THE CHINESE BRIDE
WHO PREACHED THE GOSPEL AT HER OWN WEDDING
The extraordinary story of Sister Esther, a dynamic Chinese Christian who led her Mother to Christ
By Dan Wooding
CHINA (May 20, 2000)-- After traveling the world now for 30 years as a journalist, I thought I'd just about seen everything. But then I met Sister Esther, a diminutive and dynamic Chinese Christian and she topped all my previous experiences.
The surprise took place during a recent visit to China, when my wife Norma and I, had been invited to attend Esther's wedding to a Christian man. The ceremony was held in an official church in a city I cannot name.
After the moving ceremony, in which I briefly participated as an ordained minister from America, Esther took over the microphone and, in her white wedding dress, began preaching to the packed congregation. During her 30-minute sermon, she didn't pull any punches. She told the people assembled, many of whom were not Christians, that they needed to "believe in Jesus."
Then, in a moving moment, she asked her mother, once a committed Communist, to step forward. As the congregation watched in hushed silence, she then led her mother in a public "sinner's prayer."
Esther later told me, "I became a Christian when I was 13 years old, after walking by a Christian church. The first time I came in contact with Christianity I knew it was true. I was so thrilled to hear about Jesus Christ that I knew I had to follow Him." Later she listened to Christian radio coming from Hong Kong to strengthen her faith.
Her conversion caused her great anguish, as her father was a local Communist cadre who was considered in his city to be a hero because he had fought against the Japanese during World War II and in the Chinese civil war for Chairman Mao. "Both of my parents were shocked with the news and told me that they did not approve, as this had caused them to lose face."
She went on, "One night, my father scolded me very hard and I got so depressed. I just cried for hours. But then the Holy Spirit told me, 'You are God's child and you are upset because you have allowed the devil to work in your life. Do you believe in the devil or in Jesus?' I said I believed in Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit made me think of the story of Job. I then said, 'My Lord, I love you and want to serve only You.' The Holy Spirit then revealed to me that if I wanted to win people to Christ, I must suffer persecution."
The persecution did continue for Esther. "Whenever I would come in from church, my parents would be very angry with me and scold me very hard," she said. "After many years of this, I asked Jesus, 'Lord, why is my life so hard? I think maybe you don't love me."
She said the answer came one day when she rode her bicycle to work. "When I reached a bridge in my town, I felt God telling me, 'If you want to be like a doctor and help people, you first have to understand what it is to be hurt.' He then prompted me to begin reading 1 Corinthians 13. I then realized what it means to love people. I knew that I had to understand people's hurts to be able to help them. I told the Lord, 'I'm very happy, because I know that You love me.'"
She added, "I am also now very happy to be a Bride of Christ so I can work for Jesus among my people."
NOT A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Esther explained that in those days, her parents did not have a happy marriage and she had to share a bed with her mother. "I know my mother did not like my being a believer and so, I would wait for her to go to sleep and then I would pull the covers over my face and turn on my radio and listen quietly, the receiver pressed close to my ear, to the Christian broadcasts coming from Hong Kong. It was like having a Bible School coming to me and I was greatly built up in my faith because of these broadcasts."
Soon, Esther, despite being threatened with losing her job, began openly witnessing to her colleagues at work and teaching the Bible at a local church. She also began wearing a cross around her neck as a public confession of her faith. (She still wears it today.)
Earlier this year, her father passed away. "Before he died, I was able to lead him to Christ. Then I led my mother to a faith in the Lord. Their marriage was restored and their marriage went from a Communist marriage to a Christian marriage. After they became Christians, they really began to love each other," she said.
"Before I got married, I asked my mother if she would be willing to make a public confession at my wedding in front of everyone who knew her. She agreed and that is why she prayed publicly with me after the wedding ceremony. It was a wonderful occasion for me."
Women, as I soon discovered on this visit, play a leading role in the Chinese church. Many women bring their husbands to walk two hours to church each Sunday then, after the service, walk another two hour back home. "They do it because they love Jesus and also want to be with other believers," Esther explained.
She went on, "When I think of the courage and faith of my Chinese brothers and sisters, I want to cry. They are so committed to Jesus. I think they are the best brothers and sisters in the world."
Esther revealed that the government has decreed that no one under eighteen years of age can be taught the Bible, but that doesn't make any difference to her. "I teach a weekly Sunday School class," she said.
"I still listen to Christian radio and I take notes and the Holy Spirit teaches me God's truths," she said. "I know that, in America, you have many wonderful Bible teachers, but I want you to know that I believe the best teacher is the world is the Holy Spirit."
I told Esther that I had heard that there had been a great revival in China, possibly now with up to 80 million believers there. "In the countryside around where I live, some 90 percent of the people are believers," she said. "Many miracles take place in the countryside and there are healings there after people pray.
"However, so much of the population lives in the city and so many of the young people there are not being reached for the Lord. This is why I am so fervent in sharing the Gospel with them. If a young person goes to church in China, they are looked down upon. So few people go to the official church and they are usually only the older people. So we have to reach the city youth of China."
She said that the countryside Christians mainly attend House Churches, also known as Family Churches. "They are very committed and pray for hours everyday and, if they can get a Bible, they study it. Those who can't get Bibles, often listen to Christian radio and copy down the Bible by hand as it is read over the air.
During our visit to China, Esther and her new husband acted as hosts for us. I got a real insight into her heart for the Lord when we met with students at a university to share with them that we wanted to find friends in America for them to correspond with through our Bridge of Friendship China program. We had lunch with them on the campus and she asked them if they would all join hands so she could bless the food. She then prayed, "Lord, I ask You that these students may learn theAs a footnote to this story, I discovered that, after Norma and I had left the city were the wedding took place, the senior pastor of the official church was summoned by the local communist authorities who had discovered that I, as a foreigner, had taken part in the wedding. He was severely censored for allowing me to do this. This news vividly illustrated to me that China still does not have the religious freedom it claims!
truth about You."
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Building Bridges ACROSS the Barriers.................................................................................
.............................................................................. Because of A cross that changed our lives
God at Work