Yang Liu and I-Hsuan Tsai—Chicago, USA
Hallelujah, in the name of the Lord
Jesus Christ, we bear testimony. It has now been four years since we first came
to know the living God in the True Jesus Church. Indeed, God has worked mightily
in our lives to reveal Himself to us. We are blessed to be able to share these wonderful
testimonies of His grace.
MOVEMENT 1 [I-HSUAN]
The journey of my faith began twenty
years ago, in 1994, when I had just completed my freshman year at Indiana University
in Bloomington, USA, majoring in Piano Performance. My sister who studied music
in Germany came to visit me, so we decided to go to New York. She, being a True
Jesus Church (TJC) member, planned for our first stop to be the Philadelphia church
so that we could attend a spiritual convocation. Consequently, I spent the entire
first day of my vacation singing hymns and listening to sermons. That was my very
first exposure to God and Christianity.
The following day, we arrived in New
York. After checking in at the hotel, we stepped out onto the sidewalk, armed with
our maps and ready to explore the city. Suddenly, a taxi careened onto the sidewalk
and hit us from behind. My sister managed to roll away, sustaining only minor injuries.
I, on the other hand, was smashed against a building’s wall by the vehicle. Suspended
in mid-air, my intestines, stomach, liver, and gall bladder were badly injured,
my pelvis crushed, and the flesh on my right thigh was dangling from the exposed
thigh bone. I looked at the blue sky and thought, perhaps, this is the moment between
life and death. I wanted to lift a finger but couldn't.
The injuries were so extensive, the
medics did not quite know what to do with me; so they just focused on keeping me
conscious in the ambulance. On the way to the emergency room, they kept telling
me they couldn't find a pulse in my leg. They warned me that I might be paralyzed;
and later, given my extensive pelvic injuries, doctors told me that I might not
be able to have children.
As things turned out, I underwent four
major surgeries in three weeks. I spent a total of ten weeks in the hospital, bed-ridden
and totally immobile for the first six weeks because of my crushed pelvis.
Back then, I did not know anyone in
the US, and my parents, who do not speak any English, could only come a week later.
during those weeks in hospital, my visitors and helpers were TJC members. I was
a complete stranger to them, yet they visited and helped me. Their concern was sincere
and their care, abundant; they brought me food, a compact disc player, words of
comfort, and the word of God. I was very touched. I heard the word of God and learned
to pray. I liked the church and the truth that I heard; I told myself that if I
ever decided to embrace Christianity, this was a church I would consider.
I took a semester off and gradually
recovered, graduating from the wheelchair to crutches, to finally walking on my
own. Back in Indiana, there were TJC members who visited me and studied the Bible
with me. While I liked the teachings of the Scriptures, I did not pursue the truth
any further. In time, I lost contact with the church. I went on with my life, which
continued very smoothly. I got my Bachelor of Music, followed by double Masters
degrees, and my Doctor of Musical Arts. Soon, sixteen years had passed.
Searching for God
In 2004, I met and married Yang Liu.
When we moved to Chicago, we had nothing in our pockets. But we were eventually
able to secure professorships in different music conservatories at the same time.
This was a really great blessing. Also, despite the doctors’ gloomy prognosis during
my accident, I conceived and bore a son, Julian Liu (I have two sons now). Overjoyed,
we felt truly blessed. Life could not have been better.
Our contentment and sense of gratitude
grew day by day. One day when we were reflecting on this, we realized the love in
our little family was so great that it could not possibly just have come from within
us. We started to trace the blessings in our lives. Yang felt that a higher power
from above had been guiding us, opening the way for us. He suggested that we look
for this Being to thank Him because He had given us so much.
Since Yang has a Buddhist background,
we began our search for God by visiting two temples. When we entered the first one,
we were greeted by a Buddha statue, with burning incense and fruit offerings laid
out before it. We saw a nun surfing the Internet and a monk walking around aimlessly.
As we walked in, their expressions reminded us of businessmen expecting customers.
We did not feel comfortable with this, and we certainly did not sense the presence
of a higher power there, not to mention that Yang had invited the temple Abbot and
some of the monks and nuns to give a speech about Zen in our lecture concert “Music
and Zen,” yet no one recognized us. So we left.
Next, we went to a Tibetan temple and
found ourselves in a dark eerie space full of idols. Even though I had no religious
background, it was extremely unnerving to have all those idols and several monks
stare unblinkingly at us. We immediately turned around and left.
