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
Mrs. Sherry Miller, Adjunct Professor at BJU
Not long ago I was reading about the demon possessed man in Mark 5. The description I read reminded me of many of the women I work with. They are not demon possessed in quite the same way, yet they struggle with demons nonetheless. As the man in Mark 5 lived among the tombs—the physically dead, most of the women I work with have lived almost exclusively among the spiritually dead. As the Gadarene was often bound with shackles and chains, the women I work with live with shackles and chains of a different sort. They desperately want to be free, but they are helpless to free themselves. I work with women in addiction.
For the past ten years as I have listened to their dreadful stories, I have come to realize that if I had grown up like many of them, I would have made the same bad decisions. While my home showed me Jesus and functional living, their homes were full of such spiritual darkness and dysfunction that it set them on a trajectory of destructive choices. Some of the women I work with have been trafficked, others have prostituted themselves, many are felons, and some are currently incarcerated. Their drug use is a desperate attempt to get relief from the emotional pain in which they live. But the drug-induced relief is a temporary fix that leads them ever deeper into their abyss. They need Jesus. Only Jesus can give them the long-lasting relief they crave.
It took the power of the glorious gospel to set the man in Mark five free from his demons. And it takes the gospel to set these women free from their demons as well. Over the past ten years as I have shared the message of hope and deliverance with the women I meet, I have seen countless lives radically transformed. As their lives are transformed, they become law abiding citizens, they find jobs to support themselves, and many of them have had their families restored. Their new life in Christ is what they have longed for their whole lives—yet never knew it could exist.
One day as I was teaching in a substance abuse rehab, one of the ladies in the class said, “Sherry, the first 3 to 4 weeks you taught this class I thought you were high.” I was flabbergasted! Me—high? She then explained that in the drug culture in which she grew up, most people are discouraged, depressed and defeated. The only time they feel happy is when they are on a drug-induced happy. But she was finally starting to understand that Christians have a Jesus-enabled happy—not a drug-induced one. She said to me, “Sherry, I had no idea a world like this existed!” Tragically, there are millions more in our world who, like Amy, have no idea a world like ours exists.
Amy has been clean, sober and passionately walking the Christ-life for two years now. She told me recently that she wakes up every day absolutely euphoric because of the freedom she feels in Christ. She is no longer enslaved to frantically finding the next fix just to survive the darkness in which she once lived. Through the power of the glorious gospel, she has been delivered from the darkness of her past and now lives in the glorious light of God’s kingdom. That is indeed something to be euphoric about!
Another friend, Jane, is a ten-time felon. She spent nearly twenty years in addiction and promiscuous living. But God had great plans for Jane. He providentially orchestrated her “sentence” in a Christian substance abuse rehab. There she heard the life transforming message of the gospel and became a daughter of the High King! Jane has been clean, sober, and passionately walking the Christ-life for three years now. She has been granted custody of her three children and is now happily married. Her husband, also a transformed addict, is serving Jesus in full-time Christian ministry.
Jane recently wrote in a Facebook post, “It's a beautiful morning! As I sit on my porch this morning drinking my coffee, I am THANKFUL! I remember BELIEVING that my life would forever be hopeless and that I would be a lost cause or dead by now. What a dreadful place that was! Today I am hopeful for the future, ALIVE and FREE. My life is not perfect...but it is! I have Jesus! And He loves me! He knows the wickedness in my heart and HE LOVES ME UNCONDITIONALLY! No matter what happens in my life nothing is as bad as not knowing Jesus. Without Him, and His love and sacrifice for me, I would not be able to smile today. I never want to forget that pit I was in, or my life before Jesus rescued me. It keeps me grounded and thankful.”
Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” When I initially meet my friends, they are beaten down, defeated and destitute of hope. They so badly need the good news of Jesus and His power to transform lives. Those who repent of their sins and accept Christ as their Savior become totally different people—they become new creatures in Christ. As they begin to grow spiritually, everything about them changes. They are often stunned to find a life they knew nothing about. A life of transformation and freedom. A life of boldness because God has taken them out of the miry clay and set their feet on a rock.
A wise theologian once said, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pro 13:20). There are so many in our world who desperately need a child of the High King to come alongside them, to share the glorious message of the gospel with them—to walk life with them.
It is amazing that God chooses to work through His people to break the chains of darkness and transfer the lost and hurting into His marvelous light!
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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.