This is one of a series of articles about the testimony of ordinary Christians. The arena of Christian culture today is full of stories of Christian celebrities and people are keen to discuss them. One overlooked fact, however, is that most Christians are actually ordinary people. We would like to share stories of these ordinary Christians and get a glimpse of the real growth course of churches in China and Christians during these 40 years after reform and opening-up.
Yu Dayou, from Shandong Province, grew up at the foot of Tai Mountain. In 1978, he was born near the headquarters of the Jesus Family, a Christian communist group in China. In a broad sense, his belief in Christianity was influenced by the Jesus Family, thereby being grounded in conservative theology with Pentecostal tendencies.
Because of universal basic education after the period of reform and opening-up, Yu Dayou finished his nine-year compulsory education. However, he could not be admitted into the high school, for even good marks could not promise admission into it because of Shandong's large population. During that period, girls tended to go to nursing schools, while boys preferred to learn some skills at technical secondary schools, and then even only if their families were rich enough to offer it to them. He had a younger brother and came from a family that was not rich. Generally, in such a situation, the elder brother would go to work, while the younger one would continue going to school. Yu Dayou was no exception.
After graduating from middle school, Yu Dayou worked on a construction site for three years. His parents then arranged a blind date for him where he met a gentle girl from a village nearby. At that time, women generally had more priority in making choices than men regarding arranging marriages. Luckily, the girl was Yu's type.
Yu was in love and enjoyed the feeling of being cared for in the next few years. They soon lived together. Yu Dayou's mother was a Christian and his father was not. Dayou was reluctant to be a Christian for a Christian was usually regarded as someone who had mental problems and was looked down on. The fact was that Yu's mother was disheartened and frequently abused by his father.
Yu Dayou was worried about his mother. He decided not to go work afield but get a truck driver's license so that he could deliver coal in the mine nearby and stay at home at night. Two years after his engagement with the girl, the two families started to make plans for the marriage. Yu Dayou had built a house for himself and wife to live in after their marriage. He loved his fiancée so much and quite often went to her home to do farm work and have dinner.
What made Yu Dayou angry was that church pastors told his mother not to arrange the wedding in superstitious ways--no setting off firecrackers, no dragon patterns, no worshipping heaven, and earth--but rather follow the Christian way, worshipping God.
The family of Yu Dayou's fiancée, however, did not agree with the Christian way, because it would disgrace the family for disobeying the tradition that every family follows. Negotiation then turned to quarrel. The pastors felt insulted and began emphasizing the exclusiveness of Christianity and insisted on arranging the wedding in a Christian way. After several discussions, the family of the fiancée felt fed up with Yu Dayou's family. Then there were rumors that Yu Dayou's mother had gone evil and tried to stop him from getting married. His mother felt wronged and considered that her belief in Jesus was the reason her son could not get married. The day after his mother decided to commit suicide by swallowing drugs, he found her in the church outside the village dead with a cross in her arms.
Yu Dayou called off the engagement and went to work in a factory in Shenzhen.
The factory for assembling toys for export was established by a man from Hong Kong. After Yu Dayou had worked at the factory for half a year, he bought a blue-screen handset and sent it to his father to give to his brother. Though concerned about Dayou, the father severely scolded him for his immature decision to leave the family.
Shortly afterward, the boss and the workshop manager came to talk to him, asking about his living status. Yu thanked them. The manager said they were Christians and invited Yu to worship at the Meilin Church.
Christianity was the worst part of his life for him, even though his mother and he were Christians and he had been baptized and gone to Sunday School. However, what had happened to his family during the arrangement of the wedding made him think that Christianity was horrible. There was no excuse for not accepting the invitation of his Christian boss since he was alone in Guangdong. Nevertheless, he had made up his mind to find another job and leave these kind-hearted Christians.
Not long after that, Yu went to Dongguan to work at a small workshop making audio equipment. His salary now was higher, and more importantly, there were no Christians there. He made some good friends and frequently went drinking at the food stalls.
Soon he learned all the skills for making audio equipment and his boss started to think highly of him. However, because both domestic and foreign orders declined dramatically due to the economic crisis of 2008, the boss decided to shut down the company and switch to another business. Yu went back to Shenzhen to a factory district to sell pancakes.
Among those who bought pancakes was a graceful and smart work woman from Qingyuan, Guangdong province, who patronized his stall quite often. Yu Dayou asked for her QQ number, her account on the qq online social platform. He chatted online with her at night. There was chemistry between them. This girl, named Peng Xiuli, could now also eat pancakes for free. Sometimes, she went out with Yu Dayou at night.
One day they went shopping in a supermarket near the Guanlan district of Shenzhen and happened to win a cash coupon valued at 600 yuan. With and extra 200 yuan and the cash coupon, one could buy a piece of jade at the counter near the gate. Yu paid 200 yuan immediately for a jade cross and gave it to Xiuli. Unfortunately, it got lost.
The next day Yu rushed to the gate of the supermarket but found that there were no more jade crosses. He then went to the Meilin Church, which he found to be spacious and beautiful, in order to buy a hanging cross. In the bookstore near the entrance, he found one. This time he paid only 50+ yuan.
Suddenly, he was struck by the idea of taking a look inside the church. He saw Peng Xiuli praying on a bench under a cross. So divine was her silhouette under a giant cross that he was struck by such unexpected image of devoutness.
He then discovered that Peng Xiuli was a Christian and that her parents were pastors. Peng did not like to share the gospel with everyone she met, but strove to infect her friends with her lively character.
Outside the church, Yu told her that he was also a Christian, but was ashamed of admitting it to others in fear that they might laugh at him. Peng told him that Christianity stresses inner spiritual strength rather than outer image and that a Christian should be flexible. For example, one should not have to pray before dinner if it makes a non-Christian uncomfortable.
During the next few years, the relationship between Yu and Peng quickly grew stronger. Yu kept making his pancakes and Peng kept communicating with qq. At night they read the Bible together. Peng told him stories from the Bible. So many times Yu wanted to sleep with Peng, but she only allowed him to hold her hands and kiss her forehead.
Their wedding was held in Christian way in Peng's hometown and another in a traditional way in his hometown in Shandong. They started an appliance repair shop in Jinan. When Yu went to clients' homes to repair an appliance, Peng kept the shop and took a radio Bible course when she had time. They often shared the gospel with others too.
Now they have a four-year-old daughter who is very cute and loves to sing hymns in front of their shop. Neighbors love that so much. Yu thanks God whenever he sees this.
Yu Dayou is my friend. This is the story of the 40 years of his life. At first, he was ashamed of being a Christian, because, when he planned to get married, he was hurt by the conservative behavior of pastors which indirectly caused his mother to commit suicide. He went away to Shenzhen where he regained love and got married. In this economically open city, he met Peng Xiuli and other open-minded and lovely Christians. He returned to God again and witnessed God's marvelous deeds in his life. Such experiences might be too ordinary to mention but they caused him much grief. Thank God for leading him through.
-Translated by Lin Changfeng