How did a rebellious lady "struggle" and "argue" for 14 years with her Christian mother about whether "there is a God" or "there is no God", and surrender to Christ?
How did a teacher with a secure job at a university decide to become a church pastor? Selflessly and fearlessly, how did a preacher revitalize a church that had been on the verge of decay for more than 10 years?
Here is a testimony from Elder Chen Yu, the head of Changtu County in Liaoning Province. The narrative is in the first person :
After I survived the "12.30" explosion in Changtu County, Liaoning Province, which shocked the whole country 19 years ago, I came to know God and became a daughter and servant.
Thank the true God for surviving the disaster
Although I was raised and influenced by a Christian mother, I did not believe in God or Jesus Christ as my Savior.
That was one day at the end of December 2003, when I was working as an office manager of a fireworks factory in Changtu County, Liaoning Province. Early in the morning, I rushed to the train station to catch an early train to get to my office, but I encountered a series of problems. First, my colleague asked me to buy some office supplies. Then, my sister asked me to send her some invoices... By the time I got these things done, the morning train from Changtu County to Shuangmiaozi Town had passed. Therefore, I had to take a taxi to work.
I heard a very loud explosion as the taxi approached the factory area. This explosion completely shattered the four-story building worth about 3.5 million yuan and blew off its roof. About 40 workers were killed and more than 50 were injured.
To my astonishment, I thought it was because of some trivial things that I didn't rush back to my workplace during the explosion, so I was actually spared! In a way, I believe that this is because of my Christian mother. According to her belief, God protects not just her, but also her descendants.
Turn to Christ after being healed by the Lord
My left eye became red one afternoon in 2004, and I thought eye drops might cure it. After dripping some eye drops, it worsened unexpectedly and rapidly. Symptoms included redness, swelling, pain, itching, and followed by severe swelling of the inner fundus over the following days. It became almost impossible to see with my left eye with symptoms covering the white part of my eye and later spreading to my right eye. There was no improvement with eye drops, eye washes, anti-inflammatory medications, or intravenous injections and it got worse and worse as time went on.
As I was in a state of near despair one morning, a voice suddenly spoke to me in my sleep: "Only God can save you! Your Father!" The Lord's Prayer was repeated in my head over and over: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." As I had not yet come to Christ, I had never recited the Lord's Prayer, but it was revealed to me in a dream word for word!
The following day, it occurred repeatedly at the same time. This dream-like phenomenon happened again on the third day. I prayed and confided in God: "God if you reduce the swelling today without getting a shot, I will believe in You!"
God answered my prayer that very day. My eyes were relieved of swelling and pain. The moment I obeyed the Lord, I was healed! Even though the eye disease has not completely disappeared, the pain is less severe than before. On August 19, 2005, I was baptized into Christ Jesus. With hunger and thirst, I read the Bible and many spiritual writings written by my forefathers in the Lord. In addition to attending church meetings, listening to sermons, and participating in small group activities, I also attended Sunday services. As well as serving on the church book group, I was a church choir member, sang hymns and praises, and participated in the church book group.
Chosen by grace to pastor the congregation
Changtu County Church, located in northern Liaoning, was founded in the 1990s. The church has a short history but has been revived after disasters. Changtu Church was in chaos before Elder Chen took over as the person in charge.
The church has the background of the Korean Jesuit church infiltration, and there are seven crosses on top. Additionally, a nameplate of this sect is buried under the church's bell tower, indicating that this is the sect's "100th commemoration."
The church was in chaos and disarray, and this contradicted the Christian faith. A very small number of pseudo-Christians did not allow preachers to pastor their churches. On the podium, they beat the pastor to the ground, refused to let him get up, and kicked the Bible and sermons. They destroyed the audio system, chairs, and other equipment in the church. The church's heating equipment was destroyed during the winter, and the public signs were spray painted. At church events, they sometimes pulled the switch, threw the microphone, and beat Elder Chen Yu.
