This is the tenth 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.”
Meet God at the Mountain Top!
By Tiepeng Lv (Tsinghua University, BS in Automotive Engineering, 1990）
Everyone meets God at a special time. But I hope you are not like me—I met God at the top of a mountain.
The Return of the Prodigal Son
My name is Tiepeng Lv. People call me “Old Tie.” I was born at a tree farm at the foot of Changbai Mountain. Both of my parents attended private schools and were considered well-educated people. Because of this, they both had great expectations for me.
I grew up in a world of ice and snow and I loved nature.
When I was young, I hung out with the local gangs, and I had terrible grades at school. Once my homeroom teacher publicly shamed me by pointing straight at me, and saying, “If you continue this way, it will take a miracle for you to go to college!”
Not long after that, a classmate and I stole some alcohol from the shop on campus. After we got drunk, we went to class. The senior administrator of the school found out and beat me. I was frightened and ran away from home for the first time. I went to a county town to hang out with my cousins. We went into the mountains and worked on the country road. We also picked mushrooms and caught crawfish. It was such a fun time. However, within a few days, my mom caught me. The following fall semester I had to retake all my eighth-grade courses.
However, I still didn’t learn my lesson. My first day back in school, I got in trouble. My new homeroom teacher slapped me in the face and that woke me up. I finally settled my heart and started to study.
To my surprise, the exercises which I had found difficult to do in the past now became easy. Soon my abilities started to show, and I participated in all kinds of math, physics, and chemistry competitions held by the schools in that northeast forest region. I won a lot of awards in those competitions.
When I started high school, my scores ranked me just below 90 of my classmates. At that time, even the highest score of our school didn’t reach the admission score of the key universities in our provincial capital. Despite this, my high school teachers were very committed and did whatever they could to help their students.
So even though educational resources were scarce in our forest region, after three years of perseverance and hard work, I entered Tsinghua University.
The Pressures of Tsinghua
Every student at Tsinghua felt intense peer pressure. They came to Tsinghua as one of the top students in their own high schools. But here at Tsinghua, only one person could achieve first place. Many students felt the same pressure. A few even chose extreme ways to escape the pressure. I felt the same way. It was not fun to drop from the very top to the bottom.
In the fall of 1990, I visited Peking University campus with my classmates and saw a mountaineering association recruiting event. I decided to try this challenging sport. Towards the end of that year, several upperclassmen and I started the Tsinghua Mountaineering Club (THMC) and began winter training.
. . .
During my time at Tsinghua, the few times I tried mountaineering were unsuccessful. Not once did I reach the mountain top. I started to doubt whether I was suited for mountaineering. Beside mountaineering, I also joined the gymnastic club and the choir at school. Being busy with extracurricular activities helped ease some of the pressure, but my academic performance became worse and worse.
When I graduated, I failed three courses, and I had to retake the exams to get passing grades. Had I failed one more course, I would not have been able to graduate.
A Decade with Nothing
When I graduated in 1995, I successfully started my career at a US-funded auto parts company—thanks to my good oral English, which was the result of hanging out with international students who also loved mountaineering. Although I was not a good student, I was quick to adapt and learn new things at work. It didn’t take long for me to understand industrial sales. And since I was willing to put effort into thinking and doing research, I quickly learned the procurement process, technical requirements, and key decision makers of the major auto companies at the time.
However, without “connections,” how could I get into the super competitive OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) market? I always hated groveling before others, so I left my work in the automobile industry and entered the marketing industry, which I had wanted to get into for a long time. I became the China marketing manager of European Mead Johnson Vitamin Effervescent Tablets. However, unexpectedly, a few years later, the company changed its strategy and moved from Beijing to Guangzhou. The person in charge was replaced by a Vietnamese boss, whose management style was much different. Therefore, I decided to leave and start my own business.
Like most entrepreneurs, after I spent a lot of time, money, and energy, and dreamt a lot of dreams, my business reached a bottleneck. The enthusiasm and passion I had at the beginning were destroyed by reality. Had I continued, I would have faced fierce competition in the industry and decreasing prices and profits. I was both physically and mentally stressed. My relationships with friends were also under a lot of pressure. The loss was immeasurable, and I decided to leave everything and pulled myself out of that business.
During this time, I was completely lost. I had no idea where to go next.
. . .
For about three years, I frequently visited Buddhist temples, Taoist temples, and Christian churches, hoping to find a reliable faith.
. . .
The only things worth mentioning during these ten years are the small achievements I made in mountaineering. Because I was one of the first people who started mountaineering in China, I received the China Mountaineering Association’s No. 00001 coach and No. 00001 referee certificate.
Around 2000, I participated in several national rock-climbing championships and ranked among the top ten. I was sponsored by an Australian outdoor brand named “Sea to Summit,” which was represented in China by a friend of mine. I also coached some outdoor instructors around the country. That’s all I could boast about.
Gale-Force Winds on Yuzhu Peak
At the end of April 2005, before closing the company and leaving Guangzhou, I watched the movie The Passion of Christ. When God’s tears flowed onto the ground, I couldn’t help but tear up as well. At that time, I had been attending church for a few months, had restarted reading the Bible, and I attended family gatherings regularly. But I hadn’t believed in the Lord yet, and I didn’t believe that there really was a God in this world, because I couldn’t see him and couldn’t touch him.
Every year, Qinghai Mountaineering Association holds a mountaineering festival on Mount Yuzhu. During the May holiday of 2005, at the invitation of Weidong Li the vice-chairman of Qinghai Climbing Association, I packed my bags and headed west. In my backpack, I put a Bible and a copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream.” On the train to Qinghai, I read “I Have a Dream” carefully, but I still couldn’t figure out my dream, and I was not sure where to go in my life. . . .
Just like in 1992, soon after I arrived at the base camp on the southern slope of Mount Yuzhu, I began to have altitude sickness, which lasted for four or five days. I couldn’t sleep and threw up everything I ate. Later, I descended to Golmud, rested for a night, and recovered a bit.
On May 3, I returned to the base camp. There I met my old partner, Yun Zhou. We had a good talk and decided to go straight to the top and descend immediately after.
This is an excerpt from an English translation of the original Chinese testimony and is available for download. The original Chinese testimony is found on pages 172–179 of《无问西东 因为有你》(The Reason for You II: Tsinghua Testimonies) available from ReFrame Ministries.
Tiepeng Lv met God in a powerful way on that mountain and went on to serve God in Christian education. Read the full English testimony to learn more of his story.
More about the Author
Tiepeng Lv received his bachelor’s degree from the automotive department at Tsinghua University (Class of 1990, graduated in 1995). He worked for European and American companies such as United Signal Corporation, Amp Corporation, and the Financial Times. He came to the Lord in 2005.
He has served at the Cedar Leadership Institute and the American Center for International Leadership and studied at Columbia International University, pursuing his master’s degree in Christian Education. His calling is to advance Christian education in China.
Image credit: Yoshi Canopus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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