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 first in a series of stories about Chinese coming to faith. The personal experiences of these Chinese believers flaunt the inescapable truth: God is real, and meeting him changes everything. Our hope is that these interviews challenge and encourage Western believers to examine their own faith, as well as reminding them to pray for their brothers and sisters in China.
“Lola” is a bright young woman who attended one of China’s top universities. Her résumé is full of professional accomplishments. Though her life is full of modern success, turning to God meant trusting him more than the ancient, vindictive spirits her mother served. Before Christ, Lola thought often of life’s pointlessness, and from her teen years struggled with an awareness of her own internal darkness. As with many young, urban Chinese, she first heard of God’s grace during her college years. Check back in the coming weeks for parts 2 and 3 of Lola’s story.
Tell me about your experience starting university.
I’m not Han; my parents are both from different minority people groups. In my hometown, people began to marry across minority groups a long time ago. They made friends with one another and with Han people as well. The culture and languages are not well kept; we look and live like Han people.
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Because my parents were teachers, they had a lot of students. They were good teachers, and my mom, especially, is very outgoing; they had a lot of friends in our small town. Two-thirds of the people in town know them. My identity was as their daughter, instead of myself.
To me, there was nothing my dad could not do. I lost a certificate related to my college entrance exam, and because of that I couldn’t get an offer from my college. My dad just went to someone and made a new one for me. I told him, “Hey, Dad, can I get an internship this summer? I need it.” And he got one for me immediately. This was in the small town.
When I went to college, I remember watching them walking in front of me. My dad used to dress in a very organized manner. That day, though, it was so hot he had to wear shorts, this shirt he had never worn before, with a towel over his shoulder—that image had never happened before, he was always dressed like a teacher.
Seeing my parents like that, I had the impression that, from this moment—from the instant I started college—my life would depend on myself. They were not going to be able to reach to get me, they were not going to be there to put up with things for me: it would have to be me. College was when I started to make decisions for myself, because before that my parents made every decision—they even picked my major for me.
Which major was what?
I remember the day I got my college entrance exam back. I went out with friends for the entire night. I came back and was like, “Here’s my result: I’m going to take a nap. I’ve done my part.”
During this time you had questions about the point of life.
My friends and I, we talked about it in high school. But they seemed normal, and I was not. They seemed happy. There were times I was jealous of them or mean to them and didn’t want to share with them—not my stuff, not my ideas, whatever. I felt bad about myself. I didn’t share this darkness in my heart. I was confused about life.
So you got to college and were having all these thoughts. Then what happened?
One day I was in the cafeteria and these two American girls walked by. I smiled at them. That was the first time I met Brittany. We had military training when we first got to college, and my hair was this long [motions to waist]. I had it in two braids so it didn’t go everywhere.
She came to me and said, “Hey, do you want to have lunch with me?” I was in line to get lunch and was like, “Sure.” Our first conversation went badly because I couldn’t understand anything she said. My English wasn’t very good.
After that I didn’t want to see her any more because I felt embarrassed. The next time when I saw her was during lunch break another day. Everyone else was in their dorm taking a nap, but I was hanging around in the cafeteria with a friend. That friend ate with us last time. The friend said, “I don’t want to talk to that American girl, let’s go back.” I was like, “Sure, let’s go.” But the American girl called me. I was like, “Uhhhhhhh….. hi……” but we had a good conversation. Since my English was so bad, I had to draw her pictures to tell her what my hometown was like.
That was when I first entered college. She invited me to a sports event where they played frisbee and kickball, and I had a lot of fun talking with her. After that, we met Anna, a Chinese Christian girl who was in the same major as me. I had a bunch of questions about college, and this girl was four years older. She had just graduated. She was working for a year with a Christian group [although I didn’t know that at the time]. I had an assignment from one of our teachers to chart a career path, and I had no idea how to do that. So I asked Anna to teach me how, and she went back to my dorm with me.
Anna had heard a theory that said you should think of the needs of society, the things you value, and your strengths when making a career development plan. Through the values part she started to introduce God to me.
Did you believe in God at this point?
That’s another story. Since I am from a minority area, lots of people, including my mom, deeply believe in a local god. There are many of these gods, and each family can also have their own family god. When my mom was little, her family faced a lot of challenges. My grandmother went to the local shaman, and the lady told her she was having trouble because she had disobeyed her family god. The shaman told her to invite the god back and worship him so things would go better.
My grandma did that, and everything got better. My mom’s older brother had lost his job and her younger brother was sick, but all that turned better after they invited the god back. So they deeply believe their family has a god. My mom told me all this, and she took me to a shaman multiple times. I hated this lady because she knew things I didn’t want to tell my mom. She just knew.
Now, when I think back, it’s nothing specific. She told my mom something about how I was stressed in high school and how I had a crush on some boy. Those were not things I wanted my mom to know. But now, when I look back, every high school girl is going to have a crush on someone, and every girl in high school is going be stressed. She could probably tell from my face. But then I was like, “Oh my goodness, there is some power that is beyond me.”
I deeply believed it was real. Once I was sick with some skin problem, so my mom took me to the shaman. The lady told me, “You have to come at night when the stars are up.” My mom took me back and the shaman used a flower to make a shape of a snail. She put it on my skin where I had all the problems and spoke to it, and after a few times I was well.
I experienced all these “superpower” things and believed there was some superpower beyond humans, but I didn’t know what it was.
When I was in high school, I was so stressed. Late at night I would pray to god, whoever it was. My mindset was all about exchanging; I had to give him something so he would give me something. It was like this: I had an exam or test the next day and had to get a good score. I told him, “You can torture me or give me nightmares—whatever you want to do tonight—but I need a good result on tomorrow’s test.”
It’s interesting you felt you had to endure something bad to get what you wanted. Is that the way the shaman operated?
I feel like it.