I tell this story because I am jealous for our God to get more praise. He has promised to build His church, to use us in the process, and to keep all the glory for Himself in the grand consummation of all things. So when this happens before our very own eyes it is crucial that we praise Him aloud, and that we speak of this to one another so that we will be encouraged to play the roles God assigns. Of all the characters in this tale, the least important one is the narrator!
Feiyan (true story, but names are changed) was born in China, raised in a thoroughly secular manner (in keeping with the new culture of this modern communist nation). This means that his parents wanted for Feiyan a good education so that he would do well in the new technical economy. Any time wasted on “religion” would be a return to the superstitious nonsense from which China is breaking free. Long before Feiyan was a teenager, China could see that the United States of America would be a global power throughout his lifetime, so like many Chinese youth of his generation, Feiyan took 8 years of English instruction from Chinese teachers who were doing their best. All of this with the hope that (someday) Feiyan could pursue a doctorate here.
Yet long before Feiyan could make any plans for himself, God was saving a Chinese gentleman who would eventually become Feiyan’s grandfather! Yes, as hard as it is to believe, Feiyan’s grandfather was a Christian in an era when that was most unusual (and a major cross to bear). But like every Christian grandfather, this man prayed for all his family. 8,000 miles away, God was stirring in the heart of an American youth named Andy a zeal for God’s glory in all the nations, and so Andy wanted to be a missionary, to spread this good news far and wide. Oh, there are two more characters in our story: A guy named Mitchel (who did not give very much attention to China or to Chinese in his first forty years) and a home-school mother in Lawrence.
Okay, places everyone? Ready … and … ACTION!
The Chinese grandfather prays daily for his small family, even though it seemed to him that the entire generation after him grew up faithless, or just secular, through the Communists’ strong efforts to push aside God in every way. Andy gets his taste of ministry in a foreign land, but God leads him back to a Midwestern university town to develop a cutting-edge ministry to international students in the middle of our nation. His specialty is making it easy for shy Christians to have fruitful relationships with lonely internationals at their point of need ~ improving English conversation. The home-school mother has a daughter who becomes best friend to a daughter of the guy named Mitchel. By this time, Mitchel has developed much interest in China due to a well-timed “shoulder-tap” and a few teaching trips overseas, so that he is seeking opportunities to tutor Chinese scholars in English conversation through Andy’s conversation partnership ministry. But by Session #2, Pastor Mitchel is taking advantage of “Western interest” to hammer away at the simple idea that the Christian faith makes a good difference in people and in the world.
Feiyan, Mitchel’s seventh international friend from China, isn’t buying it very much … but he does need to buy better furniture! Through Craig’s List, Feiyan agrees to purchase a huge sofa-combo, but he needs a large trailer for hauling it home. Mitchel’s wife (who travels everywhere) has such a trailer! Well it just so happens that when they get to the door to purchase the furniture, it is that home-schooling mother of the best friend of Mitchel’s third daughter! A tenuous connection? True, but stay with me here! A crazy charismatic prone to hearing from God, this woman says to Feiyan: “This coincidence is too strange! What I need (more than your money) is some extra room in my house, so if you will take away all of this furniture (including these things you did not come for), you can have it all ~ free of charge. But I want you to know that Jesus Christ told me to do this. So I bless you, in His name!”
Well, one generous act moves the heart of the highly intellectual Feiyan (more than dozens of Mitchel’s best worldview lectures), and so within one month, Feiyan is identifying himself as a follower of Jesus Christ instead of a skeptic with too many questions. The grandfather gets the phone call from eight thousand miles away, hearing his prayers of 30 years have been answered in the affirmative. Andy’s humblyeffective ministry keeps on truckin’, the Chinese evangelical church in Lawrence keeps preaching Bible sermons to young believers, and one year later Feiyan is at the University of Alabama, looking for Christian fellowship on his first day in a new town.
Oh, Feiyan’s wife exhibits the joy of the Lord too, having seen the free and generous love of Jesus through the Christian women at a pregnancy care center which loves to help international students who are at a point of need ~ also in the name of Christ.
And this story will go on and on!