In 1985, a national medical journal launched a writing contest nationwide. I entered a thesis in the contest and had the honour of winning the first prize. I was then asked to participate in a training programme the following year conducted by the National Health Ministry. The programme was to be held at the Shanghai Second Medical College, and I was the only representative from Fujian Province! I was unable to sleep, so overwhelmed by the exciting news. It was also because in Shanghai I could meet my sister-in-law, whom I had not met for over four years. After arriving at my sister-in-law's home, her father, Pastor Wang Jifa, cooked for us and I enjoyed a delicious banquet.
The second day I was there was a Sunday. My sister-in-law and I went to Zhusheng Church. According to her, the church was built in 1925 by the Anglican Church. It is a building of red brick and has a triangular roof. The concrete pillars at the front gate are artistically carved. The round-shaped rose windows on the porch are typically Western in design. Located at the northwest corner of the complex is a square tower house. The church covers an area of more than 1,000 square meters. At that time the Zhusheng Church had been open for only 3 to 5 years. From the entrance I could see that more than 500 seats were already occupied. My sister-in-law and I took a front row seat and listened to her father, Pastor Wang Jifa or Cephas Wang, delivering a sermon.
Pastor Wang Jifa was born in 1919 in Shou County, Anhui Province. Born into a Christian family, he was strongly influenced by his family. In his early days, he developed the habit of reading the Bible and praying on a daily basis. After graduating from a church-run county primary school, his father wanted him to study theology in a church school. Unexpectedly, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident changed these plans. In the national upheaval, young Wang Jifa and his sister signed up to join the anti-Japanese student army.
Wang Jifa spent half a year in the student army. Shortly after returning home, he took his brother away from their hometown and sent him to Wuhan, where he was cared for in a home run by Madam Soong Ching Ling. Wang Jaifa went on to Changsha by himself. While living in Changsha, once he traveled to Yuanling via the Yuan River when an accident had a deep impact on him. While the ship he took was sailing along the Yuan River, a young man proposed to change seats with him in the cabin. Without hesitation, Jifa did so, but he did not expect the ship to suddenly hit a reef and sink. Jifa survived, but the young man sitting in Jifa's seat never came to the surface. After the incident, he knelt by the river for a long time, weeping bitterly. He thought his being alive was at the cost of that young man's life. So he was determined to serve God for life. That was why he changed his name to "Jifa" (the Chinese transliteration of Cephas), the name of a disciple of Jesus.
In Yuanling, Cephas participated in the Southwest Transport Training Institute under the Nationalist Military Commission to learn how to drive. After completing the training, Cephas was assigned to Kunming to work as a driver for two years. In 1941, Cephas left the army. With the recommendation of a classmate from his training institute, he went to work for the Bank of Kunming as a vehicle mechanic.
During this period, he never forgot he was a Christian. Wherever he went he would attend church services. At the end of 1941, his brother was enrolled at Southwest University in Chengdu, the same school that Cephas also attended. There is a church built by the China Inland Mission located in Guan County, not far from Chengdu. In Guan County, the China Inland Mission (CIM) opened a seminary. The Dean was Pastor Jia Yuming (head of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary which moved to Chengdu during the Anti-Japanese War; Jia later became the dean of Shanghai Seminary). Having studied in the seminary for a year, Cephas began to work as a non-ordained pastor for CIM.
After the Anti-Japanese War ended in 1945, he left Chengdu and returned to his hometown in Shou County. He actively preached in various churches along the way. In Shou County, Cephas continued to be a preacher. Once, Pastor Zhao Junyin from Shanghai came to Shou County to deliver sermons. On the third day, Pastor Zhao fell ill and the church asked Cephas to do the work of Zhao, and the congregation responded well to Cephas' teaching. Pastor Zhao Junyin was very happy and graciously invited Cephas to Shanghai. So he went to Shanghai and worked as a teacher for years at the Taidong Bible College as well as the Shanghai Bible College and for Bible Societies. In 1956, he participated in the founding of the Shanghai Seminary and served as a member of the College's Board of Directors. At that time Cephas began a decades-long missionary career in Shanghai.
In May 1949, Shanghai was liberated. Many Christian pastors left the mainland, and the CIM moved its headquarters to Hong Kong, leaving only three people in Shanghai. Previously, Cephas had been ordained a pastor by the CIM. In 1951, Cephas went to Hong Kong to be appointed as the third chief executive of CIM. At that time, many people advised Wang to stay in Hong Kong, but he insisted on coming back.
At the beginning of liberation, there were 17 Christian churches and groups in Luwan District, including the Chinese Mission Church, Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, Rest Baptist Church, and additional locations where believers gathered. In 1952, Christian groups in Luwan District registered with the Registration Office of Religious Groups of the Shanghai Military Control Commission, a move that severed ties with foreign countries and the churches gradually became self-reliant. The church's house and land tax were reduced by the state. In 1958, the Luwan District Christian Three Self-Patriotic Movement Liaison Group was established, and Pastor Cephas was one of its principal leaders.
During the ten-year upheaval of the Great Cultural Revolution, religious activities were suspended and Pastor Cephas worked for the Overseas Chinese Glue Factory as a laborer. When the Party's religious policy was again implemented, religious activities were resumed one by one, and the Luwan District Christian Three-Self Patriotic Association Preparatory Committee was established. Pastor Cephas served as the director of the Preparatory Committee. Pastor Wang and other commissioners did a great deal of work, and on Christmas Day 1982, the newly refurbished Zhusheng Church was reopened. In October 1982 the first Christian Conference was held in Luwan District, and Pastor Cephas was elected director of the Luwan District Christian Church. He served as a member of the Shanghai Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, the Standing Committee, and was three-time Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Christian Education Committee. After the Cultural Revolution, he participated in beginning the East China Theological Seminary in 1985, where he worked as a teacher for many years.
In 2007, Pastor Cephas was admitted to the Huang Central Hospital of Shanghai. On October 6th, students went to his ward to pray for him and when the prayer was ended with, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ-Amen," Pastor Cephas responded: "Amen!" and died at the age of 89.
I was deeply impressed by the passionate style of his sermons, interspersed with his singing and callings. In 2002, the China Christian Council published a collection of Pastor Cephas's sermons, "Grace and Truth". Although Pastor Cephas has left us, he still speaks to us.