JIANGXI, China — 41-year-old lay preacher Tang Xiaoli lives in a small town in Jinxi county. She has a kind smile and cheerful look. But anyone who knew her before her first husband passed away knows how much she has changed since becoming a Christian.
Xiaoli used to be a very pessimistic lady. She would often feel sad and consider life meaningless. She married but felt no love. And when her husband died of illness in 2003, she felt as if her whole world had collapsed.
When Xiaoli was a child, she attended church with her mother but later lost interest. When her mother noticed that she looked sad, she told Xiaoli that God is a God of truth, but Xiaoli refused to listen. She thought to herself: “If God exists, why did he not listen to my prayer and save my husband?” Xiaoli considered herself a good person, and found it hard to comprehend that so many bad things seemed to happen to her.
It was during these challenging times that a leader from church persuaded her to attend a two-week training programme held in Fuzhou city. Looking back, Xiaoli is thankful that she was desperate enough to want to know more about God. She agreed to go. What happened next took her by surprise. “After only attending a few classes, the grey clouds in me started to dissipate. My heart began to be filled with sunshine and joy. I admired and even dreamt of becoming like my teacher who comforts people in need.”
More thoughts came to her during the training programme as the Lord moved her. “In prayer, I thought of the phrase ‘living sacrifice’, so I told God I would like to dedicate myself to be a living sacrifice. Honestly, I did not fully understand its meaning, but I could not stop crying, and realised that if God could love such a bad person like me, I must repent for my disobedience so I could be that living sacrifice.”
Amazingly after prayer, she felt more relaxed and experienced the presence of God. Shortly after, Xiaoli was so thirsty for God that she enrolled in another training programme in Fuzhou. “After the training programme, I was asked to consider applying for Bible school. However, I hesitated because of financial constraints. I had stopped work when my husband was ill so I could care for him”
But God proved to be the Jehovah Jireh (God is the Provider) and He had already prepared for Xiaoli. When the church found out her worries, they not only encouraged her to enrol into the Bible School, but also raised sufficient resources to provide all the tuition, living expenses and allowance.
In addition to all financial provision, God also prepared a classmate at the Bible School who would be her future husband! The couple got married after their graduation in 2007 and have a lovely son and daughter studying in primary school.
At present, Xiaoli serves God in the rural church as a lay preacher, her monthly income is only 1000 RMB (US145). Due to the needs of the church, her husband began to also serve as a full-time lay worker in 2013. With little to spare, Xiaoli admits that they worry most for their children’s health, because medication is getting increasingly expensive.
When Xiaoli received some grants from United Bible Societies, she was so thankful for this donation. “What a relief that was for me! This act of love has inspired me to serve God more diligently,” Xiaoli beamed as she said this.
“Thank you, my dear brothers and sisters, for loving us rural preachers. You have encouraged me tremendously and have inspired me, in turn to love others in need. We thank God and we also thank you.”
Interview by: Lydia Zhang
Written by: Lydia Zhang and Jenise Lee
2022 © United Bible Societies China Partnership