Rural conversion stories

Mr Jiang, 47 year old worker and evangelist

When did you become a Christian and how did it happen?

I have recently come back from the city. I was working there in a number of different short term jobs. I did painting and decorating and construction. Anything that I could get a days work for I would do. Sometimes I would find work for a few weeks at a time. That was best but some of the companies were bad. They required you to give them a deposit and then at the end of the job they not only donít pay you your money back but they also donít pay your wages. It is terrible. Someone had warned me but I thought that they were after my job and so I ignored them. I learnt the hard way.

I did not find it easy in the city. On top of everything I really missed home and knew that there were so many people dependant on me. If I did not get work I could not eat, but also I would have very little to send home at the end of the month. There was a lot of pressure.

Things had been so much easier here in the past. I had worked at the large paper mill. The pay was not good and the hours were long but there was a real community feel and we all felt safe. Those days are long gone.

When I lost my job I think that is when I started to think about life and what it meant. I had just existed before, going from one day to the next, not really thinking much about things. But now life is suddenly very different. It is the first time that I have had to fend for myself and have others dependant on me.

I made some friends in the city but I was lonely. I missed my old comrades and family. My wife is illiterate and we had no telephone at home and so it was hard to keep in touch. There is one retired teacher back home who makes money from writing and reading letters to people and so we would use him as an intermediary but it is hard to write what is on your heart to someone you love when you know someone else has to read it first!

Sometimes I got lonely, and after some time away from home and after a terrible week, I would sometimes visit prostitutes. I would drink and these things would comfort me and make me forget. It was like I was a different person. Some of the sites I worked on were dangerous and accidents were frequent. I did not want to think about it too much.

One day I bumped into an old hometown friend. We agreed to meet up again later in the week and the other man shared how he had become a Christian and had been supported by the local church. He invited me to go to a meeting. To be honest I wasnít interested in religion but I did want to see my old hometown friend again. When I attended I got free food and that encouraged me to go back again.

To my surprise I found that I enjoyed the evenings and that it was more than just something to fill my time with. Other distractions left me feeling empty. These meetings left me wanting to think more and to be with people, not stay on my own. I felt convinced that my life had taken a turn for the worse and knew there were things I had done that I needed to stop and so I prayed to God for forgiveness. That moment changed things and I realised that some things had to change.

After about 10 months, I was home for Spring Festival when the local church asked me to come back and to work for them. It would mean that I had to stop my dreams of making money but I realised that with God in my life money and other pleasures meant much less to me. I felt that God had set me free and that this was his will, an opportunity to be at home with my family and to serve Him. Being away from home was not good. My son was misbehaving and my wife and I were like strangers. We loved each other but being apart was so hard to communicate. I was open to her about everything that had happened and told her that I felt God was calling me back home to be with her. She was hurt but was forgiving and so we decided that I would stay.

When I said yes to working for the church, a local Christian I had not known before offered me some work in a small local business, which helped to support the family. The pay was not high, but life was more stable than in the city and I knew that this was God blessing my decision to come home and to serve the church, so I did it with all my heart. I now spend a lot of his time preaching and evangelising.

Many people are going to the city to work but I tell them to be careful it is not easy. They can be cheated out of their life savings. No-one can be trusted. And there are temptations which are not good. I tell people that, but I know that people have to go and so I pray for them and when they come back at Spring Festival and for the national day holiday we have special training programmes to help them.

It is good for them to be prepared and to share the gospel with others when they are in the city, like my friend did for me. He is still in the city now. God is blessing him there. People know that I have changed and that it is God who has changed me and that is a powerful witness. My relationship with my wife is good and I am enjoying life back in the village.

How are you involved in the church?

Evangelism and preaching. Work as volunteer lay worker, but also as evangelist which involves work in this church and in others.

What reasons do you think there are for the growth/decline?

Because God loves the Chinese. He has heard the prayers of the brothers and sisters and is answering them.

What changes have there been in local society in recent years?

All the changes I have talked about. The paper mill has closed down as have other businesses. The concrete factory is the only one still doing good business but it is hard to get a job there Ė and it is dirty work. There are new businesses in the towns but there are workers needed in the fields too. Farming and church work. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Has this affected peopleís beliefs?

People are looking for something but they are not sure what. They think it is love and go from person to person searching for it but it is not that kind of love they need. They need the love of God, that is what is missing in peoples lives.

 

hand holding a Chinese Bible
© Churches Together in Britain and Ireland 2010