A gathering of members in the home (the people in white and in blue are the author's parents)
This moving story from the journal Territory tells of one mother’s journey from witchcraft to Christ. A-li-ya also shares how her mother’s dramatic conversion ended up not only changing her family’s life, but the lives of many in their village as well. Read below for a contemporary testimony of how the gospel breaks down real-life idols in people’s lives in China.
From Witch Doctor to Christian
To help heal her son, my mother went to consult witch doctors and made a deal with the devil. She became emotionally unstable, often crying and yelling, and was a witch doctor for 15 years. After becoming a Christian, my illiterate mother tried every way she could think of, and came to know the entire Bible within a year. At age 70, she would bring a cooked meal to the bed of a 60-year-old sister in the same village who was seriously ill, and feed her bite by bite. My mother was the first person to be buried in a Christian burial in the village.
On May 5, 2018, my mother was received by the Lord at age 73. She was very peaceful when she died, and it was hard to imagine that she spent over 10 years interacting with demons.
Making a Deal with the Devil
I should begin by telling of the strange sickness my younger brother suffered over 30 years ago. My 15-year-old brother was suddenly unable to eat or sleep normally, and could not even go to school. The bottom of his foot would suddenly itch, and the next moment he would say his back itched. My parents had to help him scratch day and night. To find a diagnosis, my parents and brother went to all the major hospitals at the county, city, and province level. Every time the doctors examined him he was completely normal, but once he was out of the hospital the sickness started up again.
At the time I was in college. When I came home over the summer my younger brother was already skin and bones. My mother said, “We’ve spent so much on travel and doctor’s visits, but he’s no better. Some of the medicine is not only useless, but seems to make it worse after taking it for a few days. When we went to the provincial hospitals, your father and I stayed in basements and bathrooms to save money.” The sickness caused my brother to be utterly without strength, like a two- or three-year-old child. Everywhere they went my mother had to carry him.
Luckily during the winter break of 1986, my brother’s sickness took a turn for the better. Later on after taking some medicine prescribed by a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, he recovered even more quickly. The next year he could even return to school. The effects of this strange sickness on our family seemed to be fading away, and I continued my own path of studies and career away from home.
In 1999, I was working in a foreign business and had my own family. My child was just starting primary school. Because my husband was away on a work trip, I asked my mother to come from our village to help out with my child for a time.
But one day, a strange thing happened. Without any reason, my mother clearly said to me, “I’m about to start crying now! Don’t be afraid, I’ll cry for a bit and then I’ll be all better.” And then she lost control as if she was obeying some other power, and started crying. After she was done crying, I found out that the shadows of that strange sickness had been controlling my family to that day.
My mother told me that in the year they went all over seeking a remedy for my brother’s sickness, she brought my brother to seek a witch doctor. This is very common in rural villages. Whenever someone’s relative was sick for a long time, or if their child kept crying and fussing at night, or even if they lost a pig, they would find someone to tell their fortune or go see a witch doctor.
One witch doctor told my mother, “If you want your son to recover, he needs to start helping see people’s affairs (see people’s affairs means to help people through witchcraft).” My mother thought to herself, “My son is still young. He needs to go out and study someday. How can he do this kind of thing?” But so that her son could get better more quickly, she helplessly said, “My son can’t do it. But can I do it for him?” The other person said, “Yes.”
A promise is a promise. But until 1998, my mother still did not fulfill her promise to the witch doctor. On the one hand, she felt embarrassed, and was afraid of other people’s gossip. On the other hand, she worried about giving us a bad name. But demons often tormented her, especially when she was in a home with idols. She would become emotionally unstable, crying and yelling, and could not control herself.
At the time I had no understanding of things like demons. I was not sure how much I believed her. But after hearing her out, I thought that witch doctors could help other people with their difficulties, so it wasn’t a bad thing. I just went along with it. And so, my mother made a deal with the devil, and it lasted for over 10 years.
My mother and the sisters who brought her to the Lord and helped her get rid of idols
Sneezed Seven Times, and Came to Life
In 2013 I became a Christian. After obtaining my husband and son’s agreement, I opened my house to receive a small group of brothers and sisters. Almost every day, I would pray for the souls of my husband, son, parents, two sisters, and brother to be saved. But because I had only just become a Christian, I did not know that worshipping idols, interacting with demons or contacting the spirit realm were sins that God hated, and also very dangerous. So very rarely did I pray for my mother to be freed from the control of idols.
