BEIJING (BP)–Li Hua* is a firm believer in miracles. In fact, she is a miracle.
On a December day in 1981, an icy wind howled as a young couple huddled in their ox cart to keep warm. Wooden wheels creaked and the oxen huffed as they dodged holes and debris on the rural road, slowing their progress to the city.
From time to time, the husband cast sidelong glances at his pregnant wife. It was a sad day, one he had hoped would not come. For months, the small family had moved from place to place to avoid authorities. This baby would be their second — an illegal addition, according to China’s one-child policy. But the couple had been discovered, so this journey was taking them to the hospital for an abortion.
Then the unexpected happened.
“My life began with a miracle,” Li Hua says. “My parents didn’t expect it, but I was born on the way to the hospital. I came so quickly that my heel scraped the bottom of the cart.”
It also was unexpected relief for Li Hua’s parents. They would only be required to pay a fine to keep their second child.
If they cut the umbilical cord, they wouldn’t need to go to the hospital and could avoid questions about why they didn’t seek an abortion sooner. Then another miracle occurred. In spite of the weather, a vendor sat on the side of the road — and he had a knife so they could cut the cord. The parents took their infant daughter home.
Born prematurely, she did not do well.
“For a month, everyone thought I would die,” Li Hua says. “My complexion was gray, and if I cried, I would stop breathing. I was born too early, but my mother did not give up on me.”
Her mother was a believer, and she sang Christian songs to her little girl, told her Bible stories and took her to worship services.
“I grew up with the knowledge [of Christ],” Li Hua says. “But knowledge and faith are not the same things.”
Faith came when Li Hua left home to study computer technology. While a student, she met a young American volunteer in China who told her about Jesus. She accepted Christ as her Savior, and that changed the focus of her life.
“I was no longer interested in reading about computers,” she says. “I wanted to read Christian books instead. There were 17 tests I needed to take [for school], and I passed them all except one without reading the books I needed to read.”
The test she failed was in English, a subject she disliked.
“I prayed to God to ask if He really wanted me to learn English. The answer came through the American. He came to ask if I’d like to study English. I knew that was God’s answer.”
Li Hua did learn English and passed the English test. She began praying for God to show her a house church. Meanwhile she shared her faith with a classmate, who rejected the message. But that classmate went to another class and saw a girl there reading a Bible, “so she told her about me,” Li Hua recounts. “This nonbeliever brought me together with a girl who did believe. She took me to her house church and introduced me to others. Now I try to connect believers I meet.”
Completing the computer course, Li Hua had a decision to make about her future. Would she begin a career in computers or listen to God’s voice telling her to work in ministry? She chose the latter, even though it meant her only income would be relying on financial gifts.
“My parents do not know this,” she says. “My father asks questions about what I do, and I just say I’m in business. He’s not a believer and he would not understand. There is an expectation when a Chinese young person goes away to study that they will earn money and do well.”
Members of her church helped rent a building on the university campus and open a shop where she can have conversations with students. She also introduces them to other believers. In addition, Li Hua’s shop displays Christian books and jewelry.
“I’ll sell the books if someone wants to buy,” she says. “But I’ll loan them, too, to anyone who wants to read one of them.”
“I know they could arrest me,” she admits. “But I depend on my Father to protect me. I don’t know how long I can work here, but I only want to tell the students about Jesus. They won’t stay here after they complete their studies, and they can’t go home because parents expect them to build a better life. They’ll move to the cities.”
“We are afraid for her, afraid for her safety,” says Kevin*, a Southern Baptist living in China. “There is no official work here. I’m here only to study Chinese. When I arrived, someone introduced me to Li Hua, and Li Hua introduced me to someone else. Her shop is a center for believers and those who will believe. God is truly at work here. She is a catalyst — her life is all about miracles.”
*Names changed. Kathie Chute covered this story for the International Mission Board.