Editor’s note: The following is a testimony from a pastor in southeast China. She shares about the financial challenges pastors commonly face serving in house churches and the process it took for her to personally accept and submit to God’s call to serve full-time. Ultimately, she testifies to God’s consistent provision and grace. In Part 2 of her testimony, this pastor shares two stories from within her congregation of women who have learned to trust God for their daily bread.
When I first served in the church, I was bi-vocational. Our church was then new and relatively small, so we did not have a complete church structure or governance structure. So, there were no full-time pastors among us. At that time, my desire for God motivated me to do something for the church. I was serving at the church while I was still working a job. My work was relatively flexible, so I spent a lot of time serving at the church.
I had already started learning to rely on God and how my Heavenly Father would provide for me with my work situation, because I knew that the most important thing for me was to long for his word. When I first came to know God and the Bible, he said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Of course, at that time, I did not have a deep knowledge of God, and a superficial understanding of this verse is only materialistic or visible provision. However, as my spiritual life matured, I began to know that this verse had a deeper interpretation. I am so grateful that God knew I was a spiritual baby, and that he always led me forward with such words.
I then entrusted all my work to God. I hoped I would not have to spend too much time on my job. I wanted to do things efficiently and trust God for the outcome. I would spend a lot of time doing ministry at the church and pursuing the growth of my understanding of the Bible, the word of God.
When we entered the stage of establishing our church, I spent a lot of time on this matter. As a result, the work at my job gradually slowed down. Even before I started to receive a salary from the church, I had already quit my job, serving God with the faith he gave me. There were two years during which I served without any financial support. Of course, life was a little difficult at that time, but I was very grateful that I did not go hungry. God always provided, and I still did my best to give to charitable causes.
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A Testimony of God’s Provision
I remember one thing, a very small testimony, through which God granted me great confidence in him. It was in 2010. One of my relatives passed away and I was expected to offer condolences to his family. At that time, even 500 yuan sounded like a lot to me, because I only had this 500 yuan with me. Then, I prayed to God, “This 500 is all I have for this month’s expense. I am a single mother, so I still have to support my daughter.” However, very thankfully, God enabled me to love this person more than my concern for my own needs when I prayed.
After experiencing this, I gave the money for their funeral expenses and entrusted my life to God. I was very grateful. Right after I sent this money, the next day, I received 500 yuan on Wechat.
Where did this money come from? It was a commission from an insurance company I had worked for previously. When you leave your job at an insurance company, you have to hand over all the clients’ information to the company salespersons, so that they can follow up. This commission came from a salesperson to whom I handed over my clients’ information. Normally this commission would not be given to me, but somehow this money was sent to me. I called him and asked, “Why did you give me the money?” He replied, “It was your previous client who renewed their insurance policy, so I wanted to give the commission to you.”
Through this event, I truly experienced the presence of the Heavenly Father with me. He truly knew my needs and I experienced faith that enabled me to rely on him. Since then, I have experienced many miraculous provisions from God in my life. Therefore, when it was time for me to decide to enter full-time ministry, I did not worry about money.
Entering Full-Time Ministry
In the initial stages of starting a church in China, taking a salary from the church put a lot of pressure on you. First of all, there would be pressure from within the church. Brothers and sisters would look at you, seeing you being paid to serve the church, and they would set many standards and conditions or make comments about you. Therefore, many people did not want to be paid by the church. They would rather pray to God, asking God to provide for them abundantly, so that they could earn a lot of money and have time to serve at church at the same time. I also felt a lot of pressure to be in full-time ministry, and I also didn’t think I was worthy. I didn’t want to receive comments and pressure from brothers and sisters. However, many ministries at the church were calling me to serve full-time and to be paid by the church.
There was still something I could not let go of. I had a small wish – to start my own business and run it by myself. I prayed to the Heavenly Father and asked, “I’ve had this dream for a long time now. Could you realize it for me?”
I prayed to God and asked him to make my little wish come true, so that I could run my own business and serve at church. God answered my prayer and met my needs. I opened a small clothing store. My goal was not to make money for myself or for God’s family. I was thinking that maybe I could go into the community and share the gospel by running my business. It began with this idea, and I tried it out.
God gave me great encouragement and provided for all my needs. I had never run a business like this before. I did not know that there was so much competition, that it was really hard to make it. I opened this business and ran it for about a year. While running the business, I also experienced how to be a Christian in the workplace. I was praying to God to help me practice the Christian faith in the workplace.
