Preacher Keeps a Grateful Heart in the Midst of Financial Difficulties
By Josiah Li, August 12, 2017 06:08 AM
Preacher Zhang is his early 40s and lives in a third-tier city in Shaanxi, Northwest China. He and his wife talked about their financial struggles in the past 14 years while Zhang has served God.
Zhang went to church with his family at a young age. However, he only started to believe because he got sick. When he was in his early 20s, the doctor told him he had only six months to live. Out of desperation, his family took him to church. He cried to God in his pain and his condition began to get better fast. He was able to attend a seven-day gathering.
He then got married after he graduated from a three-year theology study in Shaanxi Bible school.
The first seven years after they got married, Zhang was serving in a rural church with little financial stress. However, once they moved to the city, the stress increased all of a sudden. He had to try ways to make money other than serving in the church: selling fruit, doing odd jobs, driving a three-wheeled taxi, working in cold storage, and more.
In the 14 years of serving, Zhang started as a volunteer without any payment. Later, he received small subsidy. It increased from 100 to the current 800 yuan/month. Since he was serving variable hours at the church, it was hard for him to keep jobs. The longest and best job he had was driving the three-wheeled taxi which would make their ends meet. But it was soon cut off when the local police banned such vehicles for commercial use.
Zhang and his wife have a son and a daughter and it is his wife who supports the family when he preaches in different places. With the financial stress of the family, his wife doesn't go to church that often. She spends more time making money. She said she has God in her heart, but with both of them serving God, who's going to take care the family?
She has to constantly reckon the family needs due to the difficult reality. She also worries about the future. With the children growing older, what about their college tuition? What about their wedding money?
When the children were little, ZHang's wife said she had to be a full-time mom. When their younger son went to kindergarten, she started job hunting. She has worked as a bus attendant and clothier. Recently, she landed a job doing loans. Looking back at her work experience, she felt a little sad.
"When I was working at a boutique, I would pick up my kids from school and take them to the store. They did their homework there and slept in a bed made by chairs. By the time I got off work at 9:30 PM, we would go home together. When they had their vacation, I sometimes got up at 3 AM to prepare breakfast for them and left them home during the day."
Zhang admitted that he had his vulnerable moments, especially when the kids were sick and they needed money. He thinks his kids might have weak immune system since they got sick very often when they were young. When his son had pneumonia, it cost them around 7 to 8 thousand yuan. He gained strength by praying, talking with pastors, and thinking about a local blind believer when he feels weak, he said. Even though this believer doesn't have much, God has been providing for him. Zhang believes since God takes care of the blind brother's family, He will take care of his.
Zhang tried again working in a massage parlor run by a Christian in the last week of June. He felt like he found something that worked for him. The hours were flexible and the owner agreed to him leaving any time he wanted. However, after only a week of apprenticeship he realized that his schedule for July and August was booked up with routines of the church and unexpected activities. He had church worker training, Bible study, the 15th anniversary class reunion for seminary, and leading seven gatherings over 21 days in August.
He had no choice but to quit the job.
Looking back at his serving path, he always has a grateful heart. Though he thinks their life is not adequate, God keeps providing for him and opens new path in the midst of difficulties. Regarding how to balance serving in the church and supporting his family, Zhang and his father-in-law share the same opinion.
"The work of God takes priority, after which we'll find ways to make ends meet for our family."
Zhang's father-in-law has been giving him great encouragement and support. Zhang hopes that he and his wife can seek God's help with one mind whenever there's any difficulty in their family.
There are 12 gatherings in the district under Zhang's supervision. He used to do pastoring work only, but now he has to do administrative work as well.
-Translated by Grace Hubl
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