A year later, by chance I was talking with Sister Molly who had been a Christian for many years. She told me gravely, “This is very serious. You need to pray for your mother, and I will pray for your mother also.” Our prayers began an invisible spiritual battle.
I called my mother over the phone more often, urging her to give up interacting with demons. As my spiritual awareness grew deeper, my phone conversations changed from the short, brutal denials of “Ma, you’re worshipping idols, and it’s useless” to “Ma, you’ve worshipped idols for so many years, do they bring you joy? No, right? You still worry about things you worry about, and get angry about things you’re angry about. It’s better to believe in Jesus. When you believe in Jesus you have peace and joy in your heart.”
Later on I would tell her, “Ma, there are many things we cannot do on our own, that we are incapable of doing. Even the idols you worship can’t. But Jesus can, because he is the true God.” Towards the end, my mother kept saying, “You believe your things. I’ll believe mine.”
In the summer of 2014, a brother who led fellowship in church told me that this summer, something amazing would happen in my home. But I replied," I’ve been home for nearly a month, and nothing has happened."
As the day to leave came closer and closer, I became especially anxious in my heart as I saw my mother continue to flounder among idols. I knew there was little I could do, and could only continue reading the Bible and quietly praying.
One day at noon, I was reading 2 Kings 4 for my mother; it’s mainly about a series of miracles the prophet Elisha did. When we read the story of the prophet raising the Shunammite woman’s son from the dead, the passage said, "Elisha got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.”
A couple days after reading that passage, a woman from the village asked my mother to see her affairs for her. They went into the house, and half an hour later the woman left. When I came home, I did not expect my mother to say to me, “After lighting the incense just now, I sneezed seven times and couldn’t see anything. After that I threw up. She even had to help me clean up the vomit. I asked her to find someone else.” The amazing thing happened just like that. Since then, my mother has never seen anyone’s affairs.
Molly had been praying for my mother to be freed from the idols’ control for almost half a year. In November 2014, Molly led my mother to commit her life to Christ over the phone. In January, 2015, Molly braved the severe cold of -20°C on her own to come my home, and helped me get rid of my mother’s idols. God provided that we came to know a local preacher Sister Wang Yousong. She led other members who loved the Lord to help shatter and destroy the incense, yellow paper, and other objects for burning. “Because God is a holy, jealous God.” This is what my mother learned through this experience.
The outward idols have been cleaned away, but the devil’s work was not yet done. Even after my mother became a Christian, the devil still wanted to corrupt her. She experienced a lot of physical suffering: headaches, aching in her waist and legs, swelling of her face, dry eyes, unbearable itching, etc. One time she told me over the phone, “I don’t want to believe in Jesus anymore. My face is as swollen as a steamed bun.”
From February 2015 onwards, Sister Wang Yousong led other Christian workers in exorcism work that lasted for several months. They understood how the devil worked in people, such as crying and yelling without reason, deception, convulsions, or pretending to be dead. By God’s mercy and great power, as well as the brothers and sisters praying three times a day, or even seven times a day, my mother was finally free of the devil’s control. Her body, heart, and soul were completely freed.
On August 4, 2015, my father and mother were baptized at the same time, and became children of God. At that time there were some sisters who were very weak, and no longer wanted to believe in Jesus. But after seeing my mother’s testimony, their passions were reignited. As for me, I all the more clearly believed—"Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle” (Psalm 144:1). The words of the Bible are true, and can be experienced personally.
A gathering in my mother’s home
A 70-Year-Old Feeding a 60-Year-Old
After my mother became a Christian, she hungered for the Bible. Because her family was poor, and because rural China prefers sons to daughters, my mother never had much schooling when she was young. She was practically illiterate. But to read the Bible, she tried everything she could think of.
