A Life Transformed By God, Part 5: “God Is Doing the Work of Building People Up”
Editor’s note: Grace transforms. In recent decades, millions of Chinese people have met Jesus and had their lives turned inside out. Their hopes, dreams, families, leisure, and (in some cases) occupations have changed because of Christ. This is the final part of a five-part series with a house church pastor. In it he discusses his path to becoming a pastor and the challenges he faces. Some identifying features have been altered to protect his identity. Our hope is that these interviews challenge and encourage Western believers to examine their own faith and remind them to pray for their brothers and sisters in China.
What reaction did you have [when challenged to become a full-time church worker]?
I had a lot of thoughts. How will my family get by? What about my daughter? She was about to start university. Everything requires money.
There was no one to support me. But God was moving me to do it. I started to share with my wife. We thought of the preacher we knew earlier, the guy who gave up his good job. My wife thought, “Okay. It will be okay if we do this.”
All of that took a long time. God prepared us very slowly.
Even to this day I am thankful to my wife. Not only was she supportive of me serving in the church, she was willing to let me give up my job. During this period, we had started a small group in our home. First we would share the gospel with people on our own, and if anyone became a Christian we would bring them into the group.
When my wife decided I could serve, she began to help someone care for their child. She brought up their child, and they paid her. She paid for the things we needed for our home through taking care of the child.
Before, she was a housewife. But when you started to work full-time in the church, she went to work?
Let me tell you how it came about. It was God’s plan! We knew this woman who hadn’t married but was with a really rich guy.
She was his mistress?
An ‘extra wife.’ That was what she did. She got pregnant and had a baby. She wasn’t able to take her baby back to her old home, because she hadn’t married. What could she do? She needed to find someone to take care of the baby.
And she had a lot of money, by way of her boyfriend?
That’s right! A family member knew them and told us that baby is very cute, and they are looking for someone to take the baby. My wife said, “What if we took the baby?”
I never even imagined that. It’s a lot of work to care for a baby!
So the baby lived with you at your house?
The woman wanted us to raise the baby. The baby ate with us, lived with us. She dropped the baby off and left.
It was a big blessing. Back then, the price of daily needs wasn’t much. Not like now! How much were they willing to pay? More than we needed for daily goods each month! She also added money we needed to buy things for the baby. When we started caring for the baby, he was not yet half a year. In this way, I was able to work full-time in ministry, study at seminary, spend time in evangelism, and lead the church. This was how we started down the road of full-time service.
At the beginning there were only five people, and three of them were our family. Immediately, we had more and more people come to the church. Soon we couldn’t all fit in our house. We went outside and rented a place, a big place in an area far from the city center. I spent four years building that church. Once I graduated from seminary, I received a salary from the church. I also started doing trainings for minority people groups. A little over a year ago, I moved to the city center because it was more convenient for that.
Life in the city is not the same! In a small town, the pressure isn’t that bad. But the city is not the same! Rent! And we have to raise money! But in this way God has supplied and led us to continue walking in this way. So this is how I started to serve, the way I’ve gone all the way up to today.
Is your father still alive?
What about your mother?
My mother is still alive.
Did they both believe?
Yes, they did. My dad believed in the Lord because of us. We lived with our parents, and they both believed. They saw how before we fought all the time, and then all of a sudden we had this good relationship. So when they saw us, God really blessed that. And of course we were always sharing the gospel with them. In the end, my dad, my mom, they both received the Lord. We prayed with them together!
What about your siblings?
No, they haven’t. They have too much money. They think they don’t need it. But my parents believed. In the end my dad trusted the Lord, and my brothers just couldn’t believe it, because he was a very stubborn person!
My dad passed away last July. Lately, I’m always missing him a lot. Let me tell you why I miss him so much. Around the time he died, we organized a meeting for church leaders. The government religious department ended up coming. I wasn’t exactly taken in, but because I had organized the meeting, they started “having me for tea.” [This term is used to refer to informal government interrogations.] They would come look for me every day. The pressure was really intense. The longest time was eight hours once.
