My favorite verse in the Bible is found in Psalm 131:2, “Instead I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.” (GNT) I like to use this Psalm to help me in my prayers. In His presence, I come before Him as His child, dedicated to Him and trusting Him.
The Bible has already started its work in me since I was a child. My forefathers were all Catholics, so my family has a strong Catholic background. As far as I can remember, when I was a child, my parents had been extremely concerned about my spiritual growth. My maternal grandfather and my father would often tell me stories from the Old Testament (at that time my family only had the Old Testament, “OT in Broad Outline”). As these stories were told in a creative manner, as a young child I had been very captivated by them. Even until today, I had vivid memories of these stories being told to me — stories of Joseph in Egypt, the calling of Abraham and the testing of his faith, Lot and his family leaving Sodom…etc.
Each time we finished reading the stories, my maternal grandfather and father would urge me to trust and depend on God with all my heart. They reminded me that particularly in times of danger, difficulties and suffering, I need to surrender myself to the Lord. In their own words, they said: “all may seem impossible from our perspective; but with God, everything is possible. His will and purposes always prevail. It may take us a while to understand His will and purposes, but in the process our role is really to depend on Him wholeheartedly.”
Besides teaching me Bible stories, my grandfather and father also taught me how to recite the Lord’s Prayer and other set prayers. Thus, this was their advice to me: let the Word of God work in my heart through reading the Bible and learn to speak with Him through such prayers.
Before and After Reform
Prior to the Open Door Policy, there were no Catholic priests or nuns in my hometown and the local government did not allow a church to be built. Church members had to come to my house to pray and worship God every Sunday night. At that time, to us kids, Sunday nights were the happiest and most memorable nights. It was not because we truly understand the meaning of worshiping God, what we enjoyed were the coming together and listening to Bible stories, singing of songs and playing of games.
Changes occurred during Post-Reform times. Catholic priests and nuns would come to my hometown and stay with my family since there was still no proper church building. They would visit the poor, the sick and the elderly daily, sharing the Good News, teaching the Bible and singing praises.
Church members’ hearts and minds which had been like “a dry and weary land where there is no water”, were now changed by “the living water”. They slowly learned how to be in His Presence. From the life of the Catholic priests and nuns, I saw God’s love and His Gentleness. When they shared with me about His Love and how much He cares for us, I am reminded of my maternal grandfather and father and their advice to me. Subsequently, I decided to enter a convent and serve God with total devotion.
More emphasis on Bible
The previous generation of church members do not emphasize on reading the Bible. They were more focused on the recitation of guided prayers. However in the recent 10 years, China Churches are stressing more on the importance of the Bible. They started Bible study classes and small Bible discussion groups. Since then, Church members gradually began to take the Bible as their life-source. Each time, before or after the Mass, the Catholic priest will lead the church members in reading the Bible chapter by chapter. Last year was the Year of St Paul all churches would focus on reading the epistles.
Although it is true that Christianity in China is becoming more “popular”, the majority of the Chinese do not believe in Christ. Some non-believers read the Bible out of interest; others treat it as a literature classic. We do see some encouraging trends recently: more and more university students are beginning to develop an interest in the Bible. I believe the Lord will use all ways and methods to pursue and guide them.
Written by Pamela Choo
Translated from a written testimony by Sister Clare Ren
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership