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If you were to meet Mary, a smiling 20-year-old young woman at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, you might never guess her dramatic life story. God protected this daughter of a persecuted Chinese pastor, bringing her safely to the United States and connecting her to a California couple who became her American mom and dad.
Mary is thankful for you as well. Your gifts helped her follow God’s leading and attend Moody for Bible education and ministry preparation. Without your financial support, she would not be able to be here today.
As she says, “This is what I’m dreaming of . . . to live a life that glorifies God and leads more people to Christ, no matter where I go or what I do.”
For 20 years Linda and Ron Storm hosted a weekly prayer group in their California home, specifically praying for the persecuted church across the globe. Both in their 50s, they were just starting to adjust to life without children in their home.
Linda works as an office assistant for an agency that helps bring international students to the United States to attend Christian schools. But in May 2010, Linda received an unusual phone call. An American pastor was asking if the agency could help get a young teenage girl out of China. Her parents, leaders in the underground church, feared for Mary’s safety.
“It definitely didn’t fit our typical request,” Linda says. “But my bosses have a heart for ministry, and said, 'Let’s see if we can help this girl.’ ”
When Linda heard the name of Mary’s father, the Chinese pastor, she was stunned. She recognized his name! In fact, her home prayer group had regularly prayed to God on his behalf. Immediately, she called Ron at work, asking him, “What do you think about hosting the daughter of a persecuted pastor in China?”
“Typically, I would say, ‘I’ll think about it,’” Ron says. “But that day, I immediately said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
During the next months, Ron and Linda waded through immigration, legal, and financial hurdles to bring Mary to the United States. But through it all, they became convinced of two things: first, God had divinely orchestrated this connection; and second, their lives would never be the same.
“I never would have dreamed this would happen to us,” says Linda, who had raised three sons and longed for a daughter. “God told me long ago to quit asking; it was His decision.”
Clearly, God had a surprise planned.
When Mary arrived in California, she was just 13: “I was so excited,” Mary recalls. “I hardly spoke any English, but I had a pocket translator that I used to communicate with Ron and Linda.”
Mary grew up in Beijing, China. Because her father was a pastor, she lived with relatives for most of her life for her own safety. This separation was difficult for her. “My aunt was not a believer,” Mary says. “She was against me going to church with my parents.”
Sometimes she did get to attend the church, but the government followed every action of her father and their congregation. “Our church would meet in an apartment,” Mary says. “We didn’t have a band, but I played the keyboard. I had to play softly. About 20 people would be the maximum we could have. We tried to keep our worship quiet and not let people—the neighbors—hear it. Some of them would report us to the police.”
“They were watching my parents—and then me, too. They were afraid we would say something bad about the government. Also, my dad was helping people with human rights issues; persecuted Christians,” Mary says. “I saw my parents suffer, but I believed what they believed.”
In 2007 her dad and her grandmother were sent to prison. “My mom fasted every day,” she says.
“Everyone said he would be there for a long time, but my mom kept praying and knew God would answer her prayer,” Mary says. Through the intervention of President George W. Bush and the president of Germany, along with the prayers of Christians around the world (including Ron and Linda), her father was released. “That helped me see how God could unite everyone together,” Mary says.
But even after his release, the persecution continued. Her parents grew increasingly concerned for Mary’s safety and began to seek ways to send her to the United States.
“When Mary got off the plane, she looked like this lost little girl,” Linda says. “She smiled and couldn’t say any English, and we couldn’t speak Mandarin. We had to teach her basic things like how to use American toilets and how to turn on the hot water in the shower, which we only discovered after she took ice cold showers for three days.”
Ron and Linda became deeply invested in Mary’s life, even to the point of arranging legal guardianship so she could remain in the United States. She then obtained her green card which would allow her to return to China and see her parents. “We saw God do amazing things,” Linda says.
At the same time, the couple endured personal trials. Three months after Mary’s arrival, Ron lost his job of 31 years. “It was very traumatic,” Linda says. “He was unemployed for 20 months.” But then God opened the door for him to work at Moody as a Stewardship field representative.
This led to Mary’s desire to attend Moody Bible Institute. “Moody was always on my mind,” she says. “I applied only to Moody—I know this is where God wants me to be.”
Mary is an Intercultural Studies major and has become involved with a group of students who pray every Saturday for persecuted Christians in China and around the world. “We also pray for America and we worship together and eat Chinese food together.”
Her ministry assignment is in Chicago’s Chinatown, where she tutors kindergarten children in English. She dreams of someday becoming a teacher. “I imagine myself in a classroom teaching kids. But my parents keep reminding me that whatever I do, it is for the glory of God.”
“This is always on my mind,” Mary says. “To live a life that glorifies God and leads more people to Christ, no matter what I do.”
Thank you for helping launch the next generation of ministry leaders!
As a special thank-you for your gift of any size to Moody Bible Institute, we'd like to send you a resource written by two of our professors, Drs. John Koessler and J. Brian Tucker. All Together Different: Upholding the Church's Unity While Honoring Our Individual Identities will help you better understand what the Bible has to say about unity within the body of Christ.
Please request your copy of All Together Different when you give your gift today!
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