NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Were it not for newborn Vivian Wang, her family might have missed out. It was Vivian’s life in utero that helped place the Wangs at a Chinese Baptist church on the Sunday when Vivian’s mother Jenny and brother Jerry were baptized along with 14 others.
The family had been preparing to return to China when they learned during a routine doctor’s visit that Jenny was two weeks pregnant with Vivian. What hindered their return was the certain threat of having to abort Vivian under China’s one-child policy, since the couple already had a son.
The mother asked God to give her husband a job that would allow the family to remain in the U.S. long enough for her to deliver their child.
Photo by Martha Willis
Jenny Wang is overwhelmed with emotion after being baptized by Joshua Zhang, pastor of Nashville Chinese Baptist Church, who also baptized Wang’s 8-year-old son Jerry.
“[Jenny] prayed to God to give us direction how we [could] do it,” said Jerry Wang, translating for his wife who doesn’t speak English. “We found a job … because she prayed to God.”
The answered prayer gave the family a focused view of the Lord, about whom they had studied in lessons led by a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary student when the family was living in Louisville, Ky.
“We just didn’t know God,” Wang said. “Now we get it.”
Their daughter Vivian was four months old at the Easter Sunday baptism service at Nashville Chinese Baptist Church. The family returned to China the next week, where as much as 10 percent of the population is Christian.
“I think that a baby [is] a gift, from God,” Wang said. While he wasn’t ready to get baptized, he said he may get baptized with Vivian, as his wife was baptized with their son.
Joshua Zhang, pastor of Nashville CBC, baptized the new converts in the concluding service of a three-day revival led by Peter Leong, consulting pastor of Grace Chinese Baptist Church of Sugarland, Texas, the professions of faith accumulating during the previous months. Leong also is president of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the U.S. and Canada.
Eight-year-old Jerry Wang was the youngest of those to make a public profession of faith; the oldest, a 78-year-old man who chose baptism by sprinkling because he was too frail to enter the baptismal pool.
“I can go up into heaven,” Jerry Wang said. The second-grader had accepted Jesus four months earlier and had been awaiting baptism. “Everything is free,” he said of salvation.
The worship service put in perspective Scripture’s day of Pentecost. Even to those not fluent in Chinese, language was no barrier to the Holy Spirit’s presence, evidenced by the universal clapping of hands and audible “Amens.”
In a three-day revival that began on Good Friday, Leong focused on renewal. Preaching daily, Good Friday through Sunday, he culminated with a message to stand fast in faith, speaking almost entirely in Chinese.
David Liu, a 53-year-old member of Chinese Baptist Church who attended the revival, converted to Christianity more than 10 years ago after growing up in polytheistic Chinese Buddhism. He said he appreciates monotheistic Christianity.
“It’s refreshing,” he said of Christianity. “I think you find your true God. You certainly have more hope.”
Zhang holds baptism services at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, depending on the number of converts, he said. Last year, he baptized 30, half of them at Easter.
After the baptism service, Leong explained to Baptist Press the points he made during the sermon he had preached in Chinese. Leong had focused on Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, emphasizing Philip’s surrender to the Lord’s call, his patience in service, his preparation in being able to explain the Scripture and his willingness to let the Lord use him.
Leong had also given the congregation a brief history of the Baptist faith, focusing on John Smyth, the 16th-century defender of religious freedom, and pointing out the autonomy of each Baptist church.
“I’m so proud to be a Baptist,” Leong said.
Leong was baptized in Malaysia on October, 22, 1960, a Saturday, by a Southern Baptist missionary. He joined the church that same year and received a call to ministry two years later. After graduating from a Hong Kong seminary, he led Tai Po Baptist Church in Hong Kong before moving to Texas in 1985 as senior pastor of Southwest Chinese Baptist Church.
According to the latest U.S. Census figures available, 15,400 Chinese live in Tennessee, about 0.2 percent of the state’s population, but no official figures estimate the number of those who are Christian.
The baptisms added to the congregation of some 180 Chinese believers.
“This was a blessing from the Lord for sure,” Zhang said. “I think more and more people will come.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)