Interview by Zongqing Chen, Edited by Yan Cheng and Liangshu Liu
Dr. Mingxu Wang
An expert in refractive surgery and corneal disease treatment. The prototype of the protagonist in the film "Sight." In recent years, he has been dedicated to helping people find common ground and methods for problem-solving, striving for success and happiness.
CEO of Aier Eye Hospital Group (Aier Eye Hospital Group Co., the world's largest eye care conglomerate) in the United States.
Founder of Wang Vision Institute.
Professor of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
MD (magna cum laude), Harvard Medical School and MIT
PH. D., Laser Physics, University of Maryland.
B. S., Chemistry, University of Science and Technology of China
Founding President of the Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
Co-founder of the Tennessee Immigrant and Minority Business Group.
Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration.
Publications and Patents
Autobiography: "From Darkness to Sight"《從黑暗到光明》.
Author of ten ophthalmology textbooks.
Holder of eight patents related to ophthalmic surgery.
American Academy of Ophthalmology Honorary Award,
Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Chinese American Physicians, Honorary Doctoral Degree from Trevecca Nazarene University,
NPR Philanthropist of the Year Award,
and Nashville Christian Advocates for Children Annual Award, among others.
Wang Mingxu was born in 1960 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang of China, with ancestral roots in Anhai Town, Quanzhou, Fujian of China. Coming from a family with a medical background, he aspired to become a doctor from a young age. However, his dreams were hindered by the Cultural Revolution, and he was unable to continue his education beyond the second year of junior high school. To avoid being sent to rural areas, he dedicated himself to practicing the erhu (a traditional Chinese instrument) and learning dance, aiming to attend an art school. Despite his efforts, he couldn't enroll as the school didn't admit students that year. He taught himself composition and submitted his work for consideration, but his efforts went unnoticed. Ultimately, he found work in a factory.
In the autumn of 1977, China reinstated the college entrance examination (GaoKao). Encouraged by his parents, Wang Mingxu completed three years' worth of high school curriculum in just two months. With his outstanding performance in GaoKao, ranking among the top four in Zhejiang Province, he gained admission to the University of Science and Technology of China, marking the beginning of his academic journey.
In February 1982, with only fifty dollars in his pocket, he embarked on his journey to study abroad in the USA. He entered the University of Maryland. After he obtained his doctoral degree in 1986, driven by his childhood dream of becoming a physician, he sought interdisciplinary challenges and achieved the highest score in the U.S. medical school entrance exam, surprisingly. This led him to a joint program between Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology called "Health Sciences and Technology," where he earned his medical doctorate in 1991.
In 1997, Vanderbilt University invited him to be the director of their laser vision center. In 2002, he established the "Wang Vision Institute," and in 2003, he founded the "Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration," actively aiding blind orphans around the world.
Dr. Wang Mingxu, originally from an atheistic background, became a devout Christian. How did he step into his faith? What were the special experiences during this process? And how did he manage to integrate science and faith? Rev. Zongqing Chen, the editor-in-chief of the magazine 'Grace and Blessing,' thoroughly read Dr. Wang's 2016 autobiography 'From Darkness to Light,' and watched a preview of the movie 'Sight.' On July 6th, he had an interview with Dr. Wang to discuss these topics.
Early Exposure to Christianity
Chen: Dr. Wang, your ancestral hometown is Anhai Town in Fujian, situated between Quanzhou and Xiamen. During the 18th and 19th centuries, many people in that area had already heard the gospel. Could you tell us whether your grandparents and elders had any exposure to the Christian faith?
Wang: My grandmother was a devout Buddhist. I remember that whenever we returned to southern Fujian, we would see pictures of our ancestors displayed in the ancestral hall. Starting from the Qing Dynasty, each generation's head of the household had a small plaque. There was a temple not far from our home, and my grandmother often took me there to pay respects. Our family had been practicing medicine since my great-grandfather, but it was traditional Chinese medicine. My father was the first Western-trained doctor. I don't recall any friends or relatives who were Christians.
Chen: When did you first learn about Christianity?
Wang: My knowledge of Christianity mainly came from Western novels. During the Cultural Revolution, all Western novels were illegal, and most people didn't have the chance to read them. However, luckily in our home, my father placed Mao Zedong's "Little Red Book" and propaganda paintings outside, but he concealed two types of books behind them. One category was Chinese classical literature like "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," poems by Li Bai and Du Fu, and so on. The other category was Western novels such as "The Red and the Black," "War and Peace," which mentioned churches, priests, and the like. This was my initial exposure to Western religion.
