It was a December so different from what I had grown up knowing. I wasn’t singing Christmas carols with my church youth choir, nor strolling down Orchard Road to admire the pretty illuminations. Neither was I helping my mum decorate the artificial Christmas tree at home. I was away from all that was familiar in Singapore, serving on board the missions ship Doulos docked in Sri Lanka, and assigned to run a Christmas programme with some ship friends at a local women’s prison. As I heard there were two Chinese inmates in the prison, I brought my Chinese Bible along.
When our team entered the prison, a Chinese woman dashed across the courtyard to avoid the heavy rain. I hurried to meet her and invited her to join us for the Christmas programme. Her name was Xueling*. As we began the programme in a room where a hundred Sri Lankan women sat cross-legged on the dusty concrete floor, I was glad to see Xueling walk in with another Chinese girl. As I was the only Mandarin speaker on the team, I sat next to them and tried my best to translate the Christmas story and the good news of Jesus in my long-neglected Mandarin.
The verses in Luke 2:10–11 came alive in that moment. Just as how God had sent angels to announce the birth of His Son Jesus to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks, God had sent my team to share the same message to these women kept behind bars in Sri Lanka. The good news of the great joy of Jesus’ birth is truly for everyone. No one is left out.
When I asked, “Do you know who Jesus is?”, Xueling said, “Yes, He is the Saviour of the world. I worked in Israel for ten years. I even visited Jesus’ birthplace and resurrection site. If I can return to my country, I’ll definitely become a follower of Jesus.”
I asked, “Why wait till you return home? Why not now?”
Xueling replied, “Because I don’t know how.”
I was struck by how even though Xueling knew about Jesus, no one had explained to her how to receive Jesus into her life. And God had placed me on the team, so that I could share with Xueling the answer that she was searching for. God hadn’t forgotten her in prison, and now she had another chance to call on Jesus as her Lord and Saviour.
I turned to Xueling and asked, “Do you want to receive Jesus as your Saviour?” Xueling looked at me, and nodded. Just to be sure, I asked again. She said, “Yes.” With childlike faith, Xueling prayed line by line after me, admitting she was a sinner, acknowledging Jesus as God’s Son, believing He died on the cross and was resurrected, and gave her life to Jesus. Right there in prison, Xueling became my sister-in-Christ. I gave her my Chinese Bible and explained she could start reading from the Gospel of John to grow in her faith.
I went back to the ship, pondering over what took place within the prison walls that day. Even though it was a Christmas programme with no festive decorations, gift exchange or beautiful singing, it was the one which touched me the most — we witnessed a miracle, the salvation of one soul, and the angels must have been rejoicing too. And this is the greatest joy I could ever experience, to share the story of Jesus’ birth and to bring glory back to Him.
*Name has been changed for privacy.