People Seeking the Truth, Part 3: “If Jesus Could Change My Life, I Wanted to Follow Him”

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 third 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.

After Tiananmen you had several more years of university? 

Yes. Then I graduated and found a job at a university as a teacher.

What happened then?  

I started teaching in the fall. That winter I played basketball with some of the foreigners at my university. I slowly found out they were Christians. This was very slow! They were very careful; at that time the foreigners were watched.


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I visited one of the foreign missionaries from a neighboring country, and saw the Bible on her desk. That was the first time I saw a Bible. I took it up and tried to read it.

Why?

I had never read the Bible, just heard about itI had seen churches and seen a cross, but I never knew a Christian, not even one. She saw my interest and told me she could lend me the Bible if I wanted to read it. I took it.

What was your impression of Christianity? Had you even thought about it?

In high school we studied world religions, and there was a portion of the book that talked about it. But we were deeply educated in a Marxist worldview that taught that religion is from the past, while socialism is advanced.

In some ways, I showed interest in Christianity. After I met those Christian friends, the foreigners, I saw they were very nice and polite. They seemed to have good character, but I didn’t know the connection between these two things. I just saw they were nice and easy to be friends with.

About a year later, the missionary I knew was planning to return to her country. She asked if I would be willing to meet another Christian who I could make friends with. At that time I met James, a missionary.

Why do you think you were showing interest in Christianity?

I was constantly seeking to find the meaning and purpose of life. I looked at myself, but I couldn’t satisfy my questions. I was a teacher at the university, which in some ways made me, my parents, and others proud of me. But I didn’t feel satisfaction or fulfillment.

You had attained success…

In some ways. But it did not change my heart.

Tell me about your friendship with James.

He invited me to meet his wife, and I had a meal with them and their kids. They were very polite, very friendly. It made me very comfortable. He invited me to study the Bible with him once a week in my teacher’s dormitory. I started studying with him, and studied and read the Bible more. I also talked to him—in my mind I still had many questions I could not answer, but slowly I saw that the Bible was giving me some of the clues. 

The first thing was realizing that, by the teaching of the Bible, I am also a sinful person. Another changing point was learning about creation. My friend gave me a book that talked about how scientists feel about creation, proof that the world was created, not just evolved. In my mind, I was challenged from a scientific point of view: how could I answer this proof? After reading history books, I realized that famous scientists and leaders believed in God. 

How did you decide that you were actually a sinful person?

I realized I have a tendency to try and please leaders because I wanted to receive the benefits from doing so. I looked down on people who are below me. I might try and see how to make friends with people or with colleagues, but it was not truly from my heart; it was pretend, a mask. I oftentimes felt I had a twist, that I was not truly representing who I was. I had on a mask.

With this intellectual challenge and the realization of your own sin, did you immediately become a Christian?

It took me half a year. I realized that the more I tried to depend on myself – my own thinking, my strengths – the more I felt hopeless and helpless. At that time I had some bad life habits, like drinking and smoking. I made friends who were private businesspeople, but when we had dinner together, they told me about how they had betrayed their wife or made money under the table. I could see that even money doesn’t satisfy.

Did you have a moment of conversion? Or was it more of a process?

One spring day in the early 90s I went to visit James in his home after I taught class. We watched a Christian movie about Jesus. I saw the cross, and saw that Jesus was willing to die for what he proclaimed. At that time, the Holy Spirit was moving in my heart. I said, “I need to give it a try.” I made the decision.

Chinese people are very pragmatic, they will say, “Let’s see if it works.” So I just said I was giving it a try. I told myself that if Jesus could really change my life, I wanted to follow him. A week later I went to visit my friends, and his wife was very happy to see me. She said, “Last week when you prayed and received Jesus Christ, my husband was very happy. He cried.” 

I was kind of awed for a moment. I thought: “Why did he cry? Why is it that important for him?” I made myself a commitment, and said I really wanted to test it and see how true it is. I studied the Bible more diligently and met with him. Slowly, I was willing to meet other Christians. But only a little bit; there were very, very few other believers.

What was it like when you began to meet other Chinese Christians?

At the beginning it was a little awkward. My friend told me I needed to be careful. Somebody was watching him. When I went to visit him, I could sense that I needed to be careful.

Did you have any experiences that helped cement your faith?

I realized: wow. Before I made the decision, when I read the Bible I often felt like it was an ancient Chinese tale, and God was far away from me. Even if he was real, what was the relationship between him and me? But after I made the decision, I slowly realized it seemed the Bible was talking to me. Whenever I had a crisis or trouble, either I would read the Bible and the Bible would tell me how to receive guidance, or when I prayed I just received unexplained peace, hope, or strength. Also, my friend would pray for me. He told me he prayed for me every day! I slowly realized, “Oh. Prayer is powerful.” I tried to practice by myself, to pray by myself, to read the Bible, or to think about the things happening that might relate to God’s providence or God’s work.

After one year, I slowly found my life was changed. I didn’t feel the need to smoke, or have a desire to get drunk. When I felt lonely or stressed, I could go to God. At about this time, I started sharing my faith with other students and faculty. Some people believed, and we formed a Bible study. I used what I learned with James, the materials and time studying. James saw my excitement to share my faith with people and to connect to other Chinese believers. 

I went to a training about how to share my faith with others. I used that and was able to share with my neighbor, who was also faculty at the university, and he believed. I shared with him just once, and he believed! Then we formed a teachers’ Bible study and grew together.

Was it hard to share? Or exciting?

It was hard. I needed to be careful because I was afraid I might get in trouble. I also didn’t know who would be interested.

What was your family’s response? 

After about a year my sister became a believer through a missionary. She saw my change and knew I was a Christian, so she made her own decision. Slowly, we were able to tell our parents.

What did they say?

My parents gave us freedom. By then they did not believe in Communism anymore. They thought that having our own belief was good, so they didn’t do much. 

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Further Reading

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The Internal Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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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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