She found that it was very effective to learn reading from the hymnal. The church gave everybody a hymnal, in which there are about 130 songs. My mother’s memory was very good. She could learn a song once, and remember the lyrics. When she came across words she didn’t know in reading the Bible, she could quickly find it in the hymnal. When this didn’t do the trick, she would bring her Bible to ask people in the village who had been to secondary school. Sometimes when she was visiting at other people’s home, she would take the opportunity to have them teach her. Later, I bought my mother a Bible on tape. She would listen to the recording while reading along in the Bible. However, a good memory is not as good as a dulled pencil. My mother would take her grandson’s lined notebook, and copy the Bible word by word while leaning on the window sill.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Within a year and a half, my mother basically recognized all the words in the Bible. Sometimes elderly sisters in the village would bring their Bible over to our home, and ask my mother how to pronounce the words. “I’ve become a teacher!” my mother joyfully told me over the phone once. Sometimes to share the gospel, my mother would offer to read a passage of the Bible to the other person. When she said that she was illiterate, they shook their heads in disbelief.
My mother’s hand-copied Bible
Every morning from 5 to 6, and every evening from 5 to 6 were my mother’s set prayer times. She not only prayed during this set time, but also any time while working in the fields, walking, or cooking. My mother took fellowship very seriously. She thought that meeting once a week was too infrequent. At her strong request, the church’s gatherings went from once a week to twice a week. Later on, as more and more people came to church, the gathering place switched to our home. Before the meeting, my mother would diligently clean the room, and my father was responsible for mopping the floor. In the winter, they got the stove bed good and hot early, or they would turn on an electric heater, and wait for brothers and sisters to arrive.
In the past she often said, “There’s not much reason for living. I might as well die early, so as not to burden you when I am old.” But after becoming a Christian, the song River of Life was the first song she learned, and it became her favorite song. “River of life, river of joy, slowly flowing into my heart.” This is indeed an accurate portrait of my mother after becoming a Christian. Such joy has great power.
In the past, sowing seeds in the spring was always my mother’s saddest time. She would often cry several times during the sowing season. This is because our family’s land was often encroached on from both sides. My parents were both old, and often taken advantage of. My mother said that before she became a Christian, only one piece of land would be seized by others, but after becoming a Christian three pieces were taken. I called her and said, “If God did not allow it, not a hair of ours can fall to the ground. This is God’s promise. Perhaps he is testing your faith? Mother, pray! Ask God to help us grow 10 ridges worth of food on 8 ridges.” Though my mother was somewhat angry, she relied on God and her bad emotions quickly passed, and she did not even cry.
Not only this, but my mother learned how to sing and dance. Not only did she preform at the “Praise God” gathering in a neighboring village over the New Year, but she also went with other brothers and sisters to a Christmas praise gathering in town, and performed on stage.
My mother’s joy overflowed, and became a blessing for others. There was a sister in the village who had just become a Christian, and her waist was not very good. Her legs also hurt. When she walked, her upper body was basically parallel with the ground, and her waist was at 90 degrees. Her husband was partially paralyzed due to cerebral thrombosis. When my mother found out, she often brought a cooked meal for them.
Another 60-year-old sister from church also got cerebral thrombosis, and couldn’t talk. My mother and other sisters took turns taking care of her. My mother not only made congee and other food that was easier to chew, but she also fed the woman bite by bite. Only when that sister had finished eating would my mother go home for dinner. A 70-year-old person feeding a 60-year-old person—if not for God’s love, who else could do it?
God not only saved my mother, but through my mother he saved our entire family. Through my mother’s influence and the prayers of brothers and sisters, my two sisters were baptized in July 2016. My brother used to be strongly opposed to our faith, but now desires to know God. He is currently reading the Bible, as well as Purpose-Driven Life and The Pilgrim’s Progress, which I gave him.
My father was actually the first fruit of my mother. My father liked gambling at cards, even though he never lost or won much. My mother had fought much with my father over this, but could never change his bad habit. After becoming a Christian, she often prayed to God, and God began a good work in my father’s heart.
When my father first became a Christian, he would still sneak away to gamble sometimes. But later he entirely quit gambling. My neighbors could all see my father’s change. Some people who used to ask my mother to see their affairs did not know that she had become a Christian, and continued to seek her out. My mother would then testify to them that she indeed now believed in the true God.
On April 29, 2018, my mother had a brain hemorrhage. It was seven days between her entering the hospital to being taken by the Lord. She rested from her labors here on earth, bringing the fruits of her labor home. Her funeral was simple but dignified. My mother was the first person in our village, as well as in our group, to be buried in a Christian funeral.
Original Article: 从巫师到基督徒 by Territory
Translated, edited and reposted with permission.
Image credits: Territory
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