It was a present from God to me.
I knew it, felt it in my bones, an answer to a prayer I had even given up on. But God had not given up, and He knew it was something I needed just right then.
We were in church, and the speaker had just preached a powerful sermon. “If anyone is here who has not accepted the Lord, but who wants to do it today, please pray together with me,” he said.
Just at that moment, I felt compelled to put my arm gently around Catherine, the woman I had brought to church for the second time that day. She is my cousin’s goddaughter, and we have known each other for more than a year, but I didn’t know her very well. Just a week ago, I had asked her if she wanted to come to church with me after lunch at my cousin’s, and she said yes.
“Whoever wants to ask Jesus to be their Saviour today, please put up your hand,” said the speaker. Slowly, Catherine put up her hand. And the speaker led us all in the sinner’s prayer. I tightened my arm around her and prayed along. And all of a sudden, it was done. She turned to me and I hugged her.
“Welcome,” I said simply. “We are sisters now.” There were tears in her eyes.
It was the first time I have ever been present at the moment someone became a Christian, and to me this moment was a pure gift. Because it was something I had asked God for, more than a year ago.
You see, while I was in Shanghai, I had found a Bible study group of about 15 Chinese women who had all been led to Christ by one person, an Asian-American woman who ran the group. I had been so amazed at her ministry that I wondered if there was some way I could be more like her, reaching Chinese people with the gospel while I am in this country.
So I prayed to God that he would let me lead someone to Him. Surely this was something that He wanted as well? I reasoned. I prayed for this for about three to four months, and enthusiastically shared the gospel with anyone who hadn’t heard it before.
But after some months, that prayer and my resolution faded somewhat, as they are wont to do. It amazes me how inconsistent I can be with prayer . . . clearly I have not taken to heart the parable of the unjust judge and the woman who persisted in petitioning him until he relented. I also moved to Beijing, away from the small group that had so inspired me to begin with.
Also, I had begun to think that maybe being actually present at the moment of someone’s conversion wasn’t so important, but rather that planting seeds, or encouraging people along their journey of faith was equally important, and that that was what I was really called to do.
I went along in my way, preoccupied with other things, getting set up in my life in Beijing, and pretty much forgot my wish and prayer, thinking maybe it had been asked in the wrong spirit in the first place.
More than a year later, Catherine suddenly came back into my life when we were both invited to lunch at my cousin’s. My cousin, who is also a Christian, had never told her she was one, even though she had “adopted” Catherine as a goddaughter for years. Catherine was amazed to hear it, and said that her husband was a Christian too, and that she had been reading parts of the Bible.
In that moment it became overwhelmingly clear to me that God had been calling this woman to him for a long time, completely apart from me, and that it was just being given to me to take the final few steps with her.
The second week she came to church with me, I had been having an absolutely terrible week. I was really down and depressed, and nothing seemed to be going right for me. I had to drag myself to church because I didn’t feel like waking up that morning, but because I was meeting Catherine I forced myself to go.
I am so glad I did! Because, as I said at the beginning, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been present to receive the gift of witnessing my new sister join the family. It seemed such a simple step, putting that arm around her shoulder, but I knew that it was the Holy Spirit that prompted me to do it.
You know that gentle voice that simply nudges you within and that glows with warmth when you have done what it says? That’s the voice.
What was so wonderful about the whole thing was that it made me see so clearly how God draws people to himself with that same voice.
Oh God, I know that You are greater than my witness, and that you are also somehow calling to her, the way that you call all people, to yourself. Please draw her close. I know the way you call people – how gentle and how sure your voice is. I know the way you lead people towards you, with a lover’s whisper, a warm caressing breeze. Be that voice, be that wind in her ear. And although she may not see you, she will believe in you, because she can feel you. Be that golden thread which she can grasp with two hands.
Judith Huang ’10 was an English concentrator in Currier House and now works as an editor at a newspaper in Beijing.