When my great great grandfather died at a young age, my great great grandmother (S. Y. Chang) became a widow with a young son, my great grandfather (Y. M. Hsieh). They lost income because of his death, so they could not afford to send my great grandfather to school. At the time, Christian missionaries from Europe were coming to China to spread their religion. They offered my great great grandmother a place to live and a modern, westernized education for my great grandfather if my great great grandmother would help spread Christianity in China (many other people at the time did not accept Christianity because they were Buddhist). She agreed, and she and her son became devout Presbyterians. In fact, she was illiterate, but the missionaries taught her the Chinese phonetic alphabet so that she could read the bible and spread Christianity more effectively. With this opportunity, my great grandfather was able to receive a good grade school education and later come to Columbia University and the University of Chicago in America to learn physics. Also, many other members of my father’s side became Christian and went to Christian schools to receive a better education (these schools became the best schools in China over time).
With the support of the Christian missionaries, my great grandfather had the background and education to raise my grandfather with a similar lifestyle; my grandfather was able to attend the best college in China at the time. In turn, my grandfather raised my father with a great life and education. This allowed my father to come to America for graduate school as an immigrant, so I was born in the US. The benefits of Christianity started with my great great grandmother and has been passed down through the generations. Without Christianity helping my great great grandmother, my family would not have the good lives we have now; I would probably have never come to America and would be in China with other relatives.
However, my grandfather, father, brother, and I are all non-religious. This is because when my grandfather was a kid, the communist revolution outlawed any religion, so Christianity on my father’s side stopped. In fact, I, along with my brother, now lean more towards science because there is proof for science, especially with modern education about evolution and the Big Bang. Even though my mother is somewhat Christian, her side of the family was non-religious also because of the communist revolution. Since religion did not have a strong influence on my parents’ lives (and they currently do not practice religion), along with the fact that I belief in proof and science, I am non-religious.
Even though my father is non-religious, he is still fond of Christianity. It completely changed his grandfather’s and father’s life, and it allowed my father’s side to live better lives with a better education. When my father told me the story of religion on his side, I now feel grateful for Christianity like my father. In fact, I may not even have been born if it weren’t for the missionaries. Not only has it impacted my life, but also all of my future family in America to come, who will all get the benefits of being in the US.
Through my talk with my father, I learned that Christianity was a rare “opportunity” for Chinese people in the day of my great great grandparents. I have realized the profound impact it has had on me. It has allowed me to live a life in America that I never would have been able to in China. If I were still in China, my family and I would not have access to the education, opportunities, resources, and so much more in America and PEA. For this reason, I am so thankful of the globalization that missionaries brought to China, as they have forever impacted my family.
Although I am currently non-religious, my family used to go to church when I was very young. I am also a Boy Scout, so that organization has brought me into a Christian atmosphere. Realizing the story of my ancestry, I am now grateful to have experienced Christianity and be part of the Christian community, as it has shaped my family for generations. From these experiences, I feel more comfortable with other kids of various backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths. This story has made me feel more of a connection to Christianity now because it was so integral to my great grandparents and great great grandmother, even if I do not share its beliefs.
After hearing this story from my father, I am curious to know more about my family’s religion around the life of my great great grandmother: Were they non-religious, Buddhist, Confusions, Taoists, or something else? Did my family welcome Christianity from the missionaries or was it more forced onto them? Since they were not Christian originally, why did they remain devout Presbyterians for most of their lives?
In conclusion, I am so grateful of the missionaries that impacted my family forever. Starting with my great great grandmother, Christianity has allowed my entire family on my father’s side to have better education and lives. Now, it has changed my life and allowed me to be in America. I really hope to discover more about my ancestry, as this revelation has revealed so much about my family and myself that I never knew before.