Category Archives: Persecution, Fear, Boldness

Story: Airports, Audio Bibles, and Missionaries to Ecuador

When we were on furlough, our VFC team was blessed to be given hundreds of Chinese audio Bibles that are solar powered. The only problem was, we had to get them into China. Here is the story of one missionary family, whose field isn’t China, but was willing to help us try to get them into the mainland. They had some trouble get the first batch of them into the country, but eventually were able to successfully get them in. The second time, there were more complications. Here is their story:

I was sitting in the airport in Ganzhou, China, with my wife, my brother, and his wife. We were all pretty tired. My brother and his wife are missionaries to China, and we were all on the way back from a regional conference with our mission board. I am not a missionary to China or even to Asia. As a matter of fact, I am a missionary to the country of Ecuador. I was on deputation raising support at the time, but wanted to visit my brother before we left for language school since we might not see each other for a long time. So, I was in China with my brother, and I was also recruited to bring/smuggle some audio Bibles into China. The thought process was if you get caught and banned from entering China, you probably won’t be coming back to China for a long time anyways. However, if a missionary to China gets caught, he may not be able to continue his work there. I thought it was very logical and wanted to help, so my wife and I packed about 200 audio Bibles that we were bringing into China. 

We were sitting in the airport when my brother received a message that some of the airport officials wanted to check our bags. We had to walk across the airport to the baggage inspection area. When we got there, they had us go over to our bags while they opened them up. They were surprised to find dozens of mp3 players and were immediately suspicious. They asked us why we had brought them and thought that we were going to try to sell them. I told them that we brought them for a friend and that we were not going to sell them. They seemed to calm down a bit until one of the guys who was playing with the mp3 players started listening to what was on them. It didn’t take him long to realize he was listening to some religious book (the Bible). The officers then begin to explain to us that this was very illegal and that we might be in big trouble. It was interesting that they continued to listen to the Bible and I am hoping that they were able to hear enough of the Word of God to make them interested in finding out more about God’s Word. 

The officers then separated my wife and I. They questioned us separately to compare our stories. They wanted more than anything to know who we were working with and who had given us the audio Bibles. They also asked us about our lives in America. They did not believe that we were married or had a son. We were both 23 years old at the time, and most people in China don’t get married until they are a good bit older than that. They asked for pictures of our son, and when we both had pictures on our phones, they began to believe us. They continued to detain us for several hours and wanted to find out more about who we were taking the Bibles to, but we just continued to tell them they were for our friend and we didn’t know his Chinese name which was very true. At first I wasn’t that worried about the detention, but after several hours of sitting there and having them ask me questions, I began to worry about how long they were going to keep us and started thinking that we might be stuck for days or weeks. It is interesting how after a few hours detention I began to think fearful thoughts and began to worry. I can only imagine what it is like to be a missionary to a closed country and how easily it would be to live a life of fear. The Bible, however, tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and love. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 2:7 ) They continued to tell us that we were in a lot of trouble, but after several hours they gave up and let us go.

We were delighted to be let out of detention and very grateful that God had worked in their hearts to let us go. We had missed our flight but were able to catch the next flight. My brother had already gone ahead and left before they were able to make any connection between us. They confiscated the audio Bibles but gave us a receipt in case we wanted to pay a fine to come back and pick them up later. Although they tried to get them our later, the never were able to.

But for the ones that we were able to get in… they were and still are currently giving these Bibles out, and I am praying that God will use His word in the hearts of the Chinese people. 


The Persecution Testimony of a Chinese Believer

The following is the first-hand account of a Chinese believer who was trained up in our ministry and experienced persecution earlier this year. The following is the English translation of the testimony he wrote in Chinese—with some editing of the original made by me or the other missionary who helped translate this document for readability, explanation or security.

The story that I want to tell everybody are things that happened at the beginning of 2019.

It begins on November 23, 2018, with the birth of my son [Emmanuel]. We live in D—, but he was born elsewhere, in Dandong. Dandong is my wife’s hometown and our son was born there.

Once our son reached one month old, we moved back to D—. In the beginning of January, my wife received a phone call from the local Public Security Bureau or the local police station (I was asleep at the time because I had gotten up during the night to feed the baby and was still in bed around nine o’clock). They called to inquire about Grace Baptist Church. My wife told them to get in touch with me, but because I was asleep I didn’t answer the call from the police. I finally answered when they called the fourth time. They asked me if I was still using the facilities [for the church]. I didn’t give a direct answer, and replied, “Is there something going on? I’ll certainly cooperate with the authorities.” (I knew they were wanting the disturb the church.) after speaking with them a few minutes, they said they couldn’t give details because it was a matter of national security. They asked me to cooperate at all times.