We then decided to try Christian churches.
Up till then, I had rarely mentioned the TJC to my husband. We had visited many
Catholic cathedrals in Europe but had not experienced anything there. We had also
gone to various other Christian churches but were very disappointed with the message,
which focused solely on material blessings and human achievements.
One Saturday, around December 2009,
our family planned to visit a state park. But the feeling that something was missing
gnawed at us. I realized it was because we still had not found God, although we
knew there was one. Suddenly, I remembered what I had told myself sixteen years
ago, that if I wanted to believe in God, I would consider the True Jesus Church.
Initially, Yang was not keen on TJC,
as he had heard negative remarks about this church from one of his violin students’
parent. Nevertheless, I managed to persuade him to take a look. I told him that
if he did not feel comfortable in this church, I would go along with his instinct
and we would leave. So we googled for the address of the local TJC and went.
We were a little disappointed when
we arrived at the church location. The True Jesus Church in Chicago is quite small
and resembles a residential house more than a place of worship. We entered the chapel,
sat in the last pew and listened to the sermon. A sister was preaching about the
Ten Commandments, declaring that adultery would lead to spiritual death. Perhaps
some people may find this merciless, but because we had been so resolutely searching
for the truth, Yang was moved right away.
We stayed for the entire sermon and
drove home in silence. Suddenly, Yang said: “It’s a bit strange; when we were in
that church, I felt like I was dirty ….” I immediately agreed, “Me too, me too!”
Such remarks from Yang were incredibly rare, as he was a very confident man. Since
the age of nine, he had performed as a solo violinist with many major orchestras
in the world. He had released several albums and was given a two million USD violin
on an indefinite loan. His portrait had been on the home page of our university’s
website for years. And he had been featured in major music magazines such as “Strad,” “Strings,” and even the Asian edition of fashion magazine
“ELLE,” together with Hollywood celebrities. Yet, as we sat in the chapel, it felt
as though we were in a gutter, while the brothers and sisters around us were on
a much higher plane. I had never felt this way before.
MOVEMENT 2 [YANG LIU]
We agreed to study the Bible with the
resident preacher of Chicago TJC. On his first visit to our home, I asked him “What
is a Jew—is it a race, a country, a region, or a religion?” It turned out to be
the right question. His reply took three hours but it gave him an excellent opportunity
to give us a summary of the entire Old Testament. We fell in love with this approach
of providing a thorough explanation based on Scriptural truth, rather than just
a short convenient reply or one that is politically correct. My wife and I had always
believed that truth comes from God and needs no compromise, decorations, or sugar
coating. After this first session, we decided to continue attending this church.
In April 2010, there was a spiritual
convocation at Chicago TJC. We decided to get baptized but the preacher rejected
our application. He advised us to study the Bible more first. In retrospect, this
was indeed God’s will. At that time, my faith was still not fully cultivated. Even
though we had started attending church services regularly, had learned to kneel
down to pray, and I knew God was in this church, yet deep in my heart, I did not
truly feel that I had to worship Him. To be honest, I was not totally convinced
that I needed to kneel down to worship God the Creator. After all, I had created
everything I needed in my life with my own hands.
I started playing the violin at the
age of four, and by 2010, I had played for thirty years. I had received numerous
accolades for my violin performances. When I was a teenager, I performed in China,
and the Chinese prime minister then came to congratulate me.
At that stage of my life, I was supremely
confident that as long as I had my two hands, I could play the violin, make a living,
and achieve great satisfaction in life. Plus, I always reminded myself, “There's
never an end, don't be greedy.” With such skills and understanding, I simply didn't
see how anything could possibly go wrong in my life.
I neither saw nor understood a need
for God. In fact, despite my visits to church, I did not have even an inch of faith.
God was merely a romantic figure that fulfilled my religious curiosity.
One day, during dinner, I remarked
to my wife that survival in our world required skills. But for me, my skills were
inseparable from my two hands. Since God could not take away my hands, what is God
God then taught me an unforgettable
lesson. As a general rule, I practiced the violin daily. I could practice a scale
at a speed of 250 beats per minute. At four notes per beat, this worked out to be
1000 notes per minute or sixteen notes per second. Doing this was the only way for
me to keep in top shape.
One morning, not long after I had this
dinner conversation with I-Hsuan, I started my usual practice
routine. But that morning, when I took up my violin and placed one finger onto the
violin string, I could hardly move nor place my other fingers onto the violin strings.
