August 4, 2018

A Smiling Woman, a Shooting, and a Wish

Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries and Adventist Review

Xianhua Li seemed to have a good life. She had a stable job working as a kindergarten English and Chinese teacher. She was earning good money, had a nice house, and had many life goals. She realized, however, that life was boring and hopeless. She had a relationship with God, but it wasn’t her main focus in life. She started praying, asking God what she should do with her life.

A short time later, she had the opportunity to come to the United States. She decided this was what she wanted—something different than the life without hope that she had been living.

In Search of Hope

When she arrived in the United States, Li had culture shock. Although it was something definitely different, life was still pretty much the same as when she was teaching back in China. “I felt very emotionally drained and tired, mentally and spiritually — everywhere. I had to put on a fake mask to other people, but I was not satisfied,” Li said. Whenever she went to church, she saw one woman who was always smiling. “Why is she so happy?” she asked herself. “I want what she has.”

The woman Li saw was Rina Ritivoiu, a member of the Sacramento Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sacramento, California. Li started to spend more time with her. The more time she spent with her, the more peaceful she felt with God.

Ritivoiu introduced her to Weimar Institute, a Christian health and educational institution in Weimar, California. Ritivoiu encouraged Li to check it out. Many things had to be worked out, however. Often Li felt as though she was walking in the dark. She was on a temporary visa and couldn’t earn money; she had no one to support her, and she didn’t know what was going to happen. “I needed to take that step of faith,” she said.

Li decided to renew her connection with God. Early in the morning she would wake up to read the Bible and pray. Her daily prayer was, “God, if You are real, please answer this question and open the door for me to go to Weimar. Please answer these prayer requests I have written up.”

Slowly yet steadily, Li felt that God had started to answer every prayer request she had written out. She had more joy and peace now — God was real! Her new prayer was, “God, I want to experience Your Word in my life!”

Life-changing Experiences

One day, when Li was at her community college class in Oakland, California, a shooting erupted in the classroom next door. She saw people terrified, but she had peace in her heart through the whole episode. She remembered Psalm 91, where God promises to protect those who love Him.

Li felt God had miraculously saved her life, and now she wanted to share her testimony. “I didn’t know that I could have such peace and courage.” She started getting interviews with news stations. “I told them that God would protect us, that we didn’t need to fear what goes on around us,” she recalled. “I told everyone that they needed to believe in God.”

In 2012, Li came to Weimar Institute, where she entered the massage and hydrotherapy program. She learned about the medical missionary work. After her program, she started working at the NEWSTART lifestyle change program as a health Bible worker, doing massage and hydrotherapy. She remembered things that she had forgotten, like the time she had written on her wall that she wanted to be a health worker. “I had a lot of dreams, and that reminded me that God still remembers my dreams.”

During her time at Weimar, she got to know Jesus as a personal friend. And God also used NEWSTART to change her life and mold her character. “A job serving others isn’t always easy,” she said. “I talk to [patients] one on one, and they talk to me. There are days I go home and feel so tired, but God is always there. I have to be patient and compassionate. I am human and cannot naturally love anyone. But God is teaching me to love the people the way He looks at them.”

Li said she is inspired with the changed lives she sees at NEWSTART. From the beginning of the program to the end, she sees people become happier. She has had the opportunity to pray and study the Bible with her patients. And she said she continues to feel humbled and blessed to be a part of their experience.

“God is using me as a tool. Without God, I can do nothing,” she said.