In 2010 Akang Ko and his wife Xiaoou Tang settled in Palmerston North to make a fresh start. Today he is an associate pastor at Palmerston North Central Baptist Church. It is a lifestyle far removed from the one he formerly experienced in the entertainment industry. Here Akang shares his testimony.
I grew up in Hong Kong. After high school, I began work at a television station. For 10 years I was involved in the production of multiple TV shows and became responsible for special broadcasts such as beauty pageants, fundraising programmes for several hospitals, and music shows. I met many singers in the process and made a lot of showbiz contacts, including important figures at various record companies.
About 1990 one such record business asked me if I wanted to become a promotions manager. I had only ever worked as a scriptwriter and I didn’t have a musical background, but that didn’t concern the company; they were more interested in my industry connections. I was eager to develop my skills, and the salary they were offering was attractive, so I accepted. Within eight years I became the director of marketing for an international company. It was the first of several ‘impossible’ turning points in my life.
Through my job I worked with many famous singers. I had a high salary, and a flash car and home, but the role also brought incredible pressure. Budgets and pop charts defined my life.
To de-stress, I turned to marijuana. This daily habit eventually led to cocaine use. Within two or three years, I was addicted. I was eventually fired from my job. The wealth I had built up over the years was squandered on drugs. I lost my car, my home and my girlfriend.
My family tried to help me. They sent me to a hospital, but because Hong Kong hospitals do not have detox wards, I spent a year in psychiatric care. My sister is a Christian and she tried to share the gospel with me.
On the night I was released, I rented a room on my own. I planned to find work and go back to a normal life, but within three hours I had purchased drugs. I began using more than before and soon was addicted again. However, this time it was different. Every time I took drugs, I felt sick and suicidal. Several times I threw my drug paraphernalia out the window, only to return to my addiction once more. I hated myself, but fortunately my second ‘impossible’ was about to occur.
Freedom from addiction
During the three months after I was released from hospital, I had many hallucinations. In one of these I clearly heard a voice say, “Akang, do not take drugs. Jesus loves you.” I replied, “If Jesus loves me, is there anything in the Bible to say people should not take drugs?” The voice said, “Yes, open the Bible to 1 Corinthians 6:12.”
I got my sister’s Bible, turned to the passage and read: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” I asked the voice, “Why are you helping me?” The reply was: “Because we are all children of God.”
This made me determined to fight again. I went to a Christian rehab programme in China. Day after day I rose early in the morning to pray and read the Bible, and did the same after lunch and dinner, and then I slept. You could call it a ‘gospel detoxification’. Yes, God’s method really is that simple—relying not on drugs, but on Jesus alone. Other programmes focus on the physical being only, but Jesus deals with our hearts, our sin, pride and inferiorities. God made possible what was impossible—freedom from addiction.
A change of direction
It was while I was at the rehab centre that I met my future wife. She was visiting from New Zealand and had brought a relative to the centre. When she returned home, we kept in contact by email.
When I was about to graduate from the programme I asked the pastor who ran it whether I could study theology. From my Bible reading and prayer, I believed I was being led away from the entertainment industry.
The pastor said to me, “Have you ever thought about working for God? Come to Taiwan, the future mission field to the Chinese. But you will need to learn Mandarin as well as theology.”
In 2010, after my four years of theological training in Taiwan, my wife and I married in Hong Kong and we settled in Palmerston North, to minister to Chinese in our community. According to the 2013 census, almost 10% of this city’s population is of Asian ethnicity.
It was in Palmerston North that God also made another ‘impossible’ possible: at the age of 50, I became a father for the first time. My son is a gift from God.
My past lifestyle was self-destructive but God is rebuilding me. My entertainment career taught me many communication skills but some of those skills are manipulative and I do not want to use them anymore. I am re-learning how to interact with people in a way that gives God joy. My new life is a simple one. Every day I say, “I don’t deserve this.”
Story: Akang Ko
Akang is an associate pastor at Palmerston North Central Baptist Church, where he ministers to Chinese people. His ministry now extends beyond Palmerston North, to Levin and Whanganui. His vision is sharing the gospel to all Chinese people in the Manawatu region.
Scripture: Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright ©1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.