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A Mission Calling: From Computers to Cooking*

When I was 11, it was arranged that I would move out of my parents' crowded home to live with my aunt. My parents worked as cheap laborers in trade, had five children, and traditionally valued boys more than girls. They thought that I, a girl, would have better advantages living with my aunt. At home, I was assigned to do domestic chores and had little time for studies. But at my aunt's, I was able to go to school in the evenings and work part-time in a sewing factory during the day.

Later, I was admitted to St. John's High School, where I studied through Middle Three. Once while working as a volunteer in a fun fair at a popular theater, I told a counselor that I would soon have to stop attending school because I had no money to pay tuition. The counselor spoke kindly to me, saying, "Do not quit your studies, no matter what! I'll pay your tuition for you!" This man was a good person, a Christian. He invited me to church and helped me apply for a subsidy fund from the YMCA, which provided full funding so that I could finish high school at St. John's. It is beyond my understanding why such unexpected blessings came to me during that time!

Upon high school graduation, I was hired by a huge British company to work as an accountant. This was the time when computer usage was a new innovation, and it just happened that I had earlier taken some courses to get training in storing incoming information data—a skill needed by the big companies. Having this knowledge enabled me to get a new job as a computer analyst at the New World Hotel, where I worked for the following two years.

Hard Work and Blessing

Before my family immigrated to the U.S. in 1989, I began taking ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to improve my English. Stateside, I entered community college and then university, majoring in computer science, all the while doing odd jobs to bring in income for my living expenses and schooling.

During this time, I often attended Rutgers Community Christian Church, the largest Chinese church on the East Coast. It was at church that I pleaded with God specifically: I am in debt with no money in my pocket. Please give me a job with an annual income of about $30,000. That's all I ask of you! Every day I continued praying this prayer until I got an interview at the big telecommunications company, AT&T. After submitting my resume and transcript from the university, I was quickly hired. My annual income amounted to more than what I had asked God for—$32,500!

This job lasted five years, during which time my company sponsored my study for a master's degree. With this degree, I later obtained a lucrative job in New York City that doubled my annual income from my previous jobs.

The 9/11 Attack

My office was located in the World Trade Center in downtown New York. I worked in computer formulation in the stock investment market. During my first year of employment, I was mentored by a coworker from the Soviet Union. She was someone I could lean on. Then the catastrophic tragedy that shocked the world—the 9/11 terrorist attack—occurred.

On that day, September 11, 2001, I happened to be late for work, about 15 minutes. As I alighted from the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) Station, the first plane crashed into the first tower, followed by another crash into the second building. People were jumping from buildings! Dumbfounded, I frantically tried to call people I knew, but to no avail.

The next thing was a massive order by the police to leave the scene. I didn't know which direction to go. Trying to squash a terrible panic attack, I followed the crowd to the MTA Station. Passengers had to line up for several hours to take turns waiting for their ride, which meant several hours’ delay for me before finally returning to my home in New Jersey.

After the 9/11 incident, my office was totally demolished, and all company workers had to switch their workplace to New Jersey. Over the following three months, there were massive layoffs every week, which was threatening and frightening to me. My coworker from the Soviet Union who had helped me so much was laid off, and that was a huge disappointment. I wondered what I would do without her. All these things drove me to prayer! Every morning I asked God for His help, and every evening I thanked Him for being with me.

Believing Jesus with my Whole Heart and Mind

Living through 9/11 greatly changed the way I looked at life. I realized that life is uncertain and fragile. Everything you hold dear can vanish in a moment. No one knows what will happen today or tomorrow because no one is in control except God. I started studying the Bible seriously and attending church. Looking back on my life at that time, I realized that every step of my life had been led by God. He had performed wonders, and this compelled me to thank Him continuously. After a period of seeking, I had no doubt that God was sovereign above all. I admitted that I was a sinner. I repented and trusted Jesus as my personal Savior. In 2002, I was baptized into the family of God at Rutgers Community Christian Church.

Initially, I was just a Sunday Christian. Later, the Holy Spirit inspired me to treasure meetings at church. I felt refreshed after each meeting and learned many lessons of faith over a long period of time. Knowing the uncertainties of life and work, I learned to rely on God rather than on people.

I also learned a new focus toward people. One day at work, I received an email that cursed our company. After seeking God's direction, I decided not to respond in kind but to respect the person's dignity by replying with a courteous email. My supervisor saw this and praised my proper handling of the matter. He even rewarded me with a public recognition of merit! This was all because I had acted according to the instruction of God. I had the love of God in my heart and enjoyed my work, so I was often able to help coworkers solve their problems. They knew I was a Christian, and I had the opportunity to share the gospel with many of them.

The Call from God

In August 2008, I joined a mission trip to Mexico—my very first! I was told to wear leather shoes rather than sport shoes or slippers because I would be working in the kitchen. Our plane landed at the airport at 3 p.m., and I was to have a meal ready—everything washed, cut, cooked, and ready to serve at 4 p.m.! Wearing leather shoes to work till 11 p.m. was extremely tiring! I found myself grumbling in my spirit: This mission work is difficult to endure. In the U.S., life is easier. I can sit down and eat dinner after a day's work—and the dishes are washed by family members. Here on this mission trip, I'm the one washing a pile of dirty dishes! I don't think I want to take part in such a tiresome, short-term mission trip again!

However, half a year later, God called me to another mission venture. Our church missionary made an appeal for someone to go who could help cook. As I read through the pamphlets about the mission work, I saw that it was work among Muslims. I immediately felt a burden to serve among this ethnic group. The Divine voice I heard was almost frightening! Why would God choose me to help bring the gospel to Muslims?

On my morning drive to work, I heard the hymn "Such Grace is Too Beautiful" with the lyrics "to respond at all cost; able to serve is a noblest deed!" I felt God confirming His calling to me through this song and my strong desire to share the gospel among Muslims. Reflecting on the grace and love of God to me in the past, how could I say no to such a clear calling at this time?

I quit my job in 2009, which brought scoldings from my mother and brother, and negative reactions from most of my family. But I remained adamant in my decision, believing that God wanted me to tread the path He had chosen for me.

Equipped and Led

Looking back, I can see that God was equipping me even before He called me. At age 8, I learned to cook, so that now, I could serve Muslim college students with this skill. All my life, God has had His plan and His timing, and He has never failed to bestow His grace on me. God has put an insight into my heart: helping others in a company requires diligence and intelligence, and one should work at this as unto the Lord. Yet work for people is only temporary here on earth, while work for God has eternal value.

It is clear to me that God designated me to do cross-cultural mission work. And it is a huge challenge considering the differences in language, culture, weather, and surroundings that hinder effective interaction. I covet prayers for my continual missionary work among the Muslims, as I rely on God's grace and leading to keep growing into spiritual maturity.

*This article was extracted from "Life Changes of Benson Hurst," an interview conducted by Kelly Kwok Hoi Wong and published by Chinese Christian Mission in Chinese Today magazine, December 2020. It was translated into English for Challenger magazine by Kelly's husband, Philip Yu. Kelly and Philip are regular contributors to CCM literature and attend Rutgers Community Christian Church in New Jersey.

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