How a Chinese Atheist Found God

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Growing up in the '70s, I was taught daily that communism was the best thing that ever happened to China and that Chairman Mao, the "savior" from the East, was incapable of error. Around the age of 14, I recognized I was fed a lie and decided I would never be brainwashed again.

After college, I moved to Canada in 1994 to pursue my graduate training in biological sciences. I spent two years at the University of Waterloo (60 miles west to Toronto) and then six more years at the University of Toronto. I was a steadfast atheist (indebted to the indoctrination of the Chinese education system) who tried very hard to make it in academia. Two decades later, I would learn that one of the biggest revivals—called the "Toronto Blessing"—was taking place not far from where I lived, but at the time, the revival stopped short of impacting my world despite its vicinity.

In 2003, I had received my Ph.D. in biochemistry and was offered a postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire, across the Connecticut River from Vermont. Shortly after I arrived at Dartmouth, my first marriage fell apart. It was a shockingly painful experience, even though I was the one who instigated it (I foolishly blamed my marriage for my unhappiness and wanted the freedom to find my true love). I suffered panic attacks and insomnia for quite a period of time.

To deal with the stress and turmoil, I devoured self-help books, sought psychological therapy, attended life-coaching workshops, undertook Buddhist meditation, practiced Taoism Qigong, intermingled with medium and New Age healers, and eventually became a full-fledged New Ager myself.

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As a New Ager, I had a very high opinion of Jesus, but I stayed away from Christianity for three reasons: I did not see the power of the gospel manifested in the marriage of my parents, both of whom were believers; the numerous denominations in Christianity convinced me the church had been corrupted; and Christians I encountered then did not have or accept supernatural experiences that I knew existed and were possible. Out of pride and ignorance, I considered my own spirituality superior to that of modern-day church goers. Meanwhile, I held dear a naive belief that my life would be filled with joy should I eventually find my soulmate.

A Dream Come True

I was still in the aforementioned condition in spring 2012 when The University of Southern Mississippi offered me a tenure-track faculty position. A few months after I arrived in Mississippi and a day or two before Thanksgiving, I had a dream. It was one of those unusual dreams in which everything was remarkably colorful and tangible.

In the dream, I was dying of a terminal disease. Two of my former classmates were talking to Lily, my secret crush in middle school, hoping she would admit to me that she had always loved me. I was astonished because it never crossed my mind that the most beautiful girl in my school would like me. In the dream, Lily insisted it was not appropriate to voluntarily share her feelings with a boy. I remember walking right into their presence, and suddenly the scene in the dream was transformed; Lily and I were in our old age as husband and wife.

I woke up at once, unable to believe what I had was just a dream. I was persuaded that the girl whom I had barely spoken to since middle school must have liked me in reality. To find out, I messaged her via the Chinese social media platform WeChat (Both Lily and I were urged to join the same online group a month before, from which I learned she was a single mother living in Hawaii). This was how I got connected with Lily, who later told me that she had not harbored any romantic feelings toward me, nor was she interested in marrying a nonbeliever. The reason she allowed our relationship to develop was largely due to her own encounter with God.

A few days before I received my dream, Jesus spoke to Lily in an audible voice that she would meet the man for her and the dad for her daughter, Natali, at Thanksgiving. Immediately after Lily and I started to message each other, Jesus used a series of dreams and visions to show her that she and I would be perfect together and that I would be saved.

So by the grace of God, Lily and I were connected in November 2012, engaged on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2013, and married shortly afterward. When I was in Hawaii proposing to Lily, I had a conversation with her pastor, Pastor Ron, who asked if I would accept Jesus as my Savior. Knowing it was Jesus who brought Lily to me, I did not hesitate. I said the sinner's prayer, and several months later, Lily's spiritual mother baptized me in a swimming pool. Lily closed down her travel business, sold her apartment and moved to Mississippi along with Natali, who has since become my daughter.

The Path to Breakthrough

We joined a local church as I began my new life as a Christian. However, I was miserable. On the outside, I dressed up every Sunday to go to church, but on the inside, I did not experience any real change. I was still pursuing my own success in the world while fighting insecurity and anxiety that had plagued my life since an early age. Little did I know that I was on the path to three breakthroughs.

The first breakthrough came one evening when I was reading the Gospel of John. In verse 6 of chapter 14, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Shocked by what I had read, I immediately closed the Bible. That verse went directly after a core belief I had, that every spiritual path leads to the same destiny. After calming down, I opened the Bible again, but that verse was still there. I closed the Bible one more time and said out loud, "He did not say it. This cannot be right." But an even louder voice from within me replied, "But you are not God!" The battle went back and forth. On one hand, I recognized that by accepting John 14:6, I would probably lose all my New Age friends who had supported and encouraged me when I was recovering from the lowest point of my life. On the other, I knew I could no longer pretend to be a Christian if I chose not to accept the Word of God as it was written. Eventually but reluctantly, I gave in to the voice inside. With a heavy heart, I acknowledged the authority of the written Word of God. Looking back, that moment of surrender opened a door for many blessings to come.

