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The Heart of a Single Servant

Joy Kwan (pseudonym), one of the contributors to the coming spring issue of ChinaSource Quarterly on women in ministry in China, wrote a newsletter in 2020 entitled “Deeper Water.” The following excerpts from that letter, translated from Chinese, express a call into “deeper water” from a single woman’s perspective. For Joy, deeper water means maturing in faith which develops a deepened understanding of and commitment to Christ.

The seven points that Joy shares are vital for Christian workers of all kinds, but here we hear the heart and conviction of a young, single, Chinese Christian woman in ministry.

Deeper Water

God-centered Versus Self-centered

You shall have no other gods before me.
Exodus 20:3

I thought I was God-centered. But I am far from it. I am so self-centered that I even try to validate my reasoning as spiritual to prove that I am good and godly. When I was considering going into ministry, I had my own plans for seminary study overseas. I had to consider my family and friends that I would leave behind, financial support, hope for marriage, and many other things that I had made greater than God. I assumed his blessings and focused on them, but I did not focus on God himself. When things did not happen as I had planned for seminary and for other life needs, discouragement, disappointment, lack of patience, lack of faith, and lack of joy set in. They reflected what my heart really looks like. When people asked how I was doing I would share about something I had done while knowing that my heart was not considering God first.

I began to ask myself questions—when I am left with nothing, do I still consider God my only joy and satisfaction? Oh, so many times the answer was “No!” Oh, how much mercy I need! I am thankful God did not let go of his own masterpiece, even though I am still a broken vessel. “He must increase; I must decrease!”

Calling and Competence

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5

I have heard the English saying, “God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called.” I have often felt unqualified and ill-equipped. In those times I have seen more of his grace and his open doors for outreach. He allowed me to serve among college students, particularly women, and to equip them. In my weakness he became my strength. All glory to him!

Identity in Christ is critical in knowing who I am. I have gone deeper into my understanding of my identity in Christ. Although it is an ongoing process, I have begun to come to the end of myself. This has been a huge transformation and blessing. “We have no power from God unless we live in the persuasion that we have none of our own.” (John Owen)


My child, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways.
Proverbs 23:26.

My vision has changed. I see people coming back to God in close personal relationship, experiencing the power of the gospel from inside out. I see myself and others counseling men and women, worshipping at home and wherever they go, creating disciple-making movements all over. I see women blessing women and younger generations rising up to follow God—and not turning back. I see good news transforming lives here and on the other side of the world through local and cross-culture work. All I can do now is bow down on my knees that God will do what only he can do.

The more I pray, the more sensitive I become concerning what God wants in this season of my life. He will show me what to focus on and what to drop. He can connect the resources and work all things together to make vision a reality. I ask myself, “What is the one thing he wants me to be involved in?” I trust him to lead me to the answer. For now, he has placed women and young adults at the top of the list.

God’s Timing

Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone. My hope comes from him.
Psalm 27:14

I have had so many questions. When can I go to seminary? When will I see hearts coming back to God? When can disciple-making and church planting become reality? When will there be a team to work with? Waiting for answers to questions is one of the most difficult challenges. Patience has definitely not been produced in me yet, which makes waiting more difficult. When the answer to prayer is wait, there is much to learn. With such sufficient grace and timely encouragement, I see how God keeps helping me turn my eyes to him.

Seminary has been a priority for me. For now, I have come to the point of thanksgiving and praise when I pray about more schooling. This brings such relief and blessing! I was recently rejected for study at an overseas school that I longed to attend and where others like me have gone to study. And now COVID-19 has spread in the country where I wanted to study, so I must thank God for his timing and protection. I am learning that when I pray sometimes it is not about the answers. It is about how God changes me as I pray. He speaks to me through his word.


Who is weak, and I don’t feel week? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
2 Corinthians 11:28-30.

I am not so much a vulnerable person, meaning that it is not easy for me to share my struggles with others—even to share a prayer request. One reason for this is that when I go to God first, most of the time I feel better immediately, and it seems that there is no more need to ask for intercession. Another reason is that often there is not a safe face-to-face space where I can share. Most of my weaknesses are in my mind and related to feeling lonely. And when I see the ugly, filthy, crazy side of my sinful nature, I don’t really want to share it with others. Because of this some might think I am mostly a strong and joyful person even thought I am weak to that point that I cannot fight the good fight at all. Still, I have been blessed with a few who faithfully lift me up. I know I can go to them for prayer support.


Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, so we cannot carry anything out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.
1 Timothy 6:6-8

Financial support has been a huge challenge and blessing. I have grown to understand that wherever God guides, he provides, Isaiah 58:11. Prayer support has been such an encouragement knowing that many who do not know me, lift me up. Family support, community and friends’ support, resources, and provisions—there is so much treasure that God has provided!

Recently I was led to go back through my memories and pray about everything that came to mind. He cleansed me and gave me such freedom. Never in my life did I experience such freedom, joy, and peace. I find that quite a lot of full-time workers face mental health issues. I cannot thank God enough for helping me face my past and trust him to be in control of my “now” and my future.  This even includes my daily bread. I have food every day and I literally do not need to spend money on clothing for years. So many people are starving and needy. There is very little I can do to contribute financially to them.  But I can lift them up to the Father, and I can give thanks whenever I have food on the table and food to share. 

Deeper Water

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Have I figured it all out and what it means to go into deeper water? No, but I am thankful that I have started. Through ups and downs I see God’s goodness all the time and I can confidently say that the last three years have been my best years. I would not trade them. I cannot claim that I have done anything, but I can claim that I have seen his mercy and grace through it all. I am forever thankful for it. I have written reports in the past that are full of data—how many activities held, how many people preached to, how much support I received and how I used it. But at this time, I hope to be vulnerable and share his transformative work in me. I pray that people will see him and not me, see the being and not the doing, see the Father and not the child, see the King and not the servant.

For more from and about women who serve in China, watch for the spring issue of ChinaSource Quarterly coming out in early April.

Image credit: Gun z on Unsplash.

Joy Kwan

Joy Kwan (pseudonym) is a minister to women and youth in China following God's call to serve him fulltime. She works primarily with women, discipling them; she is also involved in student ministry, sharing Christ with college students. Joy loves God's creation and often spends her free time collecting things from …View Full Bio

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