From China to Harvard (And Back Again) – The Beginning of Truth-Seeking

After I arrived back in Chengdu, I was forced to join my mom’s college student fellowship because I no longer had the excuse, “I am busy studying.” Because the fellowship was in another town, it would take me a total of six hours to attend every time. I initially felt like this was such a waste of time. But when I realized that I became calmer and more efficient after going the fellowship, I changed from reluctantly going to actively going.
It was in this inland Chinese Christian fellowship that I witnessed a real truth-seeking attitude. At the beginning, I still misused my critical reading skills to pick out problems with nitty-gritty details and asked very harsh questions during the Bible studies. Subconsciously, it was my pride. I wanted to show these Chinese university students what critical thinking is.

But to my surprise, instead of jumping out of the chair and quickly becoming defensive, the students at the fellowship would pause five seconds before answering my question. This pause made me feel like they were taking my questions seriously and really thinking them over carefully, even though I was just trying to challenge them. Understandably, those questions were hard questions; most of the time, there could hardly be any convincing answers. When they met such questions, they would speak to me in tender tones, saying, “I am sorry that I don’t think I have the answer right now. But God’s wisdom is beyond human discernment. However, I hope you continue to ask these questions, and I will pray that God himself the Holy Spirit will guide you to the answer.”

“I don’t know” was so foreign to me after years at Harvard. In our sections at school, we were trained to speak up simply for the purpose of expressing our opinions, but it did not matter whether our point was right or wrong or whether we believed in what we said or not. The skill to voice and argue an opinion often seemed more important than truth. Whether objective truth even really exists was questionable at Harvard. Saying “I don’t know” was the worst. Why couldn’t you think of anything to say? You definitely must not have thought hard enough, or you must be social-phobic. You are weak.

However, doesn’t it take true courage to admit uncertainty? Doesn’t it take humility and the attitude of seeking after truth to not give an answer when you are not sure? Most importantly, “I don’t know” is not the end, but rather the beginning of truth-seeking. These Chinese Christians answered with a conviction and method to hope for truth. They told me that the ultimate truth has to be learned under God’s guidance, because only he knows what truth is. And the method is to pray for his guidance.

What a humbling experience! I, from the so-called best institution in the world, spoke out of pride and provocation. They, from the inland Chinese universities, spoke with humility, hope, and real truth-seeking attitudes. “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25:9) God knew humility was the prerequisite for me to receive his gospel. In subsequent Bible studies, I started to learn to speak with openness and tried to understand the big picture of the Bible.

Humbled, I patiently listened to my Christian friends’ testimonies of God. They claimed that they all had experiences of the Holy Spirit touching them. “Why haven’t I experienced such moments?” I wondered.

But soon I experienced such a moment. In May 2013, a famous pastor from Taiwan came to Chengdu to preach for a weekend. During the worship, I suddenly started weeping and could not stop. I realized that I had always held my personal success as an idol in my heart: my academic excellence, my prestigious school and job, and my nobility in caring for people. Although these external successes gave me a lot of worldly glory, they actually squeezed me so tightly that I eventually made serious mistakes. I felt as if my Achilles’ heel was pierced through. When the dark wound was exposed under the light, it hurt so badly. I wept.

Then the pastor called out, “Please feel free to come forward to pray in front of God.” I went up there; I kneeled down. I did not know how to pray, so I just spoke. “God, you lifted me up so high into Harvard, but I became such a proud person. Please keep humbling me, for when I am full, I am not able to receive you.” And in this process, I felt a stream of warmth burst out from the bottom of my heart, flow into my veins, and reach every capillary. It was an enormous peace, along with a tremendous sense of freedom – I experienced ecstasy, but this was something I had never felt before. God healed my wound during my “talking.”

Thanks to God’s grace, the realization of my weakness and sinfulness did not make me feel condemned, but rather it freed me from my shame. “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

The last barrier was my intellectual stubbornness. I think in everyone’s journey to know God, there are tons of questions even after becoming Christ’s follower. For me, there were probably a hundred of them, but five to six of them were so vital and I felt I could not reconcile them. One question among them was if God is all-good, and he creates all, why then does evil exist? So I said to God, “God, I cannot make sense of these few aspects of you.”


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Two weeks after being touched by the Holy Spirit, a business school professor from Holy Cross College happened to get connected with my mom and came to our fellowship to share a high level overview of what Christianity and the gospel are. In his sharing, he answered all five of my questions. At that moment, I was completely in awe. God had sent someone from the other side of the globe to answer my questions. Yes, there were still many more questions on my mind. But God had reached out to me already. If I did not reach out in response, how could I learn more about him? If I still chose to refuse, I would be the most stubborn person in the world!

On that night, I raised my hand, willing to become a follower of Christ.

 

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 second post in a three-part series sharing her spiritual journey. Read her first post here and join us on Friday for her third and final post.

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Further Reading

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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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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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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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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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