This is the eighth in our series of testimonies from alumni of Tsinghua University and Peking University. These testimonies are translations of selected chapters from books published by ReFrame Ministries, The Reason for You II: Tsinghua Testimonies and three volumes of Peking University Testimonies. In each case we post an excerpt from a testimony and include a link to the full testimony in downloadable form. Watch for more in the coming months.
For more information about these testimonies, see “Capturing Chinese Stories.”
His Cords of Love Will Never Leave Me
Xiaomin Mao (Hydraulic Engineering, class of 1989)
Fear of Death
When I was a child, I was free of worries. I had no clue what death was. I thought that even if the sky fell, there would be adults to support it. I remember an earthquake early one morning. The earth shook and my parents shouted at me, urging me to get out of bed and run outside. I covered my head with my blanket and refused to get up. I thought to myself, “Let the earth shake however it wants. I will just ignore it.”
Yet, as the years went by, I witnessed the births, illnesses, and deaths of my family and friends. Through the tragic parting of death, I realized how insignificant people are and how helpless they are in the face of natural and man-made disasters. Under the influence of an atheistic education, I knew that when people die, they are like candles being blown out, and they disappear silently from this earth. They no longer feel. They have no memories of the past and they never wake up.
Before falling asleep, I used to imagine that death was like falling asleep, except that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning to see the rising sun. This thought terrified and suffocated me. I was unwilling to walk in the world for a time and then disappear forever, as if I had never been here! And yet reason told me that, one day, I would face this ending that no one can escape.
At that time, I imagined how wonderful it would be if those legends and myths were true! If there was such a thing as immortality I would not have to live without hope.
Now I understand why there are frequent suicides among teenagers in China. They really do not find hope or meaning in life. All they see are endless tests and competitions that are of no meaning, not to mention that, in the future, death will eventually turn all their efforts in this life into ashes.
Fortunately, when I was a teenager, I was admitted to Tsinghua University. It was the fall of 1989; a storm1 had just passed and there were still stories and whispers going around on campus. The large characters on the wall of the shared bathrooms of our dormitories had not been painted over, reminding us of the summer’s fervor. During that spring and summer, we had all been nervously preparing for the national college entrance examination, and therefore had little memory of the movement. In college, I lived in Xinzhai 962, together with three girls from the same class, and two senior girls. The senior sisters often taught us ways to deal with college life, but I still felt lost. It was my first time away from my parents; I was very confused. I didn’t know what the purpose of life is or how to live life meaningfully.
. . .
Challenges of Marriage
After finishing my undergraduate studies, I stayed in my department to pursue a doctorate degree in the same major. Afterwards, I fell in love and got married. I thought that after finding one’s significant other, everything would be like it was in the fairy tales, when the prince and the princess lived happily ever after. But my husband and I have very different personalities. I am more emotional and outgoing, while he is more rational and introverted. When we watched a touching movie, I would burst into tears, and he would just sit there, thinking my emotions were unreasonable. I wanted to invite friends to come over, but he wanted the two of us to stay at home alone.
At that time, premarital counseling wasn’t available, and no one told me that marriage is between two completely different people joining together with opposite personalities, and very different family backgrounds, requiring a lot of patience and adaptation. I thought we were the only ones with these kinds of problems, and that I was unfortunate to not find the right person. At the time, in my mind, my marriage was like hell and a prison. I couldn’t wait to break out of it, even though I was almost 30.
Peace and Satisfaction
That was how I spent my first 30 years. In the world’s eyes, I seemed successful. I had graduated from a famous university and stayed to teach there. I had success in academics and even won second prize in the National Science and Technology Progress Award. Also, I wasn’t “left-over” in the marriage market and got married at the age of 26.
If this was what a successful life looked like, then I’d rather give it all up, in exchange for the treasure that I got after the age of 30—my Lord Jesus Christ.
In the summer of 2001, I had an opportunity to go to the University of Edinburgh in England to be a postdoctoral researcher. I ignored my husband’s objections, quit my job at the School of Hydraulic Engineering in Tsinghua University, and went to England all by myself. My landlord in England was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh and was also a very active seeker of the truth. He enthusiastically invited me to attend church activities. I was confused, and thought to myself, “Are scientists superstitious, too? Isn’t it the case that everything vanishes after death? There isn’t any god or spirit, is there?” However, he said that God really exists, that there is eternal life, and that if I had any questions, I could ask the pastor who would help me find answers.
