The love of the Lord helped us face hardships fearlessly

During my interview with Huifen Huang, I was facing her and I could detect her sadness and loss. Although she survived cancer and suffered the loss of her husband, her voice was gentle and serene, and a smile still came through in her expression. She said, “I firmly believe that the love of the Lord has always been with us, and He continued to grant us grace. Regardless of life’s challenges, we clung on to Him with faith and strength.”

Born in a Traditional Worldly Family

Huifen was born in 1951 in Guangzhou, and was the oldest of six siblings. Following her father’s job, the family moved to Zhaoqing. There Huifen met Jian Xun Chen, a Cantonese opera singer from Guangxi.

Huifen loved literature and enjoyed expressing herself in writing. She even shared her essays with others. The two of them were indeed like-minded and admired each other. This led to their marriage when she was 19.

Huifen recalled that there was no concept of Christianity in their family upbringing. Rather, they followed the cultural tradition of the society and worshiped Buddha and practiced incense burning. Jian Xun was born into a warlord’s family. Being the first-born, tradition dictated that he be adopted by Guanyin, the goddess of mercy. He was instructed by his mother that wherever he went, he must set up an idol of Guanyin, plus an altar for ancestor worship. He was to burn incense and give offerings. Huifen and her husband emigrated to the U.S. in the 1990’s. Obeying his mother, he set up the idols and performed the routine worship and incense burning.

“However, God did not give up on us.” Huifen recalled. “After coming to the U.S., Jian Xun took a job in an apartment complex to perform maintenance. I worked with him in purchasing, warehouse management and apartment cleaning. At that time, the apartment mailboxes routinely received mailing of gospel literature, such as the publications of Chinese Christian Mission (CCM). In maintaining these mailboxes, I had a chance to read these publications. I became very interested in them.”

God did not forsake me, allowing the gospel to enter my heart

Although they continued the idol worship life style, God did not forsake them. Conversely, God used different ways to lead them to the gospel. One time Huifen learned that the apartment owner, their boss, was a Christian. She chatted with him about the gospel tracts she read. The boss invited them to his church. When the Lord’s supper was served, Jian Xun took the bread and the cup, not knowing that he was not supposed to. Looking back, Huifen can see that God was with them when they stepped into the church for the first time. She became even more interested in reading the CCM literature from the mailboxes.

Huifen said, “My husband worshipped the idol daily and listened to recorded Buddhist chanting. I felt very uncomfortable listening to it, and asked him to turn down the volume. Actually, after going to church that time, he became more interested in listening to sermons. He kept up with the home idol worship because he wanted to honor his mother.” Nevertheless, God continued to be merciful to them.

When the Chens came to the US, their children were left behind in China. Huifen prayed daily to be able to reunite with them. It took more than ten years, but it finally happened. “Especially when my daughter was 16, she went to the American Consulate in Guangzhou to apply for a visa. It was approved right away, and it took only about three weeks to get the document. It was God’s answering my prayers. Although my daughter still has not accepted Christ, He did not forsake us. He continued to help and bless us.” Huifen expressed her gratitude,” Although I had yet to receive my baptism, my heart looked up only to Jesus Christ, and I prayed daily to God to protect and guide us.”

Trusting God in time of trouble

In 2021, Huifen was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer, which had metastasized to the lymph nodes. “The doctor expressed concerns because it was serious, but I was confident that God will watch over me. During my treatment in the hospital, I saw many fellow patients, with their bodies ravaged by the disease, with emaciated faces, losing their hair and wearing bodies down to skin and bones. The sight was so frightening but I prayed frequently to have more faith. More importantly, God performed miracles on me. Even after 57 chemo treatments, it did not change my appearance and I did not lose any hair. I was able to get into remission. It was indeed a miracle.”

