Reflections of a Returnee from Overseas
I was working on the computer when it went down. I started towards the front door of the internet caf to find the manager to get some help. Right then, an old man with a severely hunched back and in filthy rags walked into the internet cafe. He was obviously a beggar looking for some handouts. “If your right hand can do good, do not turn down your neighbors,” I thought. Who is my neighbor? Clearly, someone in desperate need as was seen by the Good Samaritan.
Another somewhat younger man, who was blind, was standing at the doorstep playing his Erhu—a familiar sight as I recalled quite a few of these musical instruments among the many migrant blind people. Among them, I remembered, there were a good number who were God’s children—my brothers and sisters no less.
“Are you related? Just divide the money, okay?” I cried out to at them as I walked out of the internet cafe. They thanked me profusely as they began to leave. “I am a believer in Jesus!” I responded. I did not want them to thank me but to give glory to God. If God had not provided enough for me, I would not be able to do good to others.
The reply of one surprised me: “Once I was a believer too, but I do not believe him anymore.” Realizing they were leaving the scene, I felt an urge to catch up with them and asked, “What happened to you?” He parted his few gray hairs to show me a disfigured scalp due to a car accident in 1996 which had blinded him in both eyes. “What’s worse, I got sick, and my wife divorced me taking away my child as well. I am very weak, and I do not believe him anymore.”
At that moment, I was moved by the Spirit to speak a word of comfort to encourage this weak member of the Body of Christ. So, I uttered with confidence, “You may not want to believe in Jesus, but he will never forsake you. Just like right now, God led me out of that internet cafe to tell you that he loves you.” At this point, I was somewhat choked up.
The manager from the internet cafe along with his staff and other bystanders were all present and witnessed what was going on. “Yes, it must have been the Lord who used you to lift me up,” he said somewhat reluctantly but from his heart.
“His grace is sufficient for you. His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. Whenever we are weak, we become strong. I boast in my weakness so that the power of Christ can protect me,” I replied. God’s Word is powerful. I could see that it was bringing comfort to his wounded heart, and I continued speaking. “Do you know, I never married, so I cannot say that I understand the pain of your divorce. But we all make mistakes. Once I was engaged to a person under the guidance of God. We loved each other very much. But one day, without giving me any reason, he asked to break off the engagement. Later, I agreed that we should go our separate ways. Through our parting, I came to realize that only God can love a person forever, but we humans cannot do that. Through this process, I understood Jesus’ words that He would never leave us nor forsake us. Even in the most painful moments, He wants me to be His gospel light to the needy ones.”
The man before me was obviously moved. “Yes, let me be a light too. Let me play the Lord’s song,” and he began playing one of the hymns—and sang as well. Actually, he knew quite a few of the Lord’s songs. Ah, did we not pray for this, that the Lord’s songs would spread among the migrants who can play Erhu so that they would shine for Him? It was such a good day with many witnessing that God had received the glory due him.
As I stood there, I remembered yet another time when I was talking with some security people who were driving off the beggars from a church. They saw that we were trying to help the beggars and questioned us about our intentions. We told these security people that we were explaining the gospel to them because God has chosen the poor and the weak. Since they were busy with their work, the security people took their leave. However, they reminded us to tell the beggars to stay away in order to maintain a good image for the city as well as for the country. Their words were somewhat hurtful because the beggars were respectable people too. No humans would stoop to begging unless they were at the end of their means. However, I understood that the police were doing their job, sorting out the good from the bad—because some impostors would mix in with those who were truly in need. However, even those people are objects of God’s love and salvation. He can save their lives, and ours as well, making us all anew.
As I stood in front of this needy brother with his faith almost in bankruptcy, I was moved by God’s faithfulness to his own. Today, he sends me to one of the least of the brethren, and another day he will send someone to me, the least of them all.
After listening to his singing, I thought of the song by Xiaomin. With joy in my heart, I said to him, “I would like to sing to you also.”
Having the Lord, you don’t need anything else; having the Lord is enough.
Mention not, friends and loved ones are leaving me;
Mention not, I am in the season of storms.
My eyes will look only to the Lord, knowing that he will never leave me;
Even though I wander to all corners of the earth, my Lord alone satisfies me.
At that very moment, I believe this song, provided by the Lord Himself, met this blind brother’s need. He had been listening intently, and now he said, “Not only the tune is good, the words are excellent. Ah, my inner eyes have been opened!”
His remarks made me recall another blind brother who I met last year on the roadside. With great joy on his face, he said that though his physical eyes were blind, his inner eyes could see. His inner joy touched my heart so deeply that I often recalled this scene while going through life’s difficulties. So, I used this story to encourage this blind brother in front of me. “Really!” he exclaimed with admiration. We closed our eyes and prayed. We prayed for each other and blessed each other. Now remain faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
Mention not, friends and loved ones are leaving me;
Mention not, I am in the season of storms; Having the Lord is enough for me.”
