I don’t want to be a Christian

group-gardeningThe voice on the phone had a note of concern. “Mom, before you come, I want to let you know that Mei Ling* is coming over shortly. She’s really hurting and she wants to talk.”

After her daughter hung up, Haley paused for a moment. She had been about to leave for Stephanie’s home to see her new grandson for the first time when the call had come. Mei Ling was Stephanie’s neighbour and Haley had met her almost three years earlier. They had become well acquainted with each other as they both shared a passion for gardening. Mei Ling had shared a little about herself over the course of their friendship. Her parents were believers but Mei Ling had never shown any interest in her parents’ faith. Though her parents had tried to take her and her siblings to church, Mei Ling had turned down their offers. Since she had been a child, she was more interested in herself. Now Haley wondered what was causing Mei Ling so much grief. All of a sudden, she felt the very strong urge to take along a copy of By This Name.

Haley arrived at Stephanie’s home which was some distance away. It wasn’t long before Mei Ling knocked on the door. Over coffee, Mei Ling poured her heart out to Haley and Stephanie. Her life was full of trouble.

As Haley listened, she knew she didn’t want to give her friend words of empty comfort. She knew that trite cliches had no value. “I wanted to offer her real hope.” Haley wanted to share with Mei Ling the true hope found in the God of the Bible.

She decided to lay it on the line. She said to Mei Ling, “This world is full of trouble and we don’t have a lot of hope in this world.”

Mei Ling’s eyes flickered. She piped up, “That’s me. I have no hope! You are so lucky, you have hope. You have your God, you got your religion.”

Haley gave a measured response. “We’re not lucky… It’s just that we’ve chosen to put our hope in the living God.”

Mei Ling shook her head as if to preempt Haley’s invitation. “I don’t want to be a Christian. But,” she added with an edge to her voice, “I’ve got some big questions for your God.”

Though Haley was unsure where Mei Ling was headed in the conversation, she replied confidently, “Well, God is a big God, and he can take your questions. He’s not angry that you’re upset. There are some big questions in life and there are pretty big answers.” Then she added tenderly, “Why don’t we find out those answers together?”

Mei Ling took a moment to consider Haley’s offer. Then she nodded. “Yeah.”

And so arrangements were made. Haley, Stephanie and Mei Ling would meet every Wednesday to do a study of By This Name. The three women faithfully met each week, though they had to skip some sessions due to illness or other reasons. But Haley made sure the study continued.

As she had been taught, Haley used the leader’s guide to lead the study. She followed the notes, playing the videos when the guide said to do so and pulling out visual aids whenever it was indicated. Haley had borrowed the visual aids from her church and they were a big help. “I’m a visual learner,” she said, “so having the veggies or the brazen altar set out on the table helped a lot. Even though we’d seen them on the videos, the visual aids made such an impact when we saw them on the table.”

The study made good progress as Mei Ling attended faithfully. Haley continued to lead, making sure that her friend understood the unfolding gospel story by using the questions in the workbook.

“She’s a very smart lady,” Haley later commented about Mei Ling. “She rarely answered incorrectly—perhaps three times [throughout the study].” To keep the study objective, Haley never asked her friend if she was believing what she was learning. She simply asked if Mei Ling understood. That was one of the key instructions of Worldview Rethink—remain objective throughout the study and let the Holy Spirit do the work of convicting a person’s heart.

“If you had asked me to guess, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you one way or the other if she was believing,” said Haley. Then, when they were more than halfway through the book, Mei Ling testified, “I believe there is a God and that he wants me to trust him!”

Haley’s heart quickened. This was what she had been waiting to hear. The information about God was starting to make sense for Mei Ling. “But what do you believe about Jesus?” asked Haley. Instantly, Mei Ling changed the topic of conversation. Haley wisely refrained from probing further.

When the study reached the paramount chapter 14, Haley was concerned. She had an appointment later that day which meant she didn’t have the luxury of time, but she was determined to complete the entire chapter in one sitting. This critical section of the book would tie together all the foundational Old Testament accounts with all the stories of Jesus so that the gospel made sense. In faith, Haley began working through the chapter. About one third of the way through, Haley could sense the change in Mei Ling.

“All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together,” Mei Ling told Haley. In the kitchen where they were having the study, all the visual aids were laid out on the table and they had such an impact. Haley was really thankful when they completed the chapter in time and she was glad to see Mei Ling still very eager to continue to study. “I don’t want this to end!” quipped her friend.

