HENAN, China – “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). These were the words Ren Xiaolei heard in a church in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province after leaving her home and parents at age 15.
She was in an unfamiliar and foreign place trying to eke out a living for herself. And these are the very words that have become her lifeline and sustained her till today, 18 years later, where Ren is completing her final year of Bible course at Henan Bible School.
Ren was born in Anyang, Henan Province, central of China and the cradle of Chinese civilisation. She had followed her mother who is a Christian to church and grew up with Bible stories such as Daniel and his three friends, which became one of her favourites. As a young girl, her mother would tell her, “The most noble thing to do on earth is to be a servant of God.”
Wronged, Rejected and Suicidal
However, something unfortunate happened when she was 15 that would force her to leave her hometown. “I was accused of having an immoral relationship with an older boy in my village when one day I was locked up with him in a room. Nobody believed my innocence, not even my parents, let alone neighbours and schoolmates.” The truth was, shared Ren, she was beaten up by the boy for refusing to be his girlfriend. Feeling utterly wronged, rejected and abandoned, Ren contemplated suicide.
“It was the darkest moment in my life but I remembered God. I knew that God is my only friend and help. I even made a promise to God to serve Him full-time. And because of God, I did not commit suicide. I know it won’t please Him,” recalled Ren. “But I know I can no longer stay in my village and being a rather headstrong person, I decided to quit school and leave home. But thank God I have never left my faith. And God has always been watching over me and guiding me.”
Honouring Her Promise and Finding Purpose
That was how Ren came to Hangzhou and was baptized at age 19 and met her husband at 21 in a church there. She had a child the following year and found work as a clerk in an insurance company. Due to the requirements of work, she took up a part-time law degree course and came back to Henan Province to be an admin executive in the same insurance company. However, the promise that she made to God and the words of her mother kept ringing in her mind.
“I know that God has preserved my life for a purpose and I want to honour my promise to Him. And I reckon that I was not getting any younger, time’s running out!” So three years ago, when Ren turned 30, she enrolled into Henan Bible School with the blessings of her church.
Ren, who has since reconciled with her parents, looks forward to returning to her church next summer and ministering to the believers there. Some of them who know Ren’s background would share with her their lives more deeply, moments when they feel depressed or when they go through dark times.
“They would seek my advice and help. I’m glad because as Chinese we hardly talk about our emotions, but it is important and I hope to be more equipped in this area. So I think God indeed has a purpose for the dark episodes in my life.”
Ren Xiaolei is one of the 400 Bible students in Henan Bible School who has benefitted from UBS’ support of the Bible Resource Center where Bible reference books and Bible software are made available for their learning and research. China is in dire lack of pastors and preachers. The national average ratio of ordained pastor to believers is 1:6700. Pray for the Lord to raise up more full-time workers for the Church in China so that believers would grow and mature in their faith.
Story: Cynthia Oh
Edit: Angela Teo
Photo: Hans Johan Sagrusten
2019 © United Bible Societies China Partnership