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I Found Gold in Africa

Poverty in the Village

In 1965, the year before the Cultural Revolution began in China, I was born in a remote village in Jiangsu Province. At that time, China was plagued by famine and other natural disasters, and many families endured severe hardships.

My father suffered from bronchial asthma, made worse because he worked in manual labor to provide for our large family. I was the youngest of seven siblings, and twenty days after I was born, my parents decided to sell me for 14 RMB to raise money for my dad’s medical treatment. The plan was to stay in contact with the buyer, and from time to time be able to visit.

On the day when the exchange was to take place, my mother was so heartbroken she could not bear to witness the moment of separation. She went to the fields, pretending to work, but was actually running from the pain. When the buyer came for me, he paid my father 14 RMB and said he had changed his mind. He did not plan to stay in contact, and my parents would not hear from him again! Stunned at this imminent split with his child, my father did not know what else to do but accept. However, my older sister, who was standing by listening, took me from the arms of the buyer and, holding me tightly, strongly objected. In desperation, my father slapped my sister. Hearing my sister crying, my mother came back from the fields, saw my sister squatting in the corner holding me, and understood what had happened. In tears, my older sister begged my parents, insisting they must keep me even if it meant everyone had to eat less. So, I was not sold, and when I was four, my father passed away, because we were too poor to afford medical treatment for his bronchial asthma.

Poverty made my childhood very difficult. Being fatherless, I was an outcast in my village, with no friends to play with and mocked by my peers all the time. At my primary graduation, I promised myself that I would leave my village and never return. After my secondary graduation, I could not pursue higher education because we were poor, and my academic performance was unsatisfactory. I wanted nothing more than to leave my village!

Relocating Abroad

In 1985, I happened to find out that Beijing Foreign Studies Academy was providing a three-year broadcast correspondence English course. Students who completed the three-year course and passed the exam would be eligible for a scholarship of $1,500 and further studies at the campus for one year. At that time, the amount of the scholarship was an astronomical sum to me, and it was a huge drawing factor. So, I applied for the course and started learning about foreign languages. After three years, only a thousand candidates could sit for the secondary examination of the first round of national recruitment at the academy. After the secondary examination, only 23 were given scholarships to undertake further studies for a year, and I was one of the chosen ones.

In the beginning of 1989, I was elected class monitor of the course in the academy. When I first stood on the stage in front of classmates from all over the world, I was so nervous I could not utter a single word. This was the first time I had met Europeans and Africans. I was one of the few that came from a village. The scholarship took care of the problem of tuition for me, but I had yet to settle my living expenses. In a metropolis, I didn’t even have a pair of shoes that fit or any suitable clothing. Looking back, it was a really difficult time.

Back then, there was a huge demand for people who understood English. Knowing English gave people a great edge in finding jobs. After undertaking further studies, I started working in the Beijing office of an international architectural firm. At that time, the biggest project of the company was based in Kenya, Africa. I didn’t even know where Kenya was. Hundreds of employees were constructing the Integrated Sports Facility in Kasarani. My duty was to apply for visas, book plane tickets, and make transportation arrangements for company personnel traveling to and from Kenya. Therefore, I frequented many embassies that had business connections with our company. However, after a few months of not getting to use English as much as I thought, the job stopped being challenging.

In 1991, I worked as an interpreter for the Chinese team assigned to the Barbados Stadium project. In 1994, I went to Uganda with the same company responsible for the construction in Kasarani and worked as an interpreter and business manager in their office. In 1996, I left the company, as the company was mismanaged, and decided to start my own company.

The Witness of Westerners

In late 1996, I opened a Chinese restaurant in Uganda where I met a lot of Christian missionaries. They were always friendly to others, very respectful to me and my staff, and grateful for our services. At times, they would talk to me about Jesus. I had no interest in Jesus, even though while I was in Barbados, I had seen a church and got my first Bible, which I never read. I was brainwashed by socialism and thought salvation had nothing to do with Chinese people. Jesus and salvation only concerned Europeans and Americans. I strongly believed that I could rely only upon myself to secure a good future. And to have a good life, I must make money.

The missionaries frequently visited me, giving me different versions of the Bible. I treated them as collectibles and never read them. While busying myself with making a living, expanding my business, and buying and selling land, over time, I grew fond of the missionaries. They never put pressure on me to accept Jesus Christ. They simply prayed for me and sent me their regards. I did notice that they valued family life and were always spending time with their family.

I Lost my Land but was Saved

By 2008, my life had become even busier as I was planning to relocate to Australia. Reminding myself to follow the missionaries’ example and take good care of my family, I planned to bring my family back to Uganda in 2009. My elder daughter would be going into primary school, and we would be there for her.

To make more money, I bought two acres of land near the Nile River Holiday Inn and actively invested in its development. The piece of land was adjacent to the 47-hectare forest of the Ugandan government in the vicinity of a 4-star international hotel. It even overlooked the Nile River. It was truly a beautiful piece of land! Because of this, I got busier and busier with the development, hoping to build a campsite that could be rented to European and American backpackers.

Then one morning as I was getting ready to go to work, a friend called to tell me that over 50 Ugandans were taking down the barbed wire fence around my property. It was November 11, 2008. After I got the call, I made my way at once to the scene with the local secondary village committee chairman. A government official violently blocked my way and accused me of stealing government land. He called over a soldier, who loaded his gun, put the loaded gun against my head, and detained me illegally. That was how they took my land and left me in a helpless, hopeless situation. All of a sudden, I was under a lot of pressure!

What should I do? My wife asked me to give up; the missionaries asked me to pray. But how would I know how to pray? My best friend in Uganda, a senior official of the Ugandan government, suggested that I bring the case up with the Ugandan Forestry Bureau and take it to court. Facing all of these various suggestions, I had no idea what to do.

Later, I sued the government department in court. Feeling very lonely, I tried to think of ways to reduce my stress. One day, a voice inside my head whispered to me:“You could read the Bible.” So, for the first time in my life, I picked up a Chinese Bible and started reading. I read for a long time, with tears running down my face. The words of God shocked and amazed me! How did I take the Bible for granted all these years? 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Truly well-said! Wasn’t my sorrow the proof of these words?

The verse, Ephesians 4:29, touched my emotions: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Had I not been taught the same by my mother since I was young? I immediately called my mother, who is a believer in Jesus, but she did not know which part of the Bible this verse came from. Thus, I became a lover of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit showed me that I was a sinner and could not save myself. I repented, accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and was baptized on October 27, 2012, by a Baptist pastor, Robert Davis.

After five years of court proceedings, I won the case in early 2013, and the court ruled that the Ugandan government had to compensate my losses.

Sharing My Utmost Treasure

With a changed attitude towards God, my attitude towards people changed drastically. I now was full of passion for the lost. I realized that many Chinese people who come to Uganda—or even to the entire African continent to make a living—have yet to meet Jesus Christ. I am encouraged by the Bible, and other religious books, that it is not enough that I have eternal life—I must spread the gospel truth to others. Most of the Chinese will return to China, and if they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, they could carry the gospel back with them. However, I am aware there are many truths in the Bible that I have yet to fully understand. Thus, Pastor Gong Wenhui from the U.S. encouraged me to pursue theological education to better equip myself for ministry—which is what I did. I am willing to rely on the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel to the Chinese people in Africa.

* This story was first published in Chinese Today, Issue No. 70 (April 2022) and was translated into English by Kiara Ngai.

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20220404
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