One day in October, I came to a residential community in the suburbs of a city in China's northern Shaanxi Province. Under the guidance of the gatekeeper of the community, and after walking a long and winding road, I finally found Sister Liao. I interviewed her in her apartment on the first floor of an old building.
Sister Liao opened the door, pointed to the inner room, and whispered that her husband had just taken some medicine and was sleeping.
Liao said that she was born in 1943. For the past 77 years, her most memorable days were in the early spring of 1992. In the winter of 1991, the family took a turn for the worse when her breadwinner husband suddenly made a mistake and lost his job. At that time, she had not yet believed in the Lord Jesus, and she did not know how to support her family through faith in the Lord. She was forced out of a temporary job she had held for decades. The neighbors in the yard who used to be particularly nice and thoughtful also began to avoid her. Suddenly she fell into the abyss, feeling abandoned by society...
Liao was born in Babu Town, Hezhou City, Guangxi Province, which is a thousand miles from her present home. There were seven people in her poor family, including her parents, her brothers, and sisters. In those especially hard times, the family had little financial support and lived only on the little money earned by selling vegetables that her father had grown in the mountains. As a young child, sometimes she would be led by her mother to do odd jobs for small business owners to support the family. Most of the time, as a young girl, she followed her mother and helped her to do the hard work of delivering the bowls, woods, and boards. Every time when they did such a job, they had to walk and carry a heavy load for more than ten miles in the mountains. After a whole day's hard work, her mother and she were able to only earn 5 yuan.
Because her family was too poor, she didn’t begin school until she was age nine. She struggled through six years of primary school and then worked her way through two and a half years of secondary school. When she was in school, she raised chickens, ducks, and pigs. The most difficult task was when under the guidance of her teacher she needed to cut firewood in the mountains before dawn every Saturday and Sunday. At that time, she had just turned 17 and was thin for lack of nourishment.
In 1963, at the age of 20, she left her family and got married in a city in the far north. Coming from the south to the north, thousands of miles away, left her in a strange and difficult environment. First, there was the language barrier. She could not communicate very well with the people around her; Second, the different habits and customs were different. She could not adapt to them in a short period of time. The climate in the north is dry, which caused dry eyes, pain in the pharynx, and dry throat. The biggest headache was that as a new wife, she could not prepare a common northern meal for her husband's family.
After many years, Liao gradually adapted to the northern climate and was able to prepare meals according to local customs. She also had a temporary job that paid little, but she was able to support herself and save some money to support the family. No one expected that in 1969 her husband would be regarded as the “stinking ninth category” (intellectuals) and the family was sent to the countryside to reform through labour. They stayed in the countryside for ten years. It was not until 1979, with her husband was exonerated, that the family returned to the city and became residents again. Her husband was able to return to his former position and became the section chief in an organ. She also worked in the shop at the gate of the organ. It seemed that the life of the family was developing in a better direction.
Her husband, the breadwinner of the family, lost his job in 1991, forcing her out of work too. It was the hardest and most difficult year of her life.
That day, when she was sitting at the window with her mind wandering as before, suddenly there was knock on the door. She thought: “No one has visited me for more than half a year. Who would knock on the door of my house?” It was a sister from the church who was in her 50s, similar to her own age. The sister said: “Jesus sent me to find you.” Then she took Liao to a stranger's house in a strange neighborhood. Stepping through the doorway, she saw more than ten people gathered around a round table in the small sitting room. In front of each of them was a thick black book that was open. A young sister was reading out loud. The sister who had brought her there whispered to her: “We are all Christians. We believe in God.” Then she pointed to the picture of Jesus on the wall. . .
After many visits in the following days, she finally realized that this was the meeting place of a church and that the book she was reading was the Bible. On Easter Sunday that year, she was baptized.
After she believed in the Lord, she made many new friends in the church, and the great love of Jesus gradually brought her out of her loneliness.
In 1993, the church established a choir, and she immediately signed up. In the next 28 springs, summers, autumns, and winters that have passed since she joined the choir, she has always attended choir activities on time. No matter if it was sunny or windy or rainy, she never came late or left early. In particular, she was never absent from the Monday and Wednesday evening choir practices and activities.
Since believing in the Lord, her life has changed in every way. In daily life, she bid farewell to the old days of sorrow and tears. Instead, she learned to pray, read the Bible, and listen and speak to God every day. Though the surroundings in which she lived were the same, and though her former acquaintances still shunned her, her heart was filled with the joy of the Lord. Every Monday and Wednesday evening she goes to church to practice singing hymns in the choir. Every Tuesday and Friday she goes to the church to participate in group activities and teach people how to sing hymns.
Every Sunday, she goes to church early to prepare for the worship service. Half an hour before the Sunday service begins, she takes to the stage to teach hymns to the sisters and brothers who have come early.
Her husband saw that she was so happy to believe in the Lord, so he was influenced and followed her daily prayer and Bible reading. Two years later, on Christmas Day, December 25, 2010, he went to church and was baptized. She knew that God was in charge of all the matters in her children's families. Her two sons and daughter had jobs and then had families of their own. Now they have three grandchildren. She was so happy to see them going out to work every day and coming home safe.
One day in August 2007, at the age of 70, her husband was sent to the hospital because of severe heart pain. After being examined in the emergency department, the doctor said that 95 percent of the blood vessels in his heart were blocked and that her husband needed to have heart bypass surgery immediately. At that time Sister Liao’s leg hurt so much that she couldn't stand up, let alone walk or visit her husband. Sister Liao knelt down to pray to God for her husband's operation. She didn't go to the hospital, but more than a dozen sisters from the church showed up and knelt in the hallway outside the operating room and prayed for him for six and a half hours. The bypass surgery was successful. He stayed in the hospital for a week, then recovered and went home.
After her husband followed her example and became a Christian, he no longer lost his temper and he gave up his decades-long habit of smoking. Every morning when they wake up and finish praying, she will read the Bible to him, and when she is tired, he will go on reading the Bible to her. During this year's pandemic, they did not stop reading the Bible. They keep it up and read the entire Bible once a year. They have read through the Bible a dozen times in the thirteen years since her husband came out of the hospital. In addition to reading through the Bible, they sometimes practice singing hymns together. Now, at the age of 83, her husband can sing three hymns by himself.
At the same time, one of her grandsons had to take an exam to be employed, and one of her granddaughters had to take the college entrance examination. They all said to her "Grandma, I am going to take an exam. Please pray for me!" During the days when her grandson took the exam to be employed and her granddaughter took the exam to college, she prayed every day for her two grandchildren to do well on the exams. As a result, the grandson passed the exam and found a job, and a granddaughter was also admitted to a university in Beijing.
Sister Liao shared that after she became a Christian, she realized that the Lord had led her step by step into God's house through her family's great sufferings. She has profited from her misfortunes and is living a happy and fulfilled life.
- Translated by Nicolas Cao