The few but effective visits made by Luis Palau to China have gradually led the influential American evangelist to be able to preach openly in the religiously restricted country.
Since 2000, Palau has been allowed to speak at a variety of events in China. Some of those events were evangelistic and others promoted charitable activities and opportunities in China. Palau was invited to Shanghai for working on the book titled "A Friendly Dialogue Between A Christian and An Atheist" proposed by the former spokesman for Communist China's Cabinet and atheist Zhao Qizheng in November 2005. The Shanghai two-day meetings lasted three hours each day and were videotaped by Palau’s team. The highly publicized trip has also drawn much controversy.
Currently, Palau is in Beijing for the release of this long-awaited co-authored book at the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) began on Wednesday. This is already Palau’s fourth visit.
According to Wednesday’s press statement from the Luis Palau Association, Palau concluded the benefits of these somewhat "aggressive" meetings, "On each visit to China I have made new friends at all levels of society and influence. I have witnessed continued change. I continue to pray these friendships and changes will lead to greater religious freedom."
Palau shared his dream to open the first open-air evangelistic festival in Mainland China. He believes each trip to China is getting him closer to his life-long dream to one day hold an open-air Festival in China with government approval.
According to Palau, "Exciting changes are coming to China as millions of Chinese come to faith in Jesus Christ. These followers of Jesus love China and believe the love of God will bring nothing but positive social and economic change to their great country."
The passion of Palau for China has moved the heart of US President George W. Bush. On the last visit between Palau and Zhao in Beijing in November 2005, Palau received a phone call from the White House requesting that he join President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush for a private breakfast and Christian church service in Beijing. Following the church service, Bush and Palau met with a contingent of national and international reporters, the press release recalled the special occasion.
The devout Christian president Bush shared the same dream as Palau, "It wasn’t that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty."
In the new book "A Friendly Dialogue Between A Christian and An Atheist", Palau states, "My dream would be that every Chinese person would find peace with God through Jesus. That’s my dream. Because we all know we’re going to die and the interesting thing is that Jesus offers the absolute assurance of eternal life to every sinner who repents and believes in Him."
Zhao responded, "I, too, have a dream. My dream is that the exchanges between religious believers and non-believers will become an important part of contemporary culture. The United States and China are both great nations. The United States is the largest developed country in the world and China is the largest developing country in the world. We should make a more active effort to promote the exchanges between the Chinese and American peoples…It should include religious dialogue and dialogue between religious and non-religious people."
From sources of Luis Palau Association, during this visit to China Palau also met with Cai Wu, the new Minister of Information. Cai commented the success of the Riverside Talks book reflects the changing attitude of the government toward religion. He further showed his interest to write a book with Palau together and he believes that the newly released book will promote more harmonious and friendly exchanges between leaders from the United States and China.
On a special newsletter from Luis Palau Association on Wednesday, Luis Palau’s son Kevin wrote that Luis would "use this time in China to build relationships, look for more opportunities to share the Gospel, and speak at several churches." He requested for prayer for Luis and the Riverside Talks that "the clear Gospel message will help to have a powerful impact on China and the world for Christ."