More than Empty Religion

More than Empty Religion

07.11.19 | Stories

    Lisa Liu shouldn’t be at Cross City. Raised in China, the odds were stacked against her hearing the Gospel at all, much less coming to know Christ. The hand and grace of God are clearly evident in her story, and without them, we wouldn’t know her today.

    Lisa grew up in the port city of Dalian, China. Although there are believers scattered throughout the country, their relatively small numbers are minimized further by the country’s hostility toward Christianity. From an early age, Chinese culture taught her that there was no basis to believe that God existed, and her high school history class taught that Christianity was a “spiritual opioid” that would numb and brainwash. She chose to believe that there was no God, and without any influence to the contrary, she was unlikely ever to change.

    In 2005, Lisa moved with her mom, Lucy, to Tyler, Texas. When Lucy found others who spoke her language and understood her culture, they became fast friends. Some of the first people that they met were not only kind and accepting, but were members of a Chinese campus of Green Acres Baptist Church. Lisa wasn’t comfortable with their faith, but their newfound friends didn’t seem to mind.

    Before long, the friends convinced Lisa and Lucy to be guests of their church. She had hoped to “look past” their belief, but soon found herself face to face with the God she had been taught to reject. It was not the empty religion she expected. Her new friends had purpose, hope, and cared genuinely for others. “They have something that I don’t have...love that I have never experienced...” Not long after visiting, Lisa joined a Bible study hosted by an American couple. Little did she know, this couple would later become her spiritual parents and play a tremendous role in her journey. In August of 2005, Lisa was baptized as a new believer in Jesus, and instantly exchanged nearly 20 years of self-reliance for dependence on the Lord.

    Life quickly tested her burgeoning faith as she uprooted from Tyler, Texas to move to Toronto, Ontario. Having been a Christian for only a few months, she would have to lead herself if she was to continue following Him. For the next nine years, Lisa not only continued to trust Christ, but she grew in her faith while building strong relationships with other believers. The foundation of community she built became so important to her that she determined to never live her life without it.

    In 2015, Lisa began a new chapter, where she would experience both great blessings and difficult trials. Upon moving back to Texas, among her top priorities was finding a church. She started attending Cross City Singles and joined Cross City International. Later in 2015, she met and fell in love with Jason Gilbert. By 2016 they were married and were soon preparing for the birth of their first child, Aveline. It was without question one of the best seasons of her life. But during the routine checkups at her 20th week of pregnancy, the doctors discovered that the baby had developed a rare fetal disease. Two weeks later, Aveline was stillborn.

    Lisa and Jason were devastated and heartbroken, but they weren’t alone. Immediately, their extended family of Cross City International rallied to their side. Every need was cared for from food for the family to the service arrangements. The ongoing support was even more critical. “We feel so much love and support from the Cross City family.” Lisa said, “Jason and I feel so blessed...”

    Now, Lisa is again expecting. The same church family that supported her in her time of need are now celebrating the news and praying for a safe delivery. Cross City Church and the community of believers still shape Lisa’s life today. Depending on God and her church family is a new normal for Lisa, and she and Jason plan to raise their child in that environment. Seeing how Jesus changed her life makes Lisa believe that God can change anyone’s life, and she hopes to see others follow the same path.