Chinese Church Voices

The Gift of a Special Needs Son

From the series Stories of Faith from Chinese University Alumni

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional 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 thirteenth post 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 post an excerpt from a testimony and include a link to the full testimony in downloadable form.

For more information about these testimonies, see “Capturing Chinese Stories.”

God Gave Me a “Special Child”

by Mingli Chen (Peking University, Department of Law, Class of 1996)

It was the afternoon of August 9, 2002. One minute, I was tapping away at my computer in my office in Beijing, working on what seemed to be an endless stream of legal documents, with my four-year-old daughter sitting quietly by my side. The next minute, I grabbed her little hand and drove towards Beijing Capital International Airport to catch a flight to JFK in New York City to begin my studies at New York University (NYU) School of Law a few days later. “Daddy, slow down!” my daughter shouted from the back seat as the car’s speedometer reached 81 miles per hour. By then, my wife, Yanfei Ran, had already left our house in Beijing with my luggage in the other car. She promised to meet me on the highway to the airport, and then the three of us would go together.

At that time, we were a career-oriented, happy, well-to-do, and worry-free family in Beijing. We graduated from Peking University Law School at the same time in 1999. I joined the Master of Laws program at Peking University Law School with the highest overall score; after that, I received a certificate in lawyer education from Harvard Law School. Before I was 30 years old, I had made a name for myself in Beijing and China’s law circles as a bilingual lawyer who had served the most Fortune 500 companies then. I had undertaken landmark litigation cases in China and had been a guest on CCTV several times. I participated in drafting the legal regulations of Zhongguancun (“China’s Silicon Valley”) in Beijing and asked to share the stage with the president of Peking University.

After graduating from college, Yanfei skillfully obtained a lawyer’s license against the odds of only one percent of the population being able to pass the Chinese bar. She first worked for the Beijing prosecutor’s office, then resigned from the government to become the legal director of a top luxury shopping mall in Beijing. Later on, she started her law firm. She was only in her twenties, and her talent and intelligence were enviable.

In the spring of 2003, the SARS virus was rampant in Beijing. Since she already had a US visa, Yanfei began considering going to the US to escape SARS. She bought a plane ticket and brought my daughter to join me in my expensive apartment at New York University. The whole process only took a day.

My whole world seemed within my control: if I wanted to go south, I went south; if I wanted to go north, I ran north. “Mingli” in Chinese sounds like “fame and fortune,” and it felt like I would get both; “Yanfei” means “to spread her wings and fly.”

After my daughter came to New York, she attended a Jewish private kindergarten. Yanfei was at home, surfing the internet, sending emails, and remotely directing the law firm’s business in Beijing. I worked day and night on my heavy legal studies. As for SARS in Beijing, it quickly became a “historical fact.” Life for the three of us was peaceful and relaxing until one day.

Is That What Happens When You Believe in God?

In mid-2003, Yanfei took our daughter to a nearby American church, Forest Hills Church in the Gardens, on a free weekend and made friends with the people there. In August, I joined them in going to church.

I never thought going to church would give us “great fortune!”

After several church services, I was full of passion and excitement. Looking back, it must have been the moving of the Holy Spirit that compelled me to ask Yanfei and my daughter to join me in being baptized on the evening of December 24, 2003, and taking on the name of Christian. This “great fortune” made me forget the glory, fame, wealth, and pleasure in Beijing, and I no longer wanted to return to Beijing as I had planned. At that time, the feeling in my heart was like Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

After believing in God, everything was so good, but I forgot who I was. Even with the pride of obtaining a degree from a prestigious American law school, I did not want to return to Beijing to work “for another 500 years.” But if I didn’t return to Beijing, what was next? I was confused and lost. My previous arrogance suddenly became an attitude of surrender before God.

My wife, Yanfei, was a fabulous leader in Beijing but couldn’t use her skills in New York. In February 2004, she got the news that she could join the Lord High Chancellor’s Training Scheme for Young Chinese Lawyers at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Yanfei quickly took the IELTS exam and flew to London for a year of training. My daughter and I stayed in New York.

Although we had not been believers for long, our mindset had radically changed. Previously, I had studied in New York, and Yanfei had worked hard in Beijing, and we didn’t care that we were apart. Now, we believed we needed to be together since we were husband and wife, but I refused to return to Beijing to make a lot of money. Objectively speaking, Yanfei had no choice but to go to London to create a situation where I gave in and took the middle road back to Beijing.

