Seeking for Eternal Life, Part 1: “A Series of Separations”

Seeking-for-Eternal-Life-Part-1-A-Series-of-Separations

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 installment in a five-part interview series with a Chinese woman who came to Christ in the late 1980s as an international student studying in the United States. She later returned to China to do full-time ministry with university students. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity, and some identifying features have been altered to protect her 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.  


Where did you grow up? When were you born?

I was born around the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, in a small town. At that time there was infighting, almost a civil war. My parents were afraid for my safety, as one of their friends had been shot just being a passerby. My mom took me to a nearby large city to my paternal grandmother, but then they found out my grandmother was being persecuted, because she was the head of a preschool. She couldn’t take care of me. In the end my mom took me to another province, where her parents and younger siblings were.


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This was when you were an infant?

I was two months old. She left me there until I was two years old and things calmed down. 

What did your parents do?

My father was a doctor. He got a degree in the city, and then was sent down to the countryside. My mom’s major was agriculture, so she was doing stuff in the mountains. When the Cultural Revolution started, my father was persecuted and sent to a re-education farm, where he would carry manure every day. 

When I was born, my dad got permission for a two-hour visit with my mom. My mom said she cried and cried. There was nobody around [to help] her, so she didn’t have any milk. It was really hard to get milk powder, so I was starving for a few days until somebody got her milk powder.

I spent two years in another province with my maternal grandparents, uncles, and aunts. They really loved me. One of my aunts was my primary caretaker. I considered her to be my mom, because I didn’t know better, and she was the closest person to me. When my mom and dad came to get me after two years, they were like strangers to me. I didn’t know them and called them “uncle” and “auntie.” 

I still remember leaving on the train with them. I was really excited in the daytime, but when night came, I said, “I want to go home.” Gradually I realized I was not going to go home; the train just kept going. I still remember that desperate feeling, the dim yellow light on the train, the stuffy smell, the smoke. I was crying and crying.

How traumatic.

That played a huge part later on, even in my relationship with God. As a result, I never felt really close to my parents. Gradually I forgot about my aunt, and after a few years I didn’t feel close to her, either. 

When I was four, my parents sent me to a large eastern city to visit my paternal grandfather. He used to be a professor at a university there, but at that time he was a janitor. (My grandparents were divorced, which was really rare then.) After a few weeks, when it was time for me to come back, I threw a tantrum in the train station, so my grandfather kept me with him for about half a year. 

When I was six, it was time for me to go to school. My parents were worried about my paternal grandmother, who was still persecuted and was losing hope. They decided to send me to her, to keep her company, so she had someone to take care of.

What was she doing?

She was still a preschool teacher at that time, but she was really looked down on. She was a very severe person; she hardly smiled. I can imagine that when she was the head of the preschool, she was really severe to the staff, so that is why they hated her so much. She didn’t have friends and she didn’t want me to have friends; she was afraid other kids would bully me. But I didn’t feel other kids bully me. I was relatively happy, but afraid of my grandma.

Once I went to school, I figured out I was really good at school. The teachers liked me, and the students looked up to me. That gave me a purpose. At the end of each semester I could report to my family, and everybody would praise me. I thought I was the star of the family. That was how I got attention. 

Did you often see your parents?

Once or twice a year. My mom was really sentimental. She would cry when she saw me, and then a couple days later, start crying again when she thought about leaving so soon. 

That really bothered me. It made me uncomfortable, it made me sad to think about them leaving. When I was eight or nine, I found the solution. I said to myself: “I don’t need them. It’s better not to visit. I am not going to cry. I am not going to be like my mom, because that is really painful.

Did you feel she was weak?

[I felt] that her weakness made me weak. Their visits stirred up my emotions and brought me pain. I decided I did not care whether they visited or not; I would not cry. From that point on, I never cried when leaving someone, not even when I eventually went to the States. It’s not until years later, after I came to the Lord and after much healing, that I’m now able to cry at separating from people. That is one of the ways God has healed some of the wounds in me.

My childhood was a pattern of trying to bond with someone, then separating again: it was a series of separations. I later recognized it was a felt abandonment over and over again.

When I was in junior high, my parents finally were able to move to the city where I was. At that point it was really hard to change jobs; you had to know somebody. The downside was that my parents’ marriage wasn’t going well. Living with my parents, seeing their turbulent marriage, made me swear to myself I was not going to grow up to be emotional, like my mom.

My mom was an idealist. She was very sensitive, and her emotional needs were very high. My father served her physically—with cooking and housework, my father was a model husband. But looking back, I can see he was emotionally distant and would withdraw. I think that is the reason why, a lot of times, she would cry. She felt she was the victim and my father didn’t love her. 

Now I can much better understand her, but at that time I just felt she was unreasonable. A good friend who often acted as a reconciler for them told me, “Don’t grow up to be like your mom; look at all the havoc she’s wreaking.” My mom would also say, “Daughter, I’m so glad you’re not like me. You are much stronger. You never cry, you don’t care about these little things that would hurt me.

What a tough exterior you built.

Yeah. I think I really believed it. Except for fearing my mom would blow up, I didn’t feel a lot of emotion. Again, it affected my adult life, and my relationship with God, and intimacy.

FOR REFLECTION

1) This woman decided that emotions made her weak and vulnerable, so she decided to shut down that part of herself. Have you ever tried to shut down a part of yourself that made you uncomfortable?

2) How does denying emotion lead to difficulty in finding intimacy with God and others?

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
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Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

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.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  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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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

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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Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

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 Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Changchun

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 Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to 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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