Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The greatest story ever told

This is perhaps one of the most meaningful things that happened to me in the past four months, and before that as well. This trip has come to an end, but this story that follows will remain in my heart forever. I want to share it with you in hopes of encouraging you with the love I have experienced since leaving in August. It's a little long but believe me, it is one of the greatest stories ever written. (Not because I wrote it, but because God formed this testimony).

I wasn’t sure why God switched me from one host family to another after only a few days in China. I don’t think I did anything offensive…I am a student of anthropology and a firm believer in cultural sensitivity and participant observation. But I met Lucky once at school and she seemed sweet. I did not ask questions as I moved into her family’s home Saturday afternoon.

It has only been a few short days, and I know why I moved.

Saturday, December 4th, Day 1: This evening I had dinner at Lucky’s house. Afterwards we went to the study room and did homework. She is an excellent student. She has the sweetest demeanor I have encountered in a long time.

I cannot remember ever meeting someone like her, especially not another 13 year-old. She is kind, caring and sensitive. We got along immediately, which is aided by her strong English skills and willingness to learn and ask questions. I believe she is naturally inquisitive. Saturday she asked me if I was a Christian, after we saw a cross necklace for sale at a gift shop. I said, “Yes, I believe in Jesus. Do you know God?” She responded, “Perhaps I must ask my parents, they have not told me.”

Sunday, December 5th, Day 2: Sunday night, my friends Shirley, Joanna and I were sitting on the rooftop of the apartment complex, enjoying a Chinese-American dinner of spaghetti and mandarins. I asked Lucky and her cousin Sarah if they had heard the Christmas Story. “Perhaps I have learned some things in school. Christmas is an American holiday. There are presents and Christmas trees. There is Santa and parents put small gifts in socks.” I asked if they had heard the real origins, about the birth of Jesus. They responded with hesitant nods, but they had not heard much about it. “We would like to hear it.”

I told them the Christmas Story, of Jesus birth by Mary, who was a virgin. He was the Son of God, and he was fully man and fully God. I continued by telling them that Jesus’ birth is only a small part of the story. Jesus grew up, and he taught about loving our neighbors and the forgiveness of sins through his blood. I spoke of Jesus dying on the cross and then raising from the dead three days later. Lucky responded, “I like that story very much. It is a very good thing.”

That night Lucky asked if, “Perhaps we could read the Bible together sometime soon. I would like that very much.”

Monday, December 6th, Day 3: The next day, Monday, I was having Chinese red tea with Lucky’s family. She asked if she could speak with me for a second, in the other room. She said, “Amanda, I have decided I would like to read the Bible with you for ten minutes each day. Would that be alright?”

Oh, my heart. It melts at her curious pursuit of the Word. I said, “Of course, shall we start now?”

Our ten minutes started in Genesis 1 and expanded past the Creation story, to the Christmas Story in Matthew. An hour later she was still reading aloud to me and asking questions. We moved through Matthew, to the Sermon on the Mount. After reading that Jesus said to love your enemies, Lucky responded, “That is very nice. I would like to try and do that.”

I said, “It is very difficult for us to love our enemies on our own. But if we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, Jesus removes the separation between God and us. Then God can come and work in our hearts. God is very powerful. With his help, we are able to love our enemies.”

Tuesday, December 7th, Day 4: The next night we read Jeremiah 29:11. It is not a cliché to her, because she had never heard it before. She moved in to verses 12 and 13. She asked if she could write it down in her notebook. After re-reading the verses a few times, she covered her notebook. Then she recited all three verses from memory.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Lucky had memorized her first verses of Scripture.

Her next question was, “Does God force us to love him.”

Seriously? She was asking about Free will!

I responded that, “With any relationship, we do not force people to love us. It would not love if God forced us to love him. And since God is love, he does not force us. We always have a choice.”

I wrote down a prayer one would say to accept Christ into their heart. I gave it to her and said, “This is what one would say. Just read it to yourself and you can think about what you have learned so far.”

She responded with a smile, “I would like that very much.”

