“The wise devote their lives to making the world better; the foolish lend their souls to ghosts and gods.” This saying reflects my Communist father’s view of religion. My father was born in a Chinese village to uneducated parents who followed no religion. He was the first person from that village to attend university. Because he could see no other way to success at the university, he decided to become a Communist.
Father became an official in the Communist party, married and had us three children. I am the youngest, born in 1975. (The one-child per family policy was enforced in 1976.) I never really had many friends because every time my father received a promotion, we had to move. I learned to please my parents by trying hard at school, but my grades were average. Father had to spend a lot of money to get me into a top school. My parents never failed to remind me how much I owed them, so I felt like I had to repay them with obedience in everything.
In 1991 my father sent me for training to become an English teacher. I was excited; I loved English and I would be away from home. I would not have to listen to my parents tell me what a failure I had been.
After graduating in 1994 I was offered an additional two-year advanced program. First I had to pass a test to determine whether I would become an elementary or high school teacher. I called my father who was 300 miles away. He said, “If you pass the test, we will pay for the course; if you fail, don’t even dream of us paying anything extra for you.” With that, he hung up the phone. At the most crucial time in my life, I felt that my family had deserted me. I felt so rejected and hurt.
I wanted to do all I could for the test, so I would stay in the classroom at lunch time to study when everyone else was napping. One day, a classmate declared that someone had stolen the money her family had sent to her. She had put it in the drawer and now it was gone. (Her drawer had been locked the whole time.) Eyes were fixed on the few of us who studied during the lunch hour. To my great surprise, my best friend said, “It’s Angelina. I am 100 percent sure she took the money.”
I wailed when I heard that. Not only was I innocent, I was accused by my best friend. I yelled, “I will not forgive her or anyone who believes her until they come and apologize one by one.” A day later, the girl who claimed to have lost the money found that she had simply misplaced it. She was afraid to let everyone know the truth, so she kept quiet.
No one came to apologize. I became bitter toward all those who thought I was a thief. I cried and cried. I lost my best friend and my trust in my peers. Family and now friends failed me when I needed their support most. These circumstances plus the pressure of the coming test I could take no longer. I said, “What is worth living for?” I thought of committing suicide, but I was too afraid. I did pass the test, but barely. However, I didn’t care. I was proud of myself because I had done it. No one stood with me, but I made it!
One day a foreign English teacher came to our class. Lynne was a graduate of the famous Oxford University in England. She said, “I will be your teacher this semester. In this first class I want to talk to you about something interesting. Somebody please give me some ideas.”
People started to offer ideas. Someone said, “Tell us about Christianity.” I raised my hand and said, “Don’t talk about things that don’t even exist.” As all the other students, I had been taught at school and at home that there is no God and that human beings evolved. We were also taught that Christianity is a western religion and Buddhism is the Chinese religion. Anyhow, religion is for helpless, uneducated people; all we really need is the government.
I later found out that I had caught Lynne’s attention in that first class, and she, being a Christian, prayed much for me—as did her friends in England. Lynne and I became good friends and she introduced me to most of her friends from other foreign countries. I became even more proud; not everyone could be friends with foreign teachers. I was excited about so many opportunities to enhance my spoken English.
At this point in my life, God began starting to reveal His love for me through these teachers. The first time I went with Lynne to an orphanage, I was disgusted by the dirty, neglected babies and handicapped children. But the workers were holding them, singing to them and praying over them. I saw them crying over the dying babies. I was ashamed that I didn’t have any love for these little ones. I didn’t want to accept the fact that these foreign workers were so loving. I thought, “They are just pretending.”
God allowed me to hear the gospel in other ways as well. A big battle began in me because the gospel was contrary to what I had been taught my whole life. When I read the verse, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” I could go no further; I couldn’t reconcile the opposing views. At the same time, I could not deny the love, peace and joy that I saw in my Christian friends. I knew I wanted what they had, but how? This struggle went on for about four months. The urge in my heart to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior became stronger. Finally on Christmas Eve, 1994, I bowed on my bunk bed and prayed the sinner’s prayer from a tract: “Lord Jesus, I believe You are who Your Word says You are. Please forgive me of my sins. I give my life to You.” Then I added my own words, “God, if You are real, You have to prove it to me on a personal level. If You do that, I want to know You and I want to serve You.”
Little did I know that God took my prayer seriously. He turned my world upside down. Nothing was the same anymore. Nothing! He allowed me to experience seven motorcycle accidents and one car accident to show me that He is real and that my life is in His hands. In all those accidents, the Lord not only kept me alive but also kept my motorcycle whole. No one got hurt badly enough to go to a hospital. These miracles were just the beginnings of many that God was going to do in my life!
In 1996, I graduated from college. I had three prayer requests before the Lord: 1) I wanted to teach English at a top high school. 2) I wanted to get involved in a house church. 3) I wanted to continue speaking English. God answered all three requests in one month. I became an English teacher and taught the same children for three years. I served with some dear Christian friends at a house church and with them grew in the Lord. I got involved in an orphanage and there met more foreign christians than I could have imagined.
The next step in my life was a move back to the city where my family lived. My father was furious when he realized that he could not talk me out of going to church and being a Christian. He turned away from me and stopped talking to me. It was very hard on me because I was his favorite child. Now he wouldn’t look at me or answer me when I called to him. I turned for comfort to this verse of Scripture: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me (Psa. 27:10 NKJV). God has done just that. Instead of bitterness, He has given me love for my father. I am confident that my family will come to Christ as I pray for them daily.
When two brothers in the church felt led to serve the Lord full-time, I wanted to do the same. But I needed Bible training. The church fellowship prayed with me about attending a Bible college in the U.S.A. I was not eligible to attend a seminary in China as I was not a member of the State Church. Also, I wanted to work with the underground churches when I finished my schooling.
Eight months later a short-term foreign worker came to my city. He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I had been praying about attending a Bible college. He advised me to attend the college where he was a worker.
Seven months after I applied, I got the visa I needed. It was a miracle because I had to have permission from the Education Bureaus in the city and the province. I was not questioned throughout all the process. I didn’t use money or gifts or relationships—the usual way to get things accomplished. I decided that if God wanted me to go, He would open all the doors. And He did! A foreign friend bought my air ticket, so I was able to return the money my parents had given me. My father used to say to me, “If your God is real, ask Him to rain down a meal to you so we don’t have to feed you.” My life since I have been abroad has been God’s answer to my family. I didn’t bring any money, but God has provided every penny and has given me a host family who take me as their own. God has blessed me beyond what I could ever have asked or imagined.
I have graduated from the two-year course at the Bible college and have been sharing my life with many people. I have also been translating tracts and other literature into my native language.
God has taught me that His Word is the foundation of my walk and service, that people matter to Him, and that love should be the mark of my life. I have come to learn that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It is not human nature to love and care for others, and that is why it took Christians to support and love the children in the orphanage. Those workers, at one time in their lives, had to accept the same truths I did. They weren’t born Christians; they had to make a choice to become Christians. “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).
Yes, God does really love us that much. I am praying that my dear father will accept God’s love as I did. Then he will know that “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10).
*not her real name
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