Circumstantial Changes in God's Time
One day in 1984, a brother (Shi) from the United States asked me, "Brother Yu, why are you still unsure? We're absolutely sure it's God's will for you to go to the United States." "I'm really not sure; but perhaps you have better discernment. So, I'll take a step back and let you prepare for the petition to the U.S. government (including documents such as affidavit of support and formal letter of invitation). Let's see what will happen." Meantime, I earnestly prayed for the Lord to disclose His will.
Soon I received the requirerd documents. At that time, passports were processed by the Shanghai Public Security Bureau. It was then (1984) a few years since the country opened its doors to the outside world (in 1978), and policies were less strict - quite a number of people were permitted to leave the country. I typed out a petition and sought God's guidance, asking Him to impede if the petition was not in His will. It was the practice at the time for petitioners to be informed of the results within six months. Five-and-a-half months later, I received a notification with "permission not granted."
The works of the Lord were so wonderful and well timed: the next day after the receipt, the American brother (Shi) visited Shanghai again. I showed him the notification, which proved my discernment was right - that the petition either was not in God's will or the timing was not yet ripe. The disapproval seemed to have confirmed my earlier presumption that the Communist Party would not permit "labor reform released elements" to leave the country.
Two years went by during which I taught in the university while serving in the " House Church,"19 occasionally preaching in the suburban areas in the weekends.
In 1986, something strange happened. Even though I had no desire or interest to go abroad and still believed it was unlikely for a "reformed" person to be permitted to leave the country, I began to feel inclined to do so. Only then did it dawn on me that, though chemistry was actually my specialty, God had arranged for me to teach English in the university in order to prepare me to preach and testify in the English language when I go abroad some day.
Just as I began to feel inclined to go abroad, I received an invitation from a brother (Wei) in Texas, U.S.A. I was acquainted with this brother in the 1940's but had rarely corresponded with him. In his unexpected letter, I was invited to go to Texas to share and fellowship over a period of three months, with all living and traveling expenses fully provided. At that time, I had a resonance in my heart: right, the time is come! I therefore sent a letter to the brother requesting him to provide me with a formal invitation written in English for me to submit to the United States Consulate. Soon it arrived. Surprisingly, right at that time, I received two more invitations to two separate conferences - one in New York City and one in Seattle. Just how miraculously the Lord arranged circumstances to further ascertain His will!
Once the Lord's time was ripe, the circumstances changed. By that time, the procedure for passport processing had changed: petitions were accepted by the university's personnel department instead of by the Shanghai Public Security Bureau. I received my passport 20 days later.
Immediately, I went to the United States Consulate to apply for a visa. There were many applicants waiting to be interviewed. From their conversations, I learned that some applications were for family visits and that applications for visiting friends (the category I was in) had very slim chance of approval. It was 11:55 a.m. when my turn came - almost time for lunch. The immigration agent asked an unexpected question: "When did you become acquainted with those people who are inviting you to the United States?" "That was before 1949," I replied. "They were my Christian friends when I ministered in my youth." I went on saying something uncalled for - I did that just spontaneously - which I later realized was very well said and must have been given by the Lord's Spirit, "My father was martyred for his faith in Christ, and I was exiled for labor reform for over 20 years. Some brothers and sisters abroad have been very concerned for my family. A few of them have come to visit us, but most weren't able to enter China for various reasons and would like me to visit them instead." I noticed at that moment the officer had a look of sympathy. He asked, "What work do you do?" "I'm a university teacher." "Come back to get your visa in the afternoon," he said.
I later found out that if I had said I was a preacher (though in reality I did preach as I taught), I might not have been granted a visa, because the United States had too many preachers already and had turned down applications from most preachers. I was granted a visa for having said that I was a university teacher. Praise the Lord! " The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord" (Prov. 16:1).
19 For definition, please read Footnote 5 in Chapter 9.