Faith Journey

NO WAY TO ESCAPE

 

HAVING BEEN CHOSEN BY ALMIGHTY GOD

 

Oct. 7, 2003 San Francisco Theological Seminary

 

I. Prologue

LORD, I KNOW THAT YOU ARE THERE

Troy, Alabama, U.S.A., August 3, 1998

 

Lord, I know that you are there.

 

The oceans you created and the mountains you made

The thunder, the rain and the wind

But it is not all these that made me know that you are there

It is your healing hands, your smile and your blessings

That made me kneel down and call you my Heavenly Father and my Lord

As a child looking into the sky

I used to wonder at the stars

As a lost lamb puzzling in the Red Storm

I doubted the "Truth" that I was taught

But it is not all these that made me know that you are there

It is the wisdom, patience and hope you granted me

That made me look for you here and there

The blood on the cross which took my sin

The mercy of yours that fills my life

The answers to my prayers that never failed to get

The peace, joy and the miracles prove your plans for me

Oh, my Lord, my Savior, I know that you are there

The Words in your Book

The people in your home

The good soil they are where up I grow

No doubt for future although I don't know

Faith is that He is my Lord with whom I'll go

Oh, Lord, I know that you are there

In June 1998, when I was applying for a fund to go to seminary after I clearly felt the call from the amazing power of high above, I was asked to write about the statement of my faith. Having been thinking for several days on this topic, I did not quite understand what was meant by the term “faith”. However, one day when I was sitting before the computer in my office in Troy State University, I typed “Lord, I know that you are there”, and this led to these verses, demonstrating my understanding of what I had been searching for over the forty years of my life.

Looking at it today, I realize that it is the result of the Holy One whose grace leads me “here and there”.

 

II. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Dreams

1.DREAM ONE: COMMUNISM

Since 1950s, we were convinced that communism is the ideal society and we were striving for that, and this was reinforced especially during the Cultural Revolution. No one could be outside that great revolutionary movement, and one was either a revolutionary or counter-revolutionary. No other books were allowed to read except the revolutionary books. Nevertheless, I never stopped reading and searching, and I was publically criticized three times during my school days. However, when I was driven down to the countryside in the fall of 1976, the dream of communism failed completely in my heart, and I felt an extreme desperation. What was the way out for our nation? What was the way out for me? Those questions haunted in my mind always and I was in a total puzzleness.

2. DREAM TWO: “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER”--THE “GLORY” OF THE WORLD

The sudden change in history in October 1976 brought new hope for China when the “gang of four” was overthrown, and I was so lucky that I was among the first to be enrolled into college in 1978. We people seemed to have found the hope in the social reform like the policy of “opening country” to the world. And I chose to study English, because I expected to find out what was lying beyond the Great Wall, to learn from the west, not trusting what I had been taught in the past.

Since 1989, beside my teaching position in Dalian Education College, I began my career as literary critic and translator, compiling books, with a hope to influence more people by writing. And my success in translating Lord of the Rings in 1991, which was considered a great contribution to the history of literature, brought me a lot of invitation from publishing companies. Until 1998, eighteen books were published and a TV drama was shown on the major national TV in China, but none could make me feel worth my efforts except Lord of the Rings.

In this period, although I made some progress in helping people through education, philosophy, psychology, even religions like Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, but none of them could satisfy my searching heart, and I was still very “thirsty”.

In 1992, I was honored Excellent Teacher in the province, but I was not at all as excited about that as the people around me expected. I knew clearly that I was not at all “good”. They just did not know the inside of me. In fact, education could not change human nature.

Since 1995, I got a chance to be the sole agent for an Australian company and I became very rich. So I had got what everyone else had been trying to get all their lives, the fame, the honor, the authority, and the wealth. But none of these could satisfy me inside, and when I got all this, I found the hope was not there. On the contrary, I was corrupted by what I had. I was wandering, puzzling and crying in mind what was the way out.

 

III.MEETING WITH GRACE OF GOD

I never doubted the existence of god, but who it was. The sky where stars were shining must be the homes for gods. I read a lot since I was a child, but I didn’t find the truth in Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and other philosophies, though I learned a lot in reading.

The time that the terms of Christianity and Christian occurred to me first was during Cultural Revolution. We looked down upon Christians, considering them our enemies. It was not until 1982 that my attitude was challenged greatly. I found the foreign teacher, a Christian, a wonderful person, not like what I had been taught all these years, and her prayer once for my family was so touching that I wondered if I had come across goddess. Before she left China, she gave me a copy of New Testament.

In 1990, I accepted the duty as the coordinator for ELIC program, a training of middle school teachers of English in my city, with the trainers from USA. I was ordered to watch over these Christians not to evangelize. Anyhow, instead of watching them, my curiosity pushed me to ask them a lot of questions about Christian faith and I gave them tough times arguing with them. Before the program was over that year, someone gave me a badge with “Jesus Christ, the only hope for China” on it, which irritated me greatly. In the following years working with them, I tried hard to convince them that they were wrong, but in 1993, I converted to be a Christian myself.

