Confessions of faith: Zhang

Curiosity and a long journey brought a woman to the Bible and changed her life. 

Yi Zhang 

I was raised up in a northwest city of China in a non-religious environment. My parents were loving, caring, and hardworking people who struggled to put enough food on the table every day. They insisted on sending my sister and me to school, provided financial support to my grandparents who lived in another city far away, and did everything to raise up their children physically healthy and happy. 

Curiosity 

My first experience with a church goes back to when I was a first-year university student in China. My university was located in Tianjin, a historical city of China. The city was colonized from 1858 to 1930 by Europeans living in China. They left behind buildings, including beautiful Catholic churches. Whenever I passed by those beautiful church buildings, I always felt that some myth or mystery existed behind the walls, and I was curious to find out what it was.  

One Sunday morning, I was finally brave enough to push the carved doors open. I saw hundreds of people kneeling down with the voice of a priest echoing in the air. An old slim usher, in a low but firm tone, suggested I kneel down too. Being a bit unprepared and confused, I quietly withdrew and stepped outside.  

For some reason, the usher’s emotionless face and voice dampened my curiosity, until I witnessed some unbelievable changes in Auntie Zhao. 

One changed life 

Auntie Zhao is the mom of my closest friend in high school. Whenever I went to her house, Auntie Zhao always sat at the other side of the table, looking at us with quiet smiles. I liked her gentle eyes and soft voice. One day, my friend was not around, and Auntie Zhao started telling me her own story. I don’t remember how we started the conversation nor the details of her story. All that I remember is those pieces of scenes that tore her life apart and her tears.   

After that conversation, every time I went to my friend’s home, I always tried to find a way to chat with Auntie Zhao for a moment. Quite often, the only thing I could do was to be a listener to different stories of the journey of her life. The tears often streamed out of her gentle eyes down her cheeks. 

When I went on to the university in Tianjin, over 1,000 km. away from my hometown, I only got to visit Auntie Zhao two times a year. Each time I went there, the heaviness and struggling behind the quiet and gentle smiles were still lingering. 

During winter break of 1996, when I stepped into my friend’s house, I heard Auntie Zhao singing for the first time. I saw her laughing over the dinner table for the first time. Unbelievably, she turned into a completely different person, a newly created person! She told me that she was so happy to find her dear Father in heaven. She was so happy to be a Christian! I wondered, What is a Christian? What kind of power removes an old cumbersome shell that had been covering her for over 30 years just within a year?  

A long journey and curiosity again 

I left China three years later.  But before I left for Canada, Auntie Zhao gave me two tiny pocket books in Chinese—a Holy Bible and a hymnal—and a piece of paper with her handwriting of the Lord’s Prayer. She told me whenever I felt sad or frustrated, I could read aloud this prayer, and then my spirit would be cheered up. This was the first time I opened a Bible. But after flipping a few pages, I found the sentences were written in those Chinese characters that I seldom used in my daily life. The sentences or paragraphs just appeared too complicated for me to understand. So everything was still a mystery to me. 

In Ottawa, there were two beautiful church buildings five or six blocks away from my new home. Every time I went grocery shopping, I passed by the buildings. The image of Auntie Zhao and the curiosity filled my mind again. Finally, one afternoon of a sunny day in summer, I decided to hold my breath and approached one church building. Suddenly, I saw a homeless man standing in the backyard of the church, staring at me without any emotion. I remembered the face of the old usher in the Catholic church of Tianjin. I paused, turned away, and walked toward the next church down the road, St. Paul’s.  

Gently knocking on the side door, I heard footsteps approaching the door. The door open, and a peaceful face with a quiet smile and beautiful sky-blue eyes was right in front me. “Hi!” she said. I smiled back, and in my stumbled English, I asked “Can I borrow a Bible?”  

A little surprise was on her face, “Sure, just a minute.” She went back up into her office and came back with a Holy Bible in her hand. “By the way, if you’re interested, we have a Bible information class for students on each Sunday. You are more than welcome to join us!”  

A few weeks later, I sat in a room with a group of other international students and started the Bible study.   

Honestly, my initial intention was to improve my English and to continue seeking that mysterious magic power that had changed Auntie Zhao. In the beginning of the class, despite the fact that the leader explained each verse patiently, slowly, and cheerfully, I was nervous, shy, and struggling with the meaning and pronunciation of some English words. But the urge to find that magnificent power became stronger and stronger. Over time, the stories and messages became clearer; they were no longer just a story or a fairy tale. They started touching my real life.  

Over the years, I had been constantly looking for the magic power that touched Auntie Zhao. I was lost, confused, and covered by various sins that I never realized. Then the Bible gently tapped my soul, woke up my curiosity, and slowly pulled me closer and closer to him and granted me a spiritual introduction to Jesus Christ. I used to think that coming to Canada was just to seek a new adventure. Now I know that the Lord guided me to come to Canada to know more about him and to be his dear child.  

There are moments that I feel worried and stressed. But, I know, there’s always a place and a hand there where I can cast all my worries. Every single day, I’m constantly wrestling and distracted by the earthly routines. But I know the Eyes from the Above are watching me, the Hands from Above are holding me, and I pray for the Spirit from the Above to guide me through the daily activities in honoring his name. Under his grace, I pray that I will continuously grow in faith and I will never be lost.   


Yi Zhang is a member at St. Paul, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 


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Author: Yi Zhang
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

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