The Experience of Growth of a Christian Born in the 1990s
Wei Chen, Fujian Province
I’m a Christian who was born in the 1990s. I was once a student in one of those famous schools that all parents want their kids to study at and will go to extreme lengths to get them in. In China, they are known as key schools, and I studied in one for 10 years. In China, parents have very high expectations of such schools, and rack their brains for ways to improve their children’s chances of going to these high-quality places of learning. They think that their kids will thus gain a first-class education that will put them head and shoulders above the rest and bring glory to their family and ancestors. In order to get me into a key school, my mother pulled out all the stops to develop relationships with the right people and also spent a considerable sum of money. But the schools run by the C.C.P. have already lost all their purity of purpose and have become dens of lies and falsehoods. The teachers and staff—who should have been upstanding models of fairness, humanity and morality—have become treacherous, cunning and immoral hypocrites who are cultivating batch after batch of similarly hypocritical students, the so-called “pillars of the nation.”
When talking about teachers in China, it’s common to use a line from an ancient poem to describe their diligence: “The silkworm doesn’t stop producing silk thread until it dies; the candle doesn’t stop dripping wax until it turns to ash.” But after 10 years in that school witnessing the actions and behaviors of my teachers, I feel that I have to repudiate this. I remember the second semester in my first year. The music teacher announced that our class had been selected for a music class inspection by some senior figures, and that we had to continually rehearse the content that she’d prepared for the inspection exactly as she wanted. During one of the rehearsals, one of the classmates was being a bit uncooperative and repeatedly failed to do what the teacher said. Suddenly, the classroom went very quiet, and when I looked up I saw the music teacher staring furiously at that classmate. She stood up with a crash, threw her musical textbook down onto the piano with all her strength, and strode angrily toward the classmate. She grabbed him and dragged him to the back of the classroom to stand against the wall as punishment. When we saw this, all 30 0r so of us became petrified, and immediately began to carefully do exactly what the teacher wanted so that we didn’t meet the same fate. Later on, our head teacher and the music teacher also had one-to-one talks with all of the naughty students to warn them to shape up. So when the senior officials came they saw a well-ordered classroom with a friendly and welcoming teacher who had a voice so soft it gave you goose bumps. It seemed that we students and the teachers had entered into an unspoken agreement to cooperate to achieve the common objective of seeing satisfied smiles on the faces of the senior officials. After the inspection was over, I got together with a few classmates. The question we all asked was: “Why has our teacher taught us how to deceive people?” When we reached the third year we were told that some people were coming to listen in on our math class. The math teacher told us: “In class tomorrow we’ll be doing the same stuff that we did a few days ago. So I hope you’ll all go home and revise it well.” After class, the teacher asked the class monitor and class cadres to join her in her office. The next day, the back row of seats in the classroom was all taken up by teachers and officials who had come to observe us. The class started, and the teacher asked the pre-arranged questions and allowed the class monitor and class cadres to answer. Their flawless answers brought a satisfied smile to the teacher’s face. This open class came to a successful conclusion after fooling the government officials all the way, and was definitely a case of “For every policy the senior leadership create the lower levels create one to deal with it.” Inspections and evaluations by the Bureau of Education always put the teachers on the defensive: They would make us memorize all the possible questions and answers and would repeatedly and sternly warn us. They’d say things like: “The Bureau of Education inspectors are coming today so you’ve all got to stay in this classroom. Stay in here and be good. If you mess up I’ll make sure you all suffer the consequences!” They even threatened to deduct points from our end-of-semester exam scores! We also had a full school assembly so that the teachers could lay down the law and drill into us everything we needed to remember. We were so well-trained that an inspector could have grabbed the most unruly kid in any class and asked them any relevant question and they would have got a concise and fluent answer guaranteed to bring a smile to their face. Even more ironic was the fact that the usually smelly toilets were cleaned and the trash heaps were tidied up. Then there was the time when the bell for class rang but my classmates kept on making a terrible din no matter how loudly the teacher banged on the desk. So the teacher shouted at us angrily: “You were all so good during the inspections, but now that they’re over you’ve gone back to being how you were originally.” When I heard this I had a quiet laugh to myself, as I thought that this was certainly an instance of “A strict teacher produces outstanding students!” Six years of elementary school life had helped our performing arts skills progress greatly: Whenever we heard that there was going to be an open class, or that some officials were coming to observe us, we all knew just how to work hand-in-glove with the teacher to put on a good show to fool them.
