Over the past decade of living in China, I have been privileged to hear a number of wonderful conversion stories. Each is special, but occasionally one stands out as particularly uncommon. The following is one such story. It is both encouraging and instructive: Encouraging in that it reminds us Christ did “not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance,” and instructive in that it reminds us “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. To maintain confidentiality, names from the story have been changed from their original.
It was an unusual outburst for someone conditioned to avoid confrontation for the sake of preserving relational harmony. The other Chinese students in the room were noticeably uncomfortable and likely wondering how Li Min could have dared to directly insult the host’s religion, especially as a guest receiving free English tutoring! Needless to say, despite everyone’s best efforts to move the conversation forward, the evening ended awkwardly.
A few days later when my husband suggested we hire Li Min as a Chinese tutor for our children, I was more than a little surprised. Yet despite my personal reservations Li Min soon began visiting our home two afternoons a week and not long after my husband convinced me to invite her for dinner after each lesson. Some days were enjoyable, but others were difficult, especially when she corrected my Chinese pronunciation or criticized my food presentation. It was not the kind of hospitality experience I had envisioned.
Then came another unexpected suggestion from my husband. Perhaps Li Min could read the Chinese version of Good and Evil (a comic book Bible) to the children as part of their Chinese lesson. I suddenly had flashbacks to that awkward evening in our home and became very uncomfortable with the idea. If she had been critical of my cooking before, what would happen now if we asked Li Min to read the Bible she had so openly scorned?
In subsequent weeks I tried to listen in whenever she read to our children, wondering what she thought about a talking serpent, angels, demons, a flood and countless other mysteries found in the Scriptures. But, amazingly, she never refused to read. This arrangement continued for the next few months and each time Li Min visited our home she stayed a little longer, eventually becoming a regular part of our evening family devotions, often staying until eight or nine o’clock.
It was during these times that our children began to intercede for her, asking that she would be given new life (oh, the boldness of a child). And, looking back, it was during these times that a gradual change was taking place in her, yet I was often too exhausted to notice. Not only was Li Min spending more time in our home, she was also spending more time reading the comic book Bible to our children. I decided to ask her if she would like a real Bible of her own and to my surprise she accepted it joyfully.
A few days later, I asked, by chance, if she had read any of the Bible over the past two days. I was rather amazed to learn she had read the first four books of the Old Testament and that she was genuinely interested in knowing if a true Christian must love their enemies. But, I was wholly unprepared for what she said next:
Yesterday, as I was reading the account of the two angels who rescued Lot from death, I suddenly realized that I was Lot. I realized I that I was also living in the midst of a sinful and rebellious society and in His mercy He reached down and saved me, just as he saved Lot.
It was truly a remarkable thing to witness: to listen as she described the miracle of regeneration, the gift of new life. We spent that evening talking about becoming a new creation in Christ, being a recipient of unmerited grace, being chosen before the foundation of the world and knowing “there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
We are overjoyed that Li Min, once so antagonistic to the gospel, is now a sister in Christ. She is truly a different person, full of life and joy, gladly reading the Bible (which she has now read from cover to cover in only a few short months!) and willingly meeting with other Chinese believers.
Image credit: Chopsticks by Megan Eaves via Flickr.
Mark Totman is an expat with over a decade of experience living in China. He enjoys writing on a wide range of China-related subjects including language, culture and history, particularly as these subjects facilitate greater understanding of the Chinese context and encourage beneficial lives of cross-cultural service. View Full Bio