During her treatment, God sent angels to strengthen her faith. A hospital dietitian came to see her after each chemo session to encourage her. She even referred her to the oncology social worker JoAnna Quan, a Christian, to care for her.  JoAnna in turn referred her to Ernest and Janice Lam of the Herald Cancer Care ministry. This couple provided emotional and spiritual support to her and helped her to navigate her cancer treatment and recovery. Huifen also came to know a fellow NPC patient brother Angus Chiu who shared his own cancer experience to encourage her and prayed for her. Brother Angus took her out to have dim sum and helped her grow in faith. Her oncologist visited her weekly and paid close attention to her treatment, making adjustments when needed.

“I am most thankful that although I did not know the Lord too much and was not very familiar with the Bible, He continued to help me and guide me, enabling me to lean on him during that difficult time. He is indeed the Savior of the world.” Huifen said that she was also influencing her husband to turn to Jesus. One day, they went to the Oakland community service office of Chinese Christian Herald Crusade to ask for help in filling some forms to apply for government assistance. Pastor Peter Zheng happened to be there and he talked to them at length and invited the Chens to accept Christ as their savior. They agreed.

Backed by God, they boldly faced all challenges

In 2022, Jian Xun was hospitalized because of ALS and Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy, two incurable diseases. In the hospital admission form under “religion,” he declared himself to be a Christian. To him, it was a very significant life turning point.

With his declining health, Jian Xun began to have serious problem when ingested food got into his windpipe and lungs. He had to be fed with tube and a breathing machine. Although his life on earth was coming to an end, his faith enabled him to have eternal life. “We accepted that his conditions are incurable, and we will miss him, but God continued to send angels to strengthen our faith, helping us to face the worst possible scenario.” Encouraged by Huifen, Jian Xun also learned to trust in God. In his deteriorating days in the hospital, he was able to feel the presence of Jesus, gently touching him.

“Jian Xun spent his last days in the hospital. I was at his side all the time. God also sent angels to serve us. Every time the janitor came, despite the language barrier, she would hold my hands, then give me a hug and point her finger to heaven signaling to us that God in heaven is gracious. Hospital chaplains would come every day to pray for us. Jian Xun would wake up at about 9 am to get ready for the chaplain’s visit. He would turn his eyes to the door eagerly waiting them to come and pray for him. He always felt better after the praying. Every time when I had to go to see him from home, an Uber driver that I hardly knew would give me a free ride. When I needed food, a nurse would bring me free food from the hospital cafeteria. When facing all kinds of challenges, God sent angels to help us.”

Jian Xun and Huifen were baptized by Pastor Zheng in the hospital to become Christians officially. Relying on the breathing machine, his quality of life continued to decline, lapsing into unconsciousness, still enduring the insertion of the breathing tube. “Although we were baptized late in life, but Jian Xun was convinced that he became a believer. Even when he mistakenly took the holy communion in his first visit to the church, it was his beginning of turning to God.” When the doctor announced to him that his condition would not get better, Jian Xun was not depressed. He was in fact peaceful. In January of 2023, Jian Xun decided to have the life support removed to depart to the Home in Heaven. He chose to stop the suffering, and go to where there is no more suffering and be blessed with being with God forever.

Huifen and Jian Xun went through a lot, but they were able to face all the challenges without fear, because: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3: 20-21)” Facing all the sufferings in this world, there is always God’s watching over us according to His will.

An epilogue

This interview was conducted through the introduction by Ernest and Janice Lam. Janice told this writer that the relationship between Huifen and Jian Xun was a love story. Janice said, “I was connected with the Chens in 2021. In the beginning, when I talked to Jian Xun about becoming a Christian, he would tell me that he carried the duty of the first born to carry on the family Guanyin worship tradition. It tells me how dedicated he was to the Chinese filial piety –- obeying his parents. He did not like to go to the hospital, believing that it would be a one-way trip. Once you go there, you will never come home. God worked in his life and ultimately, he was willing to be admitted to the hospital. He also proactively announced that he turned to Jesus and was willing to be baptized. This was entirely the work of God, not driven by any human impulse. Man routinely violates God’s teaching, choosing to obey his own will, but Jian Xun’s faith journey testifies to God’s great work.”

Published on Herald Monthly, February 2024

Written by Angel Huang, Translated by Ernest Lam