A Shoplifter’s Search for God
Image: Zachary Bako

Growing up, I was something of a nomad. I spent the first years of my life in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. Then, at age six, I moved to Hong Kong, where I would remain until the third grade before moving back to Maryland. I grew up speaking Chinese at home but learned to master English at school. At a young age, I became adept at adapting to different environments.

My ambitions were as quirky and unorthodox as my upbringing. Since I loved watching movies and morphing into different personas, I thought I might like to become an actor someday.

My dad was a musician, and my mom was a journalist. They raised my brother and me in the church, but they gave us a long leash to explore. By the time we returned from Hong Kong, both of us had stopped going. In any event, my priorities lay elsewhere. I was obsessed with four things in particular: video games, sports, acquiring material things, and chasing women (at one point, I found myself trying to see three different girls at once).

On the court, I loved playing basketball and tennis. But I really excelled with the video game controller in my hand. I hung around with a community of hackers and pro gamers, and at one point, I was one of the top 10 Warcraft 3 players in the United States.

But my grades were suffering. And meanwhile, I had begun regularly shoplifting at the mall. On a weekly basis, my friends and I would compete to see who could walk out of the mall with the highest dollar value of stolen goods. Thankfully, God wouldn’t let me drift too far down this dangerous road.

Appetite for God

At age 16, I began attending church again, hoping to find another source for friends and fun. Instead, I found myself slowly developing an appetite for God. I had always believed ...

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A Shoplifter’s Search for God
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