Newsletter September, 2003



My Son Has Come Home

Thanks be to God for bringing my son safely home from the war. I also thank all brothers and sisters for your prayer support. When Jason joined the Marines, people asked me whether I was concerned that he may be called to battle. My answer at the time was simply "trusting God", not thinking he would ever be called to duty in a real war. When he called home to tell us "no more play" about Iraq, I knew that he was a bit afraid and told him to pray for God's protection. After he brought this matter to the church, "I look up to God and find peace in my heart without any more fear". When he was in Iraq, we stayed with the TV set for the war report. When casualty was announced, we worried and also felt sad. However, the Lord granted us the peace that passes all understanding. I did not tell my elderly father, but instead he asked my sister to call and comfort us. When she called, I was in the garden tending my roses. She blamed me, "how could you be in a mood to care for the roses?!" Thank God that He enabled me to keep His words in my heart: Ecc. 3:1, "There is an appointed time for everything.....a time to give birth and a time to die.....a time for war and a time for peace," and Job 1:21, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away." He has prepared my heart for the worst. I was relieved to know that Jason was not afraid, because he told his sister about Daniel being in the lion's den, and his three friends being in the fire. If he is not afraid, what is there for me to be fearful?

When my son was at the front line, people seemed to look at me differently, thinking that I was overly anxious about Jason. Therefore, I deliberately chose not to wear black dress or shirt. Now the war is over and Jason is home. We as a family have truly experienced the presence of the Lord and the love of His household. Thanks be to the Father of loving-kindness, who alone can make this world beautiful again. If we love one another, He will use this love to calm all conflicts, as He has promised. May the Lord give success to the rebuilding work over there. May He grant wisdom to the President and his staff, and peace for the soldiers remaining in Iraq and all their families. (Phyllis)

Being In The War

Not many Chinese want their children to join the army. When I asked to become a Marine, my parents did not agree either. So I assured them that there would be no war, just to make them reluctantly go along with my decision.

Before the war broke out, I worried that one day I really had to go to the front. During the first semester in college, I prayed God that the Marine would not call me to duty. Then, in the first month of the second semester the call came. After weeks of worry, I found myself worrying no more, so I called my parents and asked them not to worry! At that time the church was reading through the Book of Joshua, from which the words of 1:9 greatly encouraged me, "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

From Florida we were sent to California for two weeks. I still had my cell phone to call home then. I remember telling my sister how the story of Daniel's three friends being thrown into the fiery fire and not getting hurt encouraged me. I asked her to tell my parents this. When arrived in Kuwait, my duty of being in transportation support behind the line was changed to that of a machine gun operator at the front. I did not tell my parents that, for I know how they would worry.

During the time in Iraq, I learned at least the following three lessons:

(1) Do not take anything for granted: Everywhere we had been in Iraq, it was filthy and underdeveloped. I really found out how wealthy and comfortable the America is. I learned that nothing is to be taken for granted. Over there we ate two vegetarian meals a day, but still had to run around outside all day. We hardly had time to rest, except a little nap in the foxhole. We could not carry any personal items. Everything was official, and there was no time for relaxation. After Iraq, I know how to treasure what I have here in the States.
(2) The war experience taught me to fight the spiritual battle of my Christian life with the same alertness. Only then I can resist the enemy's attack and have victory. Christians should be obedient to the authority like a soldier, and should get ready always for God's call to battle.
(3) The great power of prayer: I thank you all for praying for me, so that I had peace in the heart to depend upon God. I know things could be much different without your prayers. Thank you indeed! (Jason)

A Great Push From God

Like many students from China, I had no exposure to the Lord Jesus or Christianity before I came to the U.S. It took me more than four years just to turn my heart from rebellion to not rejecting this faith.

Last year we moved from Chicago to Orlando. Many friends discouraged us from coming, because I had a good job in Chicago. Now looking back, I know the Lord worked on my whole family with this move to Orlando. First, my wife accepted the Lord in less than four months and was baptized. I was happy for her, but did not feel my time had come yet. This past April we made a trip to Canada, which greatly impacted on me in a very personal way and changed the whole situation.

