It was February, just after Chinese New Year and the temperature outside was freezing. Inside was the same because doors and windows were open to allow the overflow in the courtyard to be a part of the Sunday worship.
Meetings were long, just like before. On that Sunday, it started at eight in the morning, and it went on until five in the evening. The folks were, also like before, excited and exuberant. They sang and prayed loudly; their shouts of “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” were nonstop during our messages.
But everything else in this house church in rural Henan has changed. I was there only three years ago. There are now roads and freeways. Electricity, although on and off, has been installed in this house. Mud huts have been rebuilt with bricks. Leaders are younger, more educated and no longer fugitives. “We still travel as itinerant preachers,” they told us, “But we all have our homes and land now, and our children go to schools.” Some even have gone to universities.
This group of China’s rural house church movement is committed to systematic training. They are buying a six-acre property to build their own Bible school. “We can take care of the hardware. Would you please help us with the software?”
Financially, this rural house church is becoming more viable. They wanted to cover our room and board; and we were a party of seven!
They still want books. But instead of us donating large quantities to them, they just want us to give them permission to print on their own. Of my latest book, they wish to print 20,000 copies for their own use, and another 20,000 to supply house churches in China’s northwest because, “They are still quite poor.”
“You remember you helped us 20 years ago to first print ‘Songs of Canaan’?” They were so happy to share with us, “We have since printed, on our own, almost one and a half million copies to supply other churches. Copies have also been shipped to Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, USA and Europe.”
‘Songs of Canaan’ was written by a village girl, who hardly had any education, over the last twenty years. It is probably the most popular songbook in China’s house churches.
Other than providing help for one another, it is now common for every rural house church to send out missionaries. “Our targets are migrants and minorities,” the Henan leaders said. “We have more than twenty missionaries working in major cities among the migrant
workers, and seven in the mountains of Yunnan and Guizhou.”
The Sunday before, I was in a totally different context. The villages that surround Wenzhou are all rapidly urbanizing. The region is famous for two reasons: its high percentage of Christian population, and for being the small goods export capital of the world.
A new house church was near completion; it is built on a hilltop, with a theatre-style seating capacity of over 3,500. I was there to inaugurate the formation of the region’s first Christian Businessmen’s Fellowship. The church was packed, meetings were long, exciting
and exuberant – that part of their DNA hasn’t changed.
Leaders of the Fellowship met with me for lunch. They told me the focus of the Fellowship is to promote integrity in their businesses, to witness to their peers, to strengthen their local churches, and to send missionaries around the world.
“It’s with this last part that we need your help. Thus far we have sent Christian workers to other countries to minister among our own people. Please teach us how to do cross-cultural mission.”
During the Sichuan earthquake, these Christians had given millions of RMB to help and they sent hundreds of volunteers. And this time they were asking: “How can we send our love and gifts to Haiti?”
For years now, I have been saying that China Mission is no longer a one-direction effort of just “To China”. Indeed, “From China” is now actually upon us.
About Dr. David Wang:
Dr. David Wang is President Emeritus Asian Outreach International, David is a specialist on church and missions in China, and author of over 20 books including Still Red.
From Asian Report, issue 299, May and June 2010, Copyright 2010. Reprinted with the permission of Asian Outreach. All rights reserved.