From the Field | China
March 2, 2014
It has been several days since I recorded a trip report. The reason for this has been that I’ve been in transit to two cities since I last wrote.
On Thursday, our teaching team boarded the train and took a 2.5-hour train ride from Dazhou to Chengdu. Chengdu is a city of 14 million people and serves as one of the larger cities in Sichuan Province. We arrived in the city, checked into a hotel, and that same afternoon met with the President of the Sichuan Christian Council, along with his Deputy Administrator. Pastor Jia also serves as the Pastor of one of the largest Christian churches in Chengdu.
The entire time I have been in China I have been working with the “registered” church and its leaders. My learning curve has been quite steep. We have met with various church leaders as we have moved from city to city. Listening, learning, and a servant spirit go a long way toward strengthening these relationships. Erik’s father, Werner Burklin, founded China Partner in the early 80’s as a way of serving the Chinese Church. When the organization began, Werner had to make a decision whether he would work with the registered churches, the unregistered churches, or both. He chose to concentrate the ministry’s efforts solely on the registered churches. A registered church is one that operates with the full permission and sanction of the Chinese Communist government and is therefore legal. Each church operates under an appointed Religious Affairs Bureau, a government agency that “protects” (some might say controls) the rights of all sanctioned religious groups in China (Christian, Buddhist, Islam. and various ethnic religious groups). Unregistered churches are considered illegal by the government and are therefore not accorded the same so-called protections.
Long before I arrived here, China Partner had to secure permission from local church leaders as well as the Religious Affairs Bureau. Consequently, we have been introduced to and interacted with quite a few government officials while here. These interactions have been cordial and respectful, but they have also served to remind us, the “visitors,” that our movements and activities are being watched and monitored carefully. I am learning this is what it is like to do ministry in this part of the world and under a Socialist system of government. I have been remarkably well cared for and have enjoyed a great measure of freedom throughout the week.
I arrived in Yibin on Friday and will remain here all this week before returning to the States next Saturday. On Friday night, I spoke to Youth Group of the church. I learned that the term ‘youth’ is used rather euphemistically to refer to anyone under 50 years of age, so that makes me ‘old.’ These next few days we will do a bit of sightseeing before I begin the long days of teaching. Please pray for my ongoing strength, stamina, and effectiveness.
March 3, 2014
It is mid-morning Tuesday here. I am free today and will not teach until this evening. Today is the first day I have actually seen the sun since arriving in China. Most days during this season are cloudy, cold and rainy. In the mid-size to larger cities, the sun is barely visible due to the chronically heavy pollution that settles like a canopy over the streets and buildings. Breathing is often difficult. Add to this, a sizeable proportion of the population smokes, even in public buildings, despite the postings that warn otherwise. Air quality is an oxymoron. It makes you appreciate the “smoke-free” zones in our country.
Today is what I call “hump-day.” I have been here for 12 days; long enough to grow tired of the food, frustrated with the language barrier, and impatient with the crowds. It is a usual and normal occurrence whenever people travel abroad to places unfamiliar and foreign. You miss home sweet home, along with loved ones and dear friends. It is at those times I need the reminder of why I am here, the constant availability of the Spirit’s power, the promises that await me in His Word, and the perseverance and grace to get over “the hump” and stay the course. The Spirit reminded me this morning of God’s faithfulness to me from Psalm 59:17, “O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” I needed this reminder.
Some news from the home front—Terry returned home from Ghana this past Sunday. We were able to Skype this morning and it was good to “electronically” see her face and hear her voice. We have been apart for almost three weeks, engaged in ministry on two different continents. Praise God for modern-day technology that transcends and enables communication across the many miles. Our daughter, Ruthanne, is preparing to leave on Tuesday to relocate to New York City. She will begin auditioning for musical theatre. One thing is for sure, life is not boring, nor are we standing still.
Tomorrow will begin three days of teaching for me (8 hours each day). More than 45 Chinese pastors and leaders are hungry and serious about developing their ministry skills and growing in their knowledge of God’s Word. They are alert, engaged, and eager to learn. I covet your prayers as we finish out the week.
March 4, 2014
Special Prayer Request
I’m writing to request special prayer. Last night after teaching at one of the sessions, I suddenly began to experience a rather nagging headache. Overnight, it apparently developed into something a bit more serious—a full-blown head cold and severe congestion.
Today begins three consecutive days where I’m supposed to teach all day long. Would you please pray for strength, stamina, and for God’s Spirit to powerfully work in spite of my limited physical condition?
Thanks so much!
March 6, 2014
It is Thursday night here. Yesterday I taught all day long and had to leave the session early due to dizziness and a splitting headache. I came back to my hotel and got right into bed. My high fever finally spiked around midnight and this morning I woke up feeling slightly better. One of the leaders went to a local drugstore to get me an anti-biotic (they are sold over-the-counter here). Erik decided that since I’m scheduled to teach again on Friday that he and Linda would “pinch hit” for me Thursday so that I could take a day off from teaching. I had a much-needed rest today. A big Thank You to many of you who heard of my illness and have been praying for me!
Tomorrow I will teach both the morning (on Jesus, Our Model for Mission) and afternoon sessions (on Recognizing Spiritual Imposters). Cult activity is rampant across China and in each city I have visited these past two weeks, leaders have asked about how to deal with false teaching and cults. Last Friday night when I spoke to the Young Adults group, a young man approached me after the meeting. He told me that he was born in Yibin but now living in Edmonton, Alberta. His English was quite good and he invited me to tea this past week week. He wanted to meet privately with me to ask questions about the Jehovah Witnesses. Apparently he had been approached by some Jehovah Witnesses in Canada and was confused about why they are considered a cult. I spent two delightful hours with this young man, sharing with him the uniqueness of Christ and explaining to him a few relevant Scripture passages that speak of His deity. He is not a follower of Jesus yet, but God is certainly opening his eyes and he is seeking truth. Pray for this young man—his name is Yu.
I leave early Saturday morning to return to the US. Your prayers are appreciated as we wrap up our week here in Yibin.
March 7, 2014
It is early Saturday morning. I will fly out today around noon and arrive in Milwaukee Saturday night.
Last night the group held a going away party for the team, complete with testimonies, food, laughter and several special dances (including the funky chicken dance by Erik and Linda which they managed to rope me into).
Thanks so much for your prayers for my health concerns. I am still not fully recovered so I would greatly appreciate your ongoing prayers.
Looking forward to getting home.
Read about Days 1-4 in China