Before our departure, I thought about making a decision for Christ, but in my heart there was a hesitation. I have been reading the Bible, which by then had become acceptable to me. I thought that I must have believed already. My wife had become a believer, and my son seemed to fit into the church life very well. But I, for some reason, lacked the courage to take that last step. I felt that I should take a trip back to China to see my parents first. My mom is a Buddhist, and I wanted to explain all this to her. However, the SARS epidemic prevented me from going this summer. Before I became a believer, I thought that was bad luck. Now I know it was the Lord!

We planned for just a few days in Canada, then came back to the U.S. On April 29 we left the country from Detroit into Canada at Windsor. Having all the legal documents with me, I thought the return should be smooth and easy. So, we decided not to notify anyone here in Orlando. Who would have thought that the same afternoon my trouble began, a trouble so shaking that I had never experienced before?

With all the documents ready, we took the underwater tunnel to arrive at Windsor on the 29th. Everything was fine, except the custom would not allow me to bring my American- tagged automobile into the country without a proof of ownership. I was still making payments on the loan, and the title of the car was still with the creditor. That Canadian custom officer ordered me to turn back to the U.S. immediately, warning me not to return or he would have to confiscate the car. I argued that without the car our whole family could not get to Toronto. He said, "you can take a bus." We had no choice but returning to the U.S. border. The immigration officer was not familiar with the documents, insisting that I needed another visa. Four of them escorted us down this one-way tunnel back toward Canada. No matter how I begged them, explaining things, they would not listen. I wish another road could pop open at that time, instead of going to Canada. With no more resort I began to pray and pray as we slowly approached the Canadian custom office. The immigration officer simply welcomed us into Canada, but how about the custom officer? Thinking about what he told me earlier, I sat in the car and prayed for at least ten minutes before I moved on. When we got there, a new shift of officers had just come on duty for the night. They simply waved us by. I thought the Lord had truly helped us, then may be just my luck?!

With all that happening, we had no peace in our hearts, especially because we did not tell any one back in Orlando that we were gone. We decided that we should try to return through the Niagara Fall border entrance after a couple days. My wife began to pray hard, asking the Lord to allow us to return to Orlando. I wanted to come back, too, since I have been in the graduate program for half a year. So, while handling everything in Toronto, I contacted UCF for more legal documents to prepare for the return.

On Saturday we arrived at Niagara. The experience of Detroit still made me feel uneasy, even though I was equipped with more documents in hand than before. I began to pray, and remembered how earlier I encouraged Xiao to get baptized:"You just need a big push from God to get you over your questions!" That did not affect him much at the time, but I realized I was boasting before the Lord. So, instead of pushing Xiao, He was ready to give me a big push in faith.

Before entering the custom, my wife started crying because she wanted to be back in Orlando so badly. With all the problems in hand unresolved, her tears irritated me and I was very frustrated. Strangely I began to pray, "If we get through this with no trouble, I want to be baptized in Orlando, just like my wife did. But if You want us to remain in Canada, I will obey You and have no complain." Coming into the Rainbow Bridge Immigration Office, we submitted all the papers and sat in the waiting room. Normally, one should approach the window when called by name. You tell the officer what you are applying for, and wait for him to examine the papers. After about ten minutes of sitting and waiting, no one from the window called us. Instead, one officer walked toward us with our bright red passports in his hand. That was most unusual; coupled with the experience in Detroit, I knew that I was in trouble and got ready to argue again. Not knowing what to argue about, I began to pray. Surprisingly, the officer came to us and handed me the passports, saying, "Every thing is OK. Have a good trip!" I could not believe it happened this way. It was wonderful. As soon as I arrived back in Orlando, I called Uncle Ting telling him that I wanted to be baptized.

The whole event made me feel the power of the great push that was upon me all the time. I have no reason to hesitate anymore. To believe is a blessing. If our faith is small, discipline will come. That was what happened to our family recently. It shows how God works in our lives. May this sharing help those still wandering and undecided. (Zhang)