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 of a five-part interview series with “Tim,” a Chinese ministry leader. In this series, Tim shares his story of faith.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.
When were you born?
I was born in the 1960s. That time was the period of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. My father was in the army. He gave me my name in order to show his devotion to communism.
What is your family structure?
I have three younger siblings. I am the oldest.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Did you grow up in the country or in a small town?
It’s a middle-sized town, several hundred kilometers away from the nearest big city.
What was life like growing up for you? Was your family middle class? You grew up in a very turbulent period.
At that time, it seems the income was pretty much the same for everybody. But my father worked for the army, so we received some benefits compared to others. At least we didn’t worry about food.
What were your studies like?
In 1976, I was in elementary school. That was the year Chairman Mao died. I still remember that day. At noontime I walked toward school and heard the radio loudspeaker say, “Our greatest leader Chairman Mao has passed away.” Then sad music came on. I was emotionally sad, because I was educated that Chairman Mao was our country’s savior. Now that he had passed away, we felt helpless and hopeless. The school and government took at least one month for memorial services. Everyday at noontime, all the students and teachers came together to listen to the memorial and try to remember the death of Chairman Mao.
What was your family culture like growing up?
My father was a [Communist] Party member; he was in the army. We grew up atheist. But I remember, during Spring Festival, my parents still worshipped ancestors in their home. They did this secretly, not in public.
What was your relationship with your parents like?
My father was very strict. He was good at discipline, so we as children were trained to have good order, to obey, and to be diligent. They trained us to have ownership over ourselves. When I was young I cleaned dishes, washed clothes – using my hands, at that time we did not have washing machines, we used our hands even in the cold of wintertime. It was a good exercise. We were independent.
What did you enjoy as a child? Did you have hobbies?
I liked swimming, and there were some children’s games we played after school. I enjoyed spending time with my friends. Sometimes we heard stories about ghosts, it made me scared. Most of the time it was fun.
Did you believe in the spirit world?
Many Chinese families have a tradition of worshipping their ancestors. The older generation, my grandparents, always told us stories about how they met their ancestors in their dreams, and encouraged us to show respect to those ancestors. It was mysterious for me to think about it. I was a little bit scared of spiritual things.
Did you think about it often? Or was it something that just occasionally popped into your mind?
When I was young, I often thought about death and the meaning of life, and I also questioned where people went after they died.
Did you talk with anybody about these thoughts?
I talked with my father some, but in school we were quickly educated that there are no ghosts, no spiritual things, we are just here. That also affected me.