Editor's note: A pastor's family witnessed the Chinese church's development in the past 30 years. During the one-hour testimony, the wife shared how God raised up a group of young people who loved and devoted themselves to Him. The couple completely abandoned themselves to work for God, and built threshing floors everywhere under financial difficulties, so that more and more people later heard and accepted the gospel. Her personal testimony also provides a glance into how the Chinese church has grown under the guidance of God.
The following is the wife's experience of her faith journey and ministry in the first-person narrative.
1. Initial acquaintance with the gospel
I was born in 1976 and turned to Jesus at the age of 17. That was the era of the gospel revival. In the countryside, during cold winter time, pastors often toured around various villages singing hymns while beating gongs and drums to attract villagers.
Thinking they were performing acrobatics, we all ran out to watch them for fun. They sang the lyrics of hymns, but in all kinds of tunes and musical genres such as pop, Northeast China Duo Turn, Qu Opera and Henan Opera. The lyrics were often to comfort people, especially the elderly. Later, they began to talk about the current world with respect to what happens to those who believe in God and to those who don’t. Only then we knew that they were Christians. The lyrics were very well written, which is why we all loved listening to them.
After they finished their performance, they asked those who wanted to believe in Jesus to raise their hands. Then we went to a family where I followed a lady older than me to kneel down and pray. She asked me if I had hated or scolded anyone before, saying that these were all sins. She said that as long as I was willing to believe in Jesus and repent, He would forgive my sins. We just got down on our knees and prayed our resolutions. Afterwards, she told me, "Today you are God’s child." I just believed it.
2. Serving with pastors
Since I came to faith, I enjoyed following the pastors everywhere to listen to sermons, during which I helped carry their backpacks, and I especially liked singing hymns with them. Three months after I started touring with them, I began teaching others to sing. Then someone read the Bible to me, and my mind was shaken by it. Because I didn't really understand, I was afraid when I heard about the lake of fire and sulfur. Later, when I got a copy of the Bible and started reading it, I gradually realized that I was a sinner. Afterwards, I couldn't help crying when listening to sermons.
Soon, the pastors found that I could pass on the message I heard in the meetings to others, so they deliberately raised me as a "seed" disciple. At that time, I followed the pastors wherever they went.
3. Accepting the calling
I was baptized in 1993. Soon after, the church called unmarried young people to do the mission across the region, whilst married believers were allowed to serve in the local area.
At that time, rural people got engaged at a young age. Before I became a Christian, my parents had already got me engaged and received a betrothal gift. However, I only met my fiancé once or twice a year. I was so eager to serve with other staff, so I asked my parents to end my engagement.
My parents didn't agree at first, but finally ended it when they saw my firm attitude. Since then, I have embarked on a missionary path on which I walked from a small pastoral area to a large mission, and then joined a fellowship, from my hometown to the county, and then across counties and provinces.
From receiving the call in 1994 to 2000, I have been doing the mission on the threshing floor, traveling across the country.
In those days, life was really hard. On the one hand, the body suffered. The allowance for each mission trip was usually only 500 yuan which in fact could only cover travel expenses. Sometimes there were no more seats available on the green-skin trains, so we had to stand for more than 20 hours. It would be better if we could find a host family. Some hostesses bought us toothbrushes, and gave us their children's clothes to wear. Sometimes, without a host family to stay with, we might have to suffer hunger, and even sleep under a bridge in snowy winter time. Sometimes, a single female Christian's pocket money for a year was only a few yuan.
On the other hand, our hearts suffered too when there were also unbelievers in the host families. Some of them were unfriendly because they did not understand, so we even didn’t dare to eat enough when staying with them. Some people misunderstood and considered us a heretical cult, for which they either showed a very cynical attitude, or even reported us to the police.
We shared the faith and prayed for the local people in the love of Christ. Healing conferences were also held during the revival. Under better circumstances, thousands of people attended, and many of them were healed. Speaking of missionary experiences, I remembered Sister Ruth’s (Xiaomin) Canaan Hymns, one of which was called "Not That I Don’t Have a Home".
In those years, I experienced unimaginable suffering to ordinary people, but also many miracles: the blind saw, the mute spoke, and the lame walked. At that time, the work of the Holy Spirit was very powerful. Once at a healing conference in the Northeast, a patient who had been paralyzed for many years came to us to pray. At first, I just encouraged him to build up his faith in words. When seeing that he truly believed in the Lord’s power, we kept declaring in God’s name that the disease was healed. In that moment, the spiritual battle was so fierce that we couldn’t speak after praying. But we saw with our own eyes that the elder man was healed from being unable to walk at all to trying to walk with a cane. Then he put down the crutches little by little and walked, from swaying like a toddler, until finally he could walk steadily. When the miracle happened, the people of the whole village came to Christ.
