Chinese Church Voices

I Was Cornered but God Heard My Prayer

From the series Stories of Faith from Chinese University Alumni

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


This is the second 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 MinistriesThe Reason for You II: Tsinghua Testimonies and three volumes of Peking University Testimonies. In each case we will 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.”

I Was Cornered—What Happened Next?

Yongshang You (Peking University, Chinese Department, Class of 1983)

I Was Cornered

That night in June 1989 may have been the most important night in modern Chinese history. That night witnessed roaring tanks driving through Chang’An Avenue, howling bullets whistling over Tiananmen Square, young people lying in pools of blood, and others dying in the hospitals.

Under that pitch dark sky, anguished and angry people trembled with fear. Even more terrifying was the disappointment, helplessness, numbness, and hopelessness in everyone’s eyes. I was young and passionate, but all I could do during that long night was to call out in the darkness: “Oh God, where are you? Why did you let such tragedy fall upon our nation? Why do you allow our people to be so cruel? Where is tomorrow? Where is hope?”

Although I had always thought of myself as an atheist, I was deeply shaken that summer. All my past education and knowledge were now like “the emperor’s new clothes,” and I felt that I was a walking corpse—lying to myself and to others. All my past pursuits: an enviable position, satisfying income, good benefits, prizes, and medals were now all mere illusions mocking me.

My mother is a Christian. She has always preached the gospel to me, but not only did I refuse to listen, I also cited seemingly scientific arguments to refute it. My mother gave me a Bible, and I added it to the pile with my other books without opening a single page.

When I felt completely cornered, however, the gospel message that my mother shared with me echoed in my ears. The question of “is there really a God” began to puzzle me. Countless times I prayed in my heart that, if God did create this world, he would show himself to me and make me, an ignorant unbeliever, into a believer.

Before I heard any response from God, I was trapped further with more severe harassment. As the only graduate of Peking University in my work unit, I was questioned by all sorts of people in my unit. Evil men set up false charges against me, and I was taken aside to be questioned by a couple of political staff members. Several of them took turns questioning me, seeking a forced confession.

In order to escape greater danger, I chose to resign and prepared to apply for education in the US. Seeking education in the US was just a pretense for my escape. At that time, I was not able to bear the pressure anymore.

Two years prior to this, when there was great enthusiasm for going abroad, I had casually applied for and received an admission letter from Houston University. Now, this admission letter became my last chance. I had to try my luck at the only path I could think of—going abroad. But soon after, I was refused a visa by the US embassy. It seemed that my only way out was gone.

A Silent Oath

That winter was unusually cold. By the end of November, the pressures I faced made me desperate. I no longer had a job and I had forgotten much of the English I had learned in school. With nowhere else to turn, I decided to try my luck again and apply for a visa a second time. That night my heart was anxious. My future looked dim. Though I knew I should prepare my application, I had no idea where I should start. With great effort, I finally filled out the visa application form. All that was left to do was attach my diploma from Peking University and my admission letter from Houston University.

Looking at the three thin documents of my visa application, I was greatly discouraged. I could not include results for TOEFL or the GRE. Since I had not planned to go abroad in the first place, I had not taken any of those required exams. Also, I could not prove sufficient financial support and had received no scholarships. I sighed in my heart and thought that maybe it was better to just give up. But the thought of future threats and persecution pushed me to brace myself and follow through.

I sighed and reluctantly put the three documents in a big envelope and shoved the envelope into my pile of books. At that moment my hand brushed one of the books, a thick book—the Bible my mother had given me. It felt like an electric shock, and my heart started pounding. Driven by an unknown impulse, I thought: why not ask God? If God really exists, then this omnipotent God should be able to point me in the right direction.

I silently whispered in my heart, “God, if you really exist, and if you really are omnipotent, please tell me what my next step should be. Please guide me. Whether I should apply for the visa, whether I could obtain one, it all seems impossible for man to achieve. Maybe I can only rely on you now. Oh God, guide me with your word.”

I opened the Bible, and there I saw Psalm 23.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

After reading this psalm, I felt some of the clouds in my heart lift. I felt my extinguished confidence return. I made a silent vow in my heart: God, if you bring me through the valley of the shadow of death and prepare a table before me, I will follow you all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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 128–135 of《从未名湖到生命泉(一):百名北大学子的信仰之旅》(Peking University Testimonies I) available from ReFrame Ministries.

Read the full English testimony to find out how God answered Yongshang You’s prayer.

More about the Author

Yongshang You was born in Shanghai. He majored in Chinese at Peking University from 1983 to 1987. He became a believer in 1989 while in China and was baptized at the Houston Chinese Church in 1990.

His favorite Scripture is from Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. . . . Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Image credit: Jacob Bentzinger on Unsplash.
ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

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