Cai Sujuan, known in the West as Christiana Tsai, was born in Nanjing, the 18th of 24 children of the vice-governor of Jiangsu Province. Despite her luxurious surroundings, Sujuan was a sad, serious girl, and she considered becoming a Buddhist nun. Instead, her fascination with the English language led her to two missionary schools, the first in Nanjing, where Mary Leaman was the principal, and the second in Suzhou. Sujuan entered these schools determined to shut her ears to all discussion of the Gospel, but when a visiting American pastor preached at the Suzhou school, Sujuan attended to listen to his English. His message, “Christ, the Light of the World,” struck her to the heart, and she believed.
Her infuriated family forbade her to return to school, and mocked her mercilessly to pressure her into changing her mind. Enjoying inner peace for the first time in her life, Sujuan “read the Bible and prayed with one mind, and was filled with peace and joy.” Finally, her mother allowed her to return to school just to get her out of the house. Sujuan grew in love and faith, and after graduation she turned down job offers to return home and bring her family to Christ. God rewarded her faithfulness, as 55 members of her family eventually followed the Lord. Sujuan’s mother came to Christ when He healed her from opium addiction, and for several years Sujuan, her mother, and Mary Leaman had a fruitful ministry in the Nanjing area, especially among women.
With these blessings came trials. When Sujuan’s fiancé, whom she had met at church, turned away from Christ, Sujuan broke their engagement. In 1930, Sujuan contracted a devastating case of malaria. She was left bedridden, and was so sensitive to light and noise that she was obliged to remain continually in a darkened room. Sujuan thought her painful confinement would bring an end to effective ministry, but her loving Savior was refining her like gold. From her bedside, Sujuan was able to comfort lost and broken souls more effectively than she had from her pinnacle of wealth and accomplishment. Her physical circumstances deteriorated further when Mary was imprisoned with other missionaries in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. Sujuan was left alone during the day, surviving on bread and salt vegetables and crawling about on the floor to take care of her needs. Even in this, she saw the hand of her Savior, as several of their friends were converted by the peace and strength with which Mary and Sujuan faced their trials.
After the war, Mary’s poor health forced her to return to the United States, and she took Sujuan to live in the Leaman family home in Paradise, Pennsylvania. Sujuan continued to minister to those who visited her there. Her autobiography, Queen of the Dark Chamber, was translated into 30 languages, and she later wrote a devotional book, which includes these words on the importance of prayer. “How can we still be useful? Maybe you think people only pay attention to the educated – those with Ph.D.s? Never mind. The Lord loves us. We can have a degree, too – a P.D. – a doctorate in prayer. If we will be faithful in our corner, praying for those who are on the front lines of battle, we will have a reward, too. …There is not a day that I have not prayed for China, my homeland, and the millions there who need Christ.” Sujuan entered the presence of her Lord on August 25, 1984.