What left a deep impression on me was that the elements of religion and faith in these novels were starkly different from the teachings of communism. The communist government issued commands and rules that had to be obeyed, whereas the faith elements in the novels seemed to explore and embody the meaning of life, leaving me room for contemplation and imagination.
Exploring God for the First Time
Chen: You studied chemistry at the University of Science and Technology of China, but you switched to laser physics when you pursued your graduate studies at the University of Maryland. Why did you make this choice?
Wang: I wanted to become a doctor from a very young age, following the footsteps of my great-grandfather, grandfather, and father. However, during the Cultural Revolution, I couldn't even attend high school. During that time, I learned to play the erhu and dance, hoping to join the cultural propaganda team to avoid being sent to rural areas. In 1977, the first college entrance exam after the Cultural Revolution was ushered in. People who had attended high school in the past decade all returned from across the country to participate, making the situation quite chaotic. For me, it was a do-or-die situation. I had been deprived of education for two to three years, and I had to study relentlessly to take the college entrance exam. I didn't have money, and I couldn't find review materials. My parents helped me a lot; they found the exam questions from 1964 to 1965 and copied them onto paper for me to review. I worked tirelessly day and night and eventually got into university.
I originally wanted to study medicine, but that year, the university admissions didn't follow the students' preferences and were based on the scores. As a result, I was admitted to the Department of Chemistry at the University of Science and Technology of China. Later, when I went to the United States for my graduate studies, I chose laser physics because I already wanted to become a laser eye doctor. Most doctors come from medical schools, where the technical training aspect isn't well rounded. My convoluted academic journey unexpectedly filled this void.
Chen: In Chapter Eight of your biography, "Yellow Dot," you mentioned God and faith for the first time. At that time, you were working with Professor John Weiner on an experiment related to your laser physics doctoral thesis. Why did you think of God then?
Wang: That was a very interesting experiment. We exhausted all the scientific laws, but they didn't work. I had reached the limit of my capabilities, and there seemed to be no way out. It was at that moment I thought of the Western novels I had read as a child, which mentioned the existence of God. So, as a last resort, I decided to pray: "If there really is a God, please help me. I want to witness a miracle, right now!" The incredible happened! I saw a phenomenon I had never seen before — in the middle of the gas chamber, there was a "yellow dot" glowing. After two years of effort, we finally got the atom collider to work. Professor Weiner was so excited that he knelt on the ground, joyful like a child on Christmas!
However, that experience with God was more of a curiosity being satisfied for me. It wasn't a profound faith experience yet.
The Undeniable Creator
Chen: You have experienced many difficulties in your life, especially during the years of the Cultural Revolution, when you couldn't study and felt very bleak and defeated. Did you ever think about God during that time?
Wang: Not really at that time. My thought then was just that I needed to persist and work hard; otherwise, I'd continue living in darkness. Interestingly, because of this, I gave myself the opportunity to enter academia, which later enabled me to explore whether God truly existed.
The aforementioned experiment was a spark of curiosity towards God. Later, I became a doctor and performed many extremely challenging surgeries, such as the cases of Kajal and Maria in the film. These challenges had a profound impact on me, prompting me to step by step delve into reflection and gradually realize that nothing is coincidental; it's the work of God.
Chen: While studying medicine, did you find the human body incredibly intricate, especially the eyes being so mysteriously complex, making it difficult to explain by atheistic randomness, which led you to think that the theory of divine creation is more reasonable?
Wang: Darwin's theory of evolution was once my "bible" — the foundation of atheistic scientists. However, the more I learned about the eyes in the field of medicine, the more I found them wondrous.
To see with our eyes, we need the crystalline lens and the retina to sense light, followed by neural processing in the retina, traveling through visual pathways to the cerebral cortex, where signals are captured and undergo image storage, information processing, decision-making, and description, etc., and all of this requires various types of cells, in staggering numbers.
A human embryo begins as a single cell and develops into a baby in ten months. The visual system forms completely during this period, and the cellular arrangement has to be entirely accurate; if any link goes wrong, vision won't function. Although some children are born with minor issues, most people's vision is normal. The process of human vision development is truly miraculous.
Later, I reopened Darwin's book and found that he himself mentioned the weakest link in his theory of evolution, which was hard to apply to the human eye. It was the most inexplicable aspect for him. Because pure evolution couldn't possibly develop so completely in such a short time. Surprisingly, Darwin hundreds of years ago had the same question as me!