When I got into key high schools, both junior and senior, I discovered that the practice of faking things was even more prevalent and developed. Our physics classes were nearly all theory, with very few practical experiments involved. When the school inspectors were about to visit, our teacher told us to do all of the experiments in the few classes beforehand. But we all knew that we had to be ready for the inspection, so we didn’t actually do them but just went to the lab and waited for the teacher to read out the correct results, which we then copied down. The senior staff of our school was also always looking for ways to bring our school up to Grade 1 standard, because doing so would mean more recognition, better equipment and facilities—both hardware and software—and more funding from the government. But this was a challenging task that needed the teachers and students to work together closely to complete. In order to pass the inspection and evaluation, we began all the fakery again. A few of the strongest students in the class were sent to the office to get all of the boxes of reports, experiment material, tables and charts—all the stuff that we usually never heard of or looked at. Then the teacher wrote all of the standard answers and results up on the blackboard and we copied the information into the tables, charts, etc. Then we handed them over to the teachers (and then they were hidden away until the time of the next inspection.) After that, I went with a few classmates to the school canteen to buy something to eat for breakfast. One of classmates wanted a chicken leg, but the canteen staff told him: “Today’s inspection day, so we’re not allowed to sell cooked food.” We looked at each other in bemusement, because we’d never have thought that the canteen—which made piles of money through selling cooked food every day—would also have a rest day. Ha-ha! They really were putting on a good show of singing from the same song sheet as the school’s senior management! Eventually, the combined deceit of all of the staff and students ensured that the school was promoted from a provincial Grade 2 school to a provincial Grade 1 school. The senior staff was naturally delighted, and grinned from ear to ear all day long. When the news was excitedly announced at a special school assembly, the gathered students were also very happy to hear it, because we knew that if we hadn’t passed the inspection then we would have had to carry on wracking our brains to think of ways to trick the inspectors next time.
As a result of the diligent cultivation from an early age at the hands of our teachers—those “engineers of the human soul”—we matured into students well-prepared to pass exams. Our ability to fake things and deceive people also progressed nicely. In our school, the rules didn’t permit students to have girlfriends or boyfriends or smoke. So we got round this by continuing our teachers’ tradition of “For every policy the senior leadership create the lower levels create one to deal with it”—we didn’t hold hands or hug or smoke in public areas of the school but instead snuck into dark corners or waited until we were outside of the school gates before having our fun. Anyway, as long as we weren’t caught in the act then there wouldn’t be any evidence. Also, bullying and robbing other students of their money were common occurrences. And so I sunk lower and lower into this great vat of sin, learning all the time how to be two-faced and sly. In the eyes of most of my relatives and classmates I was a good boy: I didn’t have a girlfriend, nor did I drink or smoke. When guests came to our house, even though I just wanted to play computer games, I would instead bring up the learning Web site—a site I visited so infrequently that I’d almost forgotten my account details—on the screen in order to win the guests’ approval. It was only when I was totally sure that the guests wouldn’t come into my room again that I’d start browsing the Web and playing games. Whenever I was feeling upset or troubled, I’d call up a few of my close friends and we’d go to a bar near to my house to get completely drunk. Once we’d drowned our sorrows and maybe acted a bit crazy, we’d calculate what time each of our respective parents would go to bed so that we could sneak in without them smelling the alcohol on us. Then we’d stumble and weave back home and sleep the rest of the night away snoring loudly. I remember one time when I finished off half a bottle of 56° sorghum liquor in three swallows. Walking home I could barely control my arms and legs, but when I got to the door of my house I slapped my face a few times, steadied myself as best I could, took off my shoes as quickly as possible, covered my mouth with my hand, and walked straight into my room, locking the door behind me. In my room I was king of my own domain, and so no matter how hard my mother knocked on the door I didn’t open it. The next day before opening my bedroom door, I didn’t forget to open the window to let some fresh air in. When I could smell that there was no stench of alcohol in the air, I took my clothes—which did still have smell of liquor—out onto the balcony to soak them in water. And that’s how I got rid of all the evidence. Ha-ha!
