God Never Fails
The lawyer presented me with three options: Option one, to apply for political asylum - which should not be a problem; option 2, to apply for religious asylum which, too, should not be a problem; but since I did not favor any of these two options but would rather apply in a God-glorifying manner, the third option was for me to apply as a minister.
The lawyer said, "To apply as a minister, you must meet the three immigration law requirements of the United States. First, you must have evidence of ordination; second, you must have worked as a full-time minister for over two years; third, you need a church with your religious background as your petitioner." Common sense told me that I had considerable difficulty meeting all these three requirements. Yet I knew the Lord was taking care of me (II Chr. 16:9a).
First, with regard to getting a church to act as my petitioner: Right at that time, by God's amazing arrangement, a couple from the East Coast arrived in Los Angeles to attend a professional conference. The brother, Professor Edward Yang, was the director of Electrical Engineering Department in Columbia University. My friend, Samuel Kao, told Brother Yang about my predicament and the need for me to find a church with my religious background. Brother Yang said this was not a problem at all and provided the name of the church. Actually, it was a church where I had preached on several occasions, except I never enquired about their background21 and therefore did not know our backgrounds were similar. It was an English-speaking church named Puente Valley Christian Fellowship. Brother Yang immediately telephoned the church, and the leading brother, Floyd Police, replied, "No problem." And so, that evening I gave him the petitioner form from the lawyer. He glanced at it and then shook his head; for there were three questions that could not be answered.
The first question was: "What's Mr.Yu's monthly salary?" It was our understanding that the Bible did not stipulate a wage system; God's servants should trust totally on God for His provision rather than on people or any religious organization. Therefore, this question could not be answered.
The second question was: "How many hours does he work each week?" We did not have fixed working hours; we ministered day and night whenever needed by brothers and sisters.
The third question was: "What office does Mr. Yu hold in the church? Pastor? Assistant pastor? Preacher?" According to our understanding of the Bible, the Church does not have a pastoral system or holy orders; rather, it is made up of brothers and sisters who are all members of the Body of Christ serving each other with individual spiritual gifts - including those with "pastoral gift," commonly called "pastors." As there were no official titles within the Church, the third question could not be answered.
Realizing that the matter had put Brother Floyd Police in a dilemma, I spoke with ease, "That's quite alright, brother; that's quite alright. Don't worry - we are the Lord's followers and our matters are in the Lord's hands. Please just let me have the forms back." I remembered adding, "Please don't go beyond your conscience; we don't want to do anything against our conscience."
To my surprise, he refused to return the forms, saying, "I'll go to see the lawyer in person tomorrow."
The next day Brother Floyd Police went to see the lawyer and said, "I can't complete this form."
"It doesn't matter," the lawyer said. "The United States is a free country - you just have to explain why you can't do it."
"Our church belongs to God and is not subject to the rule of men," explained Brother Floyd Police. "Therefore, it's not registered with the United States government."
"That's alright, just provide proof that the church does exist," said the lawyer.
Actually, the church had existed for almost 30 years. Later, the church leader arranged to take six or seven pictures of the various meetings - such as Sunday worship, prayer meeting, sisters' meeting, and Sunday school for children. The accountant also provided financial statements for the last two years as the proof of the church's financial situation. After gleaning through them, the lawyer was satisfied and accepted them.
Lastly, there was the requirement for proof of ordination. Over a long period, the Christian Church in China had been under persecution by the Communist authority; how could there be proof of ordination? (Note: Pursuant to its open-door policy in the 1980's, the authority began ordaining pastors within the government-controlled "Three-Self" churches. The purpose of this action was to befuddle the world of the government's support of "freedom of religion.") Besides, it is not found in the Bible who, apart from the apostles, are qualified to ordain pastors. Today, who would dare claim to be an "apostle?" In addition, pastors - the pastoral gift - are a gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:11-13), and the ordaining of elders is a matter for the Holy Spirit (as stated in Acts 20:28, "the Holy Spirit has made you overseer"). The "appointment of the elders" (Acts 14:23) relates to ordination by the Holy Spirit. The ordination by men is not reliable (in fact, even religious cults ordain pastors). It was for these reasons that my previous church did not have the practice of ordaining pastors.
