CHENGDU, China (BP) -- The waitress clears empty dishes from the table at a work banquet when Carter Hubbs*, a Christian in China's western city of Chengdu, turns to a co-worker seated near him and decides to find out where the man is spiritually.
Hubbs is not optimistic, knowing that the man imports Buddhist artifacts from India as a side business.
After talking for some time, Hubbs offers an invitation. "Hey, we're Christian and we have a small group that meets at a home and I was wondering if you would ever be interested."
The man looks at Hubbs and thinks for a second.
"I've always wanted to believe in something," the man says. "China is really void of religion or faith right now." The man confides that he has been "waiting for someone to come and get me to believe in something."
In Hubbs' hometown in America's Bible belt, he can name four or more churches among the population of 600. In contrast, Chengdu has few government-sanctioned Christian churches -- perhaps just three or four -- among a population of more than 10 million people.
Hubbs believes that God wants to use his interaction with people in Chengdu whose hearts He has opened.
In talking to a lady at a clothing store, Hubbs asked if she had ever seen a Bible or knew anything about Christianity.
"No, never seen a Bible, don't know anything about Christianity. But I am open," the woman said.
"And that just seems to be the case here right now. We are sitting on 16 million people and maybe 1 to 1.5 percent believe, so 12-15 million people that don't believe," Hubbs said.
Reflecting on the openness of people to hear the Gospel, Hubbs noted, "As they become more wealthy and as they can buy anything they want, they are starting to see that they can't buy peace and hope and joy."
Hubbs tells of one Chengdu resident, Song Li*, who took a seat in the back room of a building where a training session for church leaders was underway. Li pulled out a business card that revealed her occupation and handed it to Hubbs.
He felt a momentary twinge of panic because her occupation brought risk to him and others in the room. But the Scripture about "being ready in season and out of season" encouraged him to calmly share his faith with her.
The first thing she said to him: "Is it stupid for me to believe in this? Is it silly for me to even ask questions?"
Hubbs, in addition to sharing with Li the story of how Christ had transformed his life, asked questions about her life, trying to better understand her search for God.
He learned that Li was consumed with sadness and bitterness. Her husband suffered from an incurable disease. Her best friend had cheated her out of the equivalent of $2000. She had been through trial after trial.
Seeking solace, Li had tried other religions but nothing soothed her hurting soul.
"I am just empty," she lamented. "Can Jesus help?"
In the next hour, Hubbs explained the loving nature of God and how Li could have peace with God despite the turbulent circumstances of her life through a relationship with Him bought by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
"What do I do now?" Li wanted to know. "I'm ready for this."
With Hubbs' help, she prayed right then and there, committing her life to follow Jesus, asking Him to be the Lord of her life.
The Hubbses rejoice over Li's salvation but know that many more are yet to be reached in the city of millions.
*Names changed. Emily Stockton is an International Mission Board writer living in East Asia.
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