Once gripped by fear of death, Asian farmer becomes a pastor

EAST ASIA — Jia Liang* doesn't stop to sit down the entire evening, making sure guests never see the bottom of porcelain bowls full of rice and fish stew.

Traditionally in East Asia, women play the role of host, but tonight under a star-studded sky, Liang serves family members and friends who helped plant his terraced rice fields. Most are believers and attend Liang's house church, but not all.

Two years ago, however, Liang was a tormented and fearful worshipper of ancestors and idols.

"I found Christ in a very difficult situation," says Liang, 29, now a calm and unassuming house church leader. "I was ill."

Liang's fear of death crippled him to where he felt like he was dying. Most days, with fear manifesting itself as physical illness, he couldn't muster the strength to get out of bed.

Jiu Wang*, one of Liang's Christian neighbors, told him evil spirits were the cause of his fear. She encouraged him to follow Christ and told him God has the power to free him from his fear.

"If I follow Christ, what will family members say about me?" Liang asked, since his entire family worshipped idols.

A witch doctor gave Liang 30 bags of medicine to cure his fear, and he decided to try that before trying God.

The medicine didn't work, and Liang's wife invited Wang to their home.

It was raining when Wang arrived.

"I prayed to God and asked him to make it stop raining," Wang says. She told Liang that God would heal him.

"Do you have faith?" she asked Liang.

Liang decided to believe in Christ. The rain soon stopped, and Liang was healed of his fear.

"Because I believe in Christ, I will have eternal hope," Liang says. "I will not have any fear of death because He is the eternal, living God."

Fourteen of Liang's family members and close friends began to follow Christ after they saw how the Lord set him free from his fear of death.

Liang shoulders a heavy load for a young man. Because he came to faith first, he is seen as the leader of their house church. He balances leading the church with raising a family and farming the rice, soybeans, yams and coffee that sustain his extended family.

Liang receives spiritual guidance from a believer in a nearby village but the rest of his biblical knowledge comes from reading the Scriptures.

He and the other believers share their burdens and help each other in the fields and in their faith. The homes that sparsely dot this valley are not easily reached by visitors. The isolation means community members depend heavily on each other for everything from help in the fields to prayer.

During the church's weekly time of worship, the believers, now numbering about 20, pray for rain for the crops, for families whose babies were miscarried and for neighbors and family members to accept God's truth. They sing their thanks for God's faithfulness in answering their prayers.

Liang has told his house church of a dream he had of a voice telling him, "Go share the Gospel." His hopes and prayers have been stirred for a revival to sweep through the homes of the 200 to 300 people scattered throughout the mountains as men and women hear and accept the truth about Jesus.

He doesn't know how revival will come other than church members passing on Bible stories as they farm and share meals with their neighbors.

Right now, he says, the believers know how to tell about Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. They're learning new Bible stories and how to share them with non-believers.

Their times of learning come after long days of planting rice, picking coffee beans and feeding chickens and hogs.

When they do share the Bible stories with their neighbors, the villagers' fear of spirits and the desire to appease ancestors keep many from accepting the Good News. But these believers have seen faith in Christ cure Liang's fear and change their own lives.

Liang asks for prayers:

• for the truth to echo throughout the mountain range.

• for boldness for the believers as they share in the rice fields and courtyards of their unbelieving neighbors.

• for unity, wisdom and understanding as the believers grow in their faith.

"Right now we are still in the infant stage," Liang says. "So basically, we study the Bible together and share and encourage one another and pray for one another."


*Names changed.