Brother Ma 1978-2014
The news came to us late last year. A beloved brother and friend in our Hudson Taylor Ministries family in China had passed away. His name was Ma Zhi Jia. We knew him affectionately as ‘Brother Ma’. The news of his death came as a very big surprise to all of us. There were many who knew Brother Ma was dealing with health issues, but no one knew how serious things truly were.
We were introduced to Brother Ma several years ago. We were searching for someone local to help manage needy family projects in an area of northern China. This position not only would identify needs in the churches, but also facilitate the relief for those needs starting in the local churches and community. Brother Ma had a burden on his heart for this type of work. Brother Ma became a faithful worker in the house churches. He encouraged the church community to care for the needs of not only their immediate family, but also those in their churches and communities. He also would present the needs to our organization that could not be met by the local churches.
We are not sharing the story of Brother Ma to lift him up as someone to worship or praise. As you will read from the words from Ma himself, he did not glorify himself or praise his good deeds. He was adamant that he owed all to the grace and goodness of God. He was a sinner saved by grace. This same grace led Brother Ma to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to those around him. It also placed a burden on his heart for the needs he witnessed in the churches in his area.
When we were introduced to Brother Ma, he shared with us a little of his experiences in life. We thought it would be good to include what he wrote to give more insight into his life.
During the journey of life, we will encounter a vast range of experiences. We experience great joy, but also moments of profound sadness. There are circumstances faced that are hopeless and helpless. Many find answers in fate, believing everything happens because of man’s fate. For them, fate provides the cause for every experience in life. However, as Christians, we are absolutely not fatalists. We believe in God’s mighty providence in everything that happens in life and His holy predestination in the salvation of His chosen people. Because of God’s predestination, I was to be saved by grace. This is the amazing grace of Jesus Christ.
I was born into a humble family living in a rural village. After finishing 9th grade, I dropped out of school and started working with my family in the field. At the age of 17, after working on the farm for one year, I travelled to Beijing looking for work. Two years later, I received a message from my family with the news my mother had been diagnosed with liver cancer, which was already at a terminal stage. I was greatly distressed with this news. It was so overwhelming; it seemed the sky was falling upon me. My mother was my only motivation for hard work. The reason for this could be traced back many years. Sadly, I witnessed family abuse when I was a very young boy. My parents used to quarrel and fight a lot after my father had been drinking alcohol. He was also addicted to gambling. My father would beat my mother in front of my sister and myself after getting drunk. Every time my parents fought, my sister and I would stand there watching, crying, and feeling miserably helpless and hopeless. When I became older, I even asked some adults for help in splitting up my parents. I was determined to earn large amounts of money when I became an adult in order to provide a good life for my mother. I remember even thinking that I did not care what my wife looked like. If she treated my mother well, she would be a good wife for me. Thus, you can understand why it was tremendously overwhelming for me to hear the sudden bad news concerning my mother.
While I was at the hospital with my mother, two older women in the same ward evangelized to me and even prayed for both my mother and me. I told them I would believe as long as my mother was cured. As a matter of fact, my mother was a Christian, but without a change of heart. She never shared the gospel with me. The only evidence of her Christian identity that I saw from her was seeing her kneeling down on our kang (bed made from bricks) praying. Often, I was awakened by the sound of her whispering prayers in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, she turned to idols for healing when she was sick, desperate for healing from her cancer. I did not know this was blasphemy in God’s eyes until I understood the truth from the Bible. How great this sin is against God! Nevertheless, with hope that my mother would be cured, I started faithfully attending the local church gatherings.
When my mother went to the hospital for another medical check, I was praying for her from my heart. I believed that she would be cured. But the result was very disappointing. Her condition had not improved at all. Looking up into the sky, I asked God, ‘Why?!’ Christians from local churches promised to fast and pray for healing in my mother’s body. I also fasted for an entire day, so much so that I even fainted the next morning because of the lack of energy in my body. I loved my mother so much that I was willing to go through anything if it meant she would be healed. As her condition continued to worsen, the local church started praying for God’s will to be done. After another month, my mother died. I believe God took her away. I had learned from going to church where people go after death. I believed my mother rested from her heavy labor in this world and was taken up to heaven, enjoying a much better life. I received comfort from God.
