This is a faith testimony of Rev Tang Weimin, Vice-President of China Christian Council and Director of Commission on Rural Church Ministry in China. Rev Tang is also Chairman of the Henan Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), where Henan Province is the province with the largest number of Christians in China.
My name is Tang Weimin. The meaning of “Weimin” is “to serve the people”. Just as Jesus says in Mark 10:45 (ESV) ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”, my duty as His servant is to serve His people.
I grew up in the 1970’s at the time of the Cultural Revolution in China, in the rural parts of the country. At that time there were no churches, no preachers and few believers in the villages. Although the Bible was not legally available in China at that time, the Spirit of God was actively at work. The Holy Spirit uses different ways to bring people to know God. I am one of the blessed ones brought to God by His Spirit through the only Christian family in my village.
Three Christians I owe my Faith Conversion to
There were three members in this Christian family, and all of them, father, mother and son, were physically disabled. The family was very poor and they rely on the use of walking sticks to get around. Against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, this family had to worship God in secret. They could not publically demonstrate their Christian faith but I knew that they always worshiped and sang hymns in their house.
During the Spring Festival, as with the Chinese tradition, families would hang red banners on both sides of their doors with ‘auspicious’ (or ‘lucky’) words such as ‘prosperity’, ‘wealth’, and ‘good health’. This Christian family embraced this tradition as a visible way to proclaim their Christian faith by hanging pictures of Jesus and the Cross on their wall. The father of this Christian family approached me as he knew that I liked to draw, to draw a picture of a cross.
Picture of a Cross and a Handwritten New Testament
I was only 13 years old at that time and was therefore flattered by this request. I drew a picture of a cross to the best of my ability and delivered the picture to the family. The family was very grateful with my picture. I remembered the father’s first words were: “Praise God!” Then I noticed a small book on their table; it was handwritten. I asked the father what book it was and he told me it was a copy of the New Testament (NT). He added, “We are illiterate; we cannot read. So if you like, you can take the book home to read.”
I finished reading the NT within a week. During the first night of reading, I read until 3 am. I was an avid reader of books and had read many famous Chinese Classics like the “Romance of the Three Kingdom. But the New Testament really attracted me. The most interesting verse for me was John 3:16 -“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)
When I returned the handwritten NT copy to the family after I had read it, the father asked me if I knew what the cross meant when I drew it the other day.
“When I drew the picture at that time, I did not know what the cross meant. After reading the New Testament, I know what it means now: it symbolizes the cross which Jesus died on for our sins,” I answered.
“Do you believe in Jesus?” He asked. I replied: “Yes, I believe but I don’t know how to pray.” The father of the family then replied, “Our family will pray for you. Let us kneel down and pray.” It really moved me to see this physically-challenged family put their walking stick aside and get down on their knees with great difficulty.
That was how I received Jesus Christ into my life. However at that time, I did not tell my family about my new-found faith. After I became a Christian, I cycled to the churches round the villages to help other Christians, many of whom were illiterates, read the Bible. Once someone spotted me cycling to a church and told my father. My father flew into a huge rage and scolded me while I bowed my head in reverence without saying a word about my faith. But I still continued to cycle to these churches to read the Bible to the Christians.
After 10 years of Prayer
From that day onwards, I prayed for my parents, trusting God for their salvation. For over one decade, I prayed for my parents constantly. When I graduated from theological seminary at the age of 23, my parents, younger brother and older sister celebrated my graduation together as fellow Christians. Never have I expected at 13 years old then that my parents would become staunch Christian believers – fervent in their worship of the Lord.
The Christian family who shared the faith with me later gave me their precious handwritten copy of the New Testament. I got my first complete Bible in 1982. Since I became a Christian, I have read the Bible more than 30 times over. Nevertheless that handwritten copy of the New Testament is still the most precious to me.
By Pamela Choo
From interview notes by Lindsay Reilly and Zhang Dandan
Interview conducted by Lindsay Reilly and interpreted by Zhang Dandan
For United Bible Societies China Partnership