William “Bill” Liu moved from his home country of Taiwan to Nashville, TN, last November as a learning opportunity with Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Little did he know that his whole life would change in a matter of months.
As Bill began studying, he found himself looking for ways to practice English and meet new friends. After doing some research, he stumbled across the American Conversation Partners (ACP) on Vanderbilt University’s website. This program matches international and American students to help with conversational English. Ironically, ACP just so happens to be led by The Church at Woodbine’s college and young adult LIFE Group leaders, Richard and Mary Barnes. Bill quickly became an active participant in ACP’s weekly meetings, where he began forming close relationships with other participants and volunteers, many of whom attend the Woodbine campus. They soon began to tell him their life stories, invite him to groups and worship services, and share the whole gospel of Jesus Christ with him.
While Bill is no stranger to religion, he indeed had questions. Growing up, he attended a private Catholic junior high school, where he participated in prayer, hymn singing, and Bible storytelling. He was also raised in a mixture of Buddhist and Taoist traditions, where he and his family would worship various Chinese gods and idols on certain days of the year (i.e. Chinese New Year). Though Bill found himself going through the motions of worship and prayer with his parents and grandparents, he neither called himself a religious believer nor had any particular feelings toward any religion. However, Bill’s perspective soon changed.
Richard invited Bill to begin a one-on-one Bible study of Mark this past February. Each week, Bill was eager to learn and brought thoughtful questions and insights to their discussions, even after in-person meetings became online Zoom meetings. While Bill learned about the miracles that Jesus performed, He still wondered how he was supposed to believe in God without seeing proof with his own eyes. Bill and Richard began to study John 20, specifically where Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was alive until he was able to see and touch Him.
Bill’s doubts where immediately addressed when reading Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Bill found himself at a turning point and realized just how blessed he was, even though he hadn’t seen Jesus. At the end of their study time, Bill personally asked Jesus to come into his life.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, both Bill’s supervisor at Vanderbilt and his boss in Taiwan urged him to return home before international travel was restricted. Richard had mentioned to Bill that he could be baptized upon returning to Taiwan since Brentwood Baptist has missionaries Katie and Brandon Bryant on location there, or they could make something happen in the states. Bill enthusiastically replied that he wanted to get baptized before returning home.
With the church buildings being closed, baptism at the Woodbine campus wasn’t an option. Woodbine’s Discipleship and Connection Minister, Chris Reid, was able to find a Brentwood Baptist family with a hot tub to suffice. Doug Jones, Woodbine’s Campus and Teaching Pastor, and Richard Barnes led the baptism at Bill’s request. A small group of believers gathered in this family’s backyard while maintaining proper social distance.
The moment after Bill was baptized, he stated, “I felt a stronger connection to God and to my friends from The Church at Woodbine. This whole experience has been the greatest decision ever.”
That same afternoon, Richard and Mary drove Bill to the airport, where he boarded his flight home to Taiwan and landed safely soon after. Bill served his fourteen days in quarantine and hopes to meet Katie and Brandon Bryant in Taipei once Taiwan’s stay at home guidelines have relaxed a bit. Although he is thousands of miles away, Bill is continuing to grow in his faith and in his friendships through The Church at Woodbine, proving that the gospel truly can be shared anywhere, anytime, with anybody.
—Brittany Hodge, Editorial Volunteer