When Leina Choi began learning to play the piano using YouTube videos she never dreamed that soon she would be teaching others. She had no prior musical background or interest but found herself practicing using hymns for hours each day.
Her husband, John, also began to learn, and within a few months, both of them were able to lead worship at their home church. They are members at Markham Missionary Church – Chinese Ministry (formerly Praiseland). Pastor Boris Tsang is grateful to God for this new ministry at their church, as they had been without their own pianist to lead worship since beginning services in 2002.
“Music is a very powerful instrument that God can use in peoples’ hearts,” says Pastor Boris.
“I believe it was the Holy Spirit who kept us going with the practice,” says Leina. “He had specific reasons behind it.”
This has held true and God has poured forth blessings as Leina and John use their gifts in service. Not only has Markham MC gained much-appreciated worship leaders, but God also used Leina’s skills to meet the need of students at Tyndale University’s Chinese Department. These Christian students had no one to play the piano during fellowship times. Leina is a student at Tyndale, but not in the Chinese Department. When they learned that Leina had learned to play the piano through YouTube, they asked if she’d share the link. They immediately formed a group of new piano students and asked Leina to meet them on Zoom that very night to offer a few words of encouragement. Some spoke Mandarin only, and so Leina stayed with them to translate the video, and almost before she knew it, she was teaching, giving homework, and glorifying God with them as they saw progress. The Chinese Department students no longer have to look elsewhere for pianists for their chapels.
“I am so happy for them,” says Leina. “The hymns help them get closer to God. Some feelings cannot be conveyed by words. But in music, you are in another realm. You can connect better to God.” Between them, Leina and John have had three Zoom classes of students so far.
Besides seeing people learn to play the piano for worship, they have witnessed God bring inner healing through music. And not just in others. Several years ago Leina and John lost their eldest son when he was 12, to Leukemia. In time, with God’s help, Leina was able to work through her grief, but John continued to struggle, keeping his grief inside, unable to find peace and solace. “It was only when he began to play the piano for several hours a day that he was gradually healed by singing the hymns. Singing the hymns is like a fellowship with God,” says Leina. “Little by little, without him realizing it, he was healed and he is free.”
They have seen God work in this way in others, as well. Some cry and cry when they play and when they finish playing they feel God has healed their heart. “It is a very powerful tool that connects people with God.” Leina adds, “It is not just the singing and playing, it’s the attitude of worship behind this.”
Leina and John are passionate about playing the piano. “It is a gift, says Leina. When I use the gift I feel God’s love for me.” They hope to train up pianists for small churches, and to use music in outreach, hoping to lead others to let God talk to them directly through the songs. They teach using keyboards and wish to train people who will then carry their keyboards and go everywhere to share the gospel through music, and to teach others to sing songs of praise to God.