At present, Gong Shuzhen, who serves as a deacon of the Christian Church in Yaodu District of Linfen City and the head of the Jindian Church, is now 59 years old. Chosen by God in her early twenties, Gong has served for more than twenty years on the post of the rural grassroots church with great concentration.
Recalling her own journey of faith, Mrs. Gong said that she “became a believer late in her life”, because she did not have any major setbacks in her teenage years, and never thought that her life would be blessed with faith.
In 1984, the 22-year-old Miss Gong got married and lived in Jiace Village. Good times did not last long, however, and shortly after marriage, she suffered from a strange disease. Her legs became weak, and she could not walk anymore, which affected the normal life of the family. Over the year that followed, her family took her to doctors everywhere, but they couldn’t find the cause. The family began to try some folk prescriptions and pray to some gods. They spent much money, but nothing worked.
Under these desperate circumstances, a believer from her extended family advised her,“Why don’t you try to believe in Jesus. Maybe Jesus can cure you.” Considering that she was unable to walk and could not go to church, so her husband went to church for her on Sundays. Though he had only just begun to hear about God, he who was touched told her, “What they taught in the church is really good, and they are all praying for you.”
Gradually, under the influence of her husband, she also learned simple prayers, and she often prayed to God alone in bed.
After half a year, her body became much better, and gradually she could walk slowly. The recovered woman was filled with gratitude and praise for God. From then on, every Sunday, she would walk three miles to the town with her Bible and hymns in her backpack.
She desired to learn more about the Bible. So, besides the hearth, beside the bed, in the yard, she could be seen reading the Bible in every corner of the house.
She said, “Even though I could not understand some verses, I read them carefully. God’s word is very sweet, and I have learned many truths in the scriptures.”
Four years later, she was baptized as a Christian at the local Xiyi Church. After her baptism, she resolved in her heart that she would serve the Lord for her whole life, be devout, and lead a holy life.
After she became a Christian, there was more and more passion and firmity in her heart. No matter how cold or hot it was, she never stopped going to church. Her husband also supported her in her faith. Gradually, she began to participate in some of the services that she could, such as reading scripture at small gatherings, praying, teaching poetry, and later, running a kindergarten at home for four or five years.
Li Duxin, then the head of the Xiyi Church, once asked her if she would serve God. She expressed her willingness at once. In this way, Gong followed Li to the Jindian Church. At the church, she became an accountant which the church needed. She served as an accountant for about seven years and began to lead small services in the pastoral area. Later, a meeting point was set up in her house, and weekly services were held there, with more than 20 people attending each time.
At that time, the site where Jindian Church was located was formerly an old oil workshop in the town. The house fell into disrepair and became a dilapidated building. For the personal safety of believers, buying a house as the new church has become a top priority for the church. At the time, the church had just over 10,000 yuan, making it difficult to buy a new place. During the meeting, some people questioned that the accounts of the church were not clear, but Gong felt that she had a clear conscience. She thought that although she was young and incompetent, she had done her best in church affairs and had never been greedy for a penny. Not wanting to get involved in an unreasonable dispute, she decided to quit.
Unexpectedly, several believers took thousands of yuan from the church to continue the work of buying a new church. As a result, they ran out of money and failed to complete the work. With a little money left, the church did not dare to let the money get wasted, so they entrusted a sister who worked in the local office to take care of it.
Later, Yu Zhu, who was in charge at that time, and another sister approached Gong again, hoping that she could continue to manage the church’s financial affairs. So, she started looking for a new location. She and two co-workers went to all the corners of Jindian Town, looking for all possible places in the town, but could not find a suitable place.
One morning as she ate, she prayed, “God, where is the place you have prepared?” Then a voice in her ear said, “The house of Tian’en.” She knew God had answered their prayers. She immediately put down her bowl and went to the home of the head of the church. Strangely enough, Brother Tian’en, who ran an iron factory out of town and was seldom at home, came back just in time. What’s more wonderful was that his grandmother and mother are both believers, so they were very glad about negotiating the installments, and the new church was finally settled.
Unexpectedly, when she got back to the church, they held a meeting to discuss this, and all other members got quite angry. All three of them were accused of acting on their own without prior consultation and had been asked to examine themselves. Under pressure, the two co-workers could only make self-criticism against their will, but Mrs. Gong prayed to God and calmly explained to everyone that the fault really lied in not discussing with everyone in advance, but that this is really God’s preparation.
After this incident, Gong, who did not like to be involved in conflicts, stopped participating in church management but continued to provide daily services until 1997, when she was appointed deacon.
Later, in order to increase the income for the family, she took part in the direct selling of a brand’s products, and the rumor of “worshipping in the church on Sundays and doing business on other days” spread among believers, and some people even said that she was doing “pyramid selling” and reported to the church. In order to reduce the negative impact, the church can do nothing but suspend her preaching service.
After that, she began to feel some strange looks around her. Every time she saw the believers around her, they seemed to deliberately avoid her, and many people did not dare to talk to her. Later, when she was buying medicine in a pharmacy run by one of her sisters, she found out that the believers were secretly saying that she was doing a “pyramid scheme” and were reluctant to contact her, let alone talk to her. After hearing these people’s opinions, Mrs. Gong started to be unwilling to go to church.
While she was away from God, she spent every Sunday reading the Bible at home instead of going to church for more than two years, and she felt terrible about it. Then her husband encouraged her by saying “Go to church because that’s what you supposed to do. We believe in God, not the people.”
Gradually, Gong regained the confidence to attend services. But she always got there when the service had already begun and left immediately after it was over, making no contact with anyone.
Once, the church in town had a leaky roof and needed to be repaired. When it was time to build a leading team, the church sent someone to visit her, hoping that she could continue to participate in the management of the church. But having experienced many twists and turns, she did not want to participate again and politely declined.
With the joint efforts of the believers, the church was renovated. No one told her about the dedication, she only knew that there was a party. Unexpectedly, just as she arrived at the door of the church, one of the brothers shouted harshly, “What are you doing here? Don’t come in here! Get out of here! What have you been doing when we need you?”
There were a lot of people from other churches at the dedication, and the church was full. The public humiliation was very painful for her. But this, she thought, was also God’s test for her, so she silently wiped away her tears and stood outside the church, smiling as she greeted the believers.
In 2019, the Jindian Church elected a new leadership team, putting Mrs. Gong and another sister in charge. The sister was the head, and Mrs. Gong was the deputy head. Later, the other sister, unable to adapt to the needs of church management in the new situation, volunteered to become the deputy head, and Gong became the head.
This time, she did not refuse and trusted in the Lord. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she did a good job in the church’s pandemic prevention work, timely made use of mobile phone information, conducted online pastoral care, and sent scripture to encourage the believers. In addition, they often organized visits to co-workers to resist heretical cults such as “Eastern Lightning” and “Secret Religion”. At the same time, she did a good job in the conversion and return of some radicalized believers.
Looking back on the bumpy road of service and the experience she had gone through over the years, she was deeply impressed. “All these years, I have been growing spiritually in the Lord. I thank God for His guidance. Thank God for letting me experience all of this. All of these trials and setbacks are for me to be mature so that I continue to be complete, to become a vessel used by the Lord. In the days to come, I still want to dedicate myself, serve the Lord for my whole life, and continue to promote the Gospel of the Lord and let our Jindian Church become a golden lampstand to illuminate this area, to honor God and benefit the people. This is the goal of my unremitting efforts."
- Translated by Nicolas Cao