Anonymous, Missionary in China
I’ll never forget the first time I came to China to teach in a house-church situation.
I arrived in the evening and was met at the airport by my translator and a driver. We traveled for about 40 minutes to the location where I was dropped off to spend the night with the Chinese couple who owned the apartment. I didn’t speak a word of Chinese and the couple didn’t speak a word of English. I thought to myself, ‘this should be interesting.’ It was. The lady of the house showed me to my room and pointed to the bathroom.
The next morning, it was time for breakfast. Although most of my life I have been a picky eater, I had been in enough different countries to have learned to eat anything by God’s grace and don’t ask questions. Well, my cereal bowl was filled with some of white warm liquid and 10 or 12 what looked to be eyeballs of some sort. Wow, this was going to be a challenge. And of course, I had a pair of chopsticks to use. Come to find out it was warm soy milk and rice balls with peanut and date filling. Still, it wasn’t my preferred breakfast, but I was able to get them all down and keep them down.
The people arrived for class early that morning and I began teaching by 8:00 AM. It was exciting to be with so many people who were excited about learning the Word of God and who risked possible arrest to do so. Just after lunch, when some of the ladies were cleaning up the dishes, they noticed seven policemen gathering outside the apartment below. Then, the door-buzzer rang and a voice on the intercom said he was the gas man and that he needed to get into the apartment to check the gas lines. Everyone knew what was really going on and they had a very orderly plan in place, of which I knew nothing about.
We were all calmly moved from the large living room into two small bedrooms and the doors were closed behind us. There I was, without my interpreter, jammed into a tiny room with about 20+ Chinese people who were all quietly smiling while staring at the foreigner towering over them. It was close. It was weird. We were in the room for about twenty minutes, which seemed more like two hours, and then the lead pastor opened the door and waved for us to come out. We went back to our seats around the living room and the pastor motioned for me to begin teaching again. Stunned, I looked at my notes and just started teaching. At the end of the day, the pastor spoke through the translator and told me that the police knew I was there and that we would have to change the location in order to continue the class.
The husband who owned the apartment woke me early the next day while it was still dark. I quickly got ready. After breakfast, he motioned for me to follow him. I grabbed my stuff and left the apartment. We drove for twenty minutes and then he pulled the car over near an intersection in an older part of town and looked at me, smiled, and motioned for me to get out of the car. It was still dark. A little confused, I stepped out of the car and he drove away. I stood there feeling lost, but within seconds (which seemed much longer), someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and saw a young man with a bright smile on his face. He spoke to me in broken English: “Nice to meet you. Follow me.”
I followed him into a very old building located on the corner of the intersection. We climbed up four flights of steps and came to a large rusty steel door with most of its dark green paint peeled off. He knocked on the door, and an elderly woman came to open it. We walked down a hallway with people sitting on little stools alongside it. At the end of the hallway was a tall wooden table surrounded with small rooms filled with people. It was only about 6:30 AM. My translator was already there when I reached the table. The pastor was also there. He, with a big smile on his face, motioned me to begin teaching. Needless to say, by this time my adrenaline was pumping! Here we were, one day after being threatened by the police not to meet for religious purposes, and we were gathered in a different location to do the same thing. Amazing! I taught the Word all day and into the night for four more days in that location. I had the joy of fellowshipping with some wonderful older Christians, many of who had suffered great affliction under the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960’s and 70’s. Some had been in prison for their faith. What an absolute privilege to which I felt—and still feel today—totally unworthy.
My wife and I have been living in China since 2004, and it has been a long obedience in the same direction that at times has seemed more like a scary ride on a roller-coaster in the dark. You know the final destination, you know where the ride will ultimately end, but the ride itself… well that’s another story! The sense of aloneness, new language, new culture, new people, new food, new schedule, etc…, you get the point! Navigating through these things in a manner that reflects the grace and kindness of God is a grueling challenge. In our weakness, we experience the power of God working through the Word of God—bending, stretching, squeezing, molding, and ultimately strengthening us. It has been a painful process and often continues to be, but we would not trade it for anything!
Following the Lord Jesus to the other side of the planet has been for us a life-changing, spiritually-transforming journey. By His loving kindness we have been delivered through times of dark discouragement and depression, through life-threatening battles with cancers, and through many feelings of failure and weakness. These things, that are common to all, are often intensified by the added stress of living in a foreign culture. But in all these things, we have been more than conquerors through Him who loves us! His grace, His patience, and His loving kindness have all abounded toward us at times when we least expected it and certainly least deserved it.
We enjoy many things about living in China. In the time we have lived in our city, it has grown from 4.5 million to ten million. Nowhere on the planet could you experience such amazing growth and change! People have flocked to our city from the countryside which has brought many different cultures and foods into one place. All of your senses are heightened when you live in such a place. People are very hospitable, and we have learned some deeply important lessons from them which I hope to take back with us when we return to the States.