It was a Sunday afternoon in August 1993, and I was talking with the team leader, commenting them as good people who spent money and energy to come to serve Chinese people. Instead of replying “thank you” as we were taught about American culture, she said, “We are not good people but sinners.” This shocked me. I had never met any better people in my life.

“What about me if people like you are sinners?”

“Mr. Huang, do you think you are a sinner?”

“Yes, of course I am.”

“Do you want …?”

“It’s impossible. No one can change history.”

“Yes, there is one.”

“Who is that person?”

… …

I could feel a great relief from inside of me, thinking of Jesus had known all of me and forgave all of my sins. On the way back home from the hotel, I saw my city with a new look and my heart was full of joy.

When I told my wife that I was a Christian, she became so nervous that she said she might not force me to join the Party, but she definitely forbade me joining any other groups except the Party, and talked with my parents and parents in law, who became nervous either. This caused a storm at home, and I was isolated ever since that. My wife and parents in law often mocked at me publicly before other people. I was considered the most stupid person they had ever heard of in the world. In 1995, I separated with my wife for something desperately damaged the marriage.

Because of my academic achievement and the honor I had, I was promoted quickly and highly. One day in 1995, the Party secretary sent for me and said to me that the Party would not allow a person like me wandering outside for such a long time. I had to join the Party, or I could not be promoted any more.

 

IV. Searching For the Paradise

All the difficulties I met in work and in family caused me to think of going to United States with an intention to see how people live and work, because people said that it was the paradise in the world. So I arrived here in the fall of 1997 to work and study in Troy State University in Alabama.

The second day I was there, I went to knock at the door of a Bible study group, which I learned at the student center. Ever since then, I kept going to churches two or three times a week, trying to understand what was in the Bible, but it seemed that I could never truly understand the heavenly book.

“Thousands of miles covered,

Thousands of books read

Still I wonder what I have been seeking for.”

These last verses of my poem written in March 1998 revealed the wandering feeling at the time. It was not until I got two full scholarships for Ph.D in April that I felt a strong call from above to “Follow me!” through a picture of Jesus’ calling the fishermen.

The hunger for knowing the Bible drove me close to this call. However, I couldn’t answer it for I knew not what was lying ahead. Getting a Ph.D was certainly what everyone in my world wanted me to do, and I knew clearly the outcome of taking this road, easy and “honorable”. Nevertheless, nothing of this could satisfy my “emptiness” in my mind, and I began to ask God for proof of His calling. Two miracles were revealed to me, and I was scared for experiencing God in such astonishing ways. With a scared heart, I had to be obedient to this extraordinary presence of Him, with all my friends in the churches and Troy State University witnessing these miracles.

 

V.IN THE HANDS OF THE MASTER POTTER

I was excited when I was in Reformed Theological Seminary in Mississippi in August 1998. But soon I found what lied before me: I couldn’t understand anything while others were mature in Bible. I became nervous and wondered if it was where God wanted me to come. Then, a felt a voice inside me, keeping saying: “To go, to go” with every beat of my heart, causing me up and down in my room. At last, I surrendered and picked up the phone to call a Chinese seminary introduced by someone.

“Do you have money?” the president of the seminary asked me.

“No, I don’t.”

“Then how can you pay for the school?”

“O, don’t worry about that. If it is God who calls me, He will certainly provide.” In fact, I didn’t understand what I was talking about at the time.

“Ah, you have a great faith in you. All right, we’ll discuss it this week.” It was end of September and close to the midterm there.

“Please, don’t discuss it any more. In the name of Jesus, I beg you to accept me.” To Chinese mainlanders, discussion meant no hope. So I shouted to the phone.

“Since your faith is so BIG, I personally accept you,” shouting back, the president was deeply touched.

In October 5, 1998, I arrived at the campus of Christian Witness Theological Seminary located in Concord in Bay Area. But I never imagined that it was just the beginning of being shaped.

The first day I was in the seminary, I met with hostility from some schoolmates. I couldn’t understand it, but it was in such a place that God began to appear to me in voice and in vision.

In September 2001, after I got the M.A. degree, I came to a Taiwanese seminary in South California to continue my study, knowing that it was from God who wanted me to further build me up and to accumulate church experience. And His plan was fulfilled completely when the Taiwanese seminary began to abuse me, and at last forced me to leave before the New Year of 2003, with only one quarter to graduate. On the contrary, my church accepted me as a full time minister in July 2003 after I had been an intern for a year and a half and I am now under care of PCUSA. What a contrast!

