“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” writes the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, 11th chapter verse one, as we know it. In immediate context, it follows the words from chapter ten: “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”
Praise God! That was exactly what happened this past week in our lives, as tragedy marked this week in April with explosions in Boston, so too some big bangs were creating new life on our end (God’s sense of humor can be seen in the fact that he does what the darwinists try to explain happened in the material realm by chance, but His work is everlasting in the spiritual realm).
Some background info is helpful in reference to last Lord’s Day’s chain reaction being set off. It begins with a disciple I’d immersed in the winter of 2010-2011 who’d stayed with us before after some relationship issues. After a rather short marriage, his search for a new partner seemed to get more and more futile with each pursuit. One of the gals, also in the circle of those studying the Scriptures with us at the time, came to our home for a shoulder to cry on. With this first instance, we advised her to make space between herself and him at the time and if God wills it, He’ll most certainly bring them back together. They stayed apart, meaning we only saw her once or twice again at our weekly study.
The second young woman to flee to our home for refuge did very much that. At first, she was coming with him in January and when he was occupied by my company and when the coast was clear, would divulge some strange behavior she’d observed in her Christian boyfriend. You see, she was the first non-believer I’d seen him with, which of course raised red flags with me right away. I even happened to be at the Sunday assembly where they’d met, a friend with whom I first started breaking bread back in 2008, after I’d first come to China. It was at Boo’s place that we all gathered that evening to listen to the visiting preacher from Singapore, whose family this girl Monica had accompanied.
Monica was an artist involving mostly oil on canvas on the outside, though at the time I suspected her account of our friend TMG (the initials of his three English names together) to have been also painted with a flourish. Admittedly, as insinuating as the charges seemed to be, I wanted to extend the benefit of the doubt to the brother in Christ. His story was quite opposite of the accusatory tale of him holding her in this relationship against her will. In fact, he claimed she was smothering him at a time he was seeking an opportunity for break-up.
That opportunity came at the Chinese New Year, just after we’d spent the eve of the auspicious holiday period with a couple who seemed to relish each other’s company. He even shared his excitement at this time about how he’d changed her name to be more like my wife’s, since they’d formed a close bond from their many shared instances of common ground, such as coming from the same province and the passing of their fathers. He now called her Summer, with which I was initially uncomfortale, as it shed a bit of light on the fact that he might truly be controlling her.
That brings us up to speed in a general sense to a week ago. It turns out that even after their break-up, contact was maintained and Summer was once again persuaded to return to Shenzhen for another go at being TMG’s girlfriend. Of course, he’d disappeared off our radar, to the extent I wasn’t even sure he was in town. It had come to my attention that he was around after our buddy Boo spotted him at a pentecostal service or two playing in the praise band. When I got ahold of him to inquire as to why he’d been such a stranger lately, he invited me to hear him sing a couple of times, though the timing wasn’t jiving with my schedule at the time.
Then, last Lord’s Day, after I gone to be a guest teacher in a home assembly near my school (my first opportunity to preach in a home assembly apart from our own since I first came to China), my wife called me saying that Summer (aka Monica) had flown the coop, so to speak. TMG had taken her to another pentecostal meeting nearer to our home. She made an escape during an opening prayer after being granted permission by TMG to join the women’s study group.
She hid out in a conveniently-placed convenient store and attempted to persuade the clerk on duty to flag a taxi for her. With the worker being on duty, the young man who came into the store was the next target for this desperate request. Crouched down from any possible view through a window, knowing that TMG could come in at any time, she was able to get all this accomplished. Thanks to her dead battery in her cell phone, this all took place during a fumbling exchange of SIM cards with the store clerk in hopes she could reach the friends with whom she’d already discussed her plight a month or two ago.
At first her beacon for help went unanswered. Jenica, Spring and Summer’s mutual friend, was already experiencing problems with her phone to the extent that calls went undetected unless she was constantly checking it, which apparently she wasn’t. That left the reluctant option, call Spring. The way my wife relates the account, her demeanor was cold enough to not draw the first call. No worries, for the ice was about to thaw in Spring with the help of Summer.
The two were able to make it back to the house with a Lily in tow. Being Lord’s Day, Lily hung around until the assembly. Aaron, a new contact, joined us later that evening. I made his acquaintance at an English corner down the road from us, a coffee shop called Origo. The manager there is also called Spring. I’ll be hosting that a second week in a row for Dave Gordon, a pilot friend and brother with whom I’ve already come through a couple of rocky faith-testing exercises.
The lesson that night was about Jesus our Rock, and Aaron was interested in grilling my wife for more info, both about the Scriptures and about the current situation. Spring let me know that night before that Summer wanted to become a Christian. She spent the night and when I went off to the 4 kindergarten classes in the morning, Aaron came back over for support and protection. Jenica was able to join them around lunchtime, too. I got a call in the morning telling me there was no need to stop by the Baby store and buy a pool. Spring had already done that. I was excited and quite taken aback that Monica wasn’t swayed away from Christianity with this wolf in sheep’s clothing derailing her life for some time.