Occasionally, I would think about how the Lord Jesus had said that we must all be honest and always tell it as it really is. I was very dissatisfied with my various behaviors, and felt that I was totally phony and fake. I even felt that I wasn’t a real Christian, as I didn’t even have the courage to admit to my own faith in case I was mocked for claiming to be a Christian when my morals were so bad. Sometimes I’d pray and confess my sins, but my lifestyle didn’t change and I continued to feel lost, confused, and helpless. I knew that I wasn’t a good Christian, but I felt that the pastors and the deacons in the church all knew the Bible very well and could all discuss doctrines and teachings at length, so at least they were all good Christians, all apples of the Lord’s eye. But the reality once again struck back against my way of looking at things: It was during an election for church deacons, and as an impartial observer I was able to clearly witness just how absurd the whole process was. There were 13 deacons to begin with, and when the pastor announced the results of the election it turned out that the same 13 had been re-elected. There hadn’t even been any other candidates! I couldn’t help but shout out: “Cheats!” and then stormed angrily out of the church. I pondered over this event, but whichever way I thought about it I always came to the conclusion that religious elections were just as fake as the practice I had witnessed in school or the elections the local government held for village cadres. On another occasion, I was child minding for the pastor and struck up a conversation with her 7-year old daughter: “I bet your mother reads Bible stories to you pretty much every day.” She replied: “No, my mom said there’s no point in reading that stuff!” I was stunned, and asked her again, to make sure. But the little girl replied with certainty: “Mom doesn’t let me read the Bible and told me not to believe any of it. She said that only scientific knowledge has any use.” The truth left me dumbfounded: This pastor was a total hypocrite who was teaching her child to ignore Christian teachings! I would never have imagined that the senior figures in my church were all deceitful atheists who were just putting on a show to further their own interests. I was terribly disappointed in them, and vowed never to go to any church meetings again. I felt that listening to them preaching was no different from listening to those falsely just and righteous senior school staff who got up on the stage and tried to fool us with their trickery. At a later date, my mother became one of the church deacons, which gave me even more of an insider’s view of how this so-called holy, God-worshiping “temple” had developed in the same way as modern society. The pastor and deacons had formed factions, and of course there were lots of differing opinions, so the dozen or so of them were frequently quarreling until they were red in the face. They also had the habit of finding spurious reasons for spending the congregation’s donations on trips and dining out. They once announced, in all earnest, that they were going to give 500 yuan to poor families to subsidize their children’s school fees. In fact, the parents who applied for the subsidies were all close to the pastor and deacons on a daily basis. One of these “poor parents” actually owned a 3-storey house and had a monthly income of over 1,000 yuan. As for the parents who everyone actually knew to be living with hardship, not one of them got the subsidy. Through personally witnessing all this, I became extremely disappointed and didn’t know what to do about the whole situation. I felt that only the return of the Lord Jesus could put an end to these filthy and despicable affairs. I couldn’t help from calling out: “Lord, please, please, come soon!”
