I have just returned from visiting three provinces in China - meeting some of The Sowers Ministry staff and speaking at just a few of the churches with whom we are working in Shanghai, Nanchang and Ningbo. This was my first visit to China and I did not know what to expect, but God really touched my heart with a love for the people there. Most of the churches we visited were 20-30 people only, limited by the size of the humble apartments in which they can meet, and moving around from apartment to apartment to avoid attracting unnecessary attention from the authorities. But TSM’s Brother Bi covers about 100 such churches! Last year alone he baptised about 1000 new believers and this summer will be involved in baptising 400 more! What a return on the small investment we in the West make with our prayers and giving! Thank you for being involved with us in this exciting work.
It was a great pleasure to travel and minister in team, but the only other visitor from the UK was Anmy, a young Chinese woman training with Pioneer for Church leadership. Anmy was a real encouragement and inspiration to the team in her love of God expressed in prayer and worship. I especially appreciated her translating for me on occasions when my London roots tended to show up too much in the language of my preaching!
We met some wonderful people, and heard some amazing testimonies. One of the churches we visited had been started by a lady who had spent 25 years in prison for her faith. Her Son now leads over 40 churches and his son is one of our key contacts in this area. It was very humbling for me when they arranged a leadership training day and our team had the opportunity to speak to many of their current and emerging leaders. I talked to one of the leaders (name withheld) who told me that his head had been shaved in the shape of a cross by the authorities and he was paraded in front of 10,000 people while his ‘crimes against the state’ ie his profession and witness for Christ, had been denounced and reviled. He had spent 13 years in a labour camp, tortured by the PSB, and had later been forced to stand in the street for 3 hours a day - every day - for 3 years carrying signs which denounced him as an enemy of the state, so the passers by could vilify him! His home and all his possessions had been confiscated in their entirety 10 times. What do we in the West have to say to people who have suffered like that for the sake of the gospel?
But, in His mercy, God used our team to bring salvation and healing to a number of people at many of the meetings we attended. This was the first time I had spoken anywhere that lookouts had to be posted to warn of any unwelcome attention by the authorities, but God kept us safe and we were very blessed in all our meetings, accommodation, overnight train travels and particularly all the wonderful Chinese food.
Brother Bi tells this about a Church at the South of Shandong. It is a very big church having 10 thousand people where he goes every month to preach and teach the Word of God. The church meets in smaller groups of 100 believers or so. The church is growing very fast because they have many miracles in this province. More than 100 workers are helping in the church. It is like the church in South Korea, where people love to pray and ask the Lord to answer their prayers.
The servants are very faithful and working hard. They have walked over all the area of Shandong to preach, and also sent out hundreds of missionaries to almost every part of China, and have built many churches. They also set up a small Bible School to train young men and women to serve the Lord.
The people here are very poor. They haven’t enough money for trips
to go and evangelize. They walk most of the time or ride bicycles to
go out and preach. They buy the cheapest tickets on the train and sit day and night to go to the remote areas of China. Most of the time their wives stay at home, working in the fields to support their husbands while the men go out to share the good news.
Here is one of their leaders testimony, called to preach in 2002:
On 20th May 2003 our preaching team arrived at Baoji in Shanxi province. I saw so many Buddhist temples and few Christians there. I began to understand why God wanted me to follow Him - to help these to be saved and get to know JESUS. Then I went to Tianshui, a city in Gansu province. A Bhuddist area, 1100m ASL with many poor villages where no one ever heard the name of Jesus. So we stayed there for a long time, and set up a church there. Then we left two sisters from our church to take care of this newly established church and we went on to peach in other places in China. Later I went to Sichuan. In this mountain area the people are very poor and most have no food and clothes. But they were very kind and eager to hear the gospel. Thank the Lord that He helped me to endure the hard situation and work for Him. Now we have started many churches in these places where Pastor Bi and I went ministering as a team and teaching the Word of God.
This seems to be typical of what God is doing with and through the church in China. The people are very mission minded and the leaders are totally committed to raise, equip and release many more gospel workers. Please pray for them.
I talked to one Apostle of the Chinese Church, a servant of God responsible for 10,000 Christians who told me the biggest risk facing the church in China, particularly in the cities, is not the risk of persecution and imprisonment, but the rise of Western culture – and when you see the high rise apartments and offices, the roads, the massive building programmes everywhere you look, this certainly seems a realistic concern.
I was so impressed with the commitment and heart of the Christians there and so thankful to be associated with the work that The Sowers Ministry and Neil Anderson in particular has been giving himself to over many years.
I hope this gives you a flavour of how much your prayer and gifts are achieving. Please continue to pray for our staff and field workers in China, and if you are able to make a gift at this time we would appreciate it very much. As ever, I am available if you would like me to come and make a presentation at your Church or small group – why not expose the church to more of the blessings that comes with our involvement in mission? Or perhaps you would like to come and witness the work yourself? I am considering going to Nepal in October and perhaps to visit China in spring 2005. How about you?