The Darkest Moment
May 2nd, 2004.
After two years of study at the University of Michigan, and suffering through two very long winters while there, I finally graduated with an MBA degree.
The caps were thrown, tears were shed, and a bright new future was waiting for me.
Many of my classmates were still trying to find a job while I had an excellent offer to move to Austin, Texas, and work for Dell. I came to this “promised land” for a dream, and now the “American dream” was right in front of me. I even test-drove a BMW, my dream car at that time.
This moment of my life was supposed to be the happiest one, but it was the darkest time of my life.
A couple of days earlier, my in-laws and my wife, who was about to graduate from Wharton, University of Pennsylvania two weeks later, arrived at Ann Arbor for my graduation ceremony.
Upon her arrival, my wife told me that we should get a divorce.
It was supposed to be a happy reunion, but we were heading to separation.
You see, we were pursuing our dream as a married couple. This pursuit meant that we had given up successful careers in China, left family and friends, and went to two different universities in the United States. We were living our busy lives in two cities, 600 miles away, trying to study and find a job at the same time. We had only seen each other a couple of times in two years. Our love had gone cold, and mistakes had been made.
In my desperation, I had nobody to ask for help.
During tough times in your life, who do you turn to?
Growing up in China and being educated in the communist system, I was trained not to believe in God. I was also taught that religion equals superstition, and faith is only for the weak. I grew up believing in myself and myself alone. But,
“My Father is always working” John 5:17
While in Michigan, I met this guy, let’s call him Mr. B, at the basketball gym. He was an American guy in his early 40s, and he could speak fluent Mandarin. Curiously, I asked him about his job. He said he was a missionary and had lived in China for seven years.
Mr. B looked very different from everyone I had known. There was a countenance on his face that made him look loving, peaceful, and holy. We met for meals a couple of times and nothing more.
In the darkest moment of my life, I had nobody to turn to, except for him. So, I sent him an email and asked him to meet with me.
On May 2nd, 2004, we met in a bookstore. I asked my wife if she wanted to come along to see this man she had never met before. She agreed.
For the next couple of hours, my wife and I tried to tell Mr. B all the other persons’ faults. However, deep in our hearts, we knew that we were both broken, sinful, and full of pride.
In the end, Mr. B just looked at me with a gentle but clear voice, and he said, “Ed, I hear your story. I feel your pain. You are leaving here in a couple of days, and there is probably not much I can do for you. However, there is one person who can help you.”
My heart probably stopped for a minute. “If there is somebody who can help me and save my marriage, I want to know him,” I thought to myself.
“His name is Jesus. Do you want to believe in Him and follow Him,” Mr.B asked.
“I do,” I quickly replied. As soon as I said that, tears just came down, and I cried uncontrollably.
“Priscilla, your husband just accepted Jesus. Do you also want to accept him?”
“I do.” My wife answered.
Just a couple of hours before our meeting in the bookstore, my wife had wanted a divorce, but now she accepted Christ?
Friends, if you still don’t believe in miracles, you can believe now, because that was what happened to my wife and me 15 years ago.
That moment had turned two most prideful people to followers of Christ, and our lives were turned completely upside down.
The first decision my wife made was to turn down a great offer in Boston and move with me to Austin, without a job.
A New Calling
Fast-forward to nine years later, and I was working at Dell.
The “American Dream” was already realized. We paid off all of our student loans, and we had a big house (everything is big in Texas!), two cars (two Hondas instead of BMWs), two beautiful kids, and we were still married to each other.
But something was missing in my heart. I could feel it. I was longing to do something different. I wanted to do something more for the kingdom.
In my walk with Jesus, I came to understand that God has a plan for my life. I knew that all of my life experiences, being educated in the best college in China and the best business schools in the world, working in multi-national companies like P&G, IBM, and Dell, and my mountain climbing experience in college didn’t just happen for no reason. I came to accept that my mission field is in the workplace, and I don’t have to be a full-time minister to be a missionary.
So, I made a plan:
First, I analyzed data:
In 2005, only 641 Chinese students were studying in American high schools. In 2014, that number had grown by 60 times, to 40,000 of them in K-12 schools!
This is a vast number. But these were children I was learning about, and they were not just a number and data. They were lives, precious lives. I read stories that these so-called “parachute children” struggled at school, had terrible relationships with host families, and even committed crimes!
Second, I studied history:
I learned that young Chinese students who came to study in American schools didn’t just start in the 21st century. It happened more than 170 years ago.
In 1838, Rev. Samuel Brown went to China and became the principal of Morrison School, the first protestant private school in China. Eight years later, due to his wife’s health situation, he decided to return to the US. Before he left, he asked his pupils, if anyone wanted to come with him to America, he would support them to study in America, for free!
