The email read, “A call to carefulness,” followed by a link. “I love you!” it concluded. That was it. My dad signed his name. It was May 2014, and I was in my fourth year of teaching English and serving churches in Southeast China. The link my dad sent me directed me to a blog article written by a missionary who had just been deported from the country a couple of weeks previous. The churches that he started in Northeast China had been raided by police on Easter Sunday.
I poured over the article. Why was he kicked out? What did he do? What line was crossed? Was I doing the same things? How was he discovered? What sort of punishment were the Chinese believers he left behind met with? If I continued leading small groups at church and took opportunities to preach, would I face similar consequences?
These questions and many more kept me coming back to the missionary’s website day after day reading his previous entries and scouring it for links to other related websites. I wanted answers, yes. But more than answers, I wanted to read about how there were others in China doing what I could only dream of doing—boldly being used by the Lord to turn China upside down.
Through that blog post I discovered a band of dedicated men. I learned that each of them had their own ministries. Some were already in China, while others were still raising support stateside. I learned that while two of those men were deported, one was still in another city faithfully continuing with a church plant. The fear had not gotten to him—but neither had the police!
I read that though those two were not allowed back for many years, they were not giving up. They relocated to Taiwan where they continued to start churches and keep in touch with those they had started in the mainland. Those churches in the mainland continued on even when their foreign leadership was removed, and the missionaries were able to provide remote support, discipleship, and ministry training via the internet. “Surely the other man will be shut down,” I thought. “It’s only a matter of time.”
Yet day after day and week after week, updates were coming through indicating that the government authorities were not aware of the church. He and the Chinese believers were continuing to boldly proclaim the gospel. Jesus was faithfully building His church in China! And He was allowing the building of churches in Northeast China to be accomplished through the bold efforts of American missionaries—something I had not realized was possible!
Still in disbelief, I watched online silently for a year. An entire year. I saw the persistence of those kicked out as they continued serving in Taiwan. I read of the continued boldness in the mainland. I learned that the Lord was adding to the ranks of these missionaries those who were not swayed by the threat of persecution, but instead were willing to count the cost and live to give maximum glory to Jesus Christ in China. Quietly, secretly, I yearned to join that band of men.
I could not help but compare what I was doing in China to what these missionaries were doing. We seemed to be in China for the same reason—to impact China with the gospel of Christ. We were all serving our Lord on the front lines, but my strategy seemed radically different from theirs. While I was leading a Bible study here and there through a local church, they were planting churches. While I was spending twenty or so hours of my week at a school teaching children basic English vocabulary, they were spending as much or more time each week training young men in pastoral ministry.
The only fruit I had to show for my job as a teacher was supporting myself and ensuring that these Chinese students finished class with their English level slightly higher than before. But what good was it to teach Chinese children the rudiments of English if they would pass through my class without even gaining a rudimentary knowledge of the gospel? What good was it that they would be able to arrive in hell with better English than their friends?
I came to realize that something about my missions strategy needed to change. Something had to give. I had come to China wanting to do great things for Christ and the gospel, but after years in China I did not have much of eternal value to show for it. It was not that teaching English was wrong or sinful. I even had opportunities to lead others to Christ. But I was realizing that there was a better way. A way to reach the multitude and not just a few. A way that would bring more glory to Jesus Christ.
The above is an excerpt taken from the chapter I wrote for Vision For China‘s book, A Thousand Lives. To read the rest of the chapter and learn about the “better way” of doing missions in China that I was to learn, please visit www.visionforchina.org or go directly to Amazon to purchase a copy.
“If I had a thousand pounds, China should have it.
If I had a thousand lives, China should have them.
No! Not China, but Christ.
Can we do too much for Him?
Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?”
– Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China –