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Confessions of faith: John Jia

A school open house provides an opportunity to reach a Chinese family and start a new cross-cultural ministry.

Confessions of Faith Nov 22 John and Jiangli Jia
John and Jiangli Jia and their family, minus their new baby born earlier this year.

John Jia, a member at Reformation, San Diego, Calif., has a heart for ministry. As an immigrant from China, he feels a strong desire to share God’s Word with others in the Asian community—especially since he didn’t always know God’s Word himself.

Finding religion

John grew up in a rural area of China, in the Henan province. He says a lack of high-quality universities made it difficult to get a good education—something that is very important in Chinese culture. “There was one good university for millions of people in the Henan province,” he says. “So if you want to go to the university, you have to beat thousands, maybe even ten thousand other people to get in.”

John was not only accepted into the university, but he also went on to graduate school in Shanghai for his PhD. During this time in his life, John says he was very focused on education—and not on religion. “My mother, she is Christian, she always prayed for me for many years,” John says. “She would say, ‘I wish this one will become a Christian someday.’ But since I got the highest degree of my family and had so many years of education and I read a lot of books, it was hard for them to argue with me about faith. So my mother would just say, ‘We put it in God’s hands.’ ”

Confessions of Faith Nov 22 John and Jiangli Jia children baptized
John’s children being baptized by Pastor James Werner. “When John and his family were the only ones to show up at our open house in 2017, some people were disappointed and felt that event had not been worth the effort,” says Werner. “But that was really just the first in a series of blessings that served as a great reminder to keep working, keep trying things and trust that the Lord will bless the work he’s called us to do in his way, in his time.”

John’s mindset finally began to change when he discovered he had heart disease and needed surgery. “At that time I was very young. I felt I could beat everything. I was so proud in my heart,” he says. “But then I faced this serious situation, and I felt so weak.” He says the surgery itself was humbling. “As the doctor brought me into the surgery room and gave anesthesia to me, I lost my senses gradually. I thought, Oh I can’t control this! It was a big shock to me.”

After his surgery, John stayed in the hospital for nearly a month. He says his recovery was miraculous—and so was the kindness shown to him by many Christians he had never met before. For example, while he was recovering, a woman from a nearby church heard about John and brought him meals for nearly three weeks. “To show my appreciation, I offered her some money,” says John. “She refused it. She said, ‘I did this because God loves me first, so I love him.’ Her words touched my heart.”

Another woman visited John in the hospital and kept him company. “I will never forget her,” John says. “That Christian sister was 80 years old. She had a light smile, and I could feel her heart was so happy and so filled with joy. I had to ask her where that [joy] was coming from.” She shared her faith in Jesus with John, which really got him thinking about the meaning of life. “That situation changed my mindset, and I started to really hear God’s Word,” he says.

Starting a new life abroad

Confessions of Faith November sidebarJohn began attending church and was baptized. Soon he left China and headed to California for a research position at UCLA. While in Los Angeles, he attended a Chinese Baptist church. “They had very good Bible teachers at that church,” he says. “I loved to hear the pastor’s instruction, and I took a lot of classes. I learned the Bible is very important, and it helped me build up the foundation of my faith.” A few years later, he got a new research position in San Diego, and he joined an evangelical church in that area.

During this time, he met his wife, Jiangli, who grew up in China and was attending school in the United States. When she was done with college, John and Jiangli got married. A few years later they started their family and eventually began looking for schools in the area.

They heard about the preschool at Reformation from a friend and went to an open house in 2017. There they met Reformation’s pastor, James Werner, as well as the teachers, who told them about the school. John was also interested in the church’s beliefs, so Werner shared the key concepts of sin, grace, and the importance of faith in Jesus. He invited John and Jiangli to attend Reformation’s Foundations 101 Bible class, and later that year they completed the course. John was impressed by the experience. “Education at Reformation is really strong. There’s a lot of Bible study and focus on instruction,” he says.

John and Jiangli decided to become members at Reformation. “During the Sunday worship service there was a lot of Bible reading,” says John. “It was really, really good.” He says that focus on God’s Word is what really sets Reformation apart. “I’ve been to a lot of different churches. Some are very fancy, but they don’t use the Bible as a base. The sermons are an example. Usually they have points A, B, C and D. Then they have a Bible verse to support their points. But at Reformation, the points come from the Bible. That’s a big difference.”

John also appreciates being part of the community of believers. “Church is the best place for me. When I go to the church, I feel the strong support and fellowship,” he says. “I feel that this is my home, my family.”

Sharing God’s Word

John began telling others about Reformation’s church and school. Because of his recommendations, many Chinese families expressed interest in enrolling their children in the school, including Mark Jiang, who eventually joined the congregation and is now studying to become a pastor (see below).

Neil Birkholz, Mark Jiang, and David Choi

John felt it was important to reach out to these and other families in the area—many of whom are first-generation immigrants. “When you come to the US, you think about how to stay safe and understand the language and get the basics of living here. You do not have much time to think about others,” he says. “But people are social, they need to be somewhere they feel safe and supported and accepted.”

He talked to Werner about hosting events and fellowship opportunities. “We want to reach the international population and care for their needs and build relationships,” says John. “We hope to build up a family, a home kind of environment where people will be happy to stay, and I believe God is hearing our prayers.”

Author: Alicia Neumann
Volume 109, Number 11
Issue: November 2022


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This entry is part 9 of 68 in the series confessions-of-faith

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