I’m so grateful to our Lord for taking pity on me and listening to my pleas. After about 2 months, one of the brothers came to my home. At the time, I was the only one at home, and out of politeness I sat with him for a while, chatting about this and that. But during our chat the brother bore witness to Almighty God’s work of the last days for me. He said that the Lord Jesus has already returned and is called Almighty God, and that He is already expressing truths to do His work of judgment starting with God’s house in the last days. The brother also said that Almighty God is going to save mankind, which has been deeply corrupted and harmed by Satan, from its sins, free mankind from Satan’s influence and take us into His kingdom, thus ending this evil age. The more I listened, the more extraordinary and stranger it seemed. I had believed in the Lord Jesus for all these years but had never heard any of this. In particular, the parts where the brother dissected the various evil phenomena now prevalent in society, schools, and religious circles and revealed their substance and true situation were all issues that I had long puzzled over. I ended up fellowshiping about all of the things that I’d seen and heard over many years with the brother. I expressed my bemusement over why schools—that were supposed to be places of innocent learning—had become dens of lies, and why churches—that were supposed to be holy places—had become dens of fakery and in-fighting. Moreover, I wanted to be an honest person, as the Lord Jesus demanded, but it was just a pipe dream, as every day my life was lived from behind a mask. With regard to my puzzlement, the brother read some passages of God’s words to me: “Satan corrupts people through the education and influence of the national governments and the famous and great. Their lies and nonsense have become man’s life and nature. ‘Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost’ is a well-known satanic saying that has been instilled into everyone and become the human life. There are some other words of life philosophy that are also like this” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “Cruel, brutal mankind! The conniving and intrigue, the jostling with each other, the scramble for reputation and fortune, the mutual slaughter—when will it ever end? God has spoken hundreds of thousands of words, yet no one has come to their senses. They act for the sake of their families, and sons and daughters, for their careers, prospects, status, vanity, and money, for the sake of clothes, for food and the flesh—whose actions are truly for the sake of God? Even among those whose actions are for the sake of God, there are but few who know God. How many do not act for the sake of their own interests? How many do not oppress and discriminate against others for the sake of maintaining their own status? Thus, God has been forcibly condemned to death innumerable times, countless barbaric judges have condemned God and once more nailed Him to the cross. How many can be called righteous because they truly act for the sake of God?” (“The Wicked Must Be Punished” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Why do people engage in such deceit? To achieve their own aims, and to achieve the objectives they desire. And so they adopt certain methods, which shows that they are not upstanding, and that they are not honest. At such times, people’s insidiousness and cunning is revealed, or else their maliciousness and ignobility. With these things, you feel that it is especially hard to be honest; without them, you would feel that being honest is easy. The greatest obstacles to being honest are people’s insidiousness, their deceitfulness, their maliciousness, and their ignoble motivations” (“To Be Honest, You Should Lay Yourself Open to Others” in Records of Christ’s Talks). After reading these words of God the brother continued to fellowship more with me and that was when I had a sudden flash of realization: The root of all of our problems is that Satan has power over mankind and is corrupting us! Satan the Devil has filled us with poisonous ideas such as “Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Money is first,” and “Power is above all else.” These poisons have taken root in the deepest recesses of our hearts and have become our lives; these concepts control our every word and action. So regardless of whether people are in a school or in a religious community, they will be unable to stop themselves from furthering their own interests, and will compete and struggle against others to do so. When the pastors put up a sign saying: “Work for the Lord and serve His flock,” they still intend to fill their own pockets, and when the school hangs up a banner with the slogan “Impart knowledge and educate students to benefit the nation and the people,” it’s all just a charade. In fact, teachers use the slogan “Be diligent and industrious to serve as role models for others” as a cover to grab as much for themselves as they can. I’ve even heard of teachers losing all their humanity and humiliating or viciously beating students in order to further their own interests. This sort of thing is now so common that it’s no longer news. Satan the Devil uses power and money to control our hearts and spirits, which causes us to become more and more evil and sinister. In order to get what we want we will stop at nothing, and as our treacherous and cunning methods get more accomplished the profit they bring gets bigger and bigger. As a result, we just get more evil and corrupt and become capable of committing the most heinous of sins. It is just like the Chinese saying, “If the upper beams aren’t straight the lower beams will be crooked too”: Under the evil governance of the CCP all government officials are embezzling large amounts of money, and so senior staff and teachers in China’s schools naturally copy them as best they can. Concepts such as morality and justice get cast to one side and the word “profit” takes center stage, and that’s