Seeking for Eternal Life, Part 2: “I Wanted to Leave a Mark”

Seeking-for-Eternal-Life-Part-2-I-Wanted-to-Leave-a-Mark

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 second 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. 

Read the first installment here:

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.


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When I went to college, I went to the city where my grandfather taught. The Cultural Revolution was over, and he had been reinstated as a professor. He was actually well known internationally. He had gotten his doctorate overseas, and came back to China to join the “building of the new China.” Then he was persecuted. I remember being in my dorm, and my grandpa came to visit me. He saw the custodian and greeted her, because they had worked together when he was a janitor.

Although I could have gone to any school in China, I went to his city because I knew I was going to go abroad. Growing up, I always wanted to be like my grandfather, going abroad, accomplishing great academic pursuits. All through middle and high school, Marie Curie was my idol. I wanted to do something so the world would remember me. I thought, “Life is short, I will be gone someday.” I wanted to leave a mark. So I went to my grandfather’s university because, at that time, they didn’t let people go abroad on their own. The school sent students out. We wanted to use my grandfather, because he would have some pull when the time came.

What did you study?

Computers. That was the beginning, not many schools had that department. I had initially wanted to study nuclear physics, but they told me I would be stuck in the desert, making atom bombs for the military, marrying somebody who was assigned to me, and I thought, “No way.” I decided that computers were a new thing, that they would be the future. 

When I got to university, I found out I wasn’t the top anymore. That was a huge blow to my ego. Others came from good schools, and their university entrance exam scores were better than mine. That crushed my dream of being a famous scientist. I tried hard, but was still in the middle. I felt disillusioned; I had lost the purpose for my life. I realized I wasn’t the genius I thought I was. I thought, “What do I live for now?” During those years, I really was searching.

There was a student a few years older than me who told me she was a Christian. That was it. I knew my grandfather and my step-grandmother were Christians. I brought it up, and he said, “Yeah, I believe in God.” But they didn’t tell me what it meant. I knew it was about God and Jesus; that was it.

As I was searching for my life, I took philosophy classes as an elective. We studied modern philosophy, and they all said there is no purpose to the universe; you must make your own purpose. That depressed me even more. I was seeking, really, for eternal life.

If I had met you then, what would you have said you were seeking?

I would say, somehow, to live beyond my death. After I die, I don’t want it to just be finished.

At that time, I was a firm atheist. I knew I would die and become nothing, but I wanted to continue living through my achievements, for people to remember me. I realized I would have maybe seventy years in this world, and I wasn’t smart enough to leave any long-term imprint. I was really depressed. 

I decided, “OK, I’ll just live for this life.” While the original motivation for me to go abroad was in order accomplish a great deal, it changed to being able to seek the American dream. I would have a good degree, of course a Ph.D., and then I would have a good life.

You wanted to immigrate?

Yes. I always told my roommates, “I’m not coming back, for sure.” I was going to marry a white guy, because I thought most Chinese men were either weak or chauvinistic, not gentlemen. I wanted to marry a white guy who would be protective of his wife, who was strong, courteous, and not bullying of his wife. That was my impression.

So I left China. My parents borrowed money from relatives and sold some of the things in their house to pay for a one-way ticket to the United States. When I went abroad, I had $200 on me. That was it.

I enrolled in a private Christian university that had given me some scholarships. Before I left, my grandfather gave me a crash course on Christianity. He said, “You need to know this, you need to fit in.” He took me once to a Three-Self church, told me I needed to experience it. He also told me I needed to memorize the Lord’s Prayer, that it was used everywhere. That was all I knew about Christianity.

I went abroad at the end of August, and a few months later it was my birthday. I felt really lonely; nobody knew about my birthday. I took out a postcard from my hometown, and gave it to the department chair. He said, “What’s the occasion?” I told him it was my birthday. Twenty minutes later he came back and told me to come to the receptionist’s office. So I went. There was a big birthday cake, and some professors were there, and they sang “Happy Birthday” to me. It affected me deeply.  

Who am I? A poor little insignificant student. But my professors bought a birthday cake for me. It totally didn’t fit my usual relationship grid. I knew all my professors were Christians—all the faculty were—it was kind of weird. I thought, “These people might as well be from another planet. I don’t understand.”

Another professor would drive a van and take students to church. I went with them and got plugged into a young professionals Sunday school. At first, I just wanted to see what was going on, and thought I would use it to practice my English. But people kindly took me in and treated me as a little sister. That really became my home. They helped me a lot, if they went somewhere as a group, someone always gave me a ride. 

One day I asked them, “Why are you guys so good to me? I’m no use to you.” They said, “It’s because God loves us, and we’re just passing that love on to you. You don’t have to repay us.” I said, “I can see Christians are different. You guys are full of love. When you run into difficulty, you rely on God. You are not totally shaken, you have peace.” I said, “I wish I was a Christian. I want your life.” They asked, “Why don’t you become one?” But I said, “I am an atheist. Just a small problem: I don’t believe God exists.

FOR REFLECTION

1) What does it mean to seek for eternal life? What did it mean in this woman’s story? What does it mean in your story?

2) A turning point in this woman’s story was when her professors went out of their way to make a big deal of her birthday. She did not understand the reason for this love, but it was deeply attractive to her. How does human love prepare people to receive God’s love?

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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
Read More

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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