SINGAPORE — Mr Chen Dongfeng is a lecturer at the Center for International Education Exchange in Beijing Jiaotong University, teaching Literature and counseling students. He has been a Christian for 23 years. He tells a heartwarming story of how he found God through reading the Bible.
God Used My Love For Literature
My father was a military officer so I had no point of contact with religion at all. However, as a teenager, I enjoyed reading translations of Western literature. Mention of Biblical characters like David or Moses in some stories would be accompanied by footnotes referring to the Bible. I never knew what it was nor could I find it anywhere.
In 1987, the first privately owned bookshop in Beijing opened for business. Being a book lover, I went there every week. During one visit, I noticed a black book with red gilding lying on the counter. With such an elegant presentation, I was sure it was a good book and bought it without a second thought. It turned out to be the Bible I had been reading about since young. Although overjoyed with my acquisition, I did not read the contents immediately. For a long time, the Bible just sat on my shelf.
I began reading the Bible when I was pursuing my Masters degree in Classical Studies. My research topic was Mencius and his teachings. So during that period of my life, I would be reading the Bible in the morning and the writings of Mencius at night. A copy of these two ancient classics lay on either side of my bed. In my opinion, I was receiving nourishment from the best of Western and Eastern classical literature. However, I was approaching the Bible as a piece of literary work and so read it like a novel from cover to cover very quickly. The spiritual aspects of Christianity had not gripped me yet.
God Led Me Into Church
The turning point came later in my twenties during the Youth Day on 4 May 1990. I was at a friend’s home, drinking brandy and eating lamb, both of which I did not enjoy. Feeling tipsy and somewhat guilty for drinking, I left early. On the way home, I passed a church which was rather dilapidated. I often passed it but had never thought of entering it previously. That night, I decided to go in. I sat in the back pew, listening to an old pastor conduct a Bible study. From then on till 1996, I attended that Bible study group regularly. I cannot say exactly at which point I became a Christian. It was a gradual process that began the night I got slightly drunk.
From Literary Classic To God’s Presence With Me
By God’s grace, the Bible was my first contact with religion. The outcome may have been different if I had read the teachings of another faith. My love for the Bible stemmed from my love for literature. But it became more than just an academic passion after my conversion. It had become God’s presence with me. I can identify with the Psalmist’s sentiment in Psalm 23 when he described God’s companionship even through the darkest valley. Whether in good times or bad, reading the Bible brings me comfort. I have not had extraordinary supernatural experiences in my Christian walk thus far. But I know, even in the mundane routines of life, God is with me. Reading the Bible has given me an awareness of sin and a willingness to repent. This faith has made a big difference in my life and I am willing to continue seeking this life-changing God whom I found in the Bible.
Telling China’s People About Christ
There are many Chinese youths who love Literature. Like me, many of them can be led to develop an interest in the Bible through their love for reading. For example, I have conducted literature courses focusing on Biblical genres or comparing Chinese and Biblical stories. After being introduced to the Bible through such studies, students may choose to continue reading it if they are keen to explore further. Through that process, perhaps some may be led to Christ.
I have been a city dweller all my life so I can only speak about the spiritual needs of city folk. Modern city living has a unique set of challenges and dilemmas. Most Chinese intellectuals will look to Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism for answers since these are the traditional belief systems of our culture. But we know that in the Almighty God, there is love and grace, justice and mercy; all of which are needed in modern daily life. Should we not tell them about Him?
China is now more open and exposed to the outside world, but that does not mean Chinese have definitely learnt more about Christianity. I know a Chinese student who has lived in Singapore for eight years and has never once stepped into a church. I find that incredible because Singapore has so many churches and Christians. But for some reason, he just never considered the Christian faith, thus unknowingly missing out on an essential life choice. This is a reality we must reflect upon. I am sure there are many needs in poorer, more rural areas of China but people in the city need to hear about Jesus too. The United Bible Societies has the resources to make the Christian faith relevant and accessible to the modern Chinese. May these channels be employed fruitfully to bring more people to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Interviewed by: Angela Teo
Edited: Pamela Choo
Photo: Angela Teo
2014 © United Bible Societies China Partnership