Supporting Article

Testimony of an Old Immigrant

John Zhou went to one of China’s top universities, the China University of Geological Sciences in Wuhan. Despite his upbringing as a Muslim Hui, John was a practical atheist and a staunch Party member. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1996 and became a very successful landscaper. Local Chinese friends and colleagues witnessed to him, and in 2005 he made a commitment to Christ. He then married a fine Christian woman, but it was only later that his faith in Christ became truly personal and intimate. He tells of this in his testimony. John is now studying for his Master of Divinity degree through GETS Theological Seminary in California. He is also a lay preacher in his church—and a very good one!  

Saturday mornings are often spent playing with the kids or being with the family. Some people may have to go to work. But here I am, a 50-year-old man, sitting at my desk taking an online Greek class. It is indeed a little difficult for me to study again, but I chose to do this because I have decided to live the second half of my life differently, not all for myself, but for him—the Almighty God, the only true God.

I qualify as an “old immigrant.” It has been twenty-six years since I came to New Zealand, the Land of the Long White Cloud. Looking back, I have a deep sense that throughout this journey I have been guided by God. Having a grateful heart is a gift bestowed by God. Having such an attitude, however, is something that some unbelievers cannot understand. “Do you mean to say,” they may ask, “that all good things are given to you by God?” Yes, it is God who opens our dim eyes enabling us to see his wonderful deeds. This kind of gratitude arises spontaneously within when we discern what he has done in our lives.

Before I went abroad, due to the fact I am a member of the Hui ethnic minority, I had some exposure to religion and religious beliefs. However, this was mostly customs and traditions related to our Hui ethnicity rather than religious beliefs as such. Occasionally, for certain Hui festivals, I went to the mosque and saw foreign Muslims, but I had no idea about the beliefs of Islam.

It was more than ten years after going abroad that I came to accept the Christian faith. Before that, however, during those ten years, some friends had taken me to church, but for various reasons I did not show much interest and stopped going. In fact, believing is a choice, a decision—just as not believing is a choice. However, the result of believing and the result of not believing are totally different. By believing, through the grace of God we encounter him, and once we encounter him, we find our faith grows even more.

After believing in the Lord, my everyday life did not change a whole lot except that I started going to church on Sundays. Of course, I also participated in some discipleship training courses at the church. After about a year, however, something happened that led me to experience in a very deep and personal way a “peace and joy that passes all understanding.”

In 2008, our first child, my daughter, was born, but she was a premature baby, born at twenty-nine weeks (seven months). That Friday night at midnight, my wife woke me up. Her amniotic fluid had broken, so I quickly called an ambulance. The ambulance took my wife to the hospital. I was very worried. Not knowing what to do, I hurried to the restroom and, kneeling, began to pray. It was the first time in my life that I had knelt to pray, and it was probably the first time I had prayed to God with such sincerity and earnestness. I had always thought that I could do everything and did not need God very much. Faith had been a kind of support in spiritual matters, but I began to realize that there are very few things that one can do, and there are very many things that one cannot do. At that moment, I knew all I could do was to rely on God. I remembered that the pastor had said something like “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” This phrase described my situation at that moment. Sometimes, it is only when our head hits the wall and there is no way out that we truly understood what our relationship with God needs to be.

Four days later, my daughter was born weighing 1,029 grams (2 pounds, 4 ounces). She seemed like a baby kitten, so tiny she had to be cared for in a hospital incubator. My wife was discharged from the hospital and went home for her month of confinement after giving birth. Every day after finishing work, I went to the hospital to hold my little daughter for a while. Seeing so many tubes inserted into her small body, my heart went out to her in tender love, but there was no worry or fear.

Because of our daughter’s premature birth, relatives at home and brothers and sisters at church all sought to comfort us. They were concerned that my wife and I would be stressed and worried because of our daughter’s condition. After all, she was so tiny and was still having to be monitored in the hospital. But to tell the truth, we were just immersed in the joy of our newborn child. We really had no worries or anxiety at all. Although we watched our daughter sleep under that glass cover every day, our hearts were full of peace and joy. Later, when I thought about how I had felt during that time, I realized that I had been given a peace and joy that came from God. It was unexpected, and it was beyond human control.

My daughter was growing at a rate of 50 grams (1¾ ounces) per day. Around what would have been her normal due date, she finally reached the 2.5 kg (5½ pounds) prescribed by the hospital, the weight that a normal newborn should have. We took our daughter home and put her in the cot we had prepared for her. At that moment, there was a knocking sound on the window of her room. We saw a little bird, using its beak non-stop knocking on the window. I opened the window to chase it away, and when I turned my head, it flew straight back and knocked on the window once again.

At this point our daughter woke up, but she did not cry. She just opened her eyes and looked at us and at her new surroundings and laughed. The little bird stopped knocking, but stood on the fence outside the window, chirped for a while, then spread its wings and flew away, never to return. My daughter turned her head and went back to sleep.

In that moment, my wife and I could not help but be excited, and we were both moved to tears. For us that little bird had been no ordinary little bird but rather an angel announcing good news. Now we knew that the God we believed in had always been protecting us and our daughter. He had never left us and had placed our now healthy daughter into our care. God is the God who hears our prayers. This miraculous experience made us realize how much God loves us.

Dear friends, do you want to experience this unexpected peace and joy? Do you want to experience the kind of life where an all-powerful, loving Lord is with you? Come and know him, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is love, who is truth, and who is eternal life. He is willing to bless everyone who is willing to trust in him. May God bless you!

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Image credit: Katy Wrathall via Flickr

John Zhou

John Zhou (周茂軍) is an “old immigrant” who arrived in New Zealand in 1996. Originally from mainland China, John came to faith in New Zealand and is now preparing to use the rest of his life serving God.View Full Bio