Slices of Life: University of Illinois student grateful for his journey to belief

Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette

Kaiwen Man prays during worship at Bible study.

By Xing Zhuo -- "Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God?" Elder Wei-Laung Hu asked.

"Yes, I do." Kaiwen Man answered.

"Do you accept Jesus as your savior and lord in life?"

"Yes, I do."

"Will you follow Jesus our lord as His loyal disciple?"

"Yes, I will."

On early Easter morning this year (2013), the minister at the Champaign Chinese Christian Church in Champaign, supported Kaiwen by his back and immersed him in the church's baptismal tub. When he reemerged, Kaiwen stood straight, drenched and baptized, while his new brothers and sisters applauded. After only seven months in America, the 23-year-old Chinese student — an atheist all his life — had become a Christian.

"God saved me and my entire family," Kaiwen says. "I have to believe in Him."

Kaiwen's journey to belief began a few weeks after he arrived on the University of Illinois campus last August to earn his master's degree in economics. His neighbor, Lisa Liu, the wife of a Chinese post-doctoral student, invited him to Bible study at the Chinese Christian Church on a Friday night.

Kaiwen met some 35 Chinese students and non-students who attend the church regularly. They sang spirituals in Chinese, studied the Bible in English, ate snacks and chatted after finishing the last prayer of the evening.

Born and raised an atheist, Kaiwen didn't believe in such a thing as "prayer." For Kaiwen, the Bible was nothing more than a work of Western literature, something he had read simply because he wanted to improve his English.

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This story was written by a University of Illinois journalism student in Professor Walt Harrington’s Literary Feature Writing class taught in collaboration with The News-Gazette. Funding for the class, which was taught at the newspaper’s headquarters in downtown Champaign, came from the Marajen Stevick Foundation. The story was part of an occasional series titled “Slices of Life” that ran in the newspaper’s Sunday Living section. All the stories in the series are also collected in the book “Slices of Life.”