how schools become a microcosm of the evil society that they exist in. And once the eyes and ears of the students have been exposed to this evil contamination they will naturally become more and more evil themselves, just like blotting paper soaking up black ink. Some examples of this include students flirting with each other in the dark corners of the school and students smoking and getting really drunk in bars. I also saw young lovers hugging and holding hands in public places, and these days it’s even common for elementary school students to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Some students will deceive their parents or make life difficult for them in order to get more pocket money, and there have even been cases of children attacking their parents with knives after being refused of more money. Heaven knows how many parents have spent every dollar they have and pulled out all the stops in order to send their innocent little darlings to a high-quality school, only to see them not only not learn much or develop good characters but actually become more debased and evil and eventually turn into accomplished cheats or even murderers. People are always complaining that students are getting worse by the year, but this is the rotten fruit of the CCP’s rule. The brother also told me that the Age of Grace was when the Lord Jesus was doing the work of redemption—forgiving mankind’s sins—which isn’t the same as the work of the last days to judge, cleanse and transform mankind’s corrupt disposition. In other words, although believers in the Lord can gain redemption for their sins, their sinful nature is still firmly rooted inside of them, and they still cannot help but be corrupted by Satan to do evil and resist God. Such people live in a vicious cycle of committing sins in the daytime and admitting to their sins at night: Even the pastors are unable to extricate themselves from their sinful ways. For the last days, God expresses truths and does the work of judging and purifying mankind through His incarnation in order to thoroughly cleanse and transform mankind’s satanic disposition and resolve the issue of the source of their tendency to sin, so that they can be completely saved from Satan’s domain and be able to live in the light. As I listened to the brother talking it was like dark clouds were dispersing to reveal a clear blue sky: All of the doubts and bemusement of many years disappeared and I there and then accepted the gospel of the last days of Almighty God.
The brother then read another passage of God’s words: “The vast and hazy world has made many of you, unflinching and dauntless in filling the different roles of this world. It has formed many ‘warriors’ that do not fear death at all. More than that, it has created batches of desensitized and paralyzed humans who do not understand the purpose of their creation.” “Mankind, who left the supply of life from the Almighty, does not know why they exist, and yet fears death. There is no support, no help, but mankind is still reluctant to close their eyes, braving it all, drags out an ignoble existence in this world in bodies without the consciousness of souls. You live like such, with no hope; he exists like such, with no aim. There is only the Holy One in the legend who will come to save those who moan in suffering and long desperately for His arrival. This belief cannot be realized so far in the people who are unconscious. However, the people still yearn for it so. The Almighty has mercy on these people who suffer deeply. At the same time, He is fed up with these people who have no consciousness, because He has to wait too long for the answer from humans. He desires to seek, seek your heart and your spirit. He wants to bring you food and water and to awaken you, so you are no longer thirsty, no longer hungry. When you are weary and when you begin to feel the desolation of this world, do not be perplexed, do not cry. Almighty God, the Watcher, will embrace your arrival any time” (“The Sighing of the Almighty” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I was very moved by these words. In the past, in my confusion and pain, I had shed many bitter tears, but no one had ever been able to so clearly penetrate the secrets in my heart with their words or describe the true state of my heart and mind. And there had certainly been no one to tell me how to walk the path of my life in the future. But a few short sentences of Almighty God’s words were able to fully express what was hidden deep in my heart, and, more importantly, were able to show me a way forward. Now I not only know that the source of mankind’s degeneracy and corruption is because mankind has moved away from God’s life sustenance and fallen under the domain of Satan, but I also know that God always hopes that we—people who have been tricked and harmed by Satan—can return to Him as soon as possible and receive His salvation. God’s words brought me illumination and hope, and brought an end to many years of living in darkness. From then on, I started to devour God’s words and to participate enthusiastically in church life. I began to hate those dimly-lit bars where I used to get falling down drunk, and gave up drinking for good. Whenever my drinking buddies tried to get me to go out with them I’d find a good reason not to go. If I couldn’t think of an excuse, I would go with them, but not a drop of liquor ever passed my lips again. I watched them drink bottle after bottle, and when they were totally loaded they started acting crazy as usual. Out of the blue, I felt an unexplainable sadness. I felt that they were truly pitiful and I remembered that I too once behaved like that, getting drunk time and time again in order to numb myself and temporarily forget my worries and the emptiness inside of me. But drinking just caused the suffering and emptiness to last even longer. Now that I have something that I can really rely on, my heart feels full and joyous, and I’m truly grateful for Almighty God’s immense salvation!