You never had any trouble before?
Maybe they would be a little interested in us before. If there was some event, they would come and say, “You don’t need to do this,” and that was the end of it.
But this time it wasn’t like that. They thought this type of big meeting was just not okay. So they started to pay us a lot of attention, and would come for me all the time.
The pressure was really big, and in addition I had a feeling of being deserted, being alone. I was also scared. The biggest thing was I felt really, really angry.
It wasn’t just.
Yes! It wasn’t right. Moreover, because of safety, my colleagues and co-workers temporarily quit communicating with me.
Were you really lonely?
So lonely. I wanted to go find them and share with them, but that wasn’t okay. Thankfully, there was one brother who was nearby, and it was a little more convenient to get together with him. But it wasn’t often.
He has also had similar experiences. He was also under their eye. So we could get together a very little bit, once in awhile. But basically I couldn’t do anything.
I was so lonely, and I was scared. To be honest. I knew God was with me. But I felt deserted. I was mad. They were looking for me all the time. And every time they would threaten. And then there was my family. My family was worried. It was too, too much. It lasted like that for more than two months. During that time, I felt like I was going to fall apart.
So now how am I? Well, I can’t sleep. Before I had no problems sleeping. But ever since then my sleep has been terrible. Up to this day it’s still no good, I can’t sleep.
Why have I said that recently I have missed my dad? From when I was young, my father was always really strict. What’s more, he was a soldier. Whenever anything came up, my dad would say one sentence. He would say, “I’ve got it.” Just, “Your dad will handle it.” I really missed my father during that time. I wanted him to come and say, “Your father will handle this.”
But during that time, I was the one who needed to step up and take the responsibility. I really needed support, help. In that season my heart was so depressed, so sad. And because of all that I especially missed my father. When I was missing him, I felt like I myself am so lonely, so pitiful, needing someone to protect me. In this period I knew God was protecting me. But emotionally I just couldn’t handle it. The brother I was meeting with occasionally had me begin to do some Christian counseling, and that was a help to me. Through these circumstances I realized that to be a preacher in China is not an easy thing.
You will think you’re comparatively pretty free. But actually, there is a lot in the background to control you. For us, the country gives us a lot of supervision. They can just take you, just grab you. We don’t have the rule of law, there is nothing like that here. It’s so corrupt.
Because the pressure was just too much, our church asked if we wanted to leave, to move to a different city. But I had just moved here and barely begun the work. To give it up would be a shame. I decided to stay and keep going. After a few months, things slowly got better. Now, it’s basically okay.
Do you still have feelings of worry?
I still have those feelings.
I know there is nothing God cannot do. But my [lack of] confidence has affected my service. My confidence problems influence my health and my sleep is bad. I have no energy and I’m feeling so tired.
It’s one of the most dangerous things, to be a preacher in China. If you live in China for a long time, you’ll discover that the Communist Party, they don’t give you warning, they don’t go through procedures. They just come and take you. So that’s where the road has brought me.
I’m still really determined. I chose to go down this road, to take this path of serving. I’m positive God is leading me.
What about the future?
I will follow the example of Jesus. There’s a saying, only those who have experienced persecution will rise. That is, to experience hardship for God is a type of blessing.
Your wife had a lot of pressure, too.
My wife was even more mad than me!
They told me they wanted to come to my home and I said, “No way.” We didn’t want to have them in our house. She said, “If they try and come in here I’ll beat them and make them leave!” My wife was really, really mad. She said, “We did all this for God…” and then she said some bad words. She said, “There are thieves and all kinds of societal problems, but they came for us, innocent people! We aren’t guilty, we haven’t done anything.”
She felt abandoned and alone. I felt alone, forsaken. Why is it like this? I was fearful, angry, complaining. During that time, I just felt like I was going to go crazy!
Are you hopeful?
This is something that is really special about God. When something happens, he gives you the maturity to deal with it. In the process, some people will be really fearful. Some people don’t dare to keep going. But some will be very steady, they aren’t moved by anything. God is doing the work of building people up to become steady and decided.
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