Earlier this month we posted the first part of an article from Territory about a Chinese missionary’s call to Nepal. The first part of the article discussed the author’s struggles in the flesh amid social pressures in China. As the Chinese church increasingly looks outside of China’s borders to engage in ministry this article provides insight into what factored into one Chinese missionary’s call to foreign missions.
This week in part two we see how his struggles influenced his call to ministry, as well as the lessons he learned about foreign missions and about himself while in Nepal.
From the Dream of an Elite to a Missionary in Nepal—A Post 90s Choice
They are poor, so I lived a little more poorly.
When I was at university serving as the fellowship director, I did my very best to pay attention to everything and every single detail. But, there were times when I was too overbearing and controlling. I enjoyed it when other people did things according to my plan.
When I went overseas to serve the Lord, I wanted to reach non-believers and share the gospel with them. I had to take the initiative to reach out to them. But, I realized that they were not interested in the things I was interested in. So, I needed to be like Paul. To those under the law, I needed to become like one under the law, so that I might win those outside of the law. To the weak, I needed to become weak. I needed to become the kind of people I needed to reach so that, in any case, I might reach some of them.
So, I started to learn about their favorite things in order to have more contact with them. Because the local people are generally poor, I lowered my living standards. My room was very simple. I had nothing but a bed, a square table, a chair, and a shabby bamboo exterior closet. Inside the closet I had about ten pieces of clothing. That's all the clothes I had for four seasons through the whole year. My room was very simple. It was just like what the local people had. This is like what the Lord Jesus said when he sent out the twelve disciples, “do not take two cloaks, lest they become a burden to serving.” Leaving for ministry you need to suit up lightly before going out to battle.
Also, because I gave most of my money for the donation, my funds were very meager. I hardly had any snacks or drinks. So, the local friends wouldn't get close to me because they assumed I am a foreigner with money when I was with them. I didn't have anything that I could give to them. This is sort of like when the Lord said, “do not take any money with you, lest someone connects with me, not for the sake of the gospel, but for bread to eat.” At the same time, there was nothing that they can give me. I did not need pockets because I didn't need to put anything in them.
In addition, in the process of connecting with them, I was especially careful to model Christ in all things. They are poor, so I lived a little more poorly. I wore the same rustic and shoddy clothes as they did in order to avoid making them feel ashamed of their poverty. In this way, we could deepen our relationship.
The locals were impoverished. Some only had one pair of shoes. Long-worn shoes inevitably have a strong odor. So, they didn't need to take off their shoes when they came to visit my place. They could help themselves and take a seat wherever they liked— even on my bed. Everyone could get along quite freely. We often sat on my bed, I played the guitar, and we sang together. We even sang local hymns together. I often thought that if everything in my home was exquisite and expensive, maybe they wouldn't know where they should sit when they came in. If it was me in the past, I would have been a bit of “germaphobe.” What was hardest for me was the body odors. I was so sensitive and disgusted by these things. But, for the sake of the gospel, I was being broken again and again, and renewed again and again by God.
God led me to serve but not because of how good I am.
I had read the book of Jonah and Matthew 20:1-16 many times in the past, but I never sought a deep understanding of what they meant. Even if I had sought for it; I still couldn't have gotten it. But when God called me to serve abroad, I slowly discovered that it's all about God's grace. God's family never lacks servants. God doesn't need to beg me to serve him. I am not his god. He is my God.
When I was the director of our student fellowship group, I led the group step by step to grow in maturity and strength by myself. I thought I was amazing because I took a fellowship of three to four people and expanded its scope. I even was able to unite several university fellowships in the area to serve together. As the time approached for me to graduate and leave the fellowship, I thought that without me the fellowship would decline. The truth of the matter is that instead of putting God in my heart, I considered myself way more important than him.
When I first arrived overseas, I couldn't communicate because of the language barrier. Even though I saw the need for ministry, I couldn't serve with my language limitations. Then I began to realize that God did not want me to serve because he valued my abilities. My service is because of his grace. When Jonah rejected his call, God could have chosen someone else to preach the gospel to the people of Nineveh. But God chose him. He wanted to show Jonah and all of Israel their arrogant self-righteousness.
Whenever I talk with Christian sisters and brothers, they say, “You're so great. You love the Lord so much. You are willing to leave your hometown and your family to go to a foreign country to serve the Lord. You are so amazing.” I always sigh and reply, "It's all God's grace. God led me to serve not because of how good I am. It's actually because I am not good that he chose me to serve him, so that I can truly know him."
As my life was being continuously changed by God, he allowed me to participate more in ministry and in a bigger way. Nepal suffered a major earthquake while I was there and I brought two Christian brothers to the disaster area. They were jealous that I could personally minister in such a "great" way before I wrapped up my time serving abroad and prepared to return home. I told them, "I don't think this is something to be proud of. On the contrary, I think this is an extraordinary grace God has given me because after I return home I might encounter many more and bigger challenges. But, God wants to use this chance to serve in order to make me firm. His grace is sufficient for me."
I used to think I was lost, but now I am found in Christ.
Maybe it was the lack of food in Nepal and not enough nutrition, but there was a period of time when my body was not up to snuff. My blood pressure was low and I had a headache for a whole week. One morning I woke up and felt exhausted. My roommate was also sick. Neither of us got up to make breakfast.
I thought, we are both sick but we can't not eat. So, who is better off to make food? I thought, you are the leader; it’s your responsibility to take care of me. You are duty-bound to cook. But, God soon moved me: The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. God moved me again. Even though he was the leader, I am older than he is. I am the older one, so I should serve him.
I got up, endured the headache and started cooking. I thought at first that making a little porridge would be enough. But, as I thought about it I realized that sick people need nourishment. I not only needed to make porridge, I also needed to cook up a couple dishes. That's how God moved me to sacrifice myself for love of my neighbor.
Before, when I was in China, I thought I was poor. I didn't have money for the things I wanted to buy in China. In Nepal I had money, but nothing to buy. The price of goods in Nepal is low, but there is a lack of material goods. Even though I didn't have a lot of money, I felt like I was rich.
In the past I used to think that if I could just grow a little taller, things would be so much better. After I got to Nepal with buses that are packed to the extreme, I saw how painful it would be for tall people to cram their necks to fit into the buses. But, with my stature I feel comfortable on crowded buses. It's God’s grace that I am not tall. Thanks be to God.
At first I was worried that going abroad to serve the Lord would delay my marriage, my work, and my family. But, what I'm most grateful for is that once I returned home, my marriage, my work, and everything else was already prepared for me by God. Suddenly I became the one whom everyone envied. This wasn't something I planned. It was just like God said, “What he prepared for us is something our eyes have not seen, nor our hearts have conceived.”
God prepared for me a Christian sister with whom I served while abroad. She is devout, pious, hardworking, and Ruth-like. This was another change God worked in me. In the past, when I was looking for a future spouse, I would always consider her spiritual condition and then her outward physical appearance. But after experiencing God's renewing transformation while serving abroad, now I consider first whether our visions line up. Then, I look at character. Thank God that he heard my prayers and answered my prayers. Now my marriage, my work, and my family are all stable and I am still serving God.
Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life." God caused me to go through a spiritual wilderness during this past missions trip. In the wilderness I had a profound encounter with God; I got to know him, I was changed by him. In the past I thought that I should respond to the Great Commission because it is a command. But now, for me, I think the Great Commission is even more about grace.
I used to think I was lost, but now I am found in Christ. I lost my old self, but in Christ I found a new creation. By this grace of serving God, my life was renewed by the Lord. Life took on eternal significance and worth. I no longer chase after fame and fortune. I feel full of honor, joy, and passion because I am able to participate in God's eternally glorious plan. At the same time, this experience in my life has caused me to use my heart more to understand God. I don’t just use my mind to know God, but I use my heart even more to worship and draw closer to God.
Original article: 从精英梦到尼泊尔宣教士——一个90后的选择 (Territory)
Edited and adapted with permission.
Image credit: by albedo, via Flickr.
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