From China to Harvard (And Back Again) – Who I Want to Be

Looking back, my life story is gradually turning into a God story. As much as I wanted to make my own effort to find and choose my faith, I was merely stumbling down a road in thick smog. I didn’t know true north and I didn’t have a proper compass, ignorant of the right way to think and experience. But God reached out his hands, paved my way, and guided me. Even though he did not blatantly show his face to me, God artfully, carefully, and respectfully let me experience his existence intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
Meeting him is just the beginning. The initial smash of pride just cracked out a fissure. It still takes time and a process to completely put to death my old self formed over the past 23 years. My new self must resurrect with spiritual fruit.

For the rest of my gap year, God challenged my values and transformed me inside out through the Bible and the activities of the student fellowship. The abundant, precious free time in the second half of my gap year enabled me to totally soak in the Bible. And the Holy Spirit even used me, a baby Christian, to help with discipleship trainings. Through fellowship and the scripture, God rooted my faith in him firmly.

The biggest transformation was in my values and how I see my relationship with the world. My mom’s fellowship lacked pastors or ministers, but God sent his faithful servants from the United States and South Korea to the group every month. Being bilingual, I was honored to translate for them. Because of this, I quickly became familiar with scripture both in Chinese and English. During my interaction with these people, I learned abundantly about how God disciplined these believers when they went astray and how God pulled their lives out of dark valleys.

I was utterly amazed by how gentle and loving these people were. They completely changed my values about who I wanted to become. They did not have any masks and pretenses for protection, but completely opened up their gentle and loving hearts to others. I wondered, “Aren’t you afraid of being scarred and hurt by this world?”

Then I found the secret in their hearts. The deeper I knew them, the stronger the faith I found in them. I realized they were not naïve; nor were they fearless of being hurt. Rather, they knew that suffering in this world is inevitable. It is not about how to avoid being hurt, but how to heal from the wound. Their strong faith in God enables the Holy Spirit to heal them in a short time so that they will not be scared by the hurt, but rather able to continue facing people with the most sincere heart and love.

I used to see my values centered in contributions to the world and the judgment of historical recognition. But such values were the things that made me feel overwhelmed every day thinking about what career I should pursue and how much I should do to have done enough. From these faithful servants of God, I realized that who I want to be is no longer a title or a description of achievements, but a faithful follower of Christ with the same tender and loving heart towards people.

With the firm foundation of faith in Jesus, I excitedly went back to Harvard and graduated from it. Although I faced even more pressure, tougher expectations, and greater uncertainties looking at the future, I no longer felt lost, overwhelmed, or alone. In fact, the last semester at Harvard was the best semester. Freed from the pressure to choose classes in my comfort zone in order to maintain a high GPA, I went out of my comfort zone and took classes that I enjoyed and could learn from.

With a better understanding of human nature, I was also better at empathizing with and loving my friends with different backgrounds from me. I engaged deeply with different Christian fellowship events. Bible studies helped me continue to deepen my relationship and understanding of God and gave me a safe space to have difficult conversations about life. Through Christian fellowships, I made great friends for soul communication.

A deeper understanding of Christianity also allows me to see, feel, understand, and empathize with American society to an unprecedented depth. No matter how secular New England society has become, its fundamental values like human rights and individualism are still greatly indebted to Christian values. Only when I understood the fundamental origins, could American culture start to resonate with me.

Now out of Harvard, the community of Highrock Church and the Harvard Kennedy School Christian Fellowship (my boyfriend is co-leading there) continue to support and console me when facing the imperfections of people and life. There can still be frustrations and confusions, but loneliness and anxiety disappeared completely from my life because I know my Shepard is always with me. And he has a plan for me.

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Because I know my Shepard takes care of me, I am finding more and more ways my faith touches my life. For example, even though last year my boyfriend and I were in San Francisco and Boston respectively, we were able to maintain praying together every day. Virginia Wolf used to write that the longest distance is from one heart to another. But she failed to learn that two hearts can meet on the bridge of the Holy Spirit. Distance cannot separate hearts united in the love of Christ.

God’s plan is mysterious! He exalted me so high that he sent me to Harvard, and yet he brought me back to ground zero in order to save my soul. I am excited to continue to walk with him in this life of grace.


Wanxin Cheng grew up in Chengdu, China, and graduated from Harvard College in May 2014. She currently studies at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts. This is the final post in a three-part series sharing her spiritual journey. Make sure you check out her first and second posts!

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Further Reading

Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
Read More
Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
Read More
Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
Read More


With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.


  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church



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Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.


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Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.


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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.


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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.


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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.


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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.


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