My fingers felt as though they were all tied up!
I was in shock. Perhaps I had too much
to drink the previous night. I used every ounce of strength to force my fingers
up and down. Every finger took me at least five seconds. I concluded that I must
be sick because such a thing had never ever happened in my life before. That day,
I practiced for ten hours. In the evening, it was better, so I celebrated. But come
the next morning, the same thing happened. I was really anxious, but when it improved
in the evening, I celebrated again. Then on the third morning, the cycle repeated
After one week, fear started to enter
my heart. I could not possibly turn a ten–minute warm up exercise into a ten–hour
daily horror. My traveling schedule could be very tight, and ten hours of warm up
would be unthinkable.
This condition continued for two consecutive
months, and considering that I had to travel and play concerts during that time,
it was driving me to near-insanity. I was convinced that someone was playing a prank
on me, because I just could not believe my hands could do this to me. I had begun
to play the violin as a toddler, in fact, not long after I had learned to speak.
Playing the violin was as natural as speech to me, but here I was, my fingers ‘inarticulate’!
So great was my fear and so colossal
my helplessness that I soon turned to alcohol for comfort. I-Hsuan was also close to the end of her tether, hearing the same
scale played over and over for ten hours a day and seeing me returning after practice,
sullen, silent, and drunk. Finally, I-Hsuan pointed out
to me, “I know that you believe God exists. But when you pray in church, it is just
an act of superficial courtesy, because you never pray at home. God is mightier
than you, but you have elevated your violin above God. Why don’t you try to kneel
down and pray once at home? Please, just once. ”
By then, I had suffered for two long
months; I was utterly defeated by my ailment. I had absolutely no where to go but
to take my wife's advice. I prayed, telling God, “If You are there, please stop
this joke; there is just so much my heart can take ….”
The next day, my hands were significantly
better, albeit not completely. I was so excited, I prayed again that day. Over the
course of the week, my fingers returned completely back to normal. I was so ecstatic,
I played through ten concertos in five hours! Then, hugging my violin, I knelt down,
wept, and prayed out loud, “God, please stop. I know I am wrong. I know you are
mightier than I. Your power is greater than mine. What I have built in thirty years,
You can tear down overnight!”
That was the very first time I witnessed
the almightiness of God. “What can God do to my hands?” had been my proud challenge.
God can teach us a lesson by taking away the very thing that we are most proud of.
I have never dared to challenge God again.
In April 2010, a friend of ours called
us from Europe. He asked us to drive his daughter, Laura, who was studying music
in Chicago, to the airport to catch a flight home. She was nineteen years old, a
pretty, intelligent, and elegant young lady who was a very good violinist. Unfortunately,
she had been accused of drug abuse and expelled from school.
On the way to the airport, we learned
of Iceland’s volcanic eruptions and how the ash had caused airport closures across
Europe. We contacted her father who told us to just leave her at the airport to
catch the next available flight out. But there was an inner voice in me that urged
me to take her to the hospital instead.
So contrary to her father’s instructions,
we did not leave Laura at the airport. Since it was a Saturday, we took her to church
with us to attend the spiritual convocation instead. She listened to an entire day
of sermons and joined in the hymn-singing with us.
The next day, heeding my inner voice,
I took her to the hospital. My family and I then headed to church to attend the
spiritual convocation. After the church service, we returned to the hospital in
the evening to pick her up. When we got there, the doctor told us that it was fortunate
we had brought her in that day—she had a brain tumor of the size of a fist! This
tumor was probably congenital and had remained undetected. By then, the tumor was
so large that it impinged on her nerves, affecting her daily functions. Although
the girl had never used drugs, the tumor made her appear to be under the influence
of drugs. Had she taken the flight, the air pressure might have caused the tumor
to rupture and she could have died. The doctor said: “She is extremely lucky that
you guys brought her here, because she is one or two days from dying.”
The doctor then informed us that immediate
surgery was necessary. Thank God, a top neurosurgeon was on duty, and the next morning,
he canceled other surgeries and took her as priority! He explained her scan results
to us and warned us that her survival rate was almost zero. Even if she survived,
she might remain in a vegetative state, go blind, or lose her ability to walk. In
short, surgery was critical but she might not be normal again.
That operation took sixteen hours.
Laura’s parents could not fly over because of the volcanic eruptions. Some church ministers and brethren had come to join us at the
hospital. Their presence was comforting, but I kept thinking of the agony her parents
must be going through, since she was their only child. Throughout our wait, I was
constantly on the phone with her parents. Knowing that there was nothing I could
humanly do, I turned to God.