Is that really what happens when you believe in God?

They say that God is loving, so why did he let me go through the most arduous time of my life for more than a year after that? Did God know how I felt that year when I would put my daughter on my back and take her to school on my bicycle? God can number every hair on someone’s head, but did God count how many tears I shed? Why did God allow Yanfei and I to spend more than a year in “international” disputes, misunderstandings, and constant “heated discussions”?

The Pain and Joy of Labor

On June 23, 2005, Yanfei completed her practicum in the UK and Hong Kong and again “returned” to New York. We were reunited again.

When my daughter saw her mom again, she was inseparable from Yanfei. She saw many families with multiple children, so she often asked, “Mom, why does everyone else have younger siblings but not me?”

Perhaps it was my daughter’s prodding, or Yanfei needed to rest her wings, but she and I were ready to have another child. Yanfei often prayed imperatively to God for a son.

Our baby was born in mid-2006, and we named him Samuel. Indeed, God’s timing is perfect. Yanfei asked for a boy, and as if God answered her prayers effortlessly, she was pregnant with a boy. However, the pregnancy and what happened for seven or eight years following Samuel’s birth caused Yanfei’s faith to waver; for a time, she could not see the meaning of life, and God seemed to hide his face from Yanfei!

At a prenatal appointment early in Yanfei’s pregnancy, the doctor discovered that the fetus had enlarged kidneys and hydronephrosis. He suspected something was wrong with the baby and suggested an amniocentesis, saying that if the test confirmed there was a problem, we could have an abortion. Temporarily, we struggled at home, considering the situation logically, weighing the pros and cons, and praying. Finally, Yanfei said, “Since this is the child we asked God for, even if the test shows that there is something wrong, how could we as believers abort this child?”

Yanfei went to the doctor alone after that. When the doctor asked for a signature stating that we voluntarily waived the amniocentesis and that the doctor was not liable even if there were complications with the child in the future, every word in those disclaimers felt weighty.

Each checkup from then on was a challenge for Yanfei. While watching other expectant moms joyfully touch their swollen bellies in anticipation of childbirth, Yanfei had mixed feelings about waiting for her delivery.

Since we are all descendants of Abraham and God wants Abraham’s descendants to be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the beach, why was Yanfei’s pregnancy more painful than others? Was God joking, or was this some type of cruel prank?

The night before the birth, we asked someone else to take care of our daughter. We arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan at 7 pm with several bags and “carrying” the baby. They asked us to rest in the waiting room and call right away if anything unusual happened. The Bible we brought became a way to pass the time and find comfort. Yanfei and I sought God in prayer, studied the Bible, and wrote down many possible names before we finally decided the baby would be named “Samuel.”

At 3:59 am, Samuel was born! However, there was no sound of a newborn crying after the birth. He was not cute since water and blood covered his body. Instead of rosy cheeks, he had a troubled expression. His body was unattractive since his belly was so swollen.

While watching Samuel’s birth, I wondered if Yanfei could see very well. My heart was heavy with shock, sadness, and confusion. Even after all the warnings from the doctor, I was still surprised at Samuel’s birth.

But God works in mysterious ways. My sadness was gone in less than a second; my heart swelled with holiness, pride, joy, acceptance, and patience. I do not know if it was the Holy Spirit who put the following words in my heart, but in the direction of where Samuel was lying I said silently, “Son, no matter what happens to you in the future, Daddy will not let you suffer or ever abandon you. Daddy will take care of you for the rest of your life!”

Watch a short video on YouTube with Mingli and Yanfei talking about their special son, Samuel.

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 124–136 of 《从未名湖到生命泉(二):百名北大学子的信仰之旅》Peking University Testimonies II available from ReFrame Ministries.

Mingli Chen and his wife, Yanfei Ran, wrestled with the challenges of raising their special needs son Samuel. Over time, they came to see how God was softening their hearts and drawing them closer to him through Samuel. Read the rest of this compelling testimony in the PDF below.

More about the Author

Mingli Chen, born in Hebei, China, received his master’s degree in law from Peking University, Department of Law (1996-1999) and now lives in New York, USA. He was baptized on Christmas Eve 2003 at Forest Hills Church in the Gardens in Queens, New York, with his wife, Yanfei Ran. He is currently serving at the Harvest Church of New York.

His favorite scripture is: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

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ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

Written, translated, or edited by members of the ChinaSource staff.          View Full Bio

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