Finding Her Voice Underground and Up Front
This article appears in the spring 2020 issue of STILLPOINT magazine: “Generation Gordon.”
Jabez ’21 grew up living in fear. Her country was a place that suppressed her Christian faith and discriminated against female leaders. Today, she openly lives out her faith and prayerfully leads her peers as the Gordon College student body vice president.
But getting there wasn’t an easy journey.
Growing up in a coastal city in China, as the daughter of a pastor meant Jabez faced the constant threat of her family being torn apart. “My father always tells me that he is prepared to be imprisoned for the sake of Jesus,” she says.
Jabez left her hometown at age 10 for the opportunity to study an American, Christian curriculum with an underground community. When it came time for college, Jabez knew that studying in China wouldn’t be an option since, she says, the government doesn’t officially recognize homeschools—especially Christian ones. But Jabez had faith that God would provide a way.
He did. With a scholarship under her belt, Jabez headed to Wenham, MA, to study finance and economics at Gordon. But college in the United States was yet another challenge. While homeschool taught her to read and write in English, she was still improving her ability to speak it. Feeling lost in a new culture and separated by language, she spent most of her first year in the U.S. silently trying to keep up. Bemused, she recalls, “Everyone thought I was an introvert. But I’m very extroverted!”
“Community plays a very important role in learning a new language,” Jabez says. “My professors and my friends, they encouraged me, and I just became more confident. And I found I could speak English better if I was more confident.”
Now Jabez uses her words to come alongside new, lost students. “Now I can help those people who are experiencing the same thing that I was going through,” she says.
As she steadily overcame the language challenge, Jabez geared up to break down another barrier: a culturally embedded lack of appreciation for women. During her sophomore year, Jonathan Frink ’20 asked Jabez to be his running mate in the upcoming student government election—a position she had never considered.
“In China there is no gender equality because women are usually undervalued,” she says “Men are usually considered to be leaders, and when a woman is a leader, people say she is bossy. No one says a man is bossy—they only say a woman is bossy, and it was really hard for me.”
The pair won the election. As Jabez stepped into the role of GCSA executive vice president this year, her perspective on leadership was transformed by a new concept: workplace as mission. “You don’t have to be a pastor to do ministry,” she says.
Jabez says she will likely return to China after graduating but will enter the professional world with a new lens. “I’m still figuring out how to be a good leader,” she says. “Being a leader is serving people and making influence through action. Actions sometimes speak louder than words.”