8 hongs story
Photo by Angela Roma on Pexels

Hong was born and grew up in a rural village of China. Her parents are poor farmers and had struggled to raised 8 children. Hong studied very hard and was eager to go to college. However, she had to dropped out of school at her young age due to financial difficulties. When she was 18, her parents arranged a marriage for her so that she could be financially supported. Her early marriage was full of tension. Both she and her husband were young and didn’t know how to adapt to their married life. They lived with their in-laws and their relationship with in-laws was problematic. Hong cried a lot and felt helpless but couldn’t find trusted friends to talk to and a way out of this difficult situation. 

Even as she was still in this troublesome marriage, she recalled the day she met a Christian villager who shared the Gospel with her and reminded her of God and His words—come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. She started crying out and vented all her feelings to God. This relieved her emotions and has built her relationship with God. Since then she always found a quiet place to speak with God about everything and pray for her family. The more she had experienced God’s healing and comfort by speaking with Him, the more she was thirsty to know more about this compassionate and gracious God. Reading the Bible alone couldn’t satisfy her longing for knowledge of God. A church near her village soon attracted her to journey with God by worshiping Him and serving people together. Her conversion and life transformation first led her husband to become a Christian and then her other 7 siblings, parents, and in-laws. 

Hong has been actively involved in the church’s activities and proclaimed the Gospel to people. However, she never thought that she could be called to serve God because she perceives herself to be a woman with no impressive educational background. Since the late 1990s, the church in villages have been facing a tremendous challenge—having lost many male church leaders and believers as they left the village for cities for good job opportunities, with the rapid development of the economy in the city. Hong’s church is no exception, and the congregations picked her up to lead them. To be fully prepared for this task, she left home for a Bible college for two years.  Being in the college was not easy, the courseload was heavy, and after the class she had to do part-time jobs to raise funds for tuition fees and living costs. 

Her former teacher shared with me a story about how she survived this challenging situation. In Northern China, the winter time is long and cold, the temperature goes down to 1 Celsius, so people go to heatable brick beds early and get up late to get through the winter. Hong couldn’t afford to do this, since she had to work during the daytime and got home late to finish homework. After a long day at work, she always came home exhausted and so therefore, it was a struggle to stay awake to do her work. To wake herself up, she would walk with bare feet on the cold ground as she read the Bible and did homework. During the planting and harvest seasons, she had to travel between school and home to help her husband with farm work and take care of two little kids. 

Since graduation, Hong has served the same church for more than 20 years and led its significant development. With God’s blessing, they purchased a piece of farm land to build a church to meet the needs of the growing congregations. All funds for the cost are from the churchgoers’ pocket without borrowing one penny. The church has become a huge blessing to nearby rural villages. Her personal marital experiences make her aware of others’ struggles and feels the pain of those who go through traumatic marital relationships. After she received a bachelor degree in Ministry, she spent two more years pursuing a Master’s program in marriage counselling in a university. With her passion and skills, she not only personally reaches out to those who are in broken relationships, but encourages the congregations to bring back these couples for marriage counselling. Her counselling strategy is not to identify the marital problem per se, but to view life through the lens of Scripture. Basically, her approach to these couples is to restore their relationship with God and then relationship with each other. Many non-Christian husbands become Christians and joined the church after her long-term counselling work. Other church leaders often invite her to teach courses on marriage counseling to strengthen married believers while also equipping them with the tools to support other couples who have marriage problems.

Her reputation has been growing locally. Even a local secular vocational school hires her to teach marriage counselling courses to pre-educate young people on how to date and manage marriage after getting married. These courses not only win young students’ hearts, but bring them to God. Some become Christians and join Christian marriage counseling classes hosted by her church. Currently, there are 70 students who study with her. These students plan on passing the national examination to get a counseling license so that they can support those who are struggling with marital relationships and share the Gospel with them. Hong believes that Christian counselors can be valuable resources for both the church and society. It is important to cultivate students with a Biblical perspective to ensure that their Christian values will be endorsed and their personal lives will continue to be in keep with God’s will. Because of that, she realizes that rooting her belief in God and God’s words, and expanding and deepening her range of biblical-theological knowledge and understanding are crucial. To continue her ministry in China to reflect critically on what Christian marriage counseling is and how it is different from the secular counseling practices, she is pursuing the OCRPL’s online M.Min program.

Hong’s life and ministry are full of God’s blessings and grace. While she always feels that she is just a woman with no good education, God has never despised her and He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid instead. Every time when I speak with her, her clear and logical expression, brilliant communication skills, and faithfulness and courage in particular impress me. It reminds me of God’s faithfulness to exalt the lowly and fill the hungry with good things.