This Saturday, a girl from my youth group shared a really powerful testimony about God’s promises. She talked about a lot of things, but the most (currently) relevant one for me was God’s promise to save her parents. It was yet another strong reminder for me to pray for my family, just when I was on the brink of wringing my hands in despair, or simply feeling numbed by the effort that doesn’t seem to have visible continuous results. God always knows when I need a little push in the right direction, and His timing is perfect. Her testimony reminded me of God’s promise to me, spelt out specifically in January with the words, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
I was really encouraged to persevere in praying for my sister and the relationships within my family, but God didn’t stop there. I’ve been spending a whole lot of time with my extended family all through June, seeing relatives I haven’t seen in 7-8 years in California, and more recently hanging out with two pairs of my aunts and uncles here in Shanghai. I am struck each day by how much I really love them, and on Saturday I was hit by the unhappy realization that almost none of them know Jesus. Sure, they know of him, and as my mother told me, they have watched our family over the years as a living testament to God’s grace and goodness in so many ways–but that’s not enough! It’s not enough, I realized, to just accept the fact that God has probably shown them a lot of himself through his presence in my family–we have to pray for them! How many times has the Lord reminded me that persevering in prayer for my loved ones is both important and effective? So I realized all of a sudden, my household concerns more than just these immediate six (and surely this can be extended eventually to all of my acquaintance and humanity but for now I believe God just wants me to push this a little bit further, out to my extended family)! I prayed then for my sister, and then for every member of my extended family on my Dad’s side that I could think of by name.
I was surprised (though I wouldn’t have been, if I’d remembered the power of prayer and a God who hears them) by a couple of developments that same night, and the following night: My Aunt L. picked us up for dinner on Saturday night, along with a couple (her friends) that she wanted to say goodbye to on their last night in Shanghai. We didn’t know them personally (except we knew they had a daughter who goes to my old high school now) so in the car we made the usual small talk, which led to the mom exclaiming, “Wow, you go to Pton! That’s amazing, how did you do it?” Usually I evade these kinds of remarks by laughing in a semi-embarrassed manner and mumbling something like “it’s nothing, really, I don’t know…” unless I know that they are my parents’ church friends who will not bat an eye at a loud proclamation of God’s glory in all our successes. However, for some reason I decided this time, hey, I know I should give the glory to God–so what if these people are confused by what I say? What do I really have to lose? (I guess I reasoned in that split-second that to say something honest would be a small victory at least in my own heart, in this constant battle of mine with inner pride and outer shame) So I laughed and said, “Actually, it’s all by God’s grace, I have no idea how I would’ve gotten into Pton otherwise!”
To my surprise, the couple heartily agreed, “Oh yes, of course, it’s all by God’s grace! Indeed, indeed, etc.!” I was relieved that they understood, and then slightly suspicious that they might actually be Christians as well, to have reacted in such a familiar way. I never found out if that was indeed the case, but what followed exceeded my expectations still further: my Dad somehow took the opportunity to direct the conversation to briefly detail all our family’s struggles in the last 8-10 years and how God’s grace has supported us financially, spiritually, and emotionally… and all the while the couple kept up their hearty agreement! I’m sure my Aunt L was listening as well, and reminded of the things that she already knew about my family… but put in such a light as I’m not sure she’s heard before. Praise the Lord!
I was pretty happy with that little victory, but still didn’t entirely get the point, so I guess He decided to make it a little more obvious. The next night, we went to dinner at my Aunt M.’s house, with Aunt L. and another couple (again just her friends, complete strangers to us this time) who were visiting from Hong Kong. Most of the conversation took place in Cantonese, so I just satisfied myself with taking the opportunity to practice my listening skills… but seeing as those aren’t too developed yet, I zoned out for a bit, until suddenly I realized that the friend-uncle-guest was giving a testimony about how he became a Christian.
I perked up immediately and joined in the conversation, to hear in amazement his story of how he had known about Jesus, but didn’t really believe, until he had a near-death experience in a kidney-related surgery. He said that it was the first time he’d ever truly experienced fear, so he prayed quickly before he went unconscious that Jesus would enter his body and save him (“I’d heard that Jesus is immune to death, so I figured, hey, if I ask him to come into my body, that means I won’t be able to die either right? Haha, I didn’t know anything then, but I know now!”). Then he talked about how he died for what felt like an hour and had a sort of light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel vision and heard God’s voice speaking to him (“I’m not sure if it was Cantonese, or Chinese, or any language at all, I just heard it and understood”), saying, “Your time has not yet come. Go back.” And he did just that, remarking on a couple of other things he saw before he left, like a line of people waiting also to enter heaven (what a strange sight, he thought… I agree, but what do I know really), and came back to life with the surest conviction that God is REAL. He talked a bit more about how he later read other testimonies of people who had seen heaven and come back, and about how they matched up exactly with the things he had seen, but ultimately he kept coming back to the same conclusion: There really is a God! He’s real! He’s so real! I saw the light!
I think my heart was smiling wider than my face could express as I watched this old uncle speak those words with so much conviction to the whole table, especially as he turned to me specifically (I doubt he knew that my Dad and I are believers) and said (in Chinese), “Mei mei (little girl), you have to believe that God is real! And wherever you go, you don’t have to be afraid of anything, because 上帝一定会与你同在(God will be with you always)!” Amen to that. I could tell that my aunts and uncle were impressed by his story, and Aunt M. chimed in to mention a testimony she had read about a little boy who had seen heaven too.
I was so glad that I had decided to spend more time with my relatives this week, so filled with joy by the immediate nature of God’s grace and answers to my prayers, and so encouraged to keep praying for the fulfillment of His promises to me! Our God works in marvelous ways, beyond our expectation, beyond our comprehension.
Merci Seigneur, merci, merci, merci!