A Heart Restored

 In China, East Asia Insight, Featured Stories

Article featured in 2013 East Asia Insight Q1

God transformed Anna’s life. Her path to Jesus Christ included a painful childhood memory, a Buddhist upbringing, a highly successful academic career, thoughts of suicide and threats from her parents. Even when life felt meaningless, God had a plan. Anna’s journey also included a life-changing relationship with Jason and Leah Smith, long-term workers in China serving with OMF International.
Anna shares her story:

“I used to think I was the luckiest girl on the face of the earth. My parents loved me, my friends admired me, my students adored me and above all, I loved myself more than anyone else! After I finished college, I was accepted by a famous graduate school and got the first prize scholarship. Life was good!

“But no one knew there was a scar in my heart. I had been physically and mentally abused by my math teacher in the third grade. She liked to stare into my sheepish eyes with a sneering and scornful look. I thought I had gotten over that pain long ago. At least, I thought so.
“In my second semester of graduate school, a new professor came to our department. He was one of the most well-known and accomplished professors in his field. I held a very high opinion of him.

“One night, as we were studying in our classroom, our professor slammed the door open. I sat nervously in the back. Then I found him standing by my side. ‘Are you sleeping?’ he yelled. My heart stopped. I looked up and saw a fuming face. ‘No.’ I said timidly. ‘Then why didn’t you look up at me just now!’ He shot me a look, walked away and slammed the door. I was knocked down, not by his words, but by his eyes. The same eyes. Third grade humiliation. A covered but still bleeding wound.

“My whole world collapsed that night. For the first time in my life, I started thinking about the meaning of my life seriously. I believed there was an almighty power watching over mankind from above, but I didn’t know his name. I believed in reincarnation but it couldn’t give me any peace or happiness. Why did I have to sacrifice so much of my youth in front of a computer if we have millions of lives? I didn’t care about what my next life would be, I just wanted this life to be exciting, thrilling and carefree!

“I dropped all my books and programs and started enjoying my life in a crazy way, but I suffered inside. I thought about committing suicide, but I didn’t have the courage. I had doubts. What if there isn’t a next life? What if this life is all I have? I dragged on like a dream-walker.

“Before I was about to graduate, I found a very appealing job. My parents were happy for me, my friends were jealous of me and I was proud of myself again. Suddenly, I heard a tiny voice crying out from inside day and night: ‘That’s not the way I directed you. That’s not the life I’ve planned for you!’ I didn’t know where this voice came from, but I knew clearly it was from some place holy—someone holy. This voice followed me for days. I couldn’t fall asleep. I couldn’t eat well. I felt insane.

“One afternoon, I browsed my roommate’s CDs, trying to find something exciting to watch. My finger stopped at a plain CD titled Love. I couldn’t find anything else so I watched it. It was based on a real couple’s life. They were both committed Christians. The husband got a rare cancer and fought with the disease bravely in his last days. I was deeply touched by the couple’s faith and courage. Finally, a pastor spoke. ‘Someone asked me what Christianity is all about. I told them it was about love.’ At this last word, I couldn’t control my tears and burst into a loud cry without knowing why. I felt something I’d never felt before. A warm stream flowed into my heart.

Something hard was melting inside. I wanted to know more about God since that day because I wondered why the couple could still be so happy, loving and fearless under such circumstances.

“Jason was my favorite professor. His wife, Leah, was my best counselor and their kids were my beloved playmates. They were the nicest and happiest people I’d ever met. After those sleepless nights, I found myself in their home again. Leah listened to me while I poured out all my miseries and complaints. Finally, she smiled, then said something that changed my life: ‘Dear, if God wants you to go somewhere, he’ll open every door to let you go through. Watch out for the signals!’ All at once, that voice came back to me again: ‘Yes, that is the way I’ve showed you. That is why I made you know this family; I am the One you’re looking for!’ I was too shocked to speak. Then, I said something that even surprised me: ‘I want to study the Bible with you!’ I didn’t know much about God. There was only one thing I knew for sure: he has been looking for me all this time. He loves me! That’s enough.”

Anna returned home for the summer and told her parents about her faith in Christ. She had abandoned her family’s Buddhist beliefs. Upset by this decision, Anna’s parents locked her in her room, waiting for her to renounce her new faith. Spiritual warfare ensued. Anna had been a fortune-teller as a child. Satan would not release her easily. Thankfully, God provided ways of escape and Anna became even more in love with and devoted to her heavenly Father.

“Everybody said I was changed. I used to laugh a lot, but now my face was beaming day and night. Some friends thought God was just another invisible support. I told them, ‘If this God could wipe away all my tears and heal all my past scars, if this God could stand by me no matter what happens, if this God could love me when no one else could, if this God could give me a new heart to love and a new life to live, if this God would rather die for me even before I know him, if this God could be felt by my heart in a most real way, there is not a single reason why I should not love him with all my heart, all my soul and all my life!’”

Despite continued pressure from her parents to marry a man of their choice as soon as possible, Anna waited for a Christian husband. At age 29, God brought a mature Christian believer named Joe into her life. In 2009, Anna invited Leah and Jason to participate in the wedding.

Today, Anna celebrates the depth of God’s patience, mercy, courage, beauty, wisdom and power that she has now experienced for more than a decade. She thanks God for Jason and Leah’s faithful friendship, but also for their skills and passions.

“‘I told Joe how important Jason’s classes were for me at those times, while I was often on the verge of breaking down,” Anna wrote in a recent note to Leah. “Doctor Zhu taught us many reading skills and paper techniques and get-money-quick schemes, but he never taught us how to enjoy and love literature. Jason did that job for us, especially for me. I can still remember the sparkles in Jason’s eyes when he was reading Wordsworth and the Bible. That’s one thing I’m most proud of in life—that I was one of his students. Please tell him that. I’m trying to be a teacher like him.”

Those without Christ in East Asia not only need caring friends and earnest counselors; they also need Christian examples in their workplaces and schools. Praise God for those who teach and work with excellence and love for the sake of the gospel.

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