Suicidal on a walkway

We were on our way home from the weekly soccer game.

The pollution was boarder-line unhealthy for Beijing standards and way beyond healthy for anywhere else in the world. None of the Beijing folk seemed to think twice so I didn’t say anything as we played.

I was on my little brother’s old bike, which thankfully had gotten me to my destination and back. I had had my doubts. Everything looks older and more likely to fall apart when it’s covered in that nasty pollution-film that covers anything left outside.

I turned right into the alley that leads to my parent’s house when I heard something that made me stop dead in my tracks.


Not yelling, as if two people were verbally duking it out because the latter had been ripped by the former. No, this was all-out, top of your lungs screaming. It had that nerve-wracking, bone-chilling effect.

I looked up to see where the screaming was coming from. There at the top of the pedestrian walk-way overlooking the busy road was a women sitting on the top step, rocking back and forth, screaming a blood-curdling scream, her face lit up by the light of her smart phone. She was addressing her cries into this mini technological wonder, but I doubted that anyone was still on the other side.

I watched for a minute. The screaming continued. Dozens of people walked past her, giving her a look of disapproval or curiosity, but not a single person stopped to ask her what was wrong.

My brother Andrew and his friend Ben pulled up next to me.

We stopped and prayed for her.

It was hard to know how to pray. My brother was able to make out the word “death” amidst the high pitches and sand-paper screeches.

The three of us looked at each other. We were all wondering the same thing, but it took a while for one of us to be strong enough to ask the question, “Should we go up there?”

We prayed again.

Our Chinese was limited at best. My little brother, 16 years old, had the best vocabulary and I had the worst.

After prayer, listening for God’s response and staring at each other for a minute while the pitch continued to echo in our ears I said, “I’ll go if one of you is willing to do the talking.” It was all we needed. My brother Andrew and I parked and locked up our bikes as Ben went home to solicit prayer from those who were waiting on us for supper.

I could tell that my brother was nervous. I can’t believe that his Chinese had ever been put to the test in such an emotionally charged situation before. I know that I would have had a hard time approaching her even if she spoke fluent English. What do you say to a person who is loosing their grip on reality?

I am not sure of everything my brother said to her.

At first she didn’t want us to pray for her. She thought we were trying to convert her and she was being very clear that she wasn’t a Christian. My brother explained that it didn’t matter if she were a Christian, Jesus knew her pain and would help her.

At about this time a Chinese man finally approached and offered to help.

He asked us what was wrong with her. I suddenly realized that it looked like the two foreigners who were sitting with her on the dirty ground had probably caused this scene somehow. What had we done to her to elicit this kind of response?

I was worried for a second. What if the cops were called? On one hand I wanted to cops to show up because they might actually get this poor woman some help. On the other hand, this is the land where the person who calls for an ambulance to save someone’s life gets to pick up the tab. I hadn’t considered that it was possible for us to get into serious trouble just by trying to show her that someone cared. No wonder no one else had stopped.

Once our Chinese friend realized that we were simply trying to help her, he decided to bypass the language barrier and speak to her himself.

Stop crying. Nothing could be this bad. You are an embarrassment to our country. Look, you need foreigners to come help you…

Quite a screaming match erupted between the two of them as we tried to do anything we could to get the guy to shut up.

My brother went back to talking to the woman who hadn’t settled down in the least.

In a moment of clarity, I asked our Chinese man-friend, “Do you live around here?”

What ensued was the most random, talk-about-anything-you-can-think-of conversation I have ever had with anyone.

My Chinese is very limited. Thankfully, I had picked up the language a bit when I lived in China over a decade before, but I was really struggling. Every once and a while our conversation would stall and his attention would go back to the hysterical woman.

Think of something to say! Quick!

“Is this intersection Huayuanqiao?” I knew the intersection from riding the subway every day for the last two weeks. Anything was fair game for this conversation. Anything to keep him from opening his mouth toward this hurting woman.

I played my job well enough, but Andrew was amazing.

Soon they were praying together. She calmed down a bit.

She said that she had more peace.

She started to regain her composure.

My brother got to ask her what was wrong. They prayed again.

She was calm.

No, she didn’t want to grab something to eat.

“Wow, your little brother is quite amazing!” Says the man who “came to our rescue.”

Yep. It helps when your little brother is filled with the Spirit of the living God.

It turns out that this woman had something wrong with her physical body that had caused her to want to kill herself.

My only goal in approaching her was to let her know that someone cared.

She is not alone.

We went our separate ways.

She is in God’s hands now.

She could probably still use some prayer.


Counseling is a new concept in China. The idea of listening to someone’s problems without responding in criticism goes against a deeply rooted culture. Prayer Resolution is a huge blessing to many people who have never had a safe place to express their hurts and pains. Even within the church, this often-times doesn’t exist.

After one of my Dad’s classes, which I sat in on, a woman came up to him:
“I’ve been a Christian for 30 years and I never knew that I could tell God all the ways that people have hurt me. Thank you!”


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About Nathan Banker

Nathan, Michelle and their two sons are occupational ministers in the Twin Cities. They do spiritual mentoring, a form of prayer ministry call Prayer Resolution and help run a small church-like community called Immerse. They dream of changing the world, one person at a time.

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