My Life as a Christian in China

Frank Kirchhöfer who stays in Danyang, Jiangsu Province at present and his wife who lives in Germany
1/4Frank Kirchhöfer who stays in Danyang, Jiangsu Province at present and his wife who lives in Germany (photo: Provided by Frank Kirchhöfer)
Gospel Church in Danyang, Jiangsu Province
2/4Gospel Church in Danyang, Jiangsu Province
A pastor named Yin Suhua preached a sermon in a Sunday service conducted in Gospel Church in Danyang, Jiangsu Province, on November 14, 2021.
3/4A pastor named Yin Suhua preached a sermon in a Sunday service conducted in Gospel Church in Danyang, Jiangsu Province, on November 14, 2021. (photo: Provided by Frank Kirchhöfer)
A gardern in Danyang, Jiangsu Province
4/4A gardern in Danyang, Jiangsu Province(photo: Provided by Frank Kirchhöfer)
By Frank KirchhöferDecember 8th, 2021

The first a few facts about my life: I was born in Germany. When I was 18, I had a ghastly bicycle accident, but then in the hospital, I had an encounter with Jesus and became a Christian. During my second attempt at schooling, I obtained a technical college degree. After becoming an engineer at that time, it was difficult to get a job as an engineer in Germany, and some of my employers went bankrupt or closed their businesses. Eventually, I went to Kenya for two years, on a missions trip to East Africa with an organisation called DIGUNA (German: Die gute Nachricht für Afrika), which means “good news for Africa". In addition to my electrical engineering profession, I also loved music, which both worked out well in Kenya. Many people spoke English there, which has helped me until today. After returning to Germany, I worked as a programmer in a machine factory for more than 20 years. During this time, I got married late, but we were childless.

I always tried to connect with local church communities around the world. In Korea, for example, I visited Dr Yonggi Cho’s megachurch in Yoido and experienced it for myself. The message was simple and solemn, nothing far from the truth. Now finally I have a glimpse of China. Since 2004 I have been coming to China and visited Danyang, Jiangsu several times. In China, you usually cannot communicate much in English, much less in German, but you can also find fellow Christians who try to help as much as they can, so it is okay. In the meantime, there are smartphone apps that provide speech-to-text translation. Although they still require a long wait and an internet connection, they still work. It is much faster to translate the written words in real-time. I could not get much out of the sermon, so I tried to find English or German references to the scriptures to understand the content.

I was surprised at how many large Christian churches there are in many cities. I was also amazed at the fervor with which people sang, prayed, and preached. While taking a walk I came across Christians again and again. For example, during the summer in the Shandong Province, I would often meet children (whose parents had intimate relationships and were diligent) and also played badminton. This level of passion would never have been possible without a mutual relationship with Jesus. At that time, churches were closed due to COVID-19. For foreigners, there were few inconveniences like COVID-19 mobile phone check-ins, that's why I am also thankful that for most things now even just a temperature check is sufficient.

In Germany, people are used to 20 minutes sermons, but here it can last for over 1 hour 30 minutes. Technology is now advancing. Based on what I understood, a local evangelical church has three or four male and female pastors, and a huge new mega screen spans the entire length of the podium. Those who are sitting in the front (I was asked to sit in the front row), are able to use their cell phone to translate the huge Chinese letters and display them large enough to read. The translation of the Christian content is of course not always simple and not always correct. One may also notice that translations of the same text may vary, it still needs to go through many tests. Sometimes scripted introductions are given, and sometimes during the sermon the main points are summarised and compiled.

Back in the old church (which was in the process of giving way to progress) I also contributed a bit musically and accompanied some songs with the trumpet. At that time Danyang was still a small village, there were no high-rise buildings with hardly any streets, and thus hardly any cars. I often went to the church service on a rickshaw, and on the way, there were many small tailor shops. The streets near the church were so narrow that a car could hardly get through. One day I took a cab and completed the rest of the journey on foot.

When I arrived there this year, I found several sisters praying and singing together. They told me they did this every day and gave me a very warm welcome. A sister who lived there took care of her father who had been there for many years due to a stroke. She lent me her spare electric scooter so I could get to church from the hotel quickly and do some sightseeing in the neighbourhood.

I hope this will not be my last stay in Danyang. As more and more batteries are being produced worldwide, more aluminium foil and machines are needed. Local companies are also looking to buy more machines in Germany. By the way, I have a young Chinese colleague who I think studied in Germany. My employer is currently looking for engineers.

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