In the summer of 2014, Mommy finally got her new car to replace her 15-year-old Toyota Corolla! A few weeks later, the license plate came. Normally it’s not a big deal since it’s not a customized plate, but for some reason we were excited and opened the envelope together as a family. It was the first new car my family has chosen and bought together.
California license plate numbering is very systematic. It starts with a number, which is “7” in 2014, followed by three letters, and then finally by three numbers. Anyone who did not order a customized plate would get such a license plate numbering and that’s what we were expecting.
And the license plate was “7GKG628”. Isn’t it interesting that this is Mommy’s car and the last three numbers are also the first three numbers of Mommy’s phone number? What a coincidence! Then Mommy said “628” is a good number in Chinese because it sounds like “smooth and prosperous” (“順又發”) in Mandarin Chinese. That’s definitely a sign of good luck. We were thrilled.
But wait, there’s more. I noticed that “GKG” are the first initials of me, my daughter, and my son in the right sequence. And “7” is the exact same sound as the word “wife” (“妻”) in Chinese. So “7GKG” is a perfect representation of our family! So this license plate from California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) actually says my family and “smooth and prosperous”. Wow, does God works through the DMV too? This license plate is too meaningful to be a random happenstance. God must be sending us a message.
(In case you are wondering: Chinese and Taiwanese people are very superstitious. Because the Chinese language has individual characters that combine into words, and many characters have the same or similar sounds, it’s fun to associate numbers with characters. For instance, “8” (ba) sound like “發” (fa) which could is the first character of “striking it rich” (“發財”) or “prosperous/successful” (“發達”); “9” (jiu) has the same sound as “久” (jiu) which means “lasting”, etc. The single-digit license plate of “9” sold for $1.7 million in Hong Kong. The rich guy who paid for it hoped his wealth would be “long-lasting” (“9”) because of that special license plate.)
A few days later, I was thinking about our “lucky” license plate as I drove to work in the morning. I believe it was a sign from God and was grinning about it. Then a whisper in Chinese came to me: “You have it wrong. It’s not ‘順又發’ (‘smooth and prosperous’). It’s ‘順而發’ (‘obey and then therefore prosperous’).”
The number “6” sounds like “順” which is the first character of both the word-phrase “順利” (which is “smooth” in terms of events) and “順服” (“obey”). The number “2” comes close to the sound for “and furthermore” and “and also” (“又”) but is the exact sound for “then therefore” (“而”) which strongly implies causality or at the very least, an exact sequence.
That was a shock to me, but it makes perfect sense. The Bible never promised us a “smooth” life, nor is a smooth life really good for learning valuable lessons about life and God. But the Bible does promise rewards for obedience to God and His principles. His blessings may or may not be monetary in nature. True blessings can come in many forms, and what’s most important to Christians are closeness to God, spiritual maturity, good relationships with others, salvation of the loved ones, etc. Those are the eternal things we should strive for instead of temporary material wealth.
That was my interpretation back in 2014. A lot has happened in the past four years. I thought at the time I got the message when God told me that I got the second character wrong, but it would take years for me to understand I misinterpreted the third character 發 (“fa“) as well.
In the months since then we got the car, God led me into a ministry to serve the growing Chinese population in my community. It would go through a turbulent time with the sudden departure of my ministry partner and attendance dropping to zero for several weeks. Throughout that time, however, I felt the ministry was started by God and I should obey and persevere. Then God moved in and brought in new people and ministry partners, and people are now coming to and growing in Christ. I made great friends and ministry partners and we had a honeymoon year. Aside from my family, my ministry at that time brought me more joy than anything else I do.
But in May of 2018, I was falsely accused by a ministry partner I brought in, and I refused to work with her and left the ministry I worked hard to build and loved. There was much anger and sadness at the time, and I had asked the Lord for a reason but got no response. Just two weeks later, I was introduced to a small Chinese church in Lincoln Heights and they welcome me wholeheartedly. I was later ordained there as a minister and I still preach there once a month. (By the way, most of the new lessons on this website were prepared as sermons for that church initially.)
In late 2018 after I’ve been at that church for a few months, I decided to preach about this testimony about the license plate. That’s when God revealed to me that I misinterpreted the third character 發 (“fa“) as well. I looked up the meaning of that character and it has nothing to do with making a fortune or be prosperous at all. Instead, it really means “to begin”. The phrase “striking it rich” (“發財”) really means “to begin to have wealth” and “prosperous/successful” (“發達”) really means “to begin to have success”. So the real meaning of ‘順而發’ really means “obey and then (you can or will) begin” or “obey and then therefore (you can or will) begin”. God was telling me that when I obey Him, He will let me begin a new journey. Perhaps that journey has to do with this little church. Perhaps it is something about my career. I still don’t know, but I know to obey God and my principles built on the foundation of His teachings.
Like the ending of each Pokémon episode when it says, “As the journey continues”, I find myself traveling down a path I didn’t plan for nor understand at the time, but years later I would recognize it as the right path God has prepared for me. There are constant struggles and difficulties, but me and my family are growing as a result. This journey will not be easy, but as God has told me through this license plate, “obey Me and then you can (or will) begin.”