Posts Tagged ‘China’

Chinese Grandmother with GrandchildIn 1925, George and Sally Benson took a “slow boat to China” one month after they were married.  With $35/month support, they were determined to be missionaries.  After skirmishes with the emerging Communist Party in China, they left for a short while for the Philippines, but courageously returned to China as soon as they could and began the Canton Bible School where among other things they taught English using the Bible as the textbook.  The Bensons had learned Chinese using the Gospel of Mark as the textbook, so they found this to be a culturally appropriate and effective method of evangelism.

I just returned from China, where I visited five cities where Let’s Start Talking either works or has been invited to work, helping Chinese people with their English using the Gospel of Luke as the text.  One of the cities I visited was Guangzhou—formerly Canton—where the Bensons worked almost a century ago.

Again I heard the “grandmother stories.”  Everyone who has done any work in China in recent years has heard some version of this same story many times.  Probably a Chinese university student or young professional says, I’m a Christian.  My parents are not, but my grandmother was, and she told me the Christian stories, so when I went away from home and met some Christians, I was immediately attracted to them.

Throughout the centuries, Christianity would thrive for a period of time, then be driven to extinction by anti-western, anti-foreign rulers.  Some form of early Christianity in China is documented as early as 635 A.D. The Jesuits began to penetrate China in the 16th century but were later banned because of a Roman church ruling that Chinese folk rituals amounted to idolatry.

Protestants list Robert Morrison, sent by the London Missionary Society, as the first missionary to China in 1806, but within two decades Europeans were (again) sentenced to death for spreading Christianity in China.  Not until the period after 1860 did Christian missionaries return to China, but because of China’s opening to the west, the missionaries then came in droves!

In 1865, J. Hudson Taylor established the China Inland Mission and became what some historians have called the greatest missionary of all times after the Apostle Paul. I mention the CIM because the Bensons were advised on how to begin their work in China by CIM missionaries Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Smith.

Many Christian missionaries were massacred during the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901.  Not long afterwards the Bensons and the first missionaries from Churches of Christ courageously entered China.  This wave of missionaries had a window of just about ten years before the first conflicts of what became WWII broke out and threatened their lives.  Some sent their families to the Philippines and stayed, but most left China.

In 1949 Mao’s Communist won control of China and Christians were no longer welcome, neither foreign nor Chinese.  What pockets of Christians remained in China even through these earliest Mao years were further purged during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 when all forms of religious expression were banned and severely persecuted.

These are the years of the Grandmothers!  The 1930s-60s were the years when young girls (and I’m sure there were some grandfathers also!!) who had been raised in Christian families hung on to their faith very quietly while their lives were in danger.

These were the young people taught at the Canton Bible School by George and Sally Benson and all those teachers in the 1930s who stayed in China as war became imminent.

I worshipped in a family church with 75 university students in Guangzhou (old Canton) last Sunday. Scripture was read, songs of praise were sung, and prayers were prayed. One young lady said she was ready to be baptized. When I asked how many family churches like this were in Guangzhou, the preacher just waved his hands to say too many to count! 

While the growth rate of Christianity in China today is breathtaking and while the government seems to be aware but not terribly concerned, surely the history of Christianity in China reminds us that there have been many windows like this through the centuries, but those windows have most often been slammed tightly shut at some point.

  • We should earnestly pray that this window stays open and that the Chinese Christians remain free to follow Jesus.
  • We should give thanks for those early missionaries like the Bensons who took great risks, sometimes gave their lives, to introduce, and re-introduce the Good News for China.
  • And we especially should give thanks for the Grandmothers, often the result of the work of those missionaries, who not only held on to their faith in direst circumstances, but then passed it on—often secretly—to their children and/or grandchildren.

The Christians in China, those who go to China, those who today work in China, and those who pray for China have a great cloud of witnesses who have lived and worked there before—for centuries–who spur us on!

And we can never forget:  “For God so loved the world . . . .:

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chinese_busI wrote this about a week ago, but China does not allow WordPress on the internet, so I could not publish while there. My apologies for being absent so long.

