I was born and grew up in a Tibetan area. Interacting with Tibetans and experiencing a Tibetan way of life was unavoidable. From a young age, I learned the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism that life is suffering and no one can escape it. So the present life is to gain a better rebirth after death.

To achieve this goal, believers must work hard to overcome their sinful nature and gather merit with the guidance of their spiritual mentors. I also witnessed that many male Buddhists left their families behind to pursue pilgrimages as they were encouraged to do so.

Among these pilgrims, some arrived at what they consider their holy land, Lhasa, and decided to become monks for good. Some died on the pilgrimage due to the severe weather, hunger, and disease etc. However, they were seen as holy figures and assured a heavenly rebirth.

Such a view of Buddhist beliefs burdened me for a long time. They held that merit is the result of constant good behaviour, and actions, and rebirth is determined by this life’s performance. But there is a difficulty.

Our sinful nature can keep us from doing good things and being good people all the time in our own power. This uncertainty of a good rebirth hardly brought me joy and peace in my life.

As I grew up, I started doubting the Buddhist teaching to be true. While in university, I spent vast amounts of time reading philosophical books. I wanted to find the meaning of life and overcome my fear of death and rebirth. However, all my attempts were in vain until I found God.

One day, I joined a friend’s family gathering. Here, a pianist simply introduced a Gospel story. Then all the participants were led to sing a hymn called, “I Receive Your Love.” The peaceful melody of this song profoundly touched my restless heart and intranquil mind. The lyrics spoke to me and comforted my unsettled soul.

It was only then that I heard about the loving God who laid down His life for us regardless of our sins. His love was not a shackle to limit one’s freedom but an invitation to follow Him and live an abundant life in this world.

Immersed in this unconditional love, I could not help crying. As tears rolled down, I let go of my deepest fear, burdens, and uncertainty of the afterlife to God. Instead, I found healing, freedom, and peace in Him.

After that moment, I experienced a transformed life. I directed myself to seek a deeper understanding of the Lord and to follow Him. I participated in the discipleship training facilitated by the Canadian missionaries in my hometown.

Later, I opened my home for believers’ gatherings and started Bible study with other church leaders. The more I served, the more I realized that I knew so little about the Bible. I started praying to God for an opportunity to better equip myself and serve His people better.

The Lord answered my prayers and graciously opened the door for me. In 2006, I got an offer to study theology with a scholarship in Hong Kong. There I equipped myself with Biblical knowledge and deepened my relationship with the Lord.

But tragedy struck while I was preparing for my graduation. It almost crushed me and took away my faith in God. It was an earthquake that hit my hometown tremendously in 2008. I lost my parents’. As a survivor, I witnessed millions of people who lost their homes, families, and communities.

I continued to suffer from post trauma stress and mental health problems even after the disaster. In this difficult time, my seminary friends and teachers compassionately supported me and helped me out of this dark phase.

Many church leaders in mainland China were passionate to help me and those who suffered from the disaster but they were unaware of the appropriate coordinated approach needed for effective trauma response. As their basic training was mainly focused on preaching God’s Word, the practical aspect of walking alongside with God’s Word went unnoticed.

I decided to step in to provide the necessary support to the traumatized becuase of the inability of leaders at the time. My eyes were opened to the importance of providing Chinese church leaders with a holistic theological education. I wanted to train individuals to be Biblical teachers, scholars, ministers, and counselors—who would be able to preach the Word and apply it to the lives of the God’s people by sympathising with them.

In other words, holistic training would enable them to counsel parishioners, lead funerals, deliver sermons, and lead unbelievers to a faithful understanding of the Christian faith. They would not just preach the Word. Even though, it is still crucial, and is always highly valued and emphasized by the Chinese church.

After recognizing this need, I found my calling and have joined an institution with the same vision. It is committed to offering an affordable and holistic online theological education for Christian leaders and educators from the global South to strengthen and integrate their faith and practice.

Unlike the traditional residential education model where students have to suspend their ministries and leave their home or home countries to pursue theological training, this online education model allows them to continue their ministries and theologically or Biblically reflect their ecclesial concerns in their own contexts and sharpen their practical skills.

This project for Chinese Christians has just started, 12 Chinese ministers and educators have applied for the MMin and DMin programs. Many more are interested in these programs and expect to be admitted. 

I am grateful that our gracious Lord has opened my eyes to see the Chinese church’s needs and placed me in this position to serve Him and His people. I pray that both Chinese and Western churches will pray and support them in various ways to expand God’s kingdom. God bless you!

I Receive Your Love*

On the cross
A holy light tender and so kind
Glowing with your love’s great might 
shine O Lord, in this life of mine
Here is my heart take every part
I give you my all
Let your love wash over me
Come free me and make me whole
I surrender all
I surrender all
Ever in your arms of love
I surrender all
Jesus, you are my Lord
Jesus, you are my Lord
Ever in your arms of Lord
Only You, Jesus, You are my Lord

*The Chinese hymn is taken from this website 基督教中英文流行赞美诗网站 Classic Christian Hymns Site (English and Chinese)

Bild von Aliko Sunawang auf Pixabay