By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
A religion graduate of Eastern New Mexico University, Heather Husted always felt she would be in a Gospel ministry somewhere. The Roosevelt County native never dreamed it would be in a communist country.
Husted, who was born in Portales and grew up in Elida, is back home briefly from China where she has been teaching English at SIAS International University in Xinzheng City, a rural city (by Chinese standards) of 500,000, located 300 miles south of Beijing.
In the eyes of the Chinese government, she’s officially an English teacher, but Husted says the team she went to China with is organized as Christian ministry.
“In China, it’s illegal to be a Christian,” Husted said. You can’t just openly preach from a corner. Going there you have to forget about the normal ways of ministry.”
While organized religion is illegal there, Husted said government officials assume any American there is a missionary, but they turn a blind eye to missionaries who are there to contribute to their society, such as university English teachers.
Husted says she and other faculty at the university are able to worship without retribution in their dormitory rooms as long as the gathering doesn’t involve more than 15 people. The government assumes the American faculty, which numbers approximately 70, is worshipping on Sunday and the dorms are closed to visitors that day.
Husted and her team received training on ministering in the country prior to going to China last August. They were told they would be preaching primarily by showing an example of Christian life. Handing out Bibles or tracts is illegal. One instructor told them to preach the Gospel wherever they went, and whenever necessary to use words.
“They’re a culture without hope and love,” Husted said. “At first they don’t know how to handle it (Gospel) but they do crave it. They do seek you out.”
Friends and family say they knew Husted had been called to minister, but never dreamed it would be China.
“It really surprised me and scared me. … She’s a long way from home,” said
Husted’s father, Andy Husted, of Portales. “She’s doing well with it though, and she’s beginning to learn some Chinese.”
Husted says she owes a lot to her father and mother, Eileen Husted, and to the Methodist community in Portales and the entire community of Elida for their support both spiritually and financially.
“I’ve lived in a bubble my whole life,” Husted said. “I didn’t think I could do it, I’m just this small town girl. I know that when God calls you to a job he equips you to do it.”
The 27-year-old Husted, who is on break for Chinese New Year, is contracted with the 8-year-old university through the school year’s end in June. She says she plans to stay at least another year. Past that, she says she’ll just leave things up to God.