September 15, 2022

Small Gesture, Big Impact

A little kindness helps bring big change in a Chinese student’s life.
Shared by an anonymous staff member

IT WAS JUST A SMALL GESTURE OF KINDNESS. At least that’s how it seemed to the COM staff member, Paul, who offered that gesture. But it made all the difference in the world—and the world to come—for one student from China.

“Tian” had come from Beijing to a mid-Atlantic university to pursue a master’s degree. He sporadically attended functions that were sponsored by the local COM ministry, yet he skipped the ones that included spiritual content.

But then Christmas Eve of 2020 arrived, and Tian felt especially sad. With the campus deserted and his friends traveling in warmer places, Tian had nothing to do and no one to do it with.

A Timely Gift

“I was very lonely that day,” says Tian. “I didn’t have any friends or any activities. And then Paul came to my home to give me a Christmas gift. He said he didn’t want anybody to feel lonely at Christmas. That was very important to me at that time.”

Tian immediately decided to attend Paul’s gatherings more frequently. At first, he was thinking only of social opportunities such as sledding, but later he joined a Bible study that was offered over Zoom.

“I thought the Bible might be very hard to understand,” says Tian. “But after that first time, my impression totally changed. This was a good way for me to make new friends and learn something.”

Investigating the Gospel

And there was a lot for Tian to learn. He frankly admits he did not even believe in the existence of God when he arrived in America. And if he had believed in a god, he would have followed a Buddhist approach to that deity. “My grandmother is very deep in Buddhism,” he says, “and my dad always agreed with what my grandmother said.”

But after experiencing Christian kindness through Paul and ministry volunteers, Tian decided to learn more about the teachings of Jesus. Not only did he continue in the Bible study, but he began to meet Paul for weekly lunchtime discussions.

The two looked at the basic concepts of Christian faith, examined evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and did an ongoing study of the Gospel of John. And they often invited a Chinese believer, a man who met Jesus at a COM retreat years ago, to join their discussions.

Finally, Tian embraced the truth of Jesus’ sacrificial death. “Jesus was put on the cross to pay for all our sins,” says Tian, “so we don’t need to carry those things throughout our lives.”

Future Plans

Tian had planned to return to China immediately after receiving his master’s in engineering. But by the time his graduation arrived last May, his mind had changed. “I needed to stay here,” he says, “to gain more knowledge of Jesus and be where my friends can pray for me.”

As a result, Tian sought and found an internship with an agency of local government. Having completed that, he is now looking for a one or two-year job to broaden his professional knowledge before returning to China. He credits this change in plans to his relationship with God.


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