'I was so surprised. I didn’t know I was reading the Bible!'
Yvonne’s story | How one visit to the library changed a life forever
“I was born in the 1970s, in mainland China. I was lucky. It was before the one-child policy, so I had siblings. My father was a businessman, driven by creating wealth. It was his security. He had a very poor background, so he was diligent in making money. But it was also the time of the Communist Party, so making wealth was illegal. The communist philosophy is that everyone should be equal. One year, my father was taken to gaol for operating a business. It added to the insecurity we all felt.”
“Then, in 1990, China opened up and the economy changed. That’s when I became part of the family business, intent on establishing my own kingdom. It was the most important thing – security. I had to rely on myself.
“At the same time, my parents practised ancestor worship. They wanted fortune and good luck, so they often went to the temple to pray for prosperity. But I wasn’t keen on religion. ‘Buddhism is for the fool and Christianity is for the weak.’ I also assumed that Christianity was for the Westerners and I wasn’t interested in it.
“When I was 25, I moved out of home. One day, I went to the library to find something to read. I found a book with a black cover, titled ‘Old Testament and New Testament’. I had never heard of it, so I opened the book and started reading. I read a story about Jacob wrestling with God. I thought it was Greek mythology, so I borrowed it. In China, you pay money [per]day to borrow a book, and you put down a deposit.
“I went home and I read the book as a novel. I didn’t understand much of it, but I liked the stories and the wisdom literature. The Psalms touched my heart. At the end of the month, I hadn’t finished reading the book, but I had to return it to the library. I was tempted to keep it. I knew I had to pay more money, but when I got to the library, the boss said, ‘You’ve been reading the Bible! I shouldn’t charge you to read the Bible.’
“Then he gave me my money back. I was so surprised. I didn’t know I was reading the Bible!
“I said, ‘I haven’t finished reading it. Where can I buy a copy?’
“He said, ‘You should go to the local church. They will have a Bible.’
“The following Sunday, I went to the local Christian church. Someone gave me a hymn book. I can still remember the words of the first hymn. It was called, ‘Come home, come home.’ I sang along and it felt like a song from heaven. I was crying. It felt like someone was calling me home. I didn’t understand much of the sermon, but the prayer was beautiful for me.
“When the service finished, I didn’t know what to do. The old lady next to me went forward to pray, so I copied her. I listened to her prayers. She was praying for other people. It was so beautiful and urgent. I had never heard a prayer like that. At the Buddhist temple, we only ever prayed for wealth for our family. So I said to God, ‘Wow, if you are real, I want you to be my God.’
“That was the beginning. I kept going back to church. I purchased a Bible and I read it all. I understood it, step by step and I started my journey of knowing Christ.
“Now, 20 years later, I’m a pastor in a Mandarin-speaking church. Jesus is so real to me! And his words in the Bible are so precious to me! I want to proclaim his word! Looking back, I didn’t know much when I first responded to God. But we don’t always have a full concept of God when we respond.
“I knew I was loved by God. And I’ve been through many hard times. But God has brought me into a ‘spacious place’ (Psalm 118:5). I’ve had to find my true security in Jesus. I’ve learned to rely on him, not myself. And my favourite verse is Isaiah 43:1, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’”