We especially love the opportunity the Lord has given us to advance the Gospel here. I am always encouraged when I read Revelation 7:9-12:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
There is nothing that can hinder the prophetic Word of God from being fulfilled—it is by nature unstoppable! The gospel will advance to every nation and we, as obedient followers of Jesus, get to be part of that unstoppable plan we call the Great Commission. Isn’t that amazing?!?!
I have never gotten over the fact that Jesus called me to be His follower. It certainly wasn’t because of anything He saw in me. I brought nothing to the table. It was purely an act of His grace—a rescue of a guilty sinner bound for an eternity in hell, separated from the loving kindness and presence of the God of Creation. It abounds freely to all who repent and believe the good news of Jesus Christ. It was totally grace for which I am and forever will be grateful to God.
Mr. Mark Vowels, CGO Director
This article was originally posted on BJUtoday in 9/21/18 with the title "Missions and the Renewed Persecution of Christianity in China."
Christianity in China
It is likely that China has the single largest concentration of evangelical Christians of any country in the world. Though the number of believers in China likely numbers close to 100 million, that still forms a relatively small percentage of its massive population. Nevertheless, since the rise of communism under Mao, Christianity in China has enjoyed steady growth. Rather than extinguishing Christianity as the communists intended, persecution has fueled the intensity of Christian belief and therefore has fueled its spread.
For many years, unregistered churches in China were limited to apartments or rural homes. In recent years, however—especially in eastern China—family (or house) churches expanded into business centers and commercial buildings. Crosses can be seen in many cities, revealing the locations of unregistered churches. Government oversight varied from region to region, but Christians were feeling a growing sense of liberty to worship and evangelize.
Throughout this period of amazing church growth in China many have wondered if the swell of Christian believers would influence the political system of the country. Apparently, the communist regime has wondered as well.
The rise of China’s current president, Xi Jinping, has brought renewed persecution to the church. Many China observers are comparing Xi to Mao Zedong and his reforms to those of the Cultural Revolution. Xi has consolidated his power by becoming head of China’s four most important political and state offices. He has also been declared president for life. Xi has attacked corruption throughout China. He has sought to expand China’s economic and military standing in the world. And—what affects the practice of Christianity the most—has worked to standardize the enforcement of laws and regulations throughout the country. In many cases, even though many religious practices were illegal, enforcement varied greatly from one part of China to another. Some have often said that “whatever you have heard about China is likely true somewhere in China.” Relative to Christianity, while unregistered churches have enjoyed increasing freedoms in some parts of China, other regions have maintained intense control.
In my own experiences in China, I have taught in settings where I couldn’t be seen through the window because security risks were so high. Yet in another region I found posters around town with my photo (taken from the BJU website) advertising my presence as a guest teacher. Now, however, the government is tightening its control over Christian expression everywhere.
This change began with the forced removal of crosses from both registered and unregistered churches. It then extended to the destruction of church meeting places. One year ago, the State Council issued the new “Regulations on the Administration of Religious Affairs” and began implementing these regulations in February 2018. Among the new restrictions are the following:
Note that these are the regulations on the legal, government-approved churches. Unregistered churches (also known as house churches or family churches) are banned completely.
Another aspect of the new government policies is that all legally-recognized religions in China (Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism) must be “Sinicized,” or become more reflective of Chinese values.
Effect on Western Missionaries
I have had several conversations recently with friends who serve in different parts of China. They each serve as English teachers. All report that their schools have presented them with a document which asks about their religious beliefs as well as the frequency and location of their worship activities. According to my friends, they have also been asked directly if they are missionaries.
I have also read accounts of missionaries using other platforms for residing in China who have been expelled from the country. What that means is that missionaries to China are having to be even more cautious in their activities and interactions. The government regularly monitors digital communications and movement of foreigners.
Yet the opportunities for gospel witness in China continue to abound. The Center for Global Opportunities, which I oversee, receives several new requests for English teachers in China every month. We must pray diligently for those we know who are serving in China and pray also that the Lord will send more missionaries to join them.
Chinese Christian Response
In early September, 116 pastors of unregistered churches signed a declaration of non-conformity toward the new religious regulations. Government reaction to that document is not known at this point. It is important to note that Chinese Christians typically are patriotic and are not anti-government. They are loyal Chinese citizens who love their country. But they want to be free to follow Christ according to the Bible. It is also fair to point out that all religions in China are currently the focus of reform and control measures.
Historically, Chinese Christianity flourished under the severe persecution of the Mao era. There is no guarantee that the current hardships will produce the same response, but we can pray that they will. During my visits to China I have often asked Chinese believers how Americans can pray for them. Never have I heard anyone ask us to pray that their persecution would end. Rather, they suggest we pray that they will be strong and faithful to Christ in the midst of persecution. They ask us to pray that persecution would cause Christianity to spread like wildfire throughout their homeland. I’m praying that way, and I hope you will, too.