The financial management and accounts of the church were in disorder, not in compliance with the financial management system, and in violation of financial rules and regulations, including the same person working as an accountant and cashier simultaneously; expenditures were not approved and executed according to procedures and systems for expenditures. When Elder Chen took over, there was no tithe, and the church in a small county was already in debt, owing nearly 300,000 yuan.
In the midst of such chaos, Elder Chen Yu, backed by the government and elected by believers, resigned from her position as a university teacher in Shenyang to lead Changtu church. She knelt before the cross many times, wept and prayed persistently, and constantly sought help from the government. Uniting most of her co-workers and believers, she started to manage the church and pastoral care of the church step by step.
She resumed normal meetings and organized pastoral ministries such as spiritual formation meetings, which were attended by no less than 500 believers each time.
She contacted preachers from other sister churches to invite them to the church to preach and train, including those from Liaoning Province and Northeast Theological Seminary. The church's communion, baptism, Christmas, Easter, and other major festivals, as well as the youth fellowship's "Happiness Retreat", have also begun to run smoothly.
In the original church, the heating system did not work properly in winter at all, and the believers had to stomp around in the cold to hear the sermon. At a cost of 207,000 yuan, Elder Chen then removed the original small boiler and installed geothermal heat linked to the church's heat network. Since the church was unable to get that much money, she wrote a letter to the governor. The governor and deputy governor signed the letter, waiving the 100,000 yuan connection fee. And the manager of the heating company waived the installation fee of 87,000 yuan, and later Elder Chen applied for 25,000 yuan from the government to compensate for the removal of the small boiler, which equaled no money for the installation of geothermal heat and a "profit" of 5,000 yuan. She applied for a total of 550,000 yuan in government construction funds after extensive effort.
In regard to church ministry, a new team of evangelists and coworkers has been formed. In addition to focusing on her own church, Elder Chen hires preachers from other churches to perform evangelism, gatherings, worship, pastoral care, and other ministries. As part of her efforts, she strengthens the training of existing preachers, reorganizes the financial personnel team, adheres strictly to the financial system, and opened an official bank account.
Church members actively participated in social charity and donation activities. They donated money and helped schools by giving bedding, sweaters, T-shirts, and towel quilts for the Yushu Mountain Primary School in Qinghai; 33,000 yuan for the construction of a chapel at Northeastern Theological Seminary; Two separate donations for earthquake victims totaled 11,000 yuan ; 3,000 yuan to the Shenyang Fangjialan Church for repairs; and visited elderly, sick, and disabled families as well as old preachers on New Year's Day to send condolences and supplies.
Elder Chen Yu studied at Northeast Theological Seminary twice for a total of four years. All sermons she prepares are original and take three to seven days to prepare.
Keep the overall situation in mind and forge ahead
It is not easy for a preacher to pastor a church, and it is even more challenging for a sister to do so. Chen Yu also assists other sister churches in Changtu County with their year-end financial audits. She "bargains" with the audit company on behalf of the relevant churches and "cuts off" three-quarters of the audit fee.
The church began building the interior of the church on December 3, 2022, and there was still a large funding gap. After returning to the church to wash the cushions with her co-workers on December 9, 2022, she discovered that the cushions were no longer washable due to their age and had to be replaced. Following Elder Chen Yu's donation of 1000 yuan, 130 members of the congregation contributed tens of yuan to thousands of yuan online.
No matter what the church dealt with over the past ten years, whether it was believers' weddings and funerals, family conflicts, disputes within the church, life difficulties, fire protection, safety, ministry arrangements, personnel deployment, etc., she treated it as if it were her own family business. She sometimes pays for church visits herself in addition to giving tithes and offerings. She donates up to six or seven thousand yuan from her limited salary to people in need of help, funding, or charity.
(The author of this article is a special contributor to the Gospel Times. Thanks to Elder Chen Yu for providing photos.)
- Translated by Richard Zou