A young Chinese woman with a little girl started attending Mentone Baptist Church three years ago. She was battling cancer and had decided that she needed answers. It is one thing to understand a medical diagnosis, but accompanying such devastating news are other and even bigger questions. Why me? What is life meant to be about? Is there a God who is interested and cares?
Christine grew up in a family and culture that was atheistic, and she assumed that this was the way to view the world. A highly intelligent and capable woman, being informed that she had terminal cancer broke apart what she believed to be true about the world
Suffering didn’t reinforce her atheism, it led her to seek out God. In learning about the person and work of Jesus Christ, she didn’t feel repulsed or angry at God for her cancer, rather her life was transformed by the beauty and warmth of Jesus.
Christine quickly made friends with several of the women at church and started attending a Bible study group.
In early 2019 it was evident that the cancer would take her life. She battled on while recognising the awful and difficult path she was taking.
In Christine’s own words,
“With the time I spent more with bible group, i started to be more curious about Jesus Christ. As I said before, I used to live that hard and trying that much to prove myself and now I had cancer. My whole life was ruined. If there is a God, could Jesus give me a new life.
Just at that time, my cancer was coming back again, only 1 and half year time after the operation and chemo. I was shocked and felt lost. The doctor told me that I had no chance to be cured. I was too tired, I had been tried that hard to stand up. I just got the chance to see the light of new life.
Different from last time, I thought of Jesus Christ almost immediately. I remembered in the Luke, Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” That probably was my first real pray from the bottom of my heart, I kept asking Jesus Christ to save me and hoped he could guide me and change me if I had done anything bad and wrong. I realized no one could help me now except Jesus Christ.”
Her young body was failing. There were days when getting out of bed was impossible. Although her body was terribly weakened by the cancer, she wanted to publicly profess her faith in Christ through baptism. With a couple of Christine’s friends from church, it was my great joy and privilege to sit with her in her home: listening and sharing, hearing her story and encouraging her with the Scriptures. It was clear that she was convinced about the Gospel and now knew and loved Jesus.
We spoke about baptising her in her home, but she wanted to show the world the difference Jesus made. Even the night before we were unsure whether Christine would be well enough to leave her house and come to the church.
That Sunday morning in April 2019, Christine stood in front of the church and spoke about what the Lord Jesus had done for her, and how despite her suffering, she was safe in him.
“I now believe and trust Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, knowing that even though I denied him for past 30 years, he died on the cross for my sins and is willing to forgive me. I know that God has accepted me as his daughter and loves me.
I am still in the middle of treatment, reading God’s words every day is motivating me to continue to trust him and rely on him. I still feel scared and worry about my cancer sometimes. The difference is I have God to rely on and he is willing to take my worry. More exciting is I find my life is changing slowly, I am spending more time with my friends and family. I am not willing to spend time being angry anymore, because I appreciate every single day God gives to me.
I am so weak and little in this world, and I used to be a terrible person, but God loves me and I now love him and I can trust him for the future.”
Christine then stood in the pool with me. I asked the same two questions that we ask everyone who is getting baptised,
“Do you believe Jesus is God’s Son who died on the cross for your sins and who was raised to life to give you new life?”
“Have you repented of your sins and are trusting Jesus for salvation, and with His help will you follow him all the days of your life?”
With a confident yes to both questions, Christine went through waters of baptism, signalling to family, friends, and the church, Jesus had redeemed her and gifted her eternal hope.
It was one of those moments a pastor never forgets. I suspect no one present that morning will ever forget.
Not long after, she needed to move to another part of the city and so connected with another church, although she was never well enough to attend. They have supported in her final months. Her mum and dad have since both become Christians and have stayed by her side throughout this entire journey. Christine also remained close friends with several people at Mentone, who have supported her right through to the end.
In the early hours of this morning, Christine lost her fight against cancer and but with Christ, she has triumphed over death. The Apostle Paul’s belief, “to be away from the body is to be with the Lord”, is right now her experience. She no longer lives by faith but with sight.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
Christine’s name and life won’t be mentioned in the news today, and that’s ok. Deaths resulting from COVID-19 are understandably making news each day. Death is however always with us, even when it is taking place away from the public gaze. She was one of many Victorians who today have died from cancer or from other afflictions. Yet, her life and story have impacted the people who knew her. Her testimony will remain with us at Mentone Baptist Church, and encouraging us to place our hope in the only Saviour there is.
Christine has finished her race and has received from her Lord and God the crown of righteousness. For those who are left behind the grief is palpable. It is intense, and I can only imagine the difficult days that lay ahead for Christine’s daughter especially, and also for her parents and closest friends. One thing I do know, we don’t grieve as those without hope. “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14)
Jesus once asked Martha,
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Christine’s answer was, ‘yes’.
I wonder, where are other Victorians are placing their hope?