If the faith elements in Western novels piqued my curiosity during childhood, and the "yellow dot" ignited a spark of faith in God, then when I entered medical research, my search for God began in earnest.
Chen: Your biography mentions that Dr. Stanley Hand had helped you in your faith. How did this devout Christian give you guidance?
Wang: Dr. Hand's helped me in my faith mainly in two aspects. Once he took me out for a meal and we talked about faith. He pointed at a car parked across the street and asked me, "What's the difference between a car and the human brain?" I said, "The human brain is much more complex than a car." He said, "Can a pile of scrap iron assemble itself into a car?" I said, "That's impossible." He asked, "So what about the human brain?" His words triggered a lot of contemplation in me.
The eye is so complex yet so orderly, with not a single cell out of place. Looking at this, it seemed impossible that everything was random; it must be the work of a designer. Dr. Hand helped me take the first step towards establishing my faith: there must be a God, He is the Creator and the Chief Architect.
Later, Dr. Hand gave me a Bible; it was my first Bible. He told me that in the universe not only is there a God, but also a unique and true God. I opened the book to read, starting from the New Testament, and the greatness and wonder of Jesus was gradually revealed to me. The testimony of His resurrection is solidly evidenced in history that I was fully convinced.
Faith Journey through dark willows and light blossoms
Chen: Your biography mentioned that you were in a relationship with Gwen, a devoted and passionate Christian female doctor, for about five years. She also participated in missionary work in China. She helped deepen your understanding of faith. During that time, did someone guide you to genuinely repent, accept Christ as your Savior? What ultimately led you to want to be baptized as a Christian?
Wang: Before knowing Gwen, I had been reading the Bible and considered myself a Christian. I gradually realized that both science and faith are essential, and one cannot be lacking without the other. While science can improve human lives, faith provides meaning and direction to life. In the past, I groped and searched for God alone in my life; after I met Gwen, she introduced me to the fellowships of Christian medical professionals and met many Christian doctors. I learned a lot from these doctors' faith experiences.
There I often listen to Dr. Simms’ preachings, and later I asked him to baptize me. Dr. Simms was a pastor involved in Christian medical ministry, and he played an active role in my journey of faith.
Chen: Your relationship with Gwen faced strong opposition from her mother. Her mother was also a Christian, but could not accept you because you are Chinese. Did this situation affect your faith in God?
Wang: Yes, it did. My relationship with Gwen was incredibly enjoyable, and we shared deep affection for each other, we even discussed the possibility of marriage. However, it was met with strong resistance from Gwen's mother. Facing such rejection left me in a state of pain and disappointment. I was surprised to discover that some Christians do not live by the principles of their faith. This shocking realization led me to doubt, and I even questioned the validity of Christianity as a result.
Yet, over time, I came to recognize that there's a distinction between Christians and the Christian faith itself. Just like a church, if the pastor is not living a Christian life, we should question him, not the entire Christian faith.
Chen: Your biography detailed some cases of eye surgeries, each of which was extremely difficult. Before each of these surgeries, you and your colleagues would fervently pray and trust everything to God's providence. Most of the surgeries were successful, but the case of the little Indian girl Kajal was an exception. While her sight did not recover, her heart found healing, experiencing the love of man and God. Please share your insights about faith during these experiences.
Wang: When I wrote my autobiography in 2015, I had already performed several surgeries, and four of them were particularly successful. The lesson I learned from these cases was that when facing challenges, it's crucial to trust in God, maintain hope, and firmly believe in positive outcomes. Some Christians might think that if we trust in God, we can take life easy or even become lazy; however, I don't see it that way. I believe that we must give our all to our research, pay attention to details, and maximize our potential, while God will enable us to do even better.
However, Kajal's case taught me a very different lesson. The condition of her eyes was extremely bad, caused by sulfuric acid poured into her eyes by her stepmother when she was four years old. Her eye tissues were nearly destroyed, and there was very little left for repair. Despite our thorough preparations and numerous people praying for her before the operation, her vision improved only slightly after the surgery, and she did not regain her sight. Many people asked us, "Will she be able to see tomorrow?" Unfortunately, we had to report the bad news.
That failure led me to encounter two significant questions that Christians often face: Why would God allow bad things to happen? Why doesn't God respond to our prayers? After the surgery's failure, I felt angry and disappointed with God, and my faith was severely shaken. I believe many Christians have experienced something similar—can we still stick to our faith when God seems not responding to our prayers?
