HEBEI, China – Serving the poor and lonely in villages and nursing homes, Zhang Dan, 38, together with fellow believers, have helped over 400 people turn to Christ. Yet, if one were to meet her five years ago, the woman standing before them would not be the same one serving the Lord today.
Wracked with emotional pain and a weakened physical condition, Zhang Dan’s past life is one of tragic struggle, but also a story of redemption and growth.
Still a young believer at a Catholic church at the time, Zhang Dan was diagnosed with a gynaecological haemorrhagic fistula, also known as a blood leak. She was on medication constantly, and barely had the energy or strength to cope with most tasks. For the next 12 years, Zhang Dan would struggle with this illness, feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.
“In May of 2015, as I was about to fall asleep at night, I heard someone kick open the door of my bedroom. I couldn’t open my eyes, but I saw a vision of a devilish monster walking into the room, leading two men shackled in chains and handcuffs,” said Zhang Dan.
The monster beckoned to her, trying to bring her under its power, but Zhang Dan said she quickly made the sign of the Holy Cross and rebuked the devil. “I told it: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, leave this room! Get out!’ The devil disappeared at once,” she recalled.
The next morning, her husband told her that someone had died in their neighbourhood that very night. Zhang Dan knew immediately that she would have died as well if God had not saved her in that very moment, and she was filled with thanksgiving and gratitude. But she still felt frightened and confused, asking herself why God was letting so many terrible things happen to her. Her only daughter was killed in a car accident in 2006, something she still had not recovered from, and her marriage had been on the rocks for a while. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she cried out to the Lord to know His will, and as she turned to Scripture, the metaphor of the fig tree from the Gospel of Luke kept returning to her.
“It dawned on me — I was like the fig tree bearing no fruit, living in the grace of God ungratefully and continuing to sin against Him. But it was God who had given me a second life. When I realised this, I couldn’t stop myself from crying, and it was like my tears of remorse formed an endless stream,” said Zhang Dan.
Immediately, she phoned Father Wang at her church and told him that she wanted to volunteer full-time for three years. Working in the church was tough for Zhang Dan at first, and her body felt too weak to serve long-term.
“Yet for some reason, I felt as though there was a force pushing me. My life belonged to the Lord, and I wanted to spend every day living for him,” she said.
On 24 August that year, Father Wang and the elders in her church prayed for her, and she grasped onto Father Wang’s robes just as the woman in the New Testament did with Jesus, with absolute faith and confidence that the Lord would heal her. The bleeding stopped right then and there, and since then Zhang Dan has been free from her condition.
With her health returning, she continued to work in the church with renewed fervour. She asked God desperately to let her bear fruit, and in February the next year, a friend she invited to church was baptised. On the day of the baptism, the priest read out the parable of the fig tree, and Zhang Dan knew that it was God’s answer to her prayer.
“I was in tears in an instant. I knew it was God’s answer to my prayer, and I was so grateful to finally be able to bear fruit,” she said.
This was just the beginning for Zhang Dan’s journey with the Lord. Since then, Zhang Dan, together with other believers, have dedicated their time to sharing the love of God with others, leading hundreds to be baptised into the kingdom of God. Whenever she feels weak or finds herself in times of difficulty, she uses Romans 8:31-34[i] as an encouragement to remind herself of God’s love.
“May the Almighty Lord help and guide me to bear even more fruit for Him,” said Zhang Dan. Such is her greatest wish.
Interview by: Lydia Zhang
Written by: Lydia Zhang and Matthew Loh
2020 © United Bible Societies China Partnership
[i] Romans 8:31-34 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (ESV)