I was really bored during the weekend, and I thought I could practice English and get to know some western culture, so I went with several friends to attend the Sunday service at Charlotte Chapel on the north side of Princes Street. I remember that my English was not good the first time I attended the service. I had no idea what the pastor was talking about. My friend had to explain to me the sermon content, which was about being salt and light in this world, and that if salt lost its saltiness, then it would be useless. I totally didn’t understand what he meant.
During that time, the Edinburgh Art Festival was held, and many performances took place in the field between Princes Street and the castle. What impressed me the most was that we met a Chinese performer who had accompanied for Jieshi Wang2 in the past. Meeting familiar faces in a foreign country, we were excited and sang some patriotic songs together loudly. Afterwards, going to Charlotte Chapel became part of my weekend routine. . . .
Just like that, I slowly started to love the church music, the church environment where people were humble and nice to each other, and the time I spent with people after the service when we ate snacks and chatted in the downstairs activity room. What made me happier, was that after I got back home in the evening, my heart would feel calm and satisfied. I even worked more efficiently.
A Change of Mind
Although I liked the church environment, I still didn’t understand why Westerners would believe in the existence of God. I am a person who likes to get to the bottom of things that make me curious. In order to get to the bottom of this, I went to the Edinburgh Chinese Evangelical Church. I attended their fellowships, group discussions, and I borrowed a copy of the Bible, as well as books on science and faith. As time went by, around the end of 2001, I found my thinking had gradually changed a lot. I even planned to go with some friends to the Chinese Evangelical Winter Camp held in Sheffield.
Looking back on the journey of how I became a Christian, it seems to have been a subtle and natural process. It was not a sudden change on a certain day. I will give some examples below, which may show how some changes happened.
I remember that shortly after I arrived in England in 2001, my college classmate Lijun Zhang, who went abroad (to America) a year earlier than me, sent me an email saying that she had been baptized. I was quite sad when I saw the email. I thought she had become like a nun with no excitement in life and was trapped by old thinking. I remember I even wrote something in memory of my young, beautiful, lively, and lovely friend.
I also remember that after work, I would wander about in the cold streets of Edinburgh, gazing at the stars, wondering in my heart, “Who am I? Why am I here? What does my future hold? What is the highest level of happiness I can hope for and reach?” Although married, I was so far away from my husband. I felt like a lonely sailboat, unwillingly drifting about. I couldn’t see my harbor, and I had no idea where I could anchor my heart!
I remember, one day in the late fall, I went with a doctoral candidate in my school to watch a gospel performance in Glasgow. The doctoral candidate was Taiwanese and a devout Christian. I asked him if he really believed in eternal life. He said that of course he believed. He believed that he would be resurrected after death, and that he would be in heaven—a most wonderful place. I still remember the light in his eyes when he said this. It was the light of hope and expectation and the peace and joy that radiates from the heart of a true believer. I looked at him with admiration, but at the same time, I thought with regret, “Too bad it is not true, otherwise it would really be wonderful.” I asked him many questions about eternal life. Although I still didn’t believe, he said to me with certainty, “You are a seeker for truth, and I believe that you will find it.”
Yes, the Bible says, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). For anyone who is willing to seek truth, truth will indeed be found. I borrowed magazines and books from my friends and the church; books such as Science and Faith and Overseas Campus. I started to reexamine the education that I had accepted during my first 30 years of life. In this way, I gradually stepped out of my narrow and self-righteous worldview.
. . .
Therefore, one Sunday night in the late fall of 2001, I knelt in front of my bed, under the dim light, and I said a prayer to God. I confessed that I was a sinner, and that I couldn’t rely on myself to get rid of the selfishness, jealousy, greed, and pride in my old nature. (I also had many other problems, which were shown to me by the Holy Spirit after I came to the Lord.) I also told him that I was willing to follow him and let him lead my way.
This is an excerpt from an English translation of the original testimony in Chinese which is available for download. The original Chinese testimony is found on pages 199–205 of《无问西东 因为有你》(The Reason for You II: Tsinghua Testimonies) available from ReFrame Ministries.
Read the full English testimony to find out more about God’s guidance and provision in Xiaoming’s life.
More about the Author
Xiaoming Mao (pen name) was born in Shandong in 1971. She graduated from Tsinghua University in 1999. She has her bachelor, master’s, and doctorate degrees in hydraulic engineering. She went to the University of Edinburgh to do postdoctoral research in 2001. In 2006, she returned to China to teach at China Agricultural University. In her spare time, she serves in inter-church fellowship services in surrounding communities. She loves music, travel, and food.
Image credit: Tsinghua University by Mitch Altman via Flickr.
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