When Heng Li fell away from God, he walked through what he calls “the darkest valley.” But God gave him hope when he attended a movie night hosted by Nancy Smith, international student ministry leader at Geneva House, a Resonate Global Mission campus ministry partner at Queen’s University in Ontario.
Heng became a Christian in China after his aunt invited him to church. Even though the rest of his family disapproved of his faith, he was baptized a year later.
“At the time, I was ready for that,” he said.
But soon after, he started dating Lily*. She didn’t believe in God and didn’t like that Heng went to church and spent time with Christian friends. Heng decided that it’d be better for his relationship with Lily if he stopped going to church so often—he thought that maybe Lily would be more open to faith later.
Lily didn’t change her mind, however. Soon after getting married, Heng and Lily moved to Canada. But while Heng started his master’s—and later Ph.D—at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Lily studied at a university in Québec. Most weekends were spent visiting one another, and Heng didn’t have the time or motivation to attend church on a Sunday.
But then Heng met a new friend who invited him to attend a Friday movie night hosted at Nancy’s house.
Finding God in Movies
Every other week, students gather to watch and discuss Christian-themed movies like The Case for Christ and God’s Not Dead.
“Every movie hits somebody different,” said Nancy. “I think the beauty of it is that it’s just a very cozy, friendly atmosphere. Students can ask any question they want. Whenever we watch a movie, we never watch a movie straight through. The rule I tell them right away is: you can have me stop it anytime for any question you have.”
Heng enjoyed the community and discussing faith again. He went a couple of times, but then his studies prompted him to move from Kingston to Waterloo for nearly two years.
Difficult years, he said.
The Darkest Valley
During those two years, Heng was working full-time and pursuing his Ph.D. While Lily had followed Heng to Waterloo, Heng was spending almost all of his time working, studying, and researching. Their marriage struggled and they decided it was best to separate from one another. Heng said he felt like he was going through the “darkest valley.”
Heng knew he needed hope in his life.
When Heng moved back to Kingston, he immediately started attending the movie night again. “I felt lost and then all of a sudden, I felt at home,” he said. He was encouraged by the strong faith of Nancy and other students. They answered a lot of his questions.
Finding Hope in Challenges
One night, they watched Soul Surfer, a movie about an aspiring surfer who loses her arm in a shark attack and struggles to understand why. God changed Heng’s perspective about challenges and traumas.
“[This girl in the movie] found the meaning of her life. She found life is much more than surfing,” said Heng. “I was struggling. I was having a hard time … [but] I realized things have a bigger scope.”
Now that Heng is plugged into a supportive community again through campus ministry, he is becoming more aware of God in every moment of every day. He said he prays regularly and sees God answering his prayers in ways he could never imagine.
“[God] is the most important part of my life. I would never go back,” he said. “If I were able to make that decision again, I would not stray away from God. God loves me first, so I am able to love others”.
And now, Heng is bringing people along with him on the journey. One day, Heng invited his friend and schoolmate, Wenjie, to movie night.
*Name changed for privacy