I was kind of lazy. I said, “Heavenly Father, I do not even have enough time to study your word. Now you want me to run this business. If doing this business takes over my time, I am not willing to do it. Also, sources of supply and customers are also beyond my ability to obtain. Please provide for me.”
Thankfully, regarding supply, God led me to a Christian supplier in the clothing industry. She would send me clothes directly and I did not have to select them by myself. All I had to do was to keep an eye on it. Besides this, running a fashion business also required some taste in areas such as aesthetics, art, and styling, but I was not very gifted in those areas. So, I prayed to God about it, and said, “God, would you help me to experience the beauty of your creation regarding these aesthetic aspects, so that I can reveal that kind of beauty in my store. In my understanding of fashion, I don’t want to follow the fashion trends of the world, but to understand your beauty and your perfection in colors and various designs of women’s clothing. That’s what I want.”
It was amazing to see how God provided for me little by little. When I set up my shop’s visual display, it mysteriously attracted many customers from the area. During the daytime, as I was looking after my shop, I would also read and listen to the Bible. When customers entered my shop, I warmly welcomed them. Then I would share the gospel with them, talk about my faith, values, and the meaning of beauty. As a woman, true beauty was being beautiful from inside and out. I would also share how we could achieve such inner beauty. Then, my customers started to share their struggles as a woman in their personal and family lives. That is how I started to share the gospel in that community, and there was fruit from my evangelism.
After I ran this business for about a year, there was a gospel conference. My church encouraged me to attend this conference in order to broaden my vision. However, I was still struggling, saying, “No, I just opened my shop. Things just started to fall into place. No, you cannot ask me to close it so soon.” However, our church kept encouraging me, “You should go, because our church does not have many ministers, but we have many little sheep and seekers, and they all need shepherds.”
So, I continued to pray. I said, “God, you have fulfilled this wish of mine, and now I am satisfied. If you want me to go next week (I procrastinated until 3 days before my departure to Hong Kong, then I prayed), if there is someone willing to take over my shop in three days and I will not lose any money, then I will attend this conference, because the conference is one-week long.”
After this prayer, I put a notice of business for sale on the door. Two hours later, someone came to my store and wanted to buy it. He did not even take a careful look at it. He immediately offered to buy my business. I said to myself, “Wow, I am going to obey God.” I sold my shop right away. I didn’t even have time to pack the clothes in the store. So, I asked the new owner buying my shop, “I have to go on a study trip. Please wait for a week, and I will transfer the ownership when I come back.” He even gave me the deposit and told me, “I want to buy your shop for sure. Don’t worry. You can take your time for your study trip. I will take over the shop when you come back.”
I thought that in business, or even more generally in my life, doing something like this would not usually be so easy, because in business people negotiate price back and forth. It usually takes a long time. However, it was so smooth for me, I submitted to God’s plan.
That is how I went to the gospel conference. While I was at the conference, there was a call to enter full-time ministry. I thought, “Since I am called, I will serve full-time at the church when I go back.”
Wages for full-time ministry were very low at the time. We must take account of the spiritual immaturity of our brothers and sisters. When it came to the decision to hire people to serve in the church, they only considered offering a very low wage. They paid 2000 yuan a month, whereas the wage of a secular job was 4000-5000 yuan. It was comparatively low and was only enough for basic life expenses.
However, I was still willing to serve the church. This is how I started to do ministry and it was quite a journey. Since my family does not have other sources of income, this wage is all I have been relying on for our life expenses.
I have experienced that this word of God is truly faithful: “Seek first my kingdom and my righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Whatever needs you have, either for life or for spiritual power, all will be added to you. This is what I truly believe. He knows.
He does not set aside a large amount of money for you and tell you, “Go ahead, I have set aside some money for you.” It’s not like that. You step out first, and he will certainly provide for your daily needs.
I have experienced this kind of faith which God has given me. I encourage brothers and sisters to be truly like Abraham and to step out. Be like the people of Israel when they stepped into the Red Sea. Indeed, the Word of God is alive and true. I am sure that our Heavenly Father did not leave us on earth like orphans, but he has always intended for us to receive his blessings. He has abundant grace, but do you have the faith to believe him and reach out to him?
 About $70.
Translation provided by Rachel, Ryan, and the China Partnership translation team.