About half an hour later, the landlord (a friend) gave me a call saying the police want to know about the foreigners at the [church] facilities. He told the police to contact me because he was unsure of how to answer. The police then called me a second time telling me to go to the local police station. I told them I couldn’t come because there was no one else to care for our son at the time as my wife had gone to the hospital. They asked me to provide the name of someone who regularly was at the activities [there]. The name that I gave them was [Brother Fan], [a brother] from the church, saying he plays piano there and that there was no religious activity (because in China religion must be politicized). I said there is only Chinese language study and learning piano here. It was at this time that I got in touch with [Kanon] and [Mark] [foreign missionaries] telling them about the police situation.

That afternoon the police planned to come to my house and find me, but we met at the entrance of a nearby supermarket because my son was at home. One of the police officers informed me that the other officer was a comrade with the National Security Commission. (I don’t really know much about this department, but I’ve heard from friends and read on the internet that they are pretty serious, are based in Beijing, and are about protecting national security.) When they left, they told me that I shouldn’t leave town anytime soon and that I should cooperate with the police.

One Sunday afternoon, I got a call from [Kanon] saying the brother in charge of the church [Brother Fan] had been found by the police and asked me to join them in praying for him. I didn’t understand. Why would God let this happen? [My mind was in a state of confusion.] I didn’t know what I should do. I had been [attending church] here for more than four years. Will the brothers and sisters really going to suffer persecution? I hung up the phone and began to pray. I knew right then and there that God wanted to use me and I shouldn’t run and hide.

Then I called [Kanon] back and told him to not go home and advised him to wait until the police were off work to go home. I told him it was best to go to a bus/train station or airport. The next day, I was very concerned for the brothers from the church. But I actually knew that the police were really after the Americans—the American missionaries. At about this time, a friend told me that in Southern China the government had expelled some 200 American and Canadian missionaries in relation to politics and even threatened their wives and children. They used all sorts of lies, threats and saying they would imprison them before expelling them from China. But Because I knew Pastor [Mark] for 5 years, I knew he wasn’t an illegal religious leader like they described. I know he’s just someone that believes in God and wants to tell the truth to the people of China. At that time I kept praying for [Kanon], and they left D—. Jesus Christ teaches us, “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (Matthew 10:23). That evening I got word that they would release [Brother Fan] if [Kanon] turned himself in. I have confidence in [Kanon], that he would rather suffer himself than let a friend suffer. But past experiences and patterns told us this was a trap. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith”. The trap was that the police were saying the situation had nothing to do with religion and that they just wanted to get information about a bad guy who had allegedly posted information harmful to Chinese national security online.

As we expected it was a trap. That evening they let [Brother Fan] return home.

At the end of January, I went to Japan to help my wife with some work responsibilities. While there, I received three calls: (1) The Public Safety Bureau of the City of D— called me saying that I was suspected of deceiving the police by secretly leaving D— and that I must report to the police station within 72 hours of returning to China. (2) The Public Safety Bureau of my hometown in Inner Mongolia (where I was born) called me telling me to cooperate with the D— police station or face arrest. (3) The landlord called saying the Public Safety Bureau of Liaoning Province and National Security Commission were building a case against me as a suspect of espionage and illegal missionary work. The case was already put on file for investigation and prosecution. They had a verbal confession and a report made to the authorities. (He hope that when they asked me that I would only say that the foreigners studied Chinese—there wasn’t any illegal missionary work and opposition to the government.)

On the third day after my return to China, I went to the Public Safety Bureau of the City of D— located at the People’s Square at Z— Road. I went to the police office. They had a good attitude. They made me tea, asked where I was born, asked where I went to college, what did I go to Japan to do, and why I left D—. After I answered their questions, they asked me to cooperate with the H— police station (near where the church is located) and stop renting the [church] facilities. They then took me by car to the church’s meeting place where some H— police officers went with me to [the church’s rented space] and I saw that the landlord was also there. They looked over the facilities, told me to pay in full the rest of the rent, [pay] to replace the torn down wall, and write a guarantee that I wouldn’t continue renting this facility. The landlord and I also had to sign a certificate showing we dissolved the contract. Then they began filming and taking pictures. Lastly, they had me pay off all of the fees and give the remainder of the rent to the landlord. [Note: the church had already moved out of the location previous to this meeting so the facility was empty.]

I thought I could go home. Since the church [recently] decided to no longer have services there, dissolving the contract made sense. But I wasn’t ready at all for what happened next. I got back in the police car and they handcuffed me. When I asked why, they said I’ll know when we arrive.

They took me somewhere. At first it was an office with a different police officer. They began asking a bunch of questions. How do you known [Mark] and [Kanon], how long the illegal [church] meetings had been taking place at H—. What do I do now? Then they asked me to get them in touch with [Mark] and [Kanon]. I replied that we are just friends and that there were no illegal meetings in H—. I explained that it was used for learning Chinese and at times to study the Bible, but that there were never any illegal meetings.

