Before becoming a Christian, Zhen Xi (pseudonym), the wife of an elder who serves in a church in a first-tier city, had experienced many troubles: bankruptcy, debt issues, and lawsuit cases. In the month when she followed Christ, she went through a medical operation. In the following years, she experienced the loss of her beloved 27-week-old baby daughter, her mother's death from cancer, uterine cancer and uterine removal surgery, and extensive burns all over her body. Thankfully, after she heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit, she decided to obey the Lord's will. She finally got a new life and a happy family, and she now serves in the church.
Christian Times: Zhen Xi, can you briefly share your memorable experiences around the time you became a believer?
Zhen Xi: Before I believed in the Lord, the elder and I mainly ran an enterprise. However, we experienced the financial turmoil of 2008, and finally, our business ended in bankruptcy. At that time, we became vendors. We had a debt collector after us and went over several lawsuit cases. That was around when I was baptized. Usually, the month following a believer's baptism is the honeymoon period with God. However, at the end of my "honeymoon" month, I was rushed to the hospital because of the severe pain of lumbar disc herniation, and I found that two cartilages were protruding and compressing my nerves. So on the next day, I went through an eight-hour major surgery.
During my stay in the hospital, I had to lie on my stomach for nearly a month. One day, as I was reading the Bible casually as if it were a novel, I heard a voice say,“Go home and be a housewife.” I knew it was not my idea because the most unacceptable thing in my life was to be a housewife. My husband and I had been eating, sleeping, and working together since we got married. As a warm man in Zhejiang, my husband always did all the housework well, and it was a great thing that I cooked a meal occasionally.
Because of bankruptcy, we had to turn goods into cash quickly by setting up street stalls. At that time, it was really sad to see many people driving posh cars to set up stalls, including ourselves. At that time, I began to learn how to prepare three meals a month for my family with 1000 RMB, including three dishes, one soup, and a fruit dessert, and watched my husband gradually integrate into the present work and life in this strange city. In the next few years, my 27-week-old baby daughter died. In the same year, my mother died of cancer. It was also the middle stage of my cervical adenocarcinoma. Finally, I had my uterus removed, and eight lymph nodes were removed to keep my ovaries. I didn’t take any chemotherapy drugs, and I also experienced 30% scalding.
Usually people think that the wife of a pastor or elder will be honored by believers, but respect had never been easy for me, so later I realized that God made me undergo major surgery and that my body could not have more activities, so I could only cook meals every day to take care of ourselves. His good intention was to turn me back to him and let me have all kinds of beautiful styles that God’s daughter should have.
Christian Times: As an elder's wife, what experiences have you had in the serving position?
Zhen Xi: Because my past profession was managing overall images, my dress style was variable. In the eyes of many congregations, this is often beyond or below their expectations. I remember one time I was wearing torn jeans, a big sweater, and snow boots. An aunt (a polite Chinese way of addressing an elderly lady, translator's note) introduced me to a sister who came to us for the first time dressed very formally. As a result, she observed me from head to toe, saying, "Well, is the wife of an elder?" Another time, I worshiped in front. With exquisite makeup and all-black clothing, I looked overwhelming. My husband introduced me to an older sister. As a result, she looked around, asking, "Are there other elders’ wives that I should know?”
Christian Times: After experiencing financial bankruptcy, physical illness, loss of loved ones, misunderstandings, etc., what do you think these experiences mean to you?
Zhen Xi: These experiences have been transformed into great nutrients for me and my family, serving and expanding my life in the future in the hands of God. After God led me out of the valley of death, my husband and I also went from herding a group of six to the pastoral care ministry, including groups of single sisters, married sisters, couples, and brothers. They later became 15 groups, and my husband was the overseer of our area. Then I became the co-founder and eventually the respectable wife of an elder.
I think for me it is not the role of "an elder's wife" that matters, but the individual. I know the significance and preciousness of my life, so I know how to break up and care for the health of our family. I know how to deal with everything in life efficiently, including unnecessary relationship consumption and the temptation of money and status. I really listen to what God wants me to do and make sure that everything I do is pleasing to God. The status of an elder's wife is not "buy one, get one free" (meaning once an elder serves in a church, his wife naturally becomes the respected leader too), but I think it is more God's destiny in my life.
My faith made me learn the order of life: God, family, ministry, and work. I have a ubiquitous relationship with God. Sometimes, when I think of Him, I feel loved and say to him, "Lord, I love you so much!”
Christian Times: As an elder's wife, you have to take part in front-line ministry and teach your children. How do you face these two challenges?
Zhen Xi: I am very grateful that God has given me a husband who loves me so much. During our marriage journey with so many dangers, we were so poor that we were left with each other, but we never had the idea of separation. Instead, we could see the importance of soul mates more deeply. In the ministry, we don't interfere with each other. He also makes me happy to serve in all positions and do what I like and what God wants me to do. So I don't need to care about the labels that others put on me.
I cook breakfast with 20 ingredients almost every day to let my husband and children know that I can actually order food for them, but because I love them and because the morning is the time when the three of us can get together, I am willing to create a more beautiful time. My husband and I took care of my baby son without the help of others since I was allowed to leave the hospital. After the first month of his birth, I took him with me to serve small groups without delay. My children could get along with both adults and children. We also witnessed how God cared about us by reducing our burdens. We also led more sisters in the workplace to be more confident and serve the loving Father while raising children.
In the past, I participated in chain salons for general modeling and image management, but once I started to believe in God, I realized the beauty that God created for every woman. Therefore, whether I was pastoring sisters or myself, I could find the unique highlights of God in ourselves so that every sister could really see what she had, not what she didn't have. So I would dress myself properly every day and encourage my sisters to understand and see their own highlights and uniqueness.
Women are endowed with many roles by nature, and they are expected to be able to cope with them in every role. I didn't care about that before, but I finally found out that it was the best role God had given me. I saw that God loved each of His daughters and that God himself has become the rock and strong backing of His daughters. Additionally, I noticed that because of Him, despite playing multiple roles, we could experience true spiritual freedom and fulfill our God-given destiny.
- Translated by Charlie Li