The next week at Stephanie’s house was the critical decision-making moment: Chapter 15. This was the point in the book where the reader is asked, “Will you trust Jesus as your personal Saviour—the one and only God-man who paid your sin-debt?” In the leader’s guide, there is a line drawn across the page with a note to the leader that reads: “Unless your student insists, do not continue to read the content in Section 1 below this line.” When she got to the line, Haley hesitated.

Mei Ling looked up. “Why are we waiting? Let’s move on.” Haley could sense the eagerness in her voice.

“Mei Ling,” said Haley cautiously, “I have to stop here and ask you a question. If you are not trusting in Jesus, then the rest of this section is not for you.”

Her friend shot her a look of astonishment. “Of course I believe! How could I not? Jesus died on the cross for me. He paid the penalty for me.” Then without warning, Mei Ling started to weep with tears of joy and relief.

The study halted for a moment. Stephanie jumped up from her chair and disappeared into another room. She returned with a parcel in her hands.

“I can’t wait. I gotta give you this!” She handed Mei Ling a Bible.

“This is for me?” she asked in amazement. “How did you know I wanted a Bible?”

“I didn’t!” came Stephanie’s quick reply. “But I had faith,” she added with a warm smile.

Mei Ling touched the cover of the Bible. “My very own Bible,” she said in awe.

After they had settled down, Haley continue with the final chapter and finished the book. When they were done, Haley asked Mei Ling, “When did you believe? Was it in an instant when you went from unbelief to belief? Or was it a process for you? Can you put a finger on a day?”

Mei Ling sat back in her chair and thought for a moment. “It was a process,” she said. “It began with the realization that God is real. Then he sent Jesus… And he died for me. I realized there’s nothing I can do.”

Haley remembered that Mei Ling was going to visit her mother for her eightieth birthday in less than a month’s time. “Are you going to tell your mom the good news on her birthday?”

Mei Ling shook her head. She said, “I will be phoning my mom as soon as I get home!”

After they shared a happy laugh, Haley told her friend that for months now, many people had been praying for her as she went through the study. Haley revealed that she’d even told the staff at GoodSeed about their study and they had been praying too.

“Do you think even John Cross was praying for me?” asked Mei Ling in surprise, referring to the author of the book. She was profoundly touched by the thought that so many people were concerned for her.

Haley asked, “Mei Ling, remember what you said four months ago, before we started studying together?”

Mei Ling shook her head. Haley said, “Remember you said ‘I don’t want to be a Christian.’”

“I said that?” Mei Ling pointed to herself.

Haley nodded. She reminded her friend how she had said that she had some big questions for God. “Did God answer your questions?”

A big nod came from Mei Ling. “Oh yeah.”

Haley later related, “It was so exciting to see someone being born again. Such a powerful experience. I thought about it for days. She kept saying thank you, thank you, over and over again. I told her don’t thank me, thank the Lord. He’s using me, he’s using all the people involved in making the book, to help you understand the gospel.”

Haley could see the work of the Holy Spirit going on in her friend’s heart. Mei Ling shared that she now knew she had to forgive the people who had been hurting her all these months. “I know I have to do that,” she said. “Jesus forgave me. I will have to forgive as well.”

“Forgiving is not easy,” Haley said, “Not for new or old believers. But God will give you the strength to forgive. It won’t be dependent on your own power.”

“Yes, you’re right,” said Mei Ling with a nod. Haley was encouraged to see that her friend was understanding spiritual things.

But the study didn’t just benefit Mei Ling. Stephanie later said, “Mom, I learned so much from this book. After going through the study, I feel equipped to lead my own study.”

For Haley, this was equally moving to hear. She recalled her younger days when she says she was a backslidden Christian. When her children were young, they had attended Sunday school and had been involved in church life but she’d always felt she didn’t do enough to give her children a solid foundation in biblical truth. So Haley was very grateful that her own daughter had also benefitted from the study.

Now as Mei Ling looks ahead to the future, she’s very eager to continue growing her faith. She’s praying for opportunity to share the gospel with her husband and two adult children. She knows how to do it too, after having experienced how Haley led the study.

As for Haley, she’s just thankful that the Lord allowed her to be part of Mei Ling’s spiritual journey. She’s thankful for the time she’s invested in learning the material. She feels equipped to share the good news about Jesus Christ at a moment’s notice. She doesn’t consider herself an expert teacher but now has the confidence to share. “If I can do it, then anybody can do it!”

(* All names changed as per GoodSeed policy.)