Normally, I’m the kind of traveler that likes to know where I’m going.  Before we drive away on a trip of any kind, I usually have all the arrangements made:  all the hotels booked, the rental cars reserved, and, on a work trip, I like to have the meeting times set.

Now, having said that, I’ve learned that flexibility is a great quality, so it does not upset me in the least if meeting times are changed or the rental place has a different car for me than what I rented—which is often the case.

In spite of not only my compulsive efforts, but those of a very detail conscious staff, on my current China trip, one leg of my international flight was cancelled which required a total re-route and cost me a night and half a day in an already tight schedule, two of the hotels where I was to stay have not found a record of my reservations, and what was sold to me as a three-hour bus ride was much closer to five hours—but so what!  I have not slept on the street yet, and I have met and talked with all the people whom I expected to visit with so far.

We need to expect the unexpected and to plan for the unplanned. If we don’t, we haven’t given God very much room to work.

This trip to China was relatively last minute as it became obvious to us at LST that most of our relationships with sites in China were experiencing some transition, mostly because of change of personnel in China.

Just at the last minute, our staff person who receives all the invitations worldwide from sites who want to invite LST teams said to me, “Don’t you want to go to see B_______ in H+++ since he has been inviting LST to come for two years?”

There were many reasons not to visit him.  His city was far out of the way and would eat up at least two full days of my very short trip.  He is not a full-time missionary, rather a temporary teacher of English. He was not an American, not from a church with which we have any connections, and he did not really have a church or house church even where he was.

I don’t know why I said yes. Nothing about his situation as I knew it suggested that it would be productive to go there.

But his emails had been so passionate, so full of faith in God’s working.  It became for me one of those situations where you would like to say no, but to do so would violate the spirit in you and probably the Spirit in you.  So I said yes.

It meant leaving Beijing just 17 hours after arriving, getting up at 5:30am to catch a 7:30 flight, flying three hours and then getting on a Chinese bus for five hours, sitting in seats made for Chinese people—if you know what I mean—and listening to Chinese music videos the whole way!

On the way, the brother who invited me told me that he had lost his job at the school where he was teaching English and that his visa to stay in China was therefore pending, so he might be going home soon (did I mention that he was a foreigner in China?)

Great!  So now I very literally started praying that God would just do something to make this trip meaningful because I did not see any signs of a “plan.”

When we got off the bus after the five-hour ride, we caught a taxi to go to the school that had let him go. The taxi driver took on two other passengers, then drove the wrong direction with the trunk of the car open and my suitcase just wedged between two others.  My friend fussed at him in very broken Chinese, and finally just persuaded him to let us out, so that we could catch another taxi which would take us to his old school as were the original plans before we were “shanghaied”!

It may seem funny to be going to his old school to meet with the administrators who had fired him, but apparently his bosses got friendly again with him when he said the American “director” was coming to visit.  We spent an hour with the leaders of that school, but even though it was very cordial, I did not see any possibility for LST to work with them.

I was very tired and ready to call this leg of my trip a bust . . .  when God began to create the unexpected.

My new friend wanted me to meet the parents of children whom he tutored privately. In fact, one particular family arranged a private dinner for several of us during which I found out that my friend is a VIP among a fairly large group of pretty influential people in this community—totally outside of the school that had let him go.  And these people LOVE him!  So when he introduces me to them, they open their doors to LST immediately!

One of the parents had arranged a room for about 20 people for a get-together with any other parents that would like to meet “the American”—and we had 50 show up. I told them about LST, that we used the Bible. I showed them our materials, and all I can say is that this group of Chinese parents appeared to be as eager for what we offer as any group I have ever seen!

As far as I know only one Chinese person in the room claimed to be a Christian, but when I talked about having an English camp for parents and kids, they started clapping!  One father was a Chinese government official and he specifically offered his services in helping if we are able to organize such a camp.

As I hope you can tell, I left this small Chinese city of only 5 million people—still not knowing exactly what God wants us to do there—but having met some wonderful people whom He loves.

I continue to learn that it is not so important to know exactly what God is going to do; rather it is important to open up our plans enough so that God can do whatever He wants to with us.

Anyone want to open up a little time for God to do something special with—whatever He wants to do with it?

Anyone want to go do a summer camp in China with LST next summer?

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