Sarah was a freshman at university at a big city in China, and had heard from her English teacher about some training workshops being run in English. As her teacher expected, the thought of spending her holiday week practicing English drew Sarah in, as a bright and budding student, top of her class.

With the usual get-to-know-you games, and other team building activities, the environment was casual and warm. So by lunch on the first day, she’d shared her with her workshop coach how her mother was a Buddhist, her grandmother a Muslim, and her stepfather and stepsister were Christians.  As for herself, she was just a confused athiest, not knowing if there even is a God. Over the next three days, she spent lots of time with her team-mates, learning things such as presentation and conflict resolution skills, but also had the chance to understand herself better through team interactions, self-reflection and debriefs. Her workshop coach walked alongside her, encouraging her to try new things, helping her resolve conflicts with team members, and seeing her grow in self-understanding.

As they strove to win at team challenges, and as classmates learned to lead teams, sometimes for the first time ever, conflicts inevitably arose. One particular conflict with a team-mate led to fiery words and tears from both parties. Sarah had to leave the room to gain her composure before she could return, ready to face her team-mate.

Yet what Sarah came to learn was far deeper than that.

As she shared about herself with her coach, what was apparent was that Sarah was a young woman wrestling with many issues – an unstable home life, feeling unloved and an abusive relationship with her mother. She shared how she struggled with low self-esteem, depression, and an aching emptiness inside.  She was constantly surrounded by people at her university – but she felt completely alone.

Her coach, a believer from abroad, fairly new to China, just sat and listened. Here was a beautiful, healthy, 20 year old woman, financially well-off, educated, and with her future before her — and yet the world for her was a dark and lonely place.  She was lost, living without knowing that she was valued by her Creator. On the third and final day of the workshop, she sat down with her coach for her final debrief session.  In tears, Sarah shared about how much she had appreciated the workshop – not just for the English practice and the life-skills, but for the opportunity to have met people who had only just met her but genuinely cared for her.  Sarah realized that her life had meaning, and wanted to find out why. She came to church the very next day.

A willingness to listen and walk alongside. A Jesus-follower ready to give someone a bit of their time. That is all it took for Sarah to know her worth.

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By 2030, one billion people will live in China’s cities.  Find out more about what God is doing amongst The Urban Billion.

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