BEIJING (BP)–The team of six women and one child did not know what to expect when they entered the Buddhist temple. They just knew that God had led them to come and pray.
Arriving from the subway at one of countless temples in China’s vast capital city, Beijing, the team members could smell the burning incense as soon as their feet hit the sidewalk. As they walked past shop after shop selling statues of Buddha and packets of incense, they became more burdened. Overwhelming sadness welled up in their hearts.
Throughout the preceding days, the team had prayerwalked throughout Beijing, begging God to save souls for His kingdom. On crowded buses, subways and city sidewalks, they gazed at people’s faces, claiming them for God’s kingdom and pleading for God to release them from Satan’s grip on their lives.
On this day, Elizabeth, a mother of four from Maryland, felt very uneasy at the temple.
“My heart was breaking for the people, but also I felt ashamed at the complete denial of God,” she said. She admitted that seeing people bow before man-made statues gave her a new understanding of where God’s jealousy came from, and why He detests idols.
“They are lifeless pieces of wood,” Elizabeth said, unable to comprehend why so many people, especially young adults, would place their hope in what she felt was a very dark place.
The team purposely scheduled a visit to the Buddhist temple, with the intent of praying and seeking out individuals who would welcome the hope Christ offers.
Local Christians had warned them about the darkness and sadness they would feel in the temple, but as they walked around and prayed, the team was alarmed at the number of people who sought a remedy for their hopelessness in Buddhism.
Elizabeth chose to focus her prayers on praising God.
“I felt it was important to use that place to give Him the glory,” she said. “I sought out individuals and asked for mercy, and prayed that His light would shine through us, so they would wonder what was so different about us. Maybe then they would search for more.”
And then they saw her.
“She was just sitting on the corner, looking very alone,” said Elizabeth. She and the other Christians struck up a conversation with Sophia, who seemed very sad.
“She started sharing about marital issues and became very upset,” Elizabeth said. “We just assured her that we were there to love her and we cared very much about her.” They explained to Sophia that they wanted to help her and that it was OK to open up.
In broken English, Sophia shared the story of her failed marriage and how before she was married, her husband had adored her. Then after the wedding, they began to drift apart because he was very jealous of her and her job situation (which involved traveling with other men). He began to abuse her. They eventually became estranged, leaving her lonely and hopeless. At the time she hadn’t seen him in over a week.
“She was really overwhelmed; she had come to the temple almost as a last resort,” Elizabeth said. “She was really hopeless, and didn’t know where to turn.”
Wanting to encourage her further, the Christian ladies asked Sophia to meet them for lunch in the coming days. To their great delight, Sophia agreed.
When they met her, another Chinese woman joined them and interpreted the team’s words of prayer and comfort to Sophia. The interpreter also shared about her church and about her pastor and his wife. Before becoming Christians, the pastor had abused his wife. Now, the couple serves Christ, radically loving God and each other.
It was incredible news for the broken-hearted Sophia. Her heart became soft and, in a circle with her new friends, she asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior.
“It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” Elizabeth said. “I just held her hand and prayed with her, and she became my sister in Christ.”
Elizabeth says the whole experience has heightened her awareness of the need for prayer everywhere. Though she had traveled to Beijing to pray before the Olympics, she now understands she can pray just as fervently at home.
“You don’t need to take a plane and travel halfway around the world to do this,” she said. “The field is wide open everywhere you look. I was taught to apply the same prayer techniques every day and to be a little bolder about sharing.”
For Elizabeth, seeing others come to Christ is the greatest reward in life, far better than even an Olympic gold medal.
*Name changed for security concerns.