What makes me even more grateful is that Almighty God not only relieved me of my spiritual emptiness but also led me away from all the filth and contamination. Every time I met up with the brothers and sisters I always felt totally liberated, because among them there is no fakery, no bravado, no empty talk, and neither is there any deception or suppression. The brothers and sisters seek to be honest people who are always ready to say what is on their minds because they know that the more honest they are the more God will approve of them and grant His blessings and the more they are liked by others. After seeing how each one of the brothers and sisters was living in a simple, open and liberated way, I decided to rebel against my own ego and vanity and tell one of the sisters about how I’d been under the influence of evil trends and fashions and just how degenerate and useless I’d become. The sister not only didn’t look askance of me but even told me about all of her own transgressions and the process of how God had saved her. And she was someone who I’d only known for fewer than 10 days! With my good friends who I’d known for years I rarely heard anything that really came from the heart, but here at The Church of Almighty God everyone is like this—everyone is making honesty into a practice. God’s house is a place of purity and piety that is completely different than the outside world! In the church there is no differentiating between high and low, rich and poor, or automatic seniority of the more qualified over the less qualified. The speech and actions of all of the church members is in accordance with God’s words, and these words are the rules and standards by which they behave. In God’s house I saw the true future and the true destination, and I started to hate my dry and monotonous school life where I was learning nothing of value and was just becoming more and more treacherous and cunning. In a society where good educational qualifications mean a bright future, I firmly and resolutely decided to abandon my schooling and to plan instead how I was going to remake myself. A lot of people didn’t understand my decision, and some even called me a fool who was destroying his own future. My relatives and classmates didn’t understand either, and when our pastor—the one who was full of fake kindness and fairness—heard the news that my mother and I had accepted Eastern Lightning, she spouted: “You’re both wrong! You’re both putting your faith in a person! Eastern Lightning has already been designated an evil cult by the government! If you keep on believing in it, you’ll be abandoned by the Lord. You’d be wise to study hard while you’re still young….” But I knew that I was absolutely on the right path, and I never regretted my decision because I knew that I have no future worth mentioning in a school that is full of lies and fakery. In fact, staying in such a place will only bring about the complete annihilation of my conscience and the loss of my humanity. Furthermore, how could those pastors and elders in the religious community, who don’t have a bit of the reality of truth and are tainted with the filth and corruption of the world, clearly understand my spiritual decision?
In The Church of Almighty God I have personally experienced how the truth and Christ rule in God’s house. Whoever practices truths gains respect and support, while those who promote dishonest practices or do evil are stonewalled, and if they don’t repent after being warned a few times then they are expelled. Because I have been too deeply corrupted by Satan and love status and prestige too much, during the period when I was a church leader I used my power to protect and fortify my position by attacking and taking revenge on a sister who disagreed with me. It got to the point where I demanded that she be expelled, and if she weren’t then I would leave, and anybody who tried to fellowship with me became my enemy. Even after multiple attempts by the brothers and sisters to support me and help me, I still stubbornly insisted that I was in the right. In the end, the sister wasn’t expelled and I was stripped of my leadership position for not accepting truths and not treating people fairly. This was God’s righteousness in action, and was also an example of God’s love and salvation. Even more so, it clearly showed me that God’s house and the outside world are very different: In God’s house it is truth and righteousness that rule, and they treat everyone equally and fairly. After I was removed from the leadership position, my corruption led me to misunderstand and complain about God, and I even considered betraying God and going back to my old life of uncontrolled drinking and debauchery with my school pals. But God didn’t give up on my salvation, and the enlightenment of God’s words and the fellowshiping of the brothers and sisters were able to pull me back from the brink of danger once again. Although I’m now just an ordinary believer in The Church of Almighty God, here I know what it means to be a real human and I understand that if people leave God then they will inevitably be trampled on and harmed by Satan. Almighty God allowed me to find true direction in life, and it was God that saved me from the dark and evil trends of this material world. I have no way of expressing the depth of God’s love and compassion, but can only dedicate the rest of my life to Him by pursuing truths and fulfilling my duties to repay His love!