HUNAN, China – How does God pick His servants? What sort of person does He call into His service? From Scriptural examples, His choices often surprise. Today, God continues to work in like manner, raising candidates from the most dire of circumstances to manifest His power and glory through their human weakness. In the Church in China, one such example is Rev Chen Zhi, the President of Hunan Christian Council.
Faith in the Midst of Crisis
Reverend Chen Zhi’s amazing testimony began in 1990. He was then heading a department in the academic faculty of Hunan Bible Seminary. At a mere 30 years of age, he was an up and coming Christian leader, acknowledged by colleagues and students for his commitment, dedication and fervor in service. However, tragedy struck in the form of kidney failure, a condition so severe that by 1992, he had to be carried on his older brother’s back for dialysis every week. Treatment threatened to drain all his meager savings and even then, his condition continued to deteriorate. The only way to save his life was a kidney transplant.
Reverend Chen shared about his spiritual state during that period of crisis very candidly, “I had lost hope and my faith hit an all-time low. Despite my years of being a Christian, I did not look to God at all. That was my failure.” Fear-stricken and depressed, he was preparing himself for the worst. Thankfully, by divine intervention of the Holy Spirit, he felt prompted to seek God’s help. “After all, am I not a child of God? Why do I not seek His help? Has He not chosen me and called me into His service? Surely He will save me!” These newfound convictions spurred him to pray earnestly for deliverance from his ordeal and God honoured his faith with provision beyond his expectations.
Grace in Action
The first hurdle to cross was the exorbitant operation fee. As a young seminary lecturer, he earned RMB300 (approx. US$40) a month at that time. There was no way he could afford a kidney transplant. So, the church came together and raised RMB80,000 (approx. US$12,000) for the procedure. The next hurdle was finding a matching donor quickly. Some patients had to wait for years but he managed to find a match within 45 days! This to him was obviously God’s grace. After the operation, there were potential challenges he had to overcome such as his body rejecting the transplanted organ. A few fellow patients in Rev Chen’s ward had died because of organ rejection. But for him, his transplanted organ has been working reasonably well for the past 20 years! Once again, God had shown Himself to be trustworthy.
Strength in Weakness
It was in the post-transplant years that God flourished Rev Chen’s ministry and service. He was first appointed Senior Pastor to Bingzhou Church in Hunan, then became the President of Hunan Bible Seminary and finally elected to be President of the provincial Christian Council. Concurrent to juggling a very hectic work schedule, where he helped raise funds for about 300 church buildings to be erected in Hunan, he has had to get accustomed to a lifetime of popping a handful of immunosuppressant pills a few times a day. Despite his health condition, the unwavering passion and commitment of Rev Chen to the growth and maturing of the Church in Hunan can be seen in the partnership with UBS in several areas such as equipping seminary students and preachers as well as Bible distribution.
As if that were not difficult enough, in 2004, he had to undergo another major operation to remove about two-thirds of his stomach because of complications arising from the medication. In human eyes, Rev Chen’s life is just simply filled with pain and suffering, but from his sanctified point of view, he sees his experience as evidence of the sufficiency of God’s grace like what God said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Story: Angela Teo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo: Dag Smemo / UBS
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