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 fourth part of a five-part series with a house church pastor. In it he recounts his growing desire to share the gospel. 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.
As soon as I believed in the Lord, I had a great desire to share the gospel with the rest of my family.
I would tell them, “This is great. My home is now so good!” But I couldn’t explain things very well. If I was talking with my family and someone said they were willing to believe it was like nothing else I can compare it to, even before, when I was doing business and earning a lot of money!
I knew this faith had a lot of value. But if I taught it poorly, sometimes the other person would start laughing. Some people, though, would hear and say, “Yes, this is good.”
In my old home, there was a big hospital just across the street. At the back of the hospital was a morgue. If you opened the window, you could see it. You couldn’t see actual corpses, but you could see the morgue itself. All the family members of the dead people would be there, they would be crying. Chinese people like to set off fireworks. They would set those off and the family members of the deceased would start crying.
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At that time, because we had already believed in the Lord, my wife, my daughter, and I thought: “These people have already died. They never heard the gospel. They went down to hell.” Of course, we still didn’t understand very much. But we thought this was too heartbreaking; while these people were still living they never had the chance to hear the gospel. So, we really wanted to go and give the gospel to those people.
Once, my wife and I heard someone had died, and we heard their family crying. We were so moved. We thought we should go and share the gospel with them. We went downstairs, and walked around to go into the hospital. At that time, we didn’t know what to say. They were there with the doctor, they were crying. If you started talking to them about heaven and hell…
…they would definitely not want to hear about that then.
We didn’t know what we should do. But we had this impulse — we knew people had died. We knew we ourselves had been saved. And we really wanted to tell them about it.
That night we went back home. I set my face in this direction and said, “I want to be a person who shares the gospel with others. I need to let more people know how good it is to believe in God.” That was when I started thinking I ought to do this with my life. I started to read the Bible — to really earnestly read! — and also to read some spiritual reference books, and participate in trainings.
Let me tell you a story! The first training was on how to lead kids. They used five colors — black is sin, red is Jesus’s blood, so on. When I heard this, I thought, “I understand more and more. People’s sin, God’s love, life, hope, so much.”
In the end I didn’t end up teaching children. After that I met another missionary, a Chinese guy from another province. He started a three-month class here in my city to study the Bible, so I went. It was a systematic theology class, they taught about God, the church, the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc. There was a lot.
After I believed in Christ I still just did it if I wanted to do something. Even when I believed in the Lord,I still went to the mahjong place and did those kinds of things.
You still went along in the same way?
Just like before. But four or five years after I believed, I started to do a lot of studies. After I started those studies, I thought, “I really ought to lay these things down.”
After you believed, you immediately wanted to go tell people about this. But in many ways your life was still the same as before?
Often we humans are really slow to change!
That’s really true! I can’t say that as soon as I believed, I totally changed. Because actually, when I believed, I definitely didn’t change. I knew what was good, I knew I had a need, but my actions, the attitude of my life, didn’t change. I had this feeling inside that on one hand, I was still doing the same things, but I also did not feel at peace. When I finished, I would start repenting. I knew it was bad! I knew I shouldn’t keep on! But actually I did keep on, day after day. I just couldn’t handle the temptation.
I would go to worship, go to church, sing praise songs, and feel really peaceful. Then I would go back and continue with my old friends and ways. My actions and beliefs were not in line with one another. That process was a really slow one.
Finally something happened that set me off. I was playing mahjong all night long until the next morning. I was smoking, all the way until the cigarettes were gone. Once the cigarettes were gone, the four of us got down on the ground and gathered old cigarette butts and other stuff to use as a substitute for tobacco. They kept smoking. When I saw them gathering them the tobacco like that — all of a sudden, I thought, “This is too gross. Why would people do this?”
You suddenly felt it was disgusting?
Yes, so nauseating! From that day on, I didn’t smoke anymore. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to — I just felt it was too detestable. From that day my life began to slowly, slowly change, to not want the things I did before.
You yourself didn’t do anything to change your attitude.
The whole thing was totally God. As a general rule, I couldn’t do this. It was at that time I really started to pursue maturity and to study.
Did you continue to participate in trainings?
If I heard there was a training, I went. The second I heard about it, I was there.
What did your family think of this?
They saw my change! I was so joyful when I got back from these things. When I was at home, I was much more responsible, I wasn’t looking to run and go out and find things to do.
So, they were very supportive.
Yes. My wife really valued the faith, my daughter was also a faithful person. We started to have people to our house for this sort of thing a lot. Most of the people in the church were old, and at that time we were still young! They would say, “Brother Huang, can you read the Bible with me?” I was glad to do that. After we finished, I didn’t know what to say. But they would say, “Oh, we are so glad you’re teaching us!”
It was really natural. Like teaching a story. I would talk half the day and didn’t know myself what I was saying! Whatever I studied with the teachers, I would come back and share. After a few years, they invited me to read the Bible and teach.
To be a pastor?
Not that! At that time it was so shallow. I didn’t know much myself! All those experiences made me want to study and learn even more.
There was an old pastor from Hong Kong who told me I needed to go to seminary. He shared his story with me, of how he was willing to give up his salary to go to seminary and become a preacher. He encouraged me as well. I was still fearful, I thought I needed to raise my family and make money. If I went to seminary, who’s going to give me money?
But he encouraged me. So when he organized a seminary in another province, I went.
Did your whole family move?
No, just me.
Wow, that’s hard.
It was like this. Every three months, I would go for one month. I studied for a month, then I would come home for two.
What did you do when you came back?
When I came back, I would continue my business. I needed to earn money. I had living expenses to pay for. They excused me from regular tuition — but you have to live! In the end I studied for four years, like an undergrad student at university. During this time of study, I also began to serve the church. Part of my time was studying, part of my time was serving.
You were pretty busy!
Every Friday night we hosted a small group in our home. This was how we started.
We continued this way for several years. Then God really moved me. I realized I was too busy. My teacher told me I ought to quit my job. He encouraged me to become a full-time worker in the church.
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