Wang Vision Restoration Foundation hosts an “Eye Ball” every year to raise funds for blind orphans. That year, we invited Kajal as a guest. At that time, my heart was still filled with disappointment towards my faith. However, at the ballroom, an 11-year-old boy, who hosted Kajal while she was in the United States, stood up to speak. He said, "Even though Kajal can't see, we always see her smiling, and she's so joyful." He turned to his father and said, "Dad, I don't need to play with my iPod anymore when I'm with Kajal." This situation deeply moved me. Kajal's joy had such a significant impact on those around her. Where did this joy come from? It came from the LIFE within her.
That night, I handed the microphone to Kajal and asked her to share a few words. She smiled while holding the microphone. She had learned English after coming to the United States, so I expected her to say a few words in English, but instead, she asked me, "Can I sing?" It dawned on me that what she wanted was not seeing, but singing! She was abandoned probably because her stepmother found she couldn’t sing well and could not become a profitable little blind beggar for her.
She sang with an innocent childlike voice, "Jesus loves me, this I know." There were over 500 guests present and many were moved to tears. It was 2007 when this happened, and a journalist captured the touching moment. This photograph later spread to many countries.
This experience taught me deeply that God does respond to our prayers, but it's in "His way and at His time." I learned that the ultimate testimony to God is not what people call success but what God Himself does. Although God didn't stop Kajal from suffering, but through the joy in her heart, God passed on the light of life.
Every case I've encountered gave me different experiences, and the faith of many of my patients gave me help. Through my autobiography, "From Darkness to Light," I aim to present two parallel lines of life. The first line is that physically blind people can go from darkness to light through surgery. But the second line, which has a deeper meaning, lies in the fact that people whose hearts have fallen into darkness can enter light through faith.
Expanding the kingdom of God
Chen: Please talk about the award-winning film "Sight." How can we encourage Chinese American Christians in the United States to invite seekers to watch this film in October and have it impact more people?
Wang: I'm delighted that the film "Sight" received the "Best Film Award" at the 2023 International Christian Visual Media, standing out among over two hundred competing films. This is truly a remarkable achievement. The organizers informed me that they chose this film because its story resonates with a general audience, not just catering to believers to feel good about their faith.
Many Christian films in the past have often aimed at preaching, but they have had difficulties attracting non-believers and skeptics because they often resembled sermon messages. However, this film does not have a preachy tone; it presents a real story.
I especially recommend this film to two groups of people. The first group is our next generation of children. Young people in the United States are leaving the church; statistics show that 75% of young people who attended church in their childhood leave the church after entering college. This is a serious issue. Many young people think that with technological advancements, they no longer need God. This film will convey to them that while science is essential, it is not sufficient. Science provides tools, which can bring both benefits and harm; what we need more is Christ, as only He can guide us on the path and direction of life.
The second group is seekers, non-believers, and skeptics. I hope this film can inspire them to think about and explore God and faith.
We are somewhat concerned that maybe not too many Christians are willing to watch this film, because the purpose of this film is not to make believers feel good about themselves. On the contrary, this story encourages Christians to be humble, willing to find common ground with unbelievers, and engage in dialogue with them. This is quite challenging.
The film is currently scheduled for a weekend screening on October 27th at Universal Studios. However, if it performs well at the box office, it could have longer screening times and more locations. So, we need friends to help recommend it.
Chen: May God bless the use of this film to touch many hearts. In terms of faith, Dr. Wang, is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Wang: In this highly polarized world, "finding common ground", helping people understand and collaborate with each other, and bringing well-being to society, has been the direction of my personal efforts over the years. This film also hopes to contribute to that goal.
Since I arrived in Tennessee in 1997, the church I have been attending is Bethel World Outreach Church, and I have been involved in the church's outreach work. Our pastor, Reverend Rice Broocks, is big on film. He wrote the book “God’s Not Dead”, which was later made into a blockbuster film. There is a Chinese student in the film, modeled after me. He and I collaborated on the bible study material for the film "Sight". I also founded the “Common Ground Network”. I hope that more people will join together to promote and expand the kingdom of God.
Universal Studios USA will release the film "Sight" across the nation on October 27, 2023, and we encourage everyone to go watch and support it.
This exclusive interview will be published in the 89th issue of "Grace and Blessing" (to be published in October 2023), so stay tuned!