I prayed and told God, “I know you
are an almighty God. I know that You can take away what's built over thirty years.
But can you please, please not take such a wonderful girl away?” A tumor the size
of a nail can be fatal, but hers was the size of a fist. I prayed earnestly, “You
are the Almighty God, please don’t let her become vegetative, blind, paralyzed,
or lose her memory. God, if You answer my prayers, I will give you my whole life.”
This was my prayer for sixteen hours.
When she was finally pushed out of
the operating room, she was still unconscious. So we left for home. When we returned
to the hospital the following morning, she was already up. Her first words on seeing
me were, “Hey Yang, I’m so hungry! I have leftovers in the fridge, could you get
it for me please?” She could see, hear, and remember everything! Three days later,
she was able to go to the washroom on her own. God had indeed answered my prayers.
MOVEMENT 3 [I-HSUAN]
Hearing God’s Voice
Sometimes, God uses the same incident
to edify people in different ways. Seeing her up and about, I suddenly realized
how similar her situation was to mine sixteen years ago. She was nineteen years
old, just as I was when I had the car accident. She was a foreign student with no
parents around, and she also spent all day in church before everything happened.
Like me, she was also taken care of by many TJC members whom she had never met before.
The only difference was that now I
was looking at this from the other side. It was then that I realized how many intercessory
prayers the church had made while waiting for me during my surgery. Now the church
was again praying day and night for Laura, a girl they had never met; just as they
had done for me.
Then I heard God’s voice. This personal
experience of God was so powerful that just recalling it is overwhelming. Until
today, I can remember that stern voice, full of love like a Father, saying, “Take
a close look. This is what I did for you sixteen years ago. I have been waiting
all these years. What have you done for Me?” I felt a chill running down my spine.
Looking at this young girl, I told God, “I know, I am back.” This incident was like
a final push in our journey of faith.
MOVEMENT 4 [YANG LIU]
Seeking His Kingdom First
We decided to be baptized on August
22, 2010. We had made all the necessary preparations when I received an email from
my agent in South America, informing me that I had to perform in two concerts, one
in Argentina and the other in Brazil. There was no problem with the dates when I
had agreed to perform earlier. But one of the performances had been re-scheduled
for August 21, while the other remained at its original date, August 25. This meant
that I could not possibly be back in time for baptism. Out of professionalism, I
agreed to the date change without thinking. Closer to the date, I asked the conductor,
a good friend, whether the dates could be shifted again. But I was told tickets
were already being sold.
Every one advised me to proceed with
the performances, since this was about my livelihood. They said I could be baptized
the following year. But my wife reminded me, “Don’t you feel like you’re negotiating
with God if you change your date of baptism?” Truth be told, I did feel the same
way, but I had just begun to establish my career in South America. It would have
hurt my career if I turned down this opportunity. Furthermore, with a child to bring
up, every penny counts. But to delay my baptism was like trading salvation for my
career. So I finally told the agent that if the concert had to change to August
21, I would not be able to go.
Two days after I made this decision,
my agent emailed me. He said he had never seen anything like this happen before.
“The orchestra manager in Brazil doubled your fee from $5,000 to $10,000 per concert.
You only need to stay one day in Brazil and you’re done ….” Moreover, I only had
to arrive in Brazil by August 24. “They will pay for the air ticket. Although the
initial arrangement did not include accommodation, for some reason, they have put
you in the best hotel and will sponsor you. All your meals and beverages are covered.”
When I received this news, I knew this
was God’s reward. Indeed, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt 6:33).
Played by an Angel
In late January 2011, after our second
son, Isaac, was born, he had severe problems with his stomach. He would vomit whatever
we fed him, even breast milk, until he vomited blood. This was so frequent and prolonged
that we were unsure whether Isaac would even survive his first birthday. In those
days, we had a suitcase packed so that we were ready to go to the emergency room
whenever he vomited blood. We were in and out of the hospital, day in and day out.
In those days, I had no time to practice
my violin; in fact, I did not even open the case for five months after Isaac was
born—I had to stop everything just to be next to him. All we did was pray for Isaac’s
life. We told God to give us strength to accept it if it was His will to take Isaac
away. We were very upset; I don't remember any day being sunny. I did not care about
day or night, I did not dare to have a relaxed sleep. In fact, I developed the skill
of being half asleep and half alert—whenever I heard Isaac cough, I would automatically
jump out of my bed to check on him. Yet, through prayers, our Almighty God gave
us strength and hope to rely on His grace. Despite seeing top notch specialists
and undergoing all kinds of tests, including two painful gastroscopies and endoscopies
before age one, the cause of Isaac’s problem remains unknown until today.
