Would you believe that someone would be separated from his wife and children for thirty years in order to serve God?
This was the true story that happened to Rev. March Cheng and his wife Chen Huaimin. Following God's call, the couple had been separated for 30 years in two different countries. But with the unwavering faith in Him, they had maintained their relationship and marriage for the whole three decades, and finally were able to reunite in the United States at the age of 60. The film Beyond: Unfailing Love recorded their inseparable love and their sacrifice and service to the Lord.
After graduating from the Fujian Normal School in 1941, Cheng returned to his hometown to open a school taking the position of headmaster. He was elected county councilman at the age of 25 for his good reputation in his birthplace. However, shortly after Cheng took his office, he saw through the corruption of the officialdom. At an evangelistic crusade in 1946, hearing the gospel of Jesus, he realized that he couldn’t be free from sins as a school principal or councilman, and only Jesus was the way out for sinners. Hence, he was baptized into Christ.
In 1949, Cheng asked God, "What should I do on the road ahead?" God spoke to him, "You should dedicate yourself to me." But at that time, the married man was hesitant because he had a wife and children to look after. A few months later, God said to Cheng three times in the evening, "You are going to Hong Kong to study theology and to testify for me all over the world."
Although God's call was clear, he was still a little uncertain. He had an elderly mother and five young children, among whom the eldest was only nine years old. His wife was a stay-at-home mom who didn’t have any income. If he left, how could the family live on? When he presented these difficulties before God, He answered him with verses from Matthew 6: “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
Before leaving for Hong Kong, Zheng's wife Chen said to him, "It's good for you to go to Hong Kong to study, but how can I raise these five children?" He answered her with the words from Matthew: " But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." The husband and wife then willingly obeyed God's will.
With the same mission and confidence, his wife Chen took over his responsibilities while he embarked on a journey of studying. Both of them thought it would be a short-term parting, but it turned out to be 30 years.
When Cheng arrived in Hong Kong, the new semester had not officially started. As a result, the registration and other formalities would take place in a few days. Unfortunately, he only had one Hong Kong dollar (HKD) which merely covered two days’ food cost, even though he crashed at an acquaintance’s place for free. Therefore, he prayed to God, "God, is it your will for me to starve to death in Hong Kong?" Unexpectedly, he ran into an American missionary that he used to know. After knowing about his situation, he gave Cheng 500 HKD the next day with which Zheng enrolled in the seminary later. With excellent grades, the dean of the seminary employed him as a faculty member upon graduation.
Cheng had lived in Hong Kong for eight years. Whilst his wife Chen carried all the family burdens and pressures alone, enduring discrimination and ridicule as a single mother. As their children grew up, the family expenditure increased as well. In order to afford children’s schooling in the city, Chen worked as a farmer in the countryside to make ends meet. At nights, she had to sew clothes for the whole family, as well as sing praises, read scriptures, and pray. Chen often prayed with tears asking God to keep his husband healthy and that the whole family could get together in the future.
When Cheng settled down in Hong Kong, he tried to bring his family there for a reunion. But surprisingly the wife's application to go to Hong Kong was rejected multiple times. Therefore, Chen could only think about her husband at home, praying to God, “God, let him be healthy in spirit and health, and work heartily for you.”
In 1958, Cheng left Hong Kong to work as a pastor in a Chinese church in Manila, the Philippines. At that time, being young and handsome, he was very popular with girls. But he often emphasized, “I have a wife who will surely be together with me.”
In that period, the environment out of China was chaotic. At times Cheng would be approached by naked ladies in hotels. He said, "If I didn't rely on the Lord to be strong, I would have fallen." Seeing a girl in his room, he would run away immediately.
He also shared, “God has shown me in the Bible that firstly, those who have married must be holy and without blemish, and remain monogamous for life. Secondly, we must escape when encountering temptation, which is the secret of my victory. Thank God. I won’t win if not for God’s protection over me."
In his letter to his wife, he wrote, "I don't do secular things on earth. I want to do things for Him in heaven." At that time, in his thirties, he devoted himself to preaching the gospel for God. He began to experience an epiphany and train his members to be disciples of Christ. Besides hosting gospel conferences, he trained people to accept the mission of evangelism, sending them out to preach the gospel. From 1961 to 1975 when Zheng left the Philippines, the number of church members increased to more than 500 people. Four out of 54 pastors stayed in the mother church, with all the rest going to Asian countries as missionaries. Two-thirds of the church's income went to mission expenditures.
During the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Chen experienced a dark period in China, with home being raided. Beaten with sticks, she often had scars and bruises on her body. She suffered in silence and prayed to God, "God, I am too vulnerable to finish this task. Please help me."
Meanwhile, Cheng was also thinking of Chen with prayers for her and their children. God comforted him by promising him with the verse of Psalm 68:6, "God gives the lonely a home, leading prisoners out to prosperity." This reassured him that he would be with his wife again.
In 1975, Cheng came to the United States. In November 1979, as Chen's immigration application was approved, their yearning for a reunion was fulfilled after 30 years. In 1980, they finally met in Hong Kong. Once seeing Chen, he said to her first: "From now on, I will never ever leave you."
The couple experienced the pain of separation for three decades. Chen confessed, "If we hadn't trusted in God for these 30 years, our family would not be able to survive."
Subsequently, during the following three years, their children came to the United States to reunite with them. When Cheng left for Hong Kong, they only had five children, but the family had already expanded to 27 members when getting together in the United States.
After the reunion, the couple started a new life of serving God. For the next 30 years, Chen accompanied him wherever he preached.
- Translated by Shuya Wang