Sources for Information About Christianity in China
 According to a report from Radio Free Asia, a white paper from China’s Commission on Religion states, “Religions in China must be Chinese in orientation and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to the socialist society. [Religious believers must] be subordinate to and serve the overall interests of the nation and the Chinese people … and support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”
 View the declaration at http://www.chinapartnership.org/blog/2018/9/116-chinese-pastors-sign-joint-statement-on-the-new-religious-regulations
Jeremy Wray, Senior Cross-Cultural Service Major
I recently spoke to a couple thousand college students about the hope we have in Jesus. I emphasized that the hope we have is one that is alive, and its life is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. I also encouraged the oft forgotten reality of our inheritance as saints. To those who are alive in Christ, there is an inheritance kept for us that can't fade, refuses to decay, and does not perish—its eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The sermon I preached was based off the first chapter of Peter's first letter to the exiles of the Dispersion. It is in this section that Peter reminds these believers to remember their hope and their inheritance, and to join him in exuberant praise to God. Truly, the entire passage echoes back to the third verse: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Peter suggests that it is God's mercy, full and powerful, that has caused us to be born again to a living hope and to an eternal inheritance. He says that it is in these we rejoice (v. 6), even though we are being grieved by various, tenacious, and ferocious trials. Peter, like many other writers of Scripture, says that we are to rejoice even when life gets hard. He says that our faith is not yet complete, or genuine. The purpose of these trials, struggles, and pressures in our lives is to make us nothing less than praising, glorifying, and honoring to Jesus.
He does not shy away from the struggles of our lives with pithy words of endearment. He does not tell these exiles that they must toughen out their Christian lives and be stronger than the persecution of their day. Peter insisted, rather, that they must rejoice! I insist today that we as God's people must rejoice. We must see the mercy of God in Jesus, we must enjoy the hope of life we hold, and anticipate the joys of eternal life we will have. And we must rejoice in the tough stuff. It is the same God that is sovereign over our salvation that is sovereign over suffering.
By this I mean that the trials in our lives are designed to make us genuine, and that God is sovereign over trials that stretch and transform us to be more like Christ. This sunk into my heart deeply when I contracted strep throat the week after preaching. I had tonsils the size of golf balls and blisters to boot. My entire week was described by attempting to swallow air, food, drink, and meds without excruciating pain accompanying it.
It was last week (and not two weeks ago when I was preaching) when I realized what it actually means to thank God for all things. I had to take to heart the truths I had expounded for many others to hear. I realized at heart level that we truly do have every reason to give thanks in Christ Jesus.
There are many aspects to prayer. It is when we sin and are convicted, we know we must confess. It is when we see the struggle and hurt of others, we choose to intercede. When the Word dwells in us richly and we understand the presence of God through faith, we commune with Him. The aspect of prayer that I am attempting to highlight with this post is adoration and thanksgiving towards God.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes. 5:16-18)
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3: 17)
Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:19-20)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places! (Eph 1:3)
These verses are not mere Christian literature designed to give us proper distinction as a religion and add to our tenets of religious practice. These verses are aimed and charged directly at the people of God, so they might rejoice, thank, and praise God for all their spiritual blessings! This is the God of all our words and deeds. The God of all our circumstances. The God of our songs and melodies. The God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The God of heaven and blessing.
You cannot truly teach someone to be thankful. You cannot tell them to say "thank you" and it be adequate gratitude. Words are not enough to show reality, for they are temporary and often masqueraded. True thankfulness arises from a heart that has tasted and seen that the Lord is good. It is the heart that has been washed with the blood of Calvary that sings to the Savior. It is the heart that has seen the glory of God that is transformed and overflowed.
It is also only in thanksgiving and adoration that that the heart realizes how great God is. Have you ever gone up to a speaker, performer, chef, or teacher and thanked them for what they had done? It is in the act of showing gratitude that you truly realize how overwhelmed your heart is. It’s when you go out of your way to thank someone that heart has gone full circle on the roundabout of gratitude. It is the same with God.
This is why Peter would invite the exiles to rejoice in the God whose mercy has given salvation. Paul knows that for the heart to be fully blessed, it must bless the One who has blessed it! Thanksgiving is the natural response of someone who has been touched by the grace of God. The sad part is that many have become too accustomed to grace and its flavors, colors, and marvel. Many forget the depths of Jesus' service to us. Many cloud the grace of God with classes, meetings, agendas, and people.
May we be the people of God that are truly and exuberantly thankful to our God, because such is the joy of living. We taste the joy of eternity when we rejoice in God and his gifts today. I find 1 Peter 1:8-9 a tremendous chorus and conclusion to the song of praise we started with at the beginning of the chapter.
Though you have not seen Jesus, you love him. Though you do not now see Jesus, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.