This month I am doing a series on my top favorite China moments over the past decade. This particular one is very special to me.
One of our closest Chinese sisters, a junior student, was experiencing pain in her abdomen. When she went to the doctor they discovered a 4-inch tumor in her stomach! The doctors said that they had to operate as soon as possible. During the surgery they would determine if the tumor was cancerous.
Her parents lived in the far south and were trying their best to get to her in time for the surgery. Her mother had never once left her hometown and now was traveling 8 hours north by train into a foreign place.
In China you have to pay for things like this up front. There really isn’t any such thing as a co-pay or a deductible. You pay for it before the surgery can take place and you pay it with wads of cash. Our sister needed this surgery and her parents were still a ways off. Our team was able to get together enough cash from here and there to make the payment. Upon arriving, her dad, not a believer himself, was deeply moved by what we just assumed was the obvious thing to do.
She went into surgery. The localized the anesthesia around her stomach, but she was awake for the entire four hours of the surgery! She said she couldn’t feel the pain of the knife, but she could feel her body jerking.
It was Christmas Day. My team humored me by getting up to have pancakes on Christmas morning, because that is a tradition in my house. Of course we anticipated a dinner later and between the three of us we were down to one burner and a few toaster ovens. :). We decided to leave our dishes behind and head to the hospital to spend time with our sister.
She was in incredible spirits for someone who had been through such a major ordeal. The hospital didn’t have any heat, but it was warm from the visitors she received. And fruit! So much fruit! The poor girl just had major surgery on her stomach and people kept bringing her food. “Take it away!” she laughed. But as I sat next to her on the bed, she started to cry. Not realizing why this was happening to her, scared, and homesick. So, we spent time interceding with her, reading from the Good Book, and encouraging each other on this Christmas day. It was a Christmas I won’t forget.
Her parents arrived a few hours later. In the days that followed we hosted them in our homes because they were truly in a foreign place, where the people didn’t even speak the same language. This girl was able to share the Story with her father for the first time. And he listened! She said he was incredibly moved by her testimony.
The tumor turned out not to be cancerous. We rejoiced with that news! However, a few years later it did return. And then a little while later it returned again. This dear sister had to face this all over again. Luckily they were able to reduce it with medicine and exercise, but the anxiousness of having to go through another surgery like that weighed heavily on this girl. Yet she continued to trust the Great Physician to heal her and to provide peace during those hard times. Recently she went back and the tumor was completely gone, never to return again.
A few years ago I was in Beijing after a time of being away. On that first Sunday back at my large Chinese fellowship, completely unsuspecting of the way things would transpire, I walked into the building and heard my name. A familiar voice I’ve known for years. Walking towards me was one of the student leaders for the service—and my closest Chinese sister!! She had just moved to Beijing a few months before! What a gift that was to me!
She was one of the very first students that I worked with and studied with in my first couple of years in China. I have seen her grow and struggle and experience trials no girl her age should ever have to experience. I can’t tell you how many hours we have poured over the Word together. I have seen her develop into a real leader and someday she’s going to impact her world in some great ways. This is a girl that knew me from my first days in China and continues to know me still. It’s nice to have a real friend here in this city who knows that part of me that people here just don’t. She knows me for me and that is so refreshing! We were able to hang out a lot and remember the good times. I’ve heard from her about some of the students in our world from back then, their journeys, and how some of them have since come to embrace Life. And this girl has been a catalyst in that- all because someone once invested in her.
She would move away from Beijing some time later and go back to living in her hometown of Guangzhou in the south. Just a few weeks ago I was able to travel down south and see her one last time before I depart China. In many ways it was like we never parted.
We have no idea the expanding effect of the seeds that are planted and the watering and nurturing that follows, but I tell you, it’s a real joy when you sometimes do get to see the budding fruit. And I thought to myself- as futile as this work seems sometimes, like a drop in the ocean- if I can sum up my whole decade in China to this one girl then that would have been enough. It simply would have been enough.