let me watch TV, play games, or anything. Because I was living my childhood with, “Oh you can’t do this” or “You can’t do that,” all I wanted to do was rebel when I got older. So, one piece of advice I can give parents is to not be too strict. Definitely discipline your kids but not to the extent where it may cause your kids to rebel. I’m not a parent myself but I think there needs to be that that balance between disciplining your kids but also giving them that freedom to think on their own. Bring Jesus into those moments but in a way, where you can let them find Jesus themselves. My parents never pushed me to find Jesus or go to church but it was just really me- I wanted to go to church when I grew up and that’s just what worked out for me. I mean the road going there was not so good but yeah, balance is key.
You mentioned how your relationship with your dad when you were little was very restrictive...Do you think that affected how you viewed God and your relationship with God?
Troy: Definitely! I believe a lot of people view God the way how they view their worldly father. When I was little, I thought my father’s love was very conditional. If I screwed up in any way, he would discipline me. I felt like I couldn’t do anything to please him. No matter what I did...no matter how I tried, I couldn’t make him happy, make him love me. I felt unloved. So I grew up thinking nothing I do will ever please God. Then my relationship with my worldly father got stronger and after puberty, I started to open up to my dad. As a result, my dad also started to open up to me. That’s when our relationship mended and got stronger. This was also around the time when my relationship with God got stronger. I believe the way people view their earthly father is similar to the way they view God. If you had a bad dad, you’re going to think God is a bad Dad. A lot of my friends who don’t know their dads, also don’t want to get to know God. They don’t want to know Christ. However, a lot of my friends who have a good relationship with their dad, they love God. They want to know God. They feel loved by God and they accept that love too. If you don’t know how to accept fatherly love, it’s difficult to accept Godly love too.
It’s amazing that when Our Father accepted you into His family as His son, He said, “I no longer see you as a sinner.” Now when you see a brother coming to church, living your old sinful life, how would you show him the love of Christ that you’ve received?
Troy: I would approach the brother with love just as Jesus did. I would try to be understanding and not judge. I can’t judge them because I was also living in sin. I would be a hypocrite if I did. I would pray for them, be a good role model. I’m still trying to figure out how to be a good role model and how to be a good older brother. If they’re doing something wrong, I would tell them, but not telling them, “You can’t do this or this or that.” I wouldn’t tell him, “If you do this, I’m not going to talk to you.” I don’t want him to think love is conditional. I would be there for him. Like parenting, I would try to show them acceptance, love, and also what’s wrong and what’s right.
That’s admirable that you want to share the truth. A lot of people are afraid to do that sometimes.
Troy: I get scared too! I’ve been in so many situations where a lot of friends are telling me, Jesus isn’t real. God isn’t real. There’s no point in being a christian. But I still stand my ground and I tell them, that’s what you believe but this is what I believe. I haven’t tried to push my beliefs onto them because I don’t want to lose them as my friends. There is a fear of doing that. I need to let them know what I believe. My little brother told me, “If you keep trying to push your beliefs on me, I’m never going to do it and I’m going to get tired of it.”
It sounds like your brother doesn’t want to hear about Jesus. What are some ways you can share the truth about Christ to people who are like that?
Troy: I was going to say that! Through my actions and how I approach things. Showing the way Christ changed me. One of the best ways you can do that is by sharing your testimony to your friends. The main thing about being a Christian is being thankful. I believe every action towards God and to the Kingdom of God is with a thankful heart. I DEFINITELY didn’t deserve His love. I DEFINITELY don’t deserve Jesus’ blood. That makes me more thankful.
How can you continually show Christ to people who are not phased by your testimony?
Troy: I don’t know if I can show them the love of Christ.
Wait! Scratch that! That sounds horrible.
I believe that the love of Christ is shown to a person when they reach that point where they can’t do anything but pray and go to God. I have a friend who is falling away from his faith. I told him, “You’ll go to Christ when you realize you can’t rely on yourself. You’re going to feel vulnerable, hopeless, broken. You’ll have a moment of desperation and survival. There’s nothing else you can do but pray.”
Also when you’re there for your friends, it shows them the love of Christ. Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes but even though He was with them, He still stood apart from them because of who He was and who He believed in. When you say you’re a follower of Christ, when you’re with your friends but not conforming to their ways, that’s showing them His love.
Troy: It’s hard to do that. Before I met Christ, I sinned with my friends who weren’t believers. As I met Jesus, I wanted to be more like Jesus. But, there’s a huge difference though. I’m not Jesus. I have been in those sinful peoples’ shoes so it was hard for me to not fall in their ways even though I actually have fallen many times. But, as I kept on growing in Christ and my relationship with God got stronger, I stopped conforming to their ways and sinning with them. Then I got to a point where I can hang out with those friends and not participate in that. That’s also my way of showing them the love of Christ even though I fell many times.
How can someone with friends who don’t know Christ keep their way pure?
Troy: I think there will be times when you outgrow your friends. I love my non-believing friends. I feel like that sometimes. I feel too different from them. That’s when I remember that Jesus died for sinners. In a way, I have to die for them too. Because Jesus sacrificed Himself for people, you have to make sacrifices too. Now that I think about it, you can fall into their ways eventually too. If you want to prevent that from happening, you have to get to a point of knowing Christ so that you don’t fall into their sins. You have to get there first. For people who have non-believing friends, work on your heart and salvation first. Then you can hang out with your friends and...that might mean you have to take a break from your friends. So they’ll probably get mad at you.
But when you come back to them, then you’ll be able to show them Christ and Godly love. Because we are who we hang out with. Also hang out with your believer friends too!
Because we become who we are with, you have to find that balance. You can’t only hang out with non-believing friends. You need time with your believing friends...you need community. I’m a strong believer of that. I have my non-believing friends and also my believing friends and I hang out with them just as equally. No, maybe my believing friends more nowadays! Also fellowship-ing with like-minded people is a great way to sharpen your faith.
How can we pray for you?
Troy: I’m still trying to be more disciplined with pursuing a relationship with God. Pray for a stronger relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and for a thankful heart always. In times of doubt, pray that I will trust in the Lord. I want to keep working hard in the life God has given me, the life that I didn’t deserve. If I don’t work hard, then what’s the point? Pray for strength from Him to live my life for the goals He has given me and for me to remember to have an intentional mind for His Kingdom and glory.