I had prepared a few Chinese songs and was putting in order some passages from Scriptures I’d go over to guage her understanding of what she was choosing to do. Then the doorbell rang. We’re on the 7th floor with no elevator, which bought some time when Aaron got up to call over the intercom to find out who it was. I heard TMG’s voice and subsequently the door opening and closing shut as if someone were either going out or coming in, letting him in the sheep’s gate. I through on my shoes and met him between the 3rd and 4th floor on the stairs, turning him around with my actions and words. As I led him out through the same door at ground level and across the small lot by which he’d just come, he answered my inquisition as to what was going on by saying he had cancer. Within the next ten minutes or so, I’d learned other dark secrets which explained this complete downturn of events he was involved in to some degree.
As we spoke in plain sight of anyone who might be peering out our back sliding glass door, though later I’d find that to be no one, he disclosed that a missing persons report had been filed on Summer. It had the official red star stamp of the government and thankfully he was willing to give it to me. I told him I’d take it to her and advised him to give this pursuit of his a rest. He told me that he only wanted to talk to her one more time and that I should trust him, which is where I slipped and said he could talk to her in heaven if he turned back to the Lord and remained faithful. I told him in about two hours time she’d be a Christian, which surely condemns me for counting Christians before they’re hatched.
It turned out to be longer than two hours, but still the same day. Of course, that’s still a story in itself (I hope you’ve learned to skim for pertinent info by now, hehe). After I let the kitten out of the bag that she’d be immersed soon, he started to ask questions like: “You know where she is?” & “Is she at your place?” Since I’d pretty much had to take anybody before that day to either a duck pond or swimming pool, it was easy for me to switch directions by asking him, “If she’s getting baptized, do you think she’d be at my place?” As I walked off in the opposite direction of where I lived, I told him I’d take the paper he gave me to her. Sure, I assumed he’d follow me, so my short-term destination was the bus stop across the street and down the road I’d figure out how to shake him. The trick was getting him a good distance away from her while uder the guise of leading him to her.
Since I’d not brought a wallet, keys, money nor phone on my person in my haste, I had to ask TMG to use his phone to call my wife and let her know I’d be gone for a bit. She reluctantly answered, thinking it to be him, but after realizing it was me, bluntly said she was leaving with Matthew to a safer place, like her hometown. It turned out to be a much closer location. Once on the bus w/TMG, he pleaded with me to trust him. I told him I had to get back home, since this situation was messing with my marriage and family, too. As I got up to disembark at one point, he held my hand and said I needed to trust him, as he held me against my will. I told him he had to leave her behind. Naturally, this looked a bit queer to the four high schools situated immediately before us. A few stops later, I said we needed to get off the bus & was able to convince him to meet me the next day to talk while I hopped in a taxi to go back.
As the driver pulled away, I watched TMG cross the street as if he was listening to me to go home and get rest, since he said he’d not slept all night. I opened up to the taxi driver about the situation in my best broken Chinese and eventually come to the thought that Spring would depart before my arrival. I asked the bemused driver if I could use his phone and contacted my wife at about the same time we were both passing Shekou Walmart going opposite directions. My driver made a U-turn to allow me to first pay him, then join my family and Summer as they made a getaway to Gongming, where my wife’s former church was located. It had been where she was first sprinkled for salvation, but they’d as of late based their stance on the biblical model of immersion. Alongside this, however, they continued to speak in a babble they innappropriately labeled ‘speaking in tongues’. We arrived to the apartment converted to an assembly hall within an hour’s time and the ladies present (Cecilia, Sarah and Tongling) began to prepare for a new addition to King Jesus’ family.
For the purpose of bringing a new child into God’s Kingdom, they refrained from free-form jibber-jabber, though still setting the mood with some spirited singing and frenzied prayer. I took Matthew aside in some separate rooms in order to not disturb the ladies as they sang, taught, prayed and persuaded Summer to follow through with starting completely over with a brand new life. I must admit, since I was able to join them after a couple of hours when Matthew laid down for a nap, that Cecilia’s teaching of what happens in immersion was spectacular in even the 14th Century’s use of the word, which is a ”specially prepared or arranged display.” It would take some special work for me to be a better job, but the fact they were all ladies developed an atmosphere I surely could not reproduce.
Much of what has happened since that new birth will have to come in a follow-up post. My wife is completely on fire for the Lord now & wants to share so many amazing details of her own. There were 7 people at the pool that night, which I can’t help but think I may have influenced the way she thinks about that number, but ultimately that leads back to the glory of God. The seasoned sisters Spring and Summer were also together bonding in the Spirit nearly non-stop for six creative days with the first 24-hour period involving the Spirit hovering above the waters and a new sister taking form from an empty void of darkness, and the sixth day witnessing the conception of human life. Assuming that little one is revealed a little sister for Matthew Beloved, Autumn is due in Winter.
Your prayers are appreciated and solicited,
David N Spring