Last year, the Lord placed me in England serving with Sheffield Presbyterian Church to reach out among university students at two universities in Sheffield. Though I did not see any new converts, we did see the church grow and — praise God — it is still growing.
I moved back to the US in 2014 to find work, realising that the Lord had not called me to gospel ministry but still thankful that he had placed me in a church that desired to carry out Matthew 28:19-20 — ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ — in the sultry midlands of South Carolina.
God, in his providence, has placed me in a city that boasts several universities, a number of them within a couple of miles of the church, so that I can continue to reach out to university students through the church.
The University of South Carolina, the largest of the universities in Columbia, boasts nearly 32,000 students, and just under 1,500 of them are international students. In late August and early September, several members of my church sought to reach out to international students, through a couple of meals with International Friends Ministry (IFM).
One Friday night in September, two Shepherding Groups from my church put together a meal with IFM, and I was there with my dad (the minister of the church) helping out and meeting students.
At one point in the evening, I sat down with my father who was conversing with two Chinese students. We asked them about their studies and eventually invited them to come to church with us.
That Sunday, one of the Chinese students, ‘Sam’, came to church and sat with me through the whole service. It was a Communion Sunday and Sam sat in the pews and watched as the whole church came forward and participated in the Lord’s Supper.
Sam came over to my family’s house for Sunday dinner and stayed afterward. After the meal, my father asked Sam if he had any questions from the service. Sam, a PhD electrical engineering student, replied: ‘Yes. Who is Jesus?’
Both my father and I were taken aback at the question because no one had ever asked a question like that. We both paused to see who would answer it and then Dad began explaining the answer to Sam’s question.
As the gospel was explained to Sam, he came back with many questions in broken English and seemed to have an appetite to know more. We asked Sam if he would like to meet again to discuss who Jesus was. Sam agreed and both my Dad and I were very excited. We also invited Sam to keep coming to church and to join us also on Wednesday nights where we had a fellowship meal and study.
Sam came that Wednesday and it was exciting to see the church welcome him and befriend him. After the meal, he joined us for the study on the Westminster Confession of Faith. It was over his head though and we thought of another way to teach and continue to share the gospel with him.
The following week, Dad arranged for myself and a lady from church to lead Sam through the Christianity explored course. For several weeks, Sam came to church and to Wednesday night fellowship and study and we went through the Gospel of Mark and tried to answer his questions.
Our conversations were limited, due to the language barrier. But then we bought Sam an English/Chinese Bible and he began devouring the Word and asking lots of questions. Our meeting time on Wednesday nights became a session of answering Sam’s questions, as he read the Gospel of Mark. Many times we couldn’t answer his questions because they were so deep. The Lord was definitely calling Sam and it was a joy to see.
By the time it was late November, Sam had been coming to nearly every Sunday morning service and every Wednesday service. We also invited him to other social gatherings and got to know him better.
One night in late November, my Dad and I invited Sam to join us for a cultural experience in downtown Columbia. As we walked back to the car, Dad asked Sam what he thought and believed about God.
Sam answered that the God of the Bible is the only true God and the Creator of heaven and earth. Then Dad asked him if he remembered what his first question to us had been and who he now thought Jesus was?
Sam’s next response made my heart pound for joy. He believed that Jesus was ‘very God of very God’ (we confess the creed every Sunday). Dad then told him the conversion stories of several believers from Acts, such as the Ethiopian eunuch and Lydia.
Sam smiled and said, ‘God picked them out’. Dad replied: ‘Yes, he did’. Sam then responded: ‘I want God to pick me out’.
Dad then told him he should ask God for that. By that time, we had reached the car and we said we’d drive Sam back to his office. He said though that he would rather walk.
A couple of Sundays later, it was Communion Sunday again and Sam and I were sitting together. After the table was introduced and ‘fenced’, I waited my turn to go up for Communion.
When it came to my turn, I got up and Sam got up with me. At first I thought he was just letting me go out of the aisle, but then he followed me to the front.
When we got to the front, I then realised what had happened and I was overcome with joy as I took Communion with Sam, my new brother in Christ. I turned to him and asked, after we took the Lord’s Supper, ‘You’re believing?’
He replied: ‘Yes I am!’
Our church rejoiced with Sam at his conversion and we sought to contact him about the next steps, but he was leaving that week for the Christmas holidays.
Shortly after he returned, he was baptised in front of the congregation and it was such a joy to witness. Many a tear was shed for joy by the congregation as we welcomed him to the household of faith.
I have never witnessed a conversion like this and it has been a delight to see the Lord work through so many different people in witnessing to Sam. But I can say this: it is definitely not by the power or persuasion of man that Sam has come to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit has definitely been calling him in such a visible way. Praise the Lord!
Please continue to pray for Sam and his growth in the Lord; that he would continue to seek the Lord with all his heart and abide in God’s Word. Please pray for him as he studies and seeks to complete his PhD program in the next few years, and that the Lord would protect him, especially when he goes back to his native China.
The author served with Sheffield Presbyterian Church, UK, and is now a Christian writer residing in the USA