Trusting in Jesus, becoming a child of God, being in Christ and abiding in His wordall these need to be experienced within one’s circle of brothers and sisters, church elders and societies in good times as well as bad. We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength. We should love our neighbor as ourselves.
One day, while I was in the market place near Fudan University in Shanghai, I came across a middle-aged person crawling on the floor begging. His face had many burn scars, and his legs were rotting with flies and insects covering his wounds. Beside him, a young girl about two years old was biting into an apple left by some bystanders. The father and his daughter were surrounded by many onlookers, local as well as outsiders. Behind them were the vendors selling food and drinks. Some passed by and left some money; others were talking about the little girl, obviously taking pity on her. As a newcomer to Shanghai, I was going to the university to take some pictures, and before leaving the house, I had prayed that God would guide me. He brought me to this market place. Like others, I dropped ten yuan onto the sidewalk near this father and daughter and began to walk away. Just then, I overheard a local woman saying that it was too bad she had just been laid off; otherwise, she would have helped them more.
At that moment, I felt a tug in my heart. This woman most likely was not a Christian, and she was showing real concern for these two. How much more should I respond with Christ as my treasure, who became poor for our sakes that we might become rich? So I prayed silently to God asking what I should do beyond giving and praying. I felt I should show my faith and love with some concrete actions. I did not have much with me, but it was enough for them to be put up in an inn for a few days.
I asked a local woman whether there might be an inn nearby. Upon finding one close by, I invited the father and daughter to stay there for a few days, at least to take a bath, change into some clean clothes and have something to eat. I was a little worried that the innkeepers would not take them in for they were truly filthy, and their smell was unbearable. Thank God that the lady in charge of the inn that day was a kindhearted person. She could not stand the smell as well, but did let them take a bath first. The local women were moved by my generosity thinking I must be a reporter. Later, they found out that I believed in Jesus.
I paid using what I had, enough to cover a few days’ stay, but that was all I had. I did not let anybody know about my desperate situationonly God knew. I was staying with a few sisters whom I had met through some introductions. They all loved the Lord, and when they heard of the need of the father and daughter, they went and visited them.
I prayed quietly in my heart. The psalmist says, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Since God had taught me to love others as myself, had led me to them and had brought the gospel to them, now they would experience God Himself through my good works rather than my helping them directly.
My faith was challenged those few days, not only to bring them to trust in the Lord rather than relying on themselves as they begged on the street, but also for my own trust in the Lord’s faithfulness to provide for our daily needs. When the sisters were preparing food, I remembered the word of the Lord to Elijah directing him to say to the widow, “Give me what you have and you will lack nothing.” Amazingly enough, through these sisters, each day God provided me with enough as well as the father and daughter. The little girl was even provided with some new clothes and the expenses of their extended stay at the inn were taken care of.
The suffering of the father and daughter was caused by a fire. The father had been burned over sixty percent of his body, and all the money he had could only cover the medical expenses necessary to take care of his upper body leaving his legs still festering. He was burned after he fainted while trying to save his older son who never got out of the fire alive. His little daughter was at the doorstep and was saved by others. His wife subsequently left him.
A few days later, the father and daughter could not be found anywhere at the inn. We were told they had gone back to begging. I prayed for them a good deal and did not find them until the evening of the second day. It had rained when they were on the street, and the little girl had caught a cold with a high fever as a result. I told the father that he should not go back to trusting in their begging because the young girl would not be able to last long. They needed to trust that God would provide.
I went back on my knees asking God to provide the means to cover the rest of the medical expenses so that the father could get back on his feet again instead of dragging the young girl around the streets. God truly is merciful. In less than a week, I received a large donation that not only covered all the necessary medical expenses but had funds leftover as well.
The man was full of joy and thanksgiving when he received the donation for his surgery. He knew that I, by myself, would not have had such resources, but God loved him and his daughter. When he prayed to accept the Lord in the inn, he was holding a Bible and beaming with a big smile. His little girl was radiant with smiles.
I do not mean to brag about myself when I give this testimony. It was God’s word telling me that I should love my neighbor as myself. I should have the mind of Christ, not only regarding my own business, but that of others too. I should do to others as I wish others to do to me. The final time will soon come, and we need to pray, to watch and to love one another for love covers a multitude of sins.
When I see God’s love for others, I begin to understand that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Through God’s love for others, I begin to truly understand the meaning of loving oneself, of seeing others and myself through the eyes of God.
Used with permission from Christian Life Quarterly, March, 2005, Vol. 9, No. 1, www.cclife.org.
Translation is by Nelson Cao.
Image credit: Gaylan Yeung