4. Being equipped with the truth
In 2000, the teachers realized an important problem that most of us who had been running on the threshing field all year round joined the ministry not long after we left school. Most of us had only finished junior high school and had not been equipped with much truth. Therefore, teachers of the team developed a training plan. Some were selected from people on the ministry to focus on studying high school and college courses and obtain corresponding academic certificates. We especially needed to learn English from the basics. I am very grateful that the teachers trained us rigorously in those years, so that I have not only obtained a college degree, but also some other professional certificates. From 2000 to 2004, I was equipped to take the college courses and teach seminary students theology courses at the same time.
5. Entering marriage
In the first four years of our mission, we young pastors were determined not to fall in love, but to serve wholeheartedly. After that, the leading teachers said that we could consider marriage. At this time, there was also a problem, that is, there were many female believers in the church and few male believers. I thought that since there was no suitable partner, I would just continue serving. I got married when I was 29 years old.
Pastor L (pseudonym) and I have become acquainted since doing the ministry in the Northeast, when we worked together for some time while serving there. But only until 2004, when I was returning from Kunming to Shenzhen to visit my family via Guangzhou where L was based, someone set up a date for us and we got into a relationship, after which we gave out love candies (confections symbolizing a serious romantic relationship) to families and friends. In January 2005, I married L who was three years younger than me. Although he came from a poor family without a handsome appearance, L had a deep inner life. Besides, our personalities could complement each other in life and ministries.
6. Doing the mission in a factory
One month after we got married, Pastor L and I were sent by the church to a southern manufacturing city to do a mission in a factory.
The ministry in a factory is to preach in a factory owned by a Christian. The owner supported us in promoting the culture of Christ's love in the factory, and also paid us a very low salary. Other than that, there was no more support. We ate with the staff in the office at noon and with the workers at night. In order to attract people to listen to the gospel and to be more accessible for Christian believers, we didn’t live in the dormitory provided by the factory but rented a place outside.
A few months later, we grew new members from two to five. By November, 11 people had been baptized, some of whom were also from outside the factory.
Our eldest daughter was born in February 2006. Church gatherings held outside the factory were growing steadily. At this time, we had to raise our child and manage the church expenses. The financial pressure was increasing, but the salary remained at only one thousand yuan per month which was delayed sometimes. There was a period that I went to the farmer’s market every day to collect vegetable leaves. We ate the good ones and fed the bad ones to the chickens.
In 2012, the factory that supported us went through ups and downs, and finally declared its closure. Our only financial supply was completely cut off. It was also a critical period for the construction of the church. We had no support or nothing to rely on. L and I could only cry and pray to God, day and night. In the end, God finally opened the way, we dedicated the church successfully. After a few years we paid off all our debts.
After the church was built, we slowly began to expand to the surrounding areas. By 2013, the church had established meeting points in several locations.
Starting in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic surged and affected many churches that suffered a serious loss of members due to the lack of pastoring and care for believers. However, since the church where we work has been doing pastoral care in small groups and various spiritual improvement courses in advance, our believers have not been greatly affected during the epidemic.
7. Regrets along the path of mission
Looking back on the past missionary experience, I also have regrets. This road is very difficult. There were some people who took on the journey with us, but later retreated because of difficulties and weakness. When we were sent out, we needed to be completely independent, like children who had left parents and started a family independently and could no longer rely on their parents. Other than the lessons taught by our teachers, we had nothing, let alone financial support. When we were in a new place, we had to explore everything by ourselves, praying while moving forward. When encountering the real difficulties and various attacks, some people couldn’t carry on and inevitably fell behind. Thinking of these people who were left behind, we were sad. If we could provide more help and support, they might not drop out. But that was a special period, a pioneer period. The situation is much better now, not the same as before.
The testimony of the wife is simple but full of affection. We can see that hymns significantly influenced that generation of Christians, the pastors in the 1990s endured hardship, sacrificed and devoted themselves in their lives, and a group of young people handed over the sovereignty of marriage to Him. Some people "immigrated" to a completely new city (or village) to spread the gospel, regarded it as their hometown where they planted themselves as a grain of wheat that bore rich fruits.
Not That I Don’t Have a Home, Hymn written by Xiaomin
Not that I don't have a home or miss it,
But there are still many people drifting in the world.
We also have a home, and we also miss it,
But there are still many people drifting in the world.
My family, don't worry about me,
Now we pack up and get ready to depart again.
Do not worry about walking alone, the Lord is our companion,
The Holy Spirit guides every part of the world, and the four seas are home.
- Translated by Shuya Wang