Speaking to an overflow crowd of 10,000 Sunday at China’s second largest church, Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham shared the story of Zacchaeus as he invited people to follow Jesus.
“Maybe you feel you’re small in the eyes of Almighty God, that your life is not important to Him and that with 1.3 billion people in China, how could God know who you are?” Graham said. “I’m here today to tell you that not only does God know who you are, He loves you.”
The Bethel Church in Baoding—a city of 12 million 120 miles south of Beijing—was packed an hour before the Sunday morning worship service. People several rows deep lined the walls of the mammoth church. Others sat on the floor and on the balcony steps. Still others squeezed into multiple overflow areas outside and in the adjacent six-story Lay Training Center, which Graham had dedicated on Saturday.
After the congregation sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Franklin approached the pulpit with interpreter Daniel Ma, an associate pastor and seminary professor at Nanjing Theological Union Seminary, where Graham spoke last year.
Graham told of his grandfather Dr. L. Nelson Bell, who came to China in 1916 and served as a medical missionary for the next 25 years; and his mother, Ruth Bell Graham, who was born in China in 1920. The Bell family was forced to leave China when Japan invaded the country at the start of World War II.
“My mother’s desire was to come back to live in China, but she met my father Billy Graham and her life changed,” Franklin said.
Graham preached from Luke 19 about Zacchaeus, the wealthy but despised tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus passing by on the road through Jericho. “Today, right here at Bethel Church, that same Jesus, who is not dead but is alive, is passing by, and He sees each and every one of you, and He knows your name,” Graham said. “You want to know why? Because God made and created every one of us here today.”
Graham said each person, just like Zacchaeus, must decide whether to follow Jesus. “You have a choice today,” Graham said. “You can accept Him by faith, or you can reject Him. The choice is yours.”
Graham then extended an invitation, asking those who wanted to commit their lives to Jesus Christ to stand and hold their hands high. More than 1,000 people responded. Graham led them in a prayer to repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Afterwards they received special literature from the church designed to help them begin to grow in their Christian faith.
This week, Graham will visit two more cities in western China where Samaritan’s Purse has been involved in earthquake relief and building a medical clinic.
Dedicating a Center to Train Preachers
On Saturday, Graham spoke at the dedication ceremony for the Lay Training Center at Bethel Church. “My prayer is that there will be young men and women who will leave this training center to go throughout China and the rest of Asia to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Graham said, as the audience erupted into rousing applause, punctuated by shouts of “Amen!”
The six-story training center, built with assistance from Samaritan’s Purse, will accommodate 120 to 150 people, many of them coming from rural areas in Hebei Province and surrounding areas. An additional 50 students can stay in the church’s basement, where training classes have been held up to this point.
“This new building is a beautiful testimony to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Graham said.
Graham arrived in China on Thursday and met Friday with Wang Zuo An, the newly appointed director general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). “Because of this special relationship between your family and China, you have made a lot of contributions to the friendship between China and the United States,” Director General Wang told Graham.
Wang said he was born in Jiangsu, the same province where Dr. Bell served and Graham’s mother was born. He also expressed his appreciation for how Billy Graham promoted friendship between China and the United States. “I believe that with your effort, you, too, will promote mutual understanding and friendship between our two countries,” he said.
Graham conveyed greetings from his father and expressed gratitude for the strong relationship and cooperation between SARA and Samaritan’s Purse as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“We thank God for all that He has done,” Franklin Graham said. “As a minister, I want people everywhere to know of God’s love for them, and I want people to know how they can have a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ.”
“It’s important that we continue building bridges between our two countries,” Graham added. “We want to be good neighbors, good friends, and we will work toward this end.”
Earlier Friday, Graham met with recently appointed U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman at his residence in Beijing.
Building Trust in North Korea
Prior to his arrival in China, Graham spent Oct. 12-15 in North Korea (the DPRK, or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). He was welcomed to Pyongyang by several top DPRK officials, who do not usually meet with non-government delegations, according to news reports.
Graham met with Kim Yong Dae, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly; and foreign minister Pak Ui Chun.
[Source: Samaritan's Purse International]