Rev. Dr. Gao Ying, Vice Principal of the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary shares her testimony of faith.
I remembered the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; your worst enemies will be the members of your own family. Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples’ (Matthew 10:35- 38; GNT).
I come from a non-Christian family. The Cultural Revolution left many young Chinese clueless about religion. Christianity was regarded as pro-Westernization; needless to say anything from the West was regarded as non-beneficial for the Chinese people at that time. In spite of a lack of knowledge about the Christian God and since I had never attended any church service before, I believe that God must have poured out His special favor on me. My mind was always preoccupied with a growing curiosity in Christianity albeit unknowingly at that time.
When the Churches in Beijing were officially reopened in 1981, I attended my first church service at the age of 25. The sermon that day was on Jesus and his dialogue with Nicodemus. That preaching left a deep impression on me. Another aspect that deeply affected me was the faith of the church members. In those days when the church had just reopened, there were no young people in the church and many Christians were still living in fear of persecution. Those who dared to declare that they were Christians openly were very strong in their faith. Encouraged by this and the powerful preaching that day, I found myself going to church week after week. I have never stopped attending church since. I cannot recall the exact moment I accepted Christ into my life, but I know that when the church held its first baptism membership class, I was amongst the first to register for it.
The first baptism service was held on November 25. It was a typical cold winter’s day, but I chose to be baptized by immersion. The church has prepared a few fire pits for us to warm ourselves after coming out of the water. Despite the cold weather, I felt warm all over inside as I stepped out of the water to the nearby fire pits, with a sense of newness, cleansed by a Holy God.
It was after my baptism that I learnt that the Nanjing Theological Seminary was open for enrolment. “All the pastors are very old now. Who would continue the work of God after they are gone?” I thought. So it was then, that I prayed for the courage to apply for a place to study in the seminary knowing that I would face the inevitable parental objection.
Choosing God at a Cost
The objections came as expected when my parents found out that I had not only been baptized as a Christian but was planning to be a theological student. Though expected, the onslaught of parental persecution was so intense that my mother threatened to disown me as her daughter. My parents could not understand my faith: to them Christianity was counter revolutionary, backward and superstitious. Eventually the opposition became so bad that I had to leave home and surrender everything to God. Relationship continued to be very strained throughout my studies in Nanjing; my mother refused to support me in any way. When I returned home during the summer vacations, my mother refused to see me. I prayed continuously asking God to show mercy on my mother just as He had done for me. But the months of waiting turned into years.
It was not until the time I was in the United States for my further theological studies that the door to my mother’s heart was opened once again to me. God heard my prayers and brought about an unexpected reconciliation between my mother and me. Shortly after my reconciliation with my mother, she discovered that she had liver cancer. Six weeks later, my mother passed away. I was glad that my mother had the peace of reconciliation with me before she passed on. My father passed away when I had just started my studies in Nanjing; my mother died when I was about to finish my studies in the States. What I had gone through I realized that it was part of God’s will to prepare me to have more empathy and love in ministry later on.
Written by Pamela Choo, based on Chris Neo’s interview of Rev. Dr. Gao Ying,
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership