Rural conversion stories

Mrs Ding, 55 year old retired worker and volunteer in the church

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

I was born here and have always lived here. My mother became a Christian in the 1950s. My grandmother led my mother to believe in God and my mother in turn asked me to become a Christian. They kept their faith going during the Cultural Revolution even when things were really bad. They prayed and hoped that the churches would be able to open again and now they are open. They were not able to go to church at that time but they would pray secretly together. It is the faith of such people that have helped the church grow.

After the churches first re-opened my son was ill with a disease affecting his feet, so my mother asked me to go to church with my grandmother so that we could pray for him. There were a lot of people in the church and a minister was there. It was quite unusual in those days to have a minister present because there were so few of them, but because he was there we prayed for healing. Slowly over time he did get better.

The church has changed a lot since those early days. There are many more believers now and, even though many Christians left their hometown to try and find work, some are coming back. Their children want to go to college, and parents need to help them. They come to church to pray for them and to try and bring their concerns to God. We all know that we can not do anything without Godís will or help.

I go to church and my mother is regularly at church, on Sundays and during the week. She leads a small group which organises things in the church. Sometimes I find things are so busy and I am tempted not to go to church, but my mum is adamant that I come every week. She tells me not to do my housework at the weekend. I used to always do the laundry at the weekend but she tells me that I need to rearrange things and make it a priority to go to church with her.

She can remember clearly what it was like to not be able to go to church. So for her meeting together with other Christians is really, really important, not just as a time to praise God Ė we can do that at any time Ė but to show the government officials and other people in society that we still think that this is an important thing to do. More important than doing our washing and other responsibilities!

During the cultural revolution they used to say that we would grow out of our faith, or that money or other things would tempt us away. Many people still think that. My mother believes that we need to go to church to praise God and to show them that nothing else is as important. I know what she is saying. I go with her because I know that, if she and others had not been faithful during the Cultural Revolution, then we would not have a church today. I know that going to church and being part of a community of faith is important. It is how I and many others came to faith.

How has being a Christian changed your life?

Before I was a Christian, I always getting angry about little things. Now it is different. My husband doesnít pray and doesnít make much money, so I pray for him. Many people pray for him because he could not control himself with drinking. When he drinks he always yells at me and our son. Before, I would quarrel with him about his drinking. My son and daughter-in-law rarely come by our home because of his constant shouting and swearing. He is 57 and when he is 60 he will be able to retire and will get his pension. He cannot change. He has come to church, he accepts Jesus but he refuses to pray. The minister comes to my house and I pass by the church almost every day.

We are poor and many people in this area have lost their jobs. There are few business opportunities. All the work units are in a similar position. I was made redundant in 1996. People donít have jobs but they still have to find a way to live. Now even the young cannot find work and many of them are gambling. They have nothing and hope that they can win something for their families. But instead they lose even what little they have and their situation is desperate.

We donít go to the temple but many others go for their fortune. Here only a tiny proportion of the population are Christian. Other people go to the temple to pray for peace. But they donít realise that true peace comes from God. God gives peace and happiness.

How are you involved in the church?

At first I would go to Sunday services and sometimes go to prayer meetings, but I was not active like my mother. I thought I had too much to do and would try and earn money, but my husband squandered it. I was wasting my time and money. Now I help out at the church on a daily basis. I donít earn anything but I am doing something worthwhile. The church is really like a family to me. It is like a second home. I am at peace here and so want to spend my time here.

What reasons do you think there are for the growth?

Because of people like my mother who prayed persistently during the Cultural Revolution. They were persecuted and carried the Cross of Christ for many years but they never gave up. God is blessing China now because of those people. Also we are poor, and so God loves us and is answering our prayers.

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

There have been so many changes. The village used to be quite busy but now many people go outside for work. It is still a nice place to live though. The air is clean and we have good land which is easy to farm. Our tea and oranges are famous. But there is less community spirit than there used to be. We used to know everyone, now people come and go. You do not know if you have not seen someone because they are sick or because they have gone away for work.

Has this affected peopleís beliefs?

Of course, everything is hard now, even places at school and college are hard to come by. People need money for everything and so good health and luck are important. People go to fortune tellers, temples and the church to find help. But the others are a waste of money and cheat you. Peace only comes from God. The church is the place where people can be helped.

 

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