I believe that all the experiences in my life after my mother’s death were due to God’s leading, not because of anything good found in me that I could boast of. There are many people who come to the church when their loved ones are sick and claim they believe in Jesus, but after the death of their family members, they leave the church and do not believe any more. The fact is, they never had true faith. Many people criticized me saying, ‘Your mother died at the age of 40; why do you still believe?’ ‘What good has come from it?’ But I believed that God had chosen and elected me, calling me by the mighty power of His gospel. He had never forsaken me up to that moment, and that was how I was able to walk with Him.
The Lord Jesus Christ lifted me up, leading me to be a worker in His ministry in the year 2000. I started out by preaching to smaller groups in the villages. As time passed, I preached at larger gatherings and even was asked to preach at our local synod. In 2007, I was called to be a full-time pastor. My family experienced many difficulties with pressure, poverty, health and weakness in my ministry. But through it all, I have seen God’s power and mighty hands in all my trials. At the beginning of my marriage, my wife was not a Christian. Because of this, she was not supportive of me and the amount of time I spent in my ministry. I experienced a form of persecution from my own dear wife. But thanks to the grace of God, He also had elected her to be His child, and she is taking this pilgrim journey with me to heaven now. Although we experienced much poverty, God’s grace was abundant. Every time we needed money, God would provide. I also endured much pain in my body because of health problems, but the Lord Jesus Christ gave me comfort with His love. The love of my dear brothers encouraged me as well. They regularly prayed for my health in tears.
I often fall into deep thought, asking myself, ‘Who am I? Do I deserve all this?’ I have seen so much of my weakness in my ministry, but through this I have also experienced God’s strength and help. I am a small piece in the work of Jesus Christ. It is not because of what I do or want to do for Him, but only because of His working through me that I can be a useful servant.
Looking back upon the journey of my life, I can summarize it with the words found in Psalm 65:11. ‘Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.’ My heart has been graciously called by God’s mercy, so that through Him I could take courage to walk my journey of life as a strange passenger in this world until the day I would forever see the Lord Jesus in peace and joy. Amen.
On December 8, 2014, Brother Ma entered into the eternal experience of seeing the Lord Jesus in peace and joy. He had been feeling very weak for the last several months of 2014, but Ma tried Chinese herbal medicine to help instead of visiting a doctor. He did not have the money to visit a doctor to determine the cause of the weakness. Brother Ma and his family were very poor. He brought in very little income as a rural Bible teacher and from their small farm. Both his wife and daughter suffered from medical problems as well that needed money and removed the ability to earn supplemental income. He was extremely careful with every penny he spent. Thus, he suffered through the weakness for months without seeking help.
Ma’s condition worsened to the point where he was forced to travel to a large city to visit a doctor on December 3, 2014. He was diagnosed with cancer in his liver and lungs. After returning home, Ma felt reasonably well until the afternoon of December 8. He began having severe breathing issues and was rushed to the hospital at 2:30. He took his last breath 4 hours later at 6:30. Ma’s last words to his wife echoed the words found in his testimony above, ‘Do not worry, God will take care of everything.’ According to his wife, he died with a clear mind and in a very peaceful state. She witnessed God caring for him and taking him over the river of death in peace.
While we are thankful that we do not have sorrow for the loss of Brother Ma as those who die without hope (1 Thess. 4:13), there is yet a void felt in the family and church community. We trust God will give comfort and support to the grieving family. It is our prayer that others in the churches in China may be stirred by the Lord to work in his church as was Brother Ma.
Taken with permission from the current edition of the Hudson Taylor Ministries magazine.
On Doctrine and Practice July 16, 2019
A charge that is made repeatedly against historic Christianity is that its stress on doctrine makes it authoritarian, theoretical, and cold. The Christian religion is a practical affair; putting the faith in terms of truth to be believed alienates or repels many who would otherwise be sympathetic. As John Robinson puts it, ‘the effect of […]
Christianity and Culture July 12, 2019
One of the greatest of the problems that have agitated the Church is the problem of the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity. This problem has appeared first of all in the presence of two tendencies in the Church — the scientific or academic tendency, and what may be called the practical […]