Paul's journey from China to Norwich
2007: From factory manager in mainland China to founder of a chain of successful restaurants in Norwich
– that's the surprising story of entrepreneur and Christian Paul Lin.
Born in Canton during the repressive Cultural Revolution, Paul was one of the fortunate few who graduated with a coveted degree in mechanical engineering in the 1980s.
Paul had big responsibilities at a manufacturing plant in southern China, but in June, 1989, while on a visit to Hong Kong, he heard the alarming news about the Tiannamen Square massacre of students in Beijing – and he feared the worst.
Along with a number of other graduates and business people, Paul believed that it was the right time to seek a new life in the western world. Many educated Chinese moved away to Australia, Canada and the US.
Paul hoped to come to Britain, but knew no-one here. However, within 24 hours' of an application and interview, he was given permission to come to this country, where he started an English course at Sheffield University.
"One day at a bus-stop, a lovely young lady called Ruth spoke to me in Cantonese," he recalls. "It was a wonderful surprise!" This chance meeting was the start of romance.
British-born Ruth, then a medical student, had learned the Chinese dialect while working in Hong Kong with Jackie Pullinger, the well-known pioneer worker with drug addicts and the author of the best-selling book, Chasing the Dragon.
Ruth, a Christian, took Paul to a local bookshop and bought him a Bible. As their friendship grew, Paul and Ruth attended the Chinese church in Sheffield where Paul became a committed Christian and was baptised.
Eventually, the couple got engaged and were married in the same church. Ruth won a masters degree at Cambridge, but life was hard for them as Paul looked for work. He sold hot dogs, cleaned people's homes, filled supermarket shelves and even picked potatoes to make a living.
The couple moved to Norwich where hard-working Paul made his "big break" – he progressed from making sandwiches for local business people to setting up his first Chinese takeaway. "My experience as a mechanical engineer was a help in setting up the kitchen," he says.
Eventually, his first takeaway business developed into a string of local restaurants. In fact, success came so rapidly that Paul admits frankly: "I felt I'd made it. I got big-headed and, amid the distractions, I was a bit reckless in my personal life."
In Norwich, Paul and his young family joined King's Community Church in the city centre. "They have been so supportive to us," he says. "And I have learned that, as a Christian, if you don't listen to God, things can go wrong, especially if you allow yourself to be carried away with business 'success'.
"I have learned to seek God's help – and he has never let me down."
Pictured above is Christian entrepreneur Paul Lin