For many years, Vice Premier Tian Ji jun has annually invited leaders of many Asian nations to visit China for a goodwill event. Over several days he hosts dinners and other events including a golf tournament with the express purpose of developing sincere friendships. Through my relationships and God-ordained circumstances, I have been one of the invitees. While traveling on China Airlines to my sixth or seventh event, I was seated next to a Chinese man who was around 35 years old. Before we left the ground, I greeted him, and he spoke perfect English and was very friendly. We exchanged names and got on a first name basis.
After we took off and were served the customary Diet Coke and peanuts, we continued to chat. We were both obviously going to Shanghai, and he told me that he lived in New York and had never been there. When I told him I had been there a number of times, he asked, what is it like? I told him you will feel right at home with the atmosphere because the hustle and bustle makes it feel much like New York City. That led to a very friendly and lively conversation. Knowing a bit about Chinese culture, I noticed that he began to show me deference as he would to an elderly uncle. He asked, “what is your business.” My answer to that question varies because it is impossible to explain what I do in a few minutes. This time it seemed right to say, “I’m going to visit friends.” He asked who I knew in Shanghai, so I mentioned the Mayor and several other senior government officials. That peaked his interest, so he asked, “are you with the U.S. government?” I assured him that I was not and that I had no business interests in China, I was just going to visit friends. I can’t remember the cause, but one of us was distracted at that point, so the conversation paused.
About fifteen minutes later he reopened the conversation by saying, Mr. Murray, you are much older than me and have probably made many decisions. I quickly moved us back to a first name basis, so he said, Glenn, I have a very important decision to make so may I ask you a question? Do you have any tips on how to make good decisions? When I asked, what kind of decision, He explained why he is traveling to Shanghai. He worked for Morgan Stanley, and they were sending him to open a brokerage office. However a week before he left, Goldman Sachs called him and made him an offer to open an office for them. “I want to be loyal to my employer, but Goldman Sachs made a significantly better offer. I don’t know if I should take the better offer or continue with my present plans.”
I told him that I think of decisions as being in one of two categories. For little daily decisions like what to order at a restaurant or the color of a new car, I just use human wisdom. However, when I face larger decisions like the one you are facing I always ask God to guide me and give me His wisdom. His response kind of surprised me because he said, “I don’t know how to do that.”
What followed was several hours of an obviously a God-ordained conversation. I started by asking him about his spiritual background. Within a few minutes, I learned that he had never been to a church, knew nothing about the Bible and in fact had no religious background of any kind. His parents were medical doctors in Beijing and had sent him to Harvard, and while he was getting his MBA, Morgan Stanley hired him.
There was more to his story, but you get the point. Given his history, I needed to start from the beginning, so I started by telling him what I knew about the history of God in China.
Long before Confucianism, Taoism or Buddhism influenced China and 2600 years before Jesus, China worshiped an unknown God called, “Shang di” or “The Heavenly Ruler.” He is mentioned 175 times in Chinese Classics. Annually the emperors sacrificed a bull to “Shang Di” the unknown God on the Altar Mound in the “Temple of Heaven.” It is still well preserved in Beijing, and I have visited the place where this sacrifice took place. The practice ended when the last emperor was deposed during the Revolution of 1911. Protestant missionaries had arrived in 1807 and explained that the God of the heavens sent his son Jesus to restore fellowship between God and Man. Thousands responded and the worship of Jesus grew for about a hundred years. But it was interrupted by the national tragedies that China experienced.
Beginning in 1919, the atheistic theories of Karl Marx started to take root. Then in 1937, starting with the “Rape of Nanking”, China was thrown into chaos when the Japanese invaded. They brutally controlled China for eight years, killing 14 million Chinese. This ended when Japan was defeated at the end of the second world war. In the vacuum, a civil war started between the followers of Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong with Mao prevailing. He expelled all missionaries in 1953, persecuted existing believers, and established atheism as the government’s official position. In spite of this and at great personal risk, the evangelical house church movement continued and today is believed to number more than one hundred million members.
I told him I have visited those house churches in Guangdong province which is where the first missionaries established churches. The one I visited most is the largest house church in China. It’s located in Guangzhou (Formerly Canton) and its pastor is Samuel Lamb. Earlier in his life, Pastor Lamb was sentenced to twenty two years in a coal mine for having a Bible study in his home. Today, they still keep a low profile but are free to worship God as they choose.
He asked a multitude of questions during our conversation and seemed to have a genuine hunger to know more about God. After explaining the gospel to him in detail, I prayed with him and asked God to reveal Himself to Drew. Never being one to push a person into making a decision, I suggested that he think about these things and maybe tonight in his hotel room he could invite Jesus into his heart. Again he shocked me by saying; “I want to do that right now, and besides wouldn’t it be better to do it at 35,000 feet. I mean we are closer to God right now.” So we held hands and he had a short but earnest prayer. He said, “God I really want to be your son, would you let Jesus give me His life?” He may have said a few other things but these are the words that stuck with me.
After we landed and collected our luggage, I never saw him again. I did get two email’s and a picture of he and his wife who he said had also recently received Jesus. I never found out which company he chose but that is a minor part to this story. That was just the means that God used for him to open his heart to Jesus, and I am looking forward to meeting him again in heaven.