By Stephen Cauchi
10 February 2022
Grace Wang has gone from living in a poor persecuted family in Mao’s China, to an Anglican deacon in Australia.
Now the Reverend Wang, her ordination on 5 February also marked a denominational transition to the Anglican Church, prompted by her determination to be ordained.
Ms Wang was born in 1969 into a family that suffered political persecution at the hands of Mao’s communist government. Her grandfather died from the persecution and the rest of the family was tainted.
“This affected my father and my older brother and the family, so they couldn’t go for higher education,” Ms Wang said.
“The family had hardship during those years …I was so poor financially and politically oppressed.
“It was really sad and Mum was sick, my sister was always sick.”
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Food shortages and famine were a constant concern, Ms Wang said. But even back then there seemed to be provision over her and her family.
“Mum told us that she was so worried that with only a little grain flour left, we might not survive the winter. But she kept taking (the grain flour) and it seemed to always be the same amount remaining,” Ms Wang said.
“I believe the Lord provided for the family to survive the famine. Even before I knew Jesus, he was providing, he was protecting us.”
Ms Wang said the family were not Christians then, but practiced an indigenous Chinese religion. Her parents paid respect to the ancestors, and hoped they would protect the family.
The future there looked grim, so Ms Wang’s brother encouraged her to work hard and leave their tiny village in northern China to seek a better life.
She moved to the nearby city of Shandong, studied nursing, and got married. She worked and studied hard and earned rewards and recognition, but inwardly felt empty. She always felt like there was something missing.
Then an accident put her and her two-year-old son in hospital. There, a volunteer shared the gospel with her. The lady also asked Ms Wang to repent.
“It was the first time I heard about God, a true God who loves me and is so powerful and faithful. He gives life – physical and spiritual,” Ms Wang said.
“I didn’t hesitate. I said God really exists – God please help me. I prayed.
“I never thought of myself as a bad person – I didn’t think I did anything particularly wrong to others. But she explained what sin is – the separation from God. I realised I do need to admit I’m a sinner and needed salvation.”
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In 1998, for the first time, she went to church, taking her son.
“We knelt under the cross. I had just had the feeling of the Father opening his arms to welcome me home. I cried for a long time. It was very clear the sense of being welcomed back home. That was so comforting,” Ms Wang said.
“I was very, very thankful that God found me, found us, and also I was a bit upset why no-one ever told me.
“I left all my jewellery, my necklace, in the offering bowl.”
Ms Wang began to regularly attend this church, which had a large congregation. Her friends and family did not know Jesus, and that gave her the desire to share the gospel with them.
Then in 2001 she moved to Singapore for two years, to further her nursing education. There she joined the local church and was baptised. She also met other Christians through her training.
When Ms Wang finished training she returned to China. But there her previous position had been given to someone else.
She was also concerned about her family, as the accident involving her son had left him with a disability, for which there is no financial support in China.
At that stage, her husband’s spiritual state also concerned her. She said he kind of believed in God, through witnessing her own life stage, but it was hard for him to go to church.
“It was my biggest desire for him to become a Christian, to know the Lord,” she said.
The family decided to move to Australia in search of a better life.
In 2004 Ms Wang came to Melbourne, followed by her husband six months later.
“I knew no-one, it was so frightening. It was the same as when I went to Singapore. But I knew that the Lord is faithful,” she said.
“So I came with only a little bit of money and small amount of luggage with no job.”
In Australia she joined her local church, a Presbyterian church in Heidelberg, and enrolled at Presbyterian Theological College.
Her husband joined her at that church, where they started a Chinese fellowship, welcoming people from all over China.
Ms Wang entertained thoughts of being a minister, but her doubts about whether God was calling her to ministry were reinforced by the Presbyterian Church’s stance on women’s ordination.
But her teacher was a woman, and she saw women serving faithfully in the church.
So Ms Wang began to think that teaching may not be right, and began to ask many people their opinions, including her lecturers and senior pastors.
Ultimately, she decided to leave the Presbyterian college and transferred to the Melbourne School of Theology, to study a bachelor’s degree in ministry.
In 2019, she began attending Holy Name Anglican Church, in Vermont South.
Having decided to become a deacon, Ms Wang then started studying at Ridley College in 2020 to begin a graduate diploma of divinity.
She was appointed as a part-time lead minister in 2021 at Holy Name, where she will also work as a deacon.