However, knowing His call clearly enough helps me overcoming one hardship after another on the way of pilgrim, each time I became stronger in faith. And I can always feel the presence of God whenever I need help from Him, either in my study in seminaries or in my daily life.

 

VI.STEPS OF EVANELISM

My ministry did not really start since I came down to South California in November 2001 when I found a large popularity of Chinese mainlanders. According to statistics, 140,000 people arrived in the United States from mainland China in 2002, and there are at least 10,000 of them staying in house hotels in L.A. area. This was a large unsaved group, living in misery and waiting for their chances to remain in this country.

My first time to step into a hotel frightened my school mate from Taiwan, seeing someone came up to shout at me with hot temper and dirty words. When we left there, three of them accepted Jesus and more were willing to go to church. “A great warrior of evangelism” was the comment of my partner, however, he never thought of going with me after that.

My steps were so blessed by our Lord that He converted an owner of house hotel who agreed to “open house” for me to establish the first house hotel gospel fellowship there. I went there every Thursday evening, studying Bible and praying for them. In the year of 2002, 27 of them were baptized in my church.

In fact, the greatest reward of my ministry was my father’s conversion. He used to serve in the Navy since 1950s and was Party secretary of a factory since 1971. All his life, he was a devoted communist, and he WAS a good man.

He was extremely proud of his “only begotten son”, having many dreams for me. He was overjoyed to hear that I had got PhD scholarship in 1998. His irritation could be imagined and understood when I called him to say I was in a seminary. It was the first time in his life that he shouted at me with such anger and a shivering voice.

“You never come back, or you’ll be arrested at once. I’ve never got a “foreign monk” at my home.” Yes. I would have been arrested in the summer of 2002 when I visited home had it not for my escape in time back to United States.

The first convert in my family was my daughter, and then my sister and my mother. At the end of 1999, my father accepted Jesus, having seen God’s miracles on his son. But it was not until recently that he was truly converted.

On the night of September 19, I called home to greet my parents.

“Hi, Mom. Is everything OK at home?”

“Son, can your faith help you put up with anything?”

“Yes, Mom. What has happened?” I sensed something and became alert.

“Wooo, wooo, … Your Dad has got lung cancer, and the doctors said that they are unable to do any surgery for that. Wooo, wooo,…”

“Mom,” after a pause I asked her, “Can I talk to my father?”

At the end of 198 minutes Bible study and evangelism, my father was so willingly to follow me for the confession of his sin and the decision prayer for accepting Jesus as his true savior. I found in him that great joy replaced the deep sorrow and desperation, and he was so glad that I could understand the word of God, which he had not understood in the past. The next day, I called my sister, who was also in fear, but when she went home to see my father, he opened the Bible and said to her, “Now let me tell you what the Bible says, …” She didn’t know what had happened, seeing my father in the amazing rejoice, until he told her that he accepted Jesus who gave him an eternal life which can be seen in the heavenly book.

Ever since that night, I had Bible study over the international call with my father. Hundreds of minutes passed without notice, and he would teach my family what he learned from the Book. He copied the verses in large characters so that he could use them to teach his family.

But I didn’t call home for a few days at the beginning of October. I was too busy and weak to call home, because I had to call since 1:00 in the morning and very often we could not stop until 4:00 when it was the time my father woke up from his rest in the afternoon. He had chemotherapy in the morning and took nap in the afternoon. But he never felt tired and I wanted to teach him more of the word of God.

When I called home on the night of October 4, my mom answered, and said that my father had been waiting for me at the phone with Bible in his hand for several days, and he was then just beside her, ready to study the Bible.

“Sorry, Dad. I should notify you, but I did think I could call. I was just so sleepy and I was too busy with school work and the church.”

“Never mind, son. I can wait.”

“OK, Dad. Today’s message is …, and let’s turn to page …”

The time slipped away peacefully, and the night of L.A. was so pleased, quietly listening to the dialogue between the father and son. Through the cable across the ocean, God’s love and message reached out to the heart of need, to the ones He loves. Over the sky of China, a soul has been gained by our Lord. In the fall of 1976 when I was only 17, my father saw me off to the countryside, leaving me in desperation. Today, before we depart in the world, I led my father into the kingdom, full of peace and joy.

I can’t wait to call home, because I wonder how long he can wait. I now feel that God will heal him so that he will be a vessel of gospel for other people. It was also his last wish in the world and his faith in the Lord.

 

VII.CONCLUSION

Five years have passed after I attended the first seminary. Looking back, my heart is filled with great joys. My experience and faith not encourage my friends in Christ, but also my family in China. I have now realized that if what you believe can not change life, it is worth nothing. Once I was telling my father how God was leading me all the way, he cried out: “Write it down, write it down. They are extremely special experiences that should be known.”

Yes, I might write it down someday with the title of “Seeking for the Paradise”, but the real author is the One who is the real hero in my autobiography.

 

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