A former international student who moved from China to the United States nearly 20 years ago is testifying how she grew up as an atheist who mocked Jesus – until she heard a message about God’s love.
Today, Hongyi Yang serves as an assistant professor of systematic theology in the women’s studies program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. But in 2000, she was an international student who had grown up in southwest China believing God was a myth.
When she moved to Texas that year, she had “never seen a copy of the Bible” and had known only “one Christian in all my life,” she wrote in a new column for Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I was an atheist at that time. I believed that there was no God who could save us and that we must strive for success by our own ability, diligence and luck,” she wrote.
In Texas, she was surrounded by Christians who invited her to church. Yet she refused their invitation “without hesitation.”
“I had an attitude of contempt toward Christianity,” she wrote. “... I also mocked Christianity. I thought it is so humiliating to worship a God who was crucified on a cross. This is exactly what 1 Corinthians says, that ‘a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him’ (1 Corinthians 2:14). I was actually the foolish one.”
But God had mercy on her. Her life was changed forever, she wrote, during the last three days of 2000.
“I attended an evangelistic conference where I mainly heard two speakers talking about God,” Yang wrote. “Through their messages, I became convinced that there is a God and that He is like a Father who waits for us to return to Him. On the last day of the conference, I decided to follow Jesus Christ.”
Yang testified that “my eyes were opened,” and it was “almost like I could see the world more clearly than before.”
“I experienced a kind of gentle, bright and great love that I had never experienced,” Yang wrote. “I surely know that there is indeed a God and I am experiencing His love. Life is not meaningless anymore because there is this God.”
Yang was baptized on Easter Sunday in 2001. She invited a few non-believing friends to watch her baptism, and two of them eventually became Christians.
“The Gospel has changed and continues changing my life, my mind and my whole person,” she wrote.
Yang also serves as director of the Mandarin Translation Project for the Master of Theological Studies program at Southwestern Seminary.
She holds degrees from Southwestern Seminary, the University of North Texas and Beijing Normal University.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Hongyi Yang/SWBTS
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.