Wednesday, December 8th, Day 5: Another Bible Study tonight. We started out in John, Chapter 3. She read from verse 3-21 and then we discussed how God is the light, and he desires everyone to know the truth of Jesus. She asked about Easter: “A holiday with chocolate eggs, in America.”

I responded that there is another Easter story, a great story. The Resurrection Story. We read about how Mary went to the tomb and it was empty. “He is risen! He was dead but he conquered death and is seated with God. All those who believe in Jesus and God’s love have his power and forgiveness of sins.”

We went back to John 3. She asked, “Amanda, what must I do to talk to Jesus?”

I answered, “Jesus knows your thoughts. He knew you before you were even born. He knows everything about you. He hears what you speak to him. But in order to receive forgiveness from him, we must confess and believe in our heart that He died and rose for us.”

And so she repeated after me, “Dear Jesus, I am sorry for my sins. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. Please forgive me. Help me to grow and learn more about you. Amen.”

And she asked, “Now, may I speak to Jesus, there is nothing else I must do?”

“Nope, it’s all by God’s grace, there is nothing we can do to earn his love.”

She wrote down John 3:17 on the paper she had written the verses in Jeremiah, and the Prayer of Salvation. She clutched the paper in her hands and said, “These are much more valuable than money or life or knowledge.”

Oh, my heart again. Indeed, it is much more important than that. Welcome to the family.

Thursday, December 9th, Day 6: The next afternoon, I pondered the pros and cons of giving Lucky my own Bible. I know she would be interested in learning more English through reading an English version. But would she understand more if she read it in Chinese, which is her native language? Could a 13-year-old girl understand the depth of the Word of God in her second language?

Friday, December 10th, Day 7: During lunch, an answer appeared in the form of Marissa. She is one of the only teachers at the school who is a Christian. I had heard of her but I didn’t know whom she was or where to find her. She was elusive, and I wasn’t sure she even truly existed. I needed to ask someone where I could get a Chinese Bible, someone trustworthy. While Christianity isn’t technically illegal in Communist China, it is highly discouraged, especially in the school system. It is technically a Closed country, and it could bring someone trouble from the school or the government.

Marissa sat down next to me during lunch. She was real. I asked her if she knew where I could get a bible, for a girl at the school. She asked quietly, “Your whole group, are you all Christians? I responded “Yes, and there is a girl at school who would really like a Chinese bible; she is a new Christian.”

“A Bible? Oh, I have three. Some in Chinese, and one in both English and Chinese.”


Saturday, December 11th, Day 7: I have been living with Lucky’s family for one week. We have read the Bible 7 of the 8 nights I’ve been here. I have never met anyone who had never heard of Jesus. But Lucky has heard very little of what Jesus is really like. We have been going through the Gospels, to read about Jesus’ ministry on earth. She is intrigued by the power he gifts for us to love our enemies. She sees the themes of “Do not worry, Fear not, God is with you.”

It has been such a gift to see Lucky begin this part of her life. What a blessing to see her fire for God’s heart. He has given her something very special.

Monday, December 13th, Day 9: Tonight I gave Lucky my Bible. She said, “This is the greatest birthday gift I have ever gotten. (Her birthday is Sunday). If I took this, I would feel guilty.” I assured her I had another Bible at home. She said, “It would not have markings in it,” referring to all my highlights and notes. I told her, “I will fill it up again soon, because I try to read my Bible everyday.”

We went through names of chapters, order and who wrote which books. I also showed her some reading plans in the Study section, about Jesus’ ministry, Prayer and Paul’s life. I hope she reads it often and is able to understand it through the English and Mandarin translations. Great is your faithfulness.

This is the greatest story ever told-the story of the Gospel, God’s grace and gift of forgiveness. It is the story of Lucky and of Jesus pursuing her heart with relentless passion. This story is that God cares for individuals, and He uses me not because there is anything good in me, but because He wants to share the story of a love that could not be held down. Thank you for sharing in this story. Be encouraged. Amen.

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