He Still Seeks and Saves
Editor’s Note: Some names were changed to protect the individuals’ privacy.
Tears streamed down Sandy Yao’s face as she stood by her mother’s bed. God felt so far away.
She had trusted His Son as her Savior. She believed God had opened the door for her to leave her homeland, come to America, and get a job teaching high school Chinese in West Virginia, not far from where I serve as pastor at Independent Bible Church (IBC).
She was so excited to have her parents come for a visit over the Christmas holidays. When they agreed to go with her to a Christmas Eve candlelight service at another local church, it was Sandy Yao’s prayer that her parents’ limited English would be enough to help them understand the message of that silent night and ask Immanuel, the Lord Jesus, to live in their hearts too.
They did not come to faith; and her hopes were further dashed when two weeks later, her mother suﬀered a massive stroke. Her mom now hung between life and death in a local hospital bed. Where, Sandy wondered, was the God of Bethlehem?
“Are you Sandy?” Sandy didn’t know the man with the kind face who was standing at the door. She didn’t attend IBC. “My name is Curt,” he said. “I’m one of the pastors at Independent Bible Church, and a member of ours who works at the hospital asked me to visit your mom. And this is Anna, from our church, who speaks Chinese.”
“Yes, I’m Sandy,” she replied. “These are my parents; but Mama isn’t doing well at all.” She nodded toward her mother, who was conscious but obviously paralyzed on her entire right side.
Pastor Curt and Anna visited and prayed with the hurting family. They wondered how much Mrs. Yao comprehended, though Anna translated the pastor’s words into Chinese. They agreed to visit again.
Sandy was amazed that a Chinese speaker was available at a church in West Virginia. Immanuel (meaning “God with us”), who seemed so far away, was beginning to show He was not only “with her” but had been working on her behalf all along.
Anna had married a military man and had come with him to West Virginia. After several years, she had become curious about Christianity. One Sunday, she appeared at IBC’s door and told the greeter, “My name is Anna. I’m Buddhist; and I want to learn about Jesus.”
A few months and many Bible studies later, Anna trusted in Christ and became a bold witness. She enjoyed meeting other Asians to tell them about her Savior; so she was happy to visit the Yao family with Pastor Curt.
Pastor Curt, his wife, and Anna visited and prayed with the Yao family in the hospital repeatedly. They rallied the body of Christ to pray. Mrs. Yao had not been expected to live, let alone become strong enough to ﬂy home; but Anna, newly aware of God’s presence, asked everyone to pray.
The Yao family’s needs were great. They had little money, no insurance, and Mr. Yao was diabetic and needed medicine.
Several years earlier, a doctor at IBC had started the Good Samaritan Free Clinic to help the underinsured in town and share the gospel. Though the free clinic was only open one night a week, Pastor Curt arranged for Mr. Yao to go there. He took Sandy with him to translate for her dad. Not only did Mr. Yao receive the medical help he needed, but he listened intently as a counselor from the church shared the gospel through translation. That night Sandy’s prayers for her father’s salvation were answered. Mr. Yao placed his faith in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.
As people prayed, Mrs. Yao became well enough to be released from the hospital, though she could still not walk or speak. She would need extensive therapy. Would it be a surprise to ﬁnd out that both the physical therapist and occupational therapist assigned to visit and care for her were Christians from IBC? By this time, the church was becoming acutely aware that God had His hand on this situation. Immanuel was using His family of believers as His hands and feet and mouth to minister to the needy who had come from the other side of the globe.
The Yao family’s ﬁnancial needs were considerable. Many wanted to give, including Sandy’s colleagues from school. The church not only gave a benevolent gift, but also opened a fund so that church members, as well as the community, could channel monies for medical expenses and anticipated travel.
Sandy’s fellow educators learned what was happening and conveyed their appreciation. The Father in heaven was gloriﬁed as people saw the good works through the body of Christ (Mt. 5:16).
Pastor Curt, his wife, and Anna made many visits to the Yao family’s little apartment. There were many Bible studies and tearful times of prayer. Mrs. Yao warmly received the gift of a Chinese study Bible. Soon, like her husband, she also received the gift of Jesus as her Savior.
To the amazement of all, Mrs. Yao became mobile enough to ﬂy home on a commercial ﬂight three months after her stroke. Anna, the extended Yao family in East Asia, and the local community in West Virginia knew that God had answered many prayers lifted in faith.
But now what? Would God continue what He had begun in the Yao family? At the next pastoral team meeting, Pastor Curt asked where in East Asia the missionary doctors who were sent from IBC served. More than 10 years earlier, a husband and wife team—he a family physician and she an ophthalmologist—stood before our church and announced they were selling their medical practice and going to the mission ﬁeld.
When I told Pastor Curt the city, he got a funny look on his face. “I think that’s where the Yaos live!” he said.
What are the chances? The city has a population of more than 6 million; but one of the families there was indeed Sandy Yao’s, and another of the families was the medical missionary couple sent by IBC several years earlier.
Connections were made; physical therapy was arranged; and a month later, when the missionaries visited West Virginia, they brought a video they had taken of Mrs. Yao walking and of Sandy, her parents, and her aunt and uncle joyously thanking IBC and sending their love. Plans were made for the Yaos to become part of a local house church in their city.
Though God can seem far away, He never forgets His children. He is sovereignly at work worldwide to call individuals to Himself, even if it means bringing them across the globe, allowing a serious stroke, or having His people “just so happen to be in the right place at the right time.” Don’t give up praying for unsaved loved ones or for that unreached people group God has put on your heart.
The body of Christ is made up of many members, all of whom have the privilege of being His hands, feet, and mouth to fulﬁll their roles in what Jesus is doing through His people “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).
Like the apostle Paul, we have every reason to be “conﬁdent of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
What a God! He truly is Immanuel, “God with us.” He still seeks and saves the lost and allows us to be a part of that mission.