There was a deadly silence when he offered the invitation. Then, a hand raised. Then two, three hands in total, were raised. Three of his students followed him, boarded a ship, traveled 150 plus days, and arrived in Massachusetts.
One of the three kids, Yung Wing, later became the first Chinese student who graduated from a US college. He graduated from Yale in 1854 and became a Christian. Then, he went back to China, working for the Qing Dynasty. He spent sixteen years persuading the government to approve the Chinese Educational Mission. In the next ten years, he led the efforts and brought 120 Chinese children aged 12-16 to America to study. The parents of those kids had to sign a liability waiver to give them to the government, life, or death.
That was the first wave of Chinese students studying in America.
Eventually, the Qing Dynasty shut down the program, and most of the students had to return to China. They became prime ministers, engineers, diplomats, navy commanders, and college presidents…These 120 students transformed China!
As I read history, I see God’s footprint everywhere. God sent Rev. Brown to China to bring Rung Wing to the US. God sent Rung Wing back to China to bring the 120 kids to the US. When those young children came to the US, the Christian families welcomed them to their houses, loved them, and taught them. Many of them became Christians.
One of the students recalled his experience when he met with his host family:
“I was fortunate enough to be placed in a kind lady’s house. She drove the carriage to pick us up. When I was introduced to her, she hugged me and kissed me. Her actions made other students laugh and made me embarrassed. It may be the first time I have been kissed since I was a baby.”
Like Rev. Brown, like Rung Wing, like those host families in the New England area, I want to do something for these young kids. I want to serve them better. It is an excellent opportunity to share the love of Christ with them.
After experiencing God’s love, analyzing data, and studying history, my wife and I created Premier Education Partners in 2014.
Join the Great Mission
Today, we are a national agency with partner schools in Austin and Chattanooga, and more cities in the future, Lord willing. We developed a beautiful model to partner with Christian schools and Christian families to provide full services to students in 6-12 grades.
We are very excited about the accomplishments we’ve had in the last five years. We have graduated seven students (10 this coming year!), and all went to top-ranked colleges in the nation.
Our host families are the true heroes behind every success we have. Let’s look at some amazing statistics. For 29 host families in two cities, at a given school year, they travel 86,000 miles to transport our students to and from school, spend 4000 hours in the car with them, and send 12,000 Slack messages.
But, hosting an international student in your home is not easy. I have plenty of stories that I can share with you as the leader of our agency and the first host family as well:
In our five-plus years of history, I had to dismiss a couple of students. I had to face the threat of a lawsuit brought by a student’s parents. I had to suffer tens of thousands of dollars of loss because a student’s parents lied to us. Just a month ago, one of our students staying in our house had to go to the ER at 1 am on Sunday. I can give you more of these kinds of examples.
Of course, these kinds of things don’t happen very often. But, day to day life is not necessarily easy. Every single day, our team of student advisors is handling all kinds of issues: students missing homework, having relationship issues, behavior problems, needing transportation to take the SAT/TOEFL/ or to dental work, and even take care of their mental health. We feel that we are doing so much, yet it never seems to be enough.
In those moments, I feel down, upset, frustrated… but in those moments, I choose to focus on hope, instead of the problems at hand. I look forward to the day when they graduate from high school, the day when they have a girlfriend, the day when they marry, the day when they have kids, and the day when they finally give up, and say, “I need Jesus!”
A Story of Hope
One of our students graduated from our program and went to a great college, and he is now a junior. Although he had to go along with his host family to church in high school, he never showed any interest in Christianity. One day in April of this year, I got a message from him, “Uncle Wu, I got baptized!” I thought he was joking, so I had to call him to verify. Well, it is true. He had gone to a small group in college and finally decided it was time. His host family, just like me, couldn’t believe it. But they were so happy because they know they planted that seed in his heart all those years earlier.
Hosting – Your Work is Hard, But Worth It
Hosting is not meant to be easy, but for sure, your work is not going to be in vain. All of our host families become a missionary in their home. By doing so, they are participating in one of the most important works for the Kingdom.
Dr. David Aikman, the author of “Jesus in Beijing” and former bureau chief for Time Magazine, said in his book,
“Reaching out to students from Mainland China is simply the most strategically important Christian missionary endeavor anywhere in the world.”
He said those words more than ten years ago. Now, China has become more prosperous and more powerful, but to share the gospel with children in the mainland has become increasingly more difficult. Reaching out to Chinese students in America universities and K-12 schools has just become more urgent. There is no better way to host them and love them as God loves you.
Today, I am asking God to give you a vision that perhaps he is calling you to fulfill his great commandment right in your home.
Would you join us in this great mission?