god is red

You wouldn’t find me sleeping in on Sunday growing up. And I’d rarely get to see that opening kick-off at the game. Instead, I’d be waiting for Dad to shake the final hand at church, pull off his necktie, and says, “Okay. Let’s go,” long after the sound system had been silenced and the parking lot cleared.

As a teenager, I felt as though I practically lived at church, and only recently have I realized how much that was taken for granted. In 1944, as the Communists took over China, all religious activities were banned. Churches were closed or burned; pastors, priests and nuns were sent to the fields to become farmers.

The Chinese Christians destroyed their bibles in fear of being labeled “counterrevolutionaries”. Only under the cover of darkness in the secrecy of mountain caves did they continue to meet and pray together. After years of reading the Bible, God’s words had been etched “stroke-by-stoke” on their souls.

This week, I took a journey with Liao Yiwu, a man who embraced exile over silence in order to publish God Is Red, the secret story of the survival and spread of Christianity in Communist China. More than once, my eyes were flooded with tears as I read the stories of such ordinary people that refused to deny their life-changing faith. Each recounted the tale of those trailblazers who first came to China with the gospel of Jesus Christ; foreigners with blonde hair and blue eyes. The missionaries were known for their generosity, building hospitals, orphanages and schools. But soon, the foreigners were kicked out of China, leaving Christianity as only as a small spark in the land.

However, that small spark became a blazing fire, which could not be denied, sweeping across China despite harsh persecution. The spark came as a preacher who would not stop sharing his faith, even inside the prison walls. The spark came as a doctor who gave up the “good life” to bring medical treatment, compassion and Christ to forgotten villagers. The spark came as a reverend, now memorialized in Westminster Abbey, whose tongue was slashed out to keep him from preaching during his trial.

These people, and countless others, were marked as spies and counterrevolutionaries, accused of “poisoning people’s minds with spiritual opium”. Liao shares their tales, unscripted and uncensored, as they battled for freedom of expression and religion. And, all the while, my heart seemed the bleed within my chest, challenged by their continued existence.

What if my faith were put to the test; would I persevere? Am I known, not just for being a Christian, but for my generosity for others? What will my legacy be?

And, though not converted himself, Liao, too marvels at these Christians, “moved by the sustaining power of faith and the optimistic spirit among the congregations he encountered.” Christianity has now flourished in China. According to new surveys, there are now about 100 million Chinese Christians worshipping independently of the government sanctioned state churches. Those who call themselves Christ-followers now outnumber the Communist party.

This is one of those books, that stayed in my heart for days. A book, or really a challenge, which cannot be shaken.

unanswered questions

Last year I really felt like in many ways, I lost my innocence. Like my nieve bubble abruptly popped. As if the whole of my life had just been an audition for the reality I was then facing.

The Christian life never guarantees success. The fact is, sometimes the marriage fails, the pregnancy test reads negative again, and the business bombs despite all efforts. Failure (just typing that word puts a bitter taste in my mouth) happens; and often times to those who don’t deserve it.

And then the questions become:

Was the sacrifice worth it? What of the four years I gave to that marriage? I gave so much, yet reaped so little. 

Sometimes, there are no answers, and no simple bible verses to explain why God actually allows the unexplainable.

Depressing? Yes. But, honest and real.

At 25 years old, I experienced divorce and watched my beloved, childhood church building foreclose, despite all efforts. Pain jumped out from the dictionary and became a living, breathing thing, whose grip clawed at me, threatening to chain me up forever.

Maybe your world is falling apart. Maybe there arn’t answers to your situation. But, I know one thing:

James 5:11 “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

TRANSLATION: “God REALLY cares.”

Like little children in the backseat during a road trip, in the midst of suffering, we ask God, “Are we there yet?“; “Am I done with this suffering?”; and “Are we going the right way, God?“.

The truth is – He WILL get us where we need to go. As Galatians 5:9 promises, “in due time”, or God’s divinely appointed date, the suffering will be over.

Two weeks ago, Christian Newsome, the pastor of Journey Church International spoke of my testimony of divorce, recovery, and rediscovered love. It was amazing to realize that only a year ago, I didn’t believe I could ever smile again, much less fall in love again.

I wrote a prayer in the margins of my Bible asking God to give me open doors to share my testimony – that while life can fall apart, God can heal and restore. My story is a story of hope, and my hope is that God will allow many opportunities for me to share my story.

Listen to Pastor Christian’s sermon, “Patience While Suffering” here.