The second breakthrough came after I stumbled upon a book titled The Essential Guide to Healing. Randy Clark and Bill Johnson, two people I had not heard of, co-authored the book. Johnson ended his testimonies with a reference to Matthew 10:8 ("Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.") Without fanfare, he wrote, "Jesus did not command us to pray for the sick. He commanded us to heal them." In my heart, something exploded. I started to wail uncontrollably for more than an hour. Released along with my tears were years of disappointment and unbelief. I felt as if the Spirit of God were reaching deep into my soul, tearing down some strongholds (established through my prior involvement in occult practice) while restoring what the devil stole.

My third breakthrough took place when I was wrestling with my lack of emotional connection with Jesus. In my head, I knew He died for me, but I did not feel or behave as someone who had been given a second chance. It bothered me for months. Then I found myself reading Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, which described Jesus' visit to the Garden of Gethsemane. After praying for Himself, He prayed for His disciples, who were with Him. Then He said, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word" (John 17:20). The eyes of my heart were suddenly opened: Jesus, the Son of God, was praying for me (and for you) right there, and right before He surrendered Himself for crucifixion! This is how and why I (and you) got saved! I burst into tears and was instantaneously flooded with tender love from Christ Jesus. That day, the gift of salvation became personal.

An Invitation to God

My walk with Jesus became more authentic as a result of these breakthroughs that took place within a span of one year, but I still struggled with fear and insecurity. I was particularly afraid, after I read about Saul, Israel's first king, that God might zap me should I misstep. I was also anxious about my academic career. Every time my experiment failed to produce expected results, I would start to worry about my ability to publish and my chance to secure research grants and tenure. I knew worry was counterproductive, but I could not stop it.

In 2015, after learning that the Voice of the Apostles Conference was to be held in Nashville, Tennessee, I decided to take my whole family there. Two weeks before the trip, I asked Jesus to do something about my anxiety. I reminded Him that I was promised freedom according to His Word in John 8 (verses 31-32), yet I still felt like a slave. I then gave Him permission to rewire my brain if necessary (Now that I think about it, I was literally inviting God to brainwash me). The conference turned out to be monumental in my life. Both Lily and I were blown away by what we saw and heard (for example, a woman sitting in front of me was delivered from demonic oppression when Heidi Baker was worshipping Jesus on stage). God used generals like Baker, Johnson, Clark, Reinhard Bonnke, John Arnold and many others to show us what was possible in Christ. During the five-day conference, Lily and I woke up every morning around 2:00, finding ourselves shaking nonstop under the presence of God. When the conference was over, I could not help but notice that the ugly spirit of anxiety had departed. More importantly, I received my new identity; I was no longer an orphan but a child of God.

The unexpected fruits of the Nashville trip include the activation of the gift of healing, a noticeable increase of authority and power in my prayer and a deeper hunger for God. I began to serve in the local homeless shelter and minister to college students who were distraught. By then, I was fully aware that Clark was used by God to catalyze the Toronto revival, which I had missed when I was a graduate student in Canada. Therefore, in 2016, I attended the summer intensive at his Global School of Supernatural Ministry, where I received the gift of prophecy and a specific calling on my life. I was also blessed with the opportunity to connect with many men and women on fire for God, including guest instructor Lee Grady, who would become my spiritual father.

Today, I am a tenured professor teaching genetics and cell biology while conducting National Institutes of Health-sponsored biomedical research. As meaningful as my career may be, my deepest passion is to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. I have co-labored with the Lord at a homeless shelter, a local prison and more recently a Christian halfway house. Every time I travel and minister with Grady, God grants me greater access to His love and power. I never dreamed this could happen, but I am living in my destiny, and I thank God for revealing the true Savior to me.

Hao Xu, Ph.D., is an associate professor and cell biologist at The University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Hao also manages a website that publishes testimonies of Jesus (templehearsgod.com).

This article was excerpted from the April issue of Charisma magazine. If you don't subscribe to Charisma, click here to get every issue delivered to your mailbox. During this time of change, your subscription is a vote of confidence for the kind of Spirit-filled content we offer. In the same way you would support a ministry with a donation, subscribing is your way to support Charisma. Also, we encourage you to give gift subscriptions at shop.charismamag.com, and share our articles on social media.

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