One day, my US/Europe agent called
me about an event I had agreed to a year earlier but had completely forgotten after
Isaac’s birth. So I had not responded to her earlier calls and emails. She told
me that in five days’ time I would be touring in China with one of the top north
European orchestras. The selected music was a fifty-five-minute concerto by Carl
Nielsen. I thought about the time available for me to practice. We would be spending
two days at our local church’s spiritual convocation that weekend, so I essentially
had three days left to practice. When I started practicing on Monday, the first
time in five months, my fingers felt really rusty. I had previously performed this
piece five or six years ago, but I had pretty much forgotten the piece. What’s more,
it was a very long concerto and technically demanding.
After practicing for three days, I
lost all confidence. This was no ordinary performance. The European Orchestra was
on a concert tour in China, and the first concert would be telecast live; my performance
of Nielsen would be its premiere in China. Given the momentous occasion and my lack
of preparation, I could only practice so much, study the score on the plane, and
pray very hard. From a human perspective, playing this piece would be an impossible
I went straight from Beijing airport
to the rehearsal. My worst fears came true. I could not even finish the entire piece.
The conductor of the orchestra was a world-famous Viennese, and he looked at me
in shock. He must have been wondering why such an unprofessional player had been
invited to perform with his orchestra. In fact, he told me later that he felt like
punching me and returning to Vienna with his baton, feeling it would be an insult
to his professionalism to play with me.
After the rehearsals, during the hour-long
dinner break, I took a nap to recover from jet lag. The conductor came by fifteen
minutes before the performance and knocked on my door. He heard me snoring! This
probably did not improve his impression of me.
But thank God, from all the milestones
in my journey of faith—God taking my violin ability away, God’s guidance before
my baptism and during my son’s illness, God’s healing of Laura—I had witnessed for
myself God’s amazing power. I had learned the power of sincere prayer.
During the remaining fifteen minutes,
I prayed to God. I told Him that it seemed as if my career was over. The music circle
is very small and everyone would surely have heard about how rusty my skills had
become. I just asked Him to give me fifty-five minutes of courage to endure the
humiliation I was about to encounter. I told God, “Please give me strength to bear
with it. And tell me what career path I should choose after that. If You want me
to fix cars, I will fix cars. If You want me to sell shoes, I will sell shoes. The
next fifty-five minutes may be the most humiliating experience I will have in my
life. I have no excuse, but it is my fault for forgetting I signed this contract
and not practicing. Please give me the strength and peace to go through this.”
And thus I went on stage, clothed with
pessimism and resignation. Yet, strangely, I felt an indescribable peace in my heart.
The conductor was glaring at me and his baton was shaking. This Nielsen Concerto
starts with a chord from the orchestra, immediately followed by a showy virtuosic
solo violin passage.
I clearly remember the scene. I braced
myself. The first chord from the orchestra. Then the first note from my violin ….
From that moment on, it was as if an angel played on my behalf. From the first till
the last note, I played with no error. The music was perfectly harmonized.
After the concert, the entire orchestra
had a celebratory feast. They said they had never seen such a dramatic contrast.
They noticed that I had been in terrible shape before the performance. “But when
we heard you perform, you played like an angel!” They specifically used the word
“angel,” and in my heart, I knew that it truly was.
The first thing I did after the concert
was to rush to my dressing room to pray. I rang I-Hsuan
and told her to kneel down immediately and pray with me because God had showed me
His almighty power again. God sent an angel to play for me!
The rest of the six concerts were plain
sailing. I performed with ease. After the whole tour was over, I remembered what
a preacher had once shared with me.
The blessing of the Lord makes
one rich, [a]nd He adds no sorrow with it. (Prov 10:22)
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
(2 Cor 12:9)
We had truly experienced this. Whatever
we strive to get in this world with our two hands will always bring us labor and
worries. However, God’s blessings come with no sorrow. If we have come to know God
but still want to create our own future with our own hands, He can take it away
The journey to the heavenly kingdom
is long yet short, and easy yet difficult. May we encourage each other to rely on
God's power, "that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the
power of God" (1 Cor 2:5). Amen.