YUNNAN, China– Li Xiaosan (left) belongs to the Dai ethnic minority group and lives in Dehongzhou, a region in Western Yunnan near the Burmese border. He has just received theological training at Dali Bible School and is looking forward to a ministry among gambling addicts. But life was not always so purposeful for Li.
Saved from a Life Crippled by Addiction
Before his conversion, he was hopelessly addicted to gambling. Wherever he went, he would search out the gambling dens and play a hand even if he was short on cash. “I had no qualms going to loan sharks and taking out high-interest loans just to feed my addiction,” Li admitted. This destructive habit jeopardized his family life and led his family members into a lot of hardship.
Just as they were at their wit’s end, God intervened. “My son fell ill and in desperation, we turned to the church for help. In the process, our whole family became Christians,” Li recounted. But that was when persecution came too. The customary practice in their village was that the word of the elders was law. Because Li’s village engaged in idol worship, the elders were against his conversion. However, despite the counsel of his leaders, Li persisted in his decision to believe in Christ, which led to him being ostracized by the entire clan. Li committed the crisis into God’s hands and prayed that He would help them to make peace with their clansmen. God heard their prayers and the persecution soon stopped when the villagers saw how God blessed Li and his family in various ways.
In the first two years of Li’s conversion, he was not completely rid of his gambling addiction. After church service on Sundays, he would seek opportunities to gamble. Then one day, while reading the Bible, he came across Matthew 7:21,24: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven….Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (ESV) These words convicted him to live a life befitting a Christian and he prayed earnestly for God’s help to overcome his addiction. After a period of fervent prayer, Li noticed that he had lost his appetite for gambling.
Journey into Bible School
Joyful at his own spiritual transformation, Li wanted to tell others around him about Jesus but found that he was unable to share the Good News coherently. That inadequacy spurred him to seek theological training against all odds. “I have two sons in studying University who are depending on me to see them through. Going to Bible School for someone like me is an impossible dream,” Li shared. But instead of giving up his aspirations, he prayed for God to make a way for him. God answered his prayer through the sponsorship of his school fees by the church. Encouraged, Li entered Dali Bible School for a three-year training course, trusting that God would supply all his financial needs.
But that was not the end of his struggles. When school began, Li realized that there were many Chinese characters he could no longer read since he had left school many years ago. “I am in my forties, so my memory is not as good as before. It was hard to keep pace with the class and to read my textbooks. I was so troubled, I lost sleep,” Li shared candidly. Again, he knew he had to turn to God for help. So, every morning he would pray: “God, You know my need, have pity on me!” Once again, God heeded Li’s cry for help and sent a third-year student to help him sort out his studies. With the help of that brother, Li passed his first year in Bible School.
In his second year, his wife objected to his studies because of his children’s university studies expenses. Li sought God’s help again and his church was moved to continue their financial support towards his studies. With that, he was able to enter his second year.
Today, Li continues to trust God to supply all his needs for his life and ministry as he enters into a ministry of helping gambling addicts overcome their addiction and find salvation in Jesus Christ.
Story by: Angela Teo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo: Yeo Tan Tan
2015 © United Bible Societies China Partnership