Meanwhile, having said that, I must also sincerely mention to all brothers and sisters: I myself truly respect all godly and loyal servants of the Lord - whether or not they are called pastors or whether or not they receive salaries, or whether or not they were ordained. For though they differ in viewpoints and objective qualifications, our Heavenly Father has accepted them in His great capacity. Besides, " the laborer is worthy of his wages" ( Luke 10:7; Rom. 4:4). On the other hand, an ordained and unpaid servant of the Lord who is ungodly and disloyal cannot please God - the emphasis should be on his true spiritual condition and his heart towards God.
Please also note that all truly born-again Christians are the "royal priesthood" (I Peter 2:9) and have "boldness to enter into the holiest" to serve God (Heb. 10:19-20). The system of priesthood in the Old Testament times no longer existed in the New Testament times. Today, therefore, no servant of the Lord should take all divine works and services on themselves. Instead, they should encourage and guide every member to endeavor to fulfill his own duties of priesthood - this is the way that pleases the Lord.
In the absence of evidence of ordination, what then could be done? Thank the Lord for His provision - an American sister, Arlien Spring, who was the first godly and loving American sister I came to know. Thank God that she volunteered to "take care of the matter." But how was she going to solve the problem? Out of the many great spiritual books she had read, she selected six well-known historical classics that addressed the issue of "ordination by men." From these, she compiled the relevant information and added her own summary explaining why we did not ordain pastors. The lawyer was satisfied with the materials.
With regard to the required two years of full-time ministry, God's wonderful arrangement was especially evident. As Christians, we could not lie or feign. I had then been a full-time minister in the United States for less than six months. Thank God, though, for placing me on temporary leave from the university for over one year before I left for the United States. The university had planned to build a very large faculty building on the campus and, to make room for it, a number of the old buildings had to be demolished. Stuff such as books and equipment stored in these old buildings had to be moved to many of the existing classrooms for temporary storage. As a result, the university had to reduce their student enrolment as well as teaching jobs. Since I was more advanced in age and closer to retirement, the principal arranged for me to stay away from the university during the construction period. I then requested the principal to provide me with proof of my unemployment for that period. Meanwhile, I served full-time in the House Church. By God's wonderful arrangement, the host of that House Church, Sister Mary Ma, arrived in the United States before I did. Were she still in China, it would have been difficult for her to testify my full-time ministry because of possible opposition from the Communist government. Since she was already in the United States, she was able to be a personal witness. Thus, I fulfilled the requirement for two years of full-time ministry. Praise the wonderful Lord!
My lawyer was satisfied with the collection of material. I was scheduled to attend a conference in Houston as a speaker, and my lawyer gave consent to my departure.
On December 30 when my lawyer turned in my petition papers, the messenger in the immigration office refused to accept them, explaining that the proof of ordination must accompany a minister's petition. In order to prevent bribery and other illegal activities, petitions could not be handed directly to the immigration officer but must first be screened by an appointed messenger. (Please note that the very next day, December 31, was my last chance; January 1 being a holiday and my visa was due to expire on January 2.) However, should the lawyer disagree with the messenger's decision, he could request an interview with the immigration officer by lining up at the immigration office very early in the morning - though such requests were seldom granted.
Unlike most lawyers in the United States who did not usually show up for work until 10 a.m., my exceptionally conscientious lawyer got up very early on December 31 st and waited in line at the immigration office at 6 a.m. (he was the second in line). Thank God that my petition was accepted! Immediately, the lawyer called my host, elderly Sister Jessie Guo, with this message for me: "You (Joshua Yu) need not worry - the petition has been accepted, and your stay in the United States is legal."
I was reminded of these words of Madame Guyon, who had very rich and deep spiritual experiences: "It is often at the very last moment that God's will is done."
21 This church had been segregated for years from The Assembly presided by Witness Lee.