BEIJING (BP)–In the private dining room of a restaurant, chef Su Ning* sings a song from a new hymnal. Her face glows as she finds the melody, marking time by drumming her fingers on the table. Others around the table join her as she adds motions to the hymn, smiling as she remembers one gesture then falters at another.
Su and a group of friends pooled their money to print the hymnal, which will be distributed to house churches in China. The one she holds in her hand was one of the first off the press.
“We have not had a hymnal,” she says smiling. “All of the songs are written by Chinese. It’s very exciting to have our own praise songs.”
Like so many others, Su came to the city from a rural family of nine children to build a better life. Families are larger in rural areas since minority families often can legally have more than one child.
“I have six older siblings and two younger ones,” Su says. “We knew we needed to move to the city if we were going to succeed.”
Su’s interests lie in cooking. Since she was young, she has been in the kitchen learning to prepare new dishes.
“At first, my mother and my aunts let me cook only the greens,” she says. “I learned more as I got older.”
One of her older sisters moved to the provincial capital and became a believer. She began sharing her faith with Su, especially after she also had moved to the city.
“I didn’t like this Jesus,” Su recounts. “I told my sister her beliefs were not Chinese, that this religion was foreign and not good for us.”
She did notice, though, that her sister seemed much happier, and her personality was different — so much so that Su began to listen.
“After some time, I wasn’t against believing,” she says. “I liked to gamble, though, and I didn’t want to give it up. So I didn’t believe just yet.”
Eventually, Su did pray for salvation. She gave up gambling and made a commitment to spread the Gospel among her countrymen.
“I became a new person,” Su says. “Even my cooking improved. Jesus did that. There is no other explanation.”
Su became a chef in a local restaurant where she witnessed to her 30 co-workers. When all of them became believers, the restaurant owner fired them all. However, they found work in other city restaurants, and their witness spread.
“She is a prolific witness,” says a Christian worker in Su’s city. “Each year, she brings about 100 new believers into their group. She is at the very center of the work here.”
Today the restaurant where Su works is one of the best in the city. Her reputation as a chef has spread — and so has her witness.
Recently, a co-worker who was not a believer went to the hospital for surgery. Every day, Su sent a different believer to visit and share Jesus’ love with her.
“She can’t go anywhere, so she has to listen,” Su explains with a grin. “I know my co-worker will believe in Jesus one day.”
Su’s family also became believers, except for one brother.
“His two sons are believers, though,” she says. “They work with us here, and they work on my brother, too.”
One deterrent for some to become believers is money, Su says.
“In the countryside, people are very poor. Sometimes they say they will believe if we can give them money or if God can give them success,” she says.
“They need to find Jesus in their hearts before they can believe. It is the same in the city sometimes. But I am patient.”
*Name changed. Kathie Chute covered this story for the International Mission Board.