They probably took notes, but didn’t say. About two hours later they took me to an interrogation room. They said I was suspected of obstructing official duties and organizing illegal missionary work [or the illegal spread of religious propaganda], that I would go to jail, and that both, my child’s schooling, as well as, my future work opportunities would be affected. I would also lose Social Security. It would all be on file in my record. They said they wanted me to cooperate with the police and help them find [Mark] and [Kanon]. If so, I wouldn’t have to go to jail. They claimed [Mark] had lent money to a neighbor and that that person opposed the government. When they asked me to get in touch with [Mark], I told them I couldn’t. They grabbed my phone and asked me to sign stating they could check my phone. I wanted to refuse to sign, but they put my hand on the wall and forced me to sign. (Previously with the help of a brother in the Lord, I had already gone through my phone and deleted all of the records.) Then they asked me to call home and have a family member get them in touch with [Mark] and [Kanon]. I didn’t know what to do. In that moment, God, He helped me, He made me think of a friend to call (we played a lot as friends, we have a secret signal, whatever was said afterwards wouldn’t be a problem [because he would know I was in trouble]). At the time I was really concerned for my wife and child. He’s only two months old. I don’t want them to be worried about me. Half an hour later, my friend called me saying he didn’t know where they were and couldn’t find them. They kept asking me to call other friends, but I refused saying they would already be asleep and I didn’t want to disturb them. Then I suddenly realized the police weren’t simply looking for the American missionaries, they are seeking to persecute [Chinese] Christians, those that believe in God, and their families as well.

A few hours later, they asked me to admit to organizing illegal religious activity and obstructing police from investigating Americans. I thought that was pretty serious. I told them I don’t know how to respond because I don’t understand the law. I requested a lawyer. Then a really buff police officer picked me up (I’m kind of short) and hit me right in the chest. He told me I can get a lawyer after he finishes beating me, then he would let me find a lawyer and I can see what the lawyer will do about him.

Then they shined a very bright light on me and handcuffed me to a chair. At this point, I didn’t even know what time it was. After a while, they turned off all the lights and it was completely dark. I was terrified. I thought of a verse of Scripture. Joshua 1:5 says, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” I suddenly realized that all Christians are brothers and sisters. If an American missionary comes here, their family is worried about them and concerned that they will face this kind of suffering.

When this was done, they told me someone from the National Security Commission was coming in. They gave me paper and pen and asked me to write down the names and contact information for those that regularly come by [the church’s rented space]; both Chinese and American. I wrote [Mark] and [Kanon’s] Chinese names because that is how they had referred to them. They wanted me to keep writing. I told them I wasn’t sure of any more because they all used English names and nicknames. I didn’t know. Then one officer told me: you should know the consequences of lying to police. I didn’t speak any further.

They said they’d put me in jail, and they put some pictures and WeChat screenshots up on their screen. The lights were too bright and I couldn’t see clearly. They said the pictures were of me and [Mark] with some other people. They said [Mark] and I weren’t just casual friends. They also said they know I called [Kanon] when they called looking for him because, at the time, I was the first one from there [the church] to meet with the National Security Commission comrade. They also told me that if I only write a few peoples names and phone numbers, I could go home.

I didn’t know what type of consequences I was facing. But I knew that Jesus looked out for the interests of others even unto death. [Now I am still not sure, they scare me.] I finally decided to tell them, “I know some things, but I don’t want to tell you; what I can say, I have already said. If you think I broke the law, I hope there’s an explanation they can give. I have a new plan now, and haven’t been there recently.” [Note: He hadn’t been at this specific church recently because he was attending and helping another one in town.] They weren’t happy. They stood me up and someone angrily told me, “You are a traitor!” and punched me once. “Everyone says they were not there [church location], but your company’s signature and guarantee are there. You must come to bear it [the responsibility and consequences].” Then they said, “Christianity is brainwashing!” and told me to think on all this for a moment and give an honest account. They left the room.

Much later, one male officer and one female officer came to ask if I had finished thinking and to give an honest account. I said my response is the same as before. They had me sign and give finger prints on a written record. Then they put me in a car and took me to a detention center (I didn’t realize it was a detention center at the time). The inside was extremely gloomy with an iron door and lock. They took me to a bed, there were no covers, it was really cold, daylight soon began to break. Everyone was called to eat, but they didn’t give me anything. They made me register.

They forced me to do manual labor all morning. But because I didn’t sleep last night, I was exhausted and had no energy to mop the floors and move things around, so the prison guard kept screaming and cursing at me. That afternoon, they had me come alone to a room. It was warm. There was one man and one woman who said they were with the Religion Bureau and the Three-Self Church. They told me China itself has its own church and that 100% of American missionaries all have political motivations. They said the church should obey the leaders of the party and the government (the Communist Party of China), should be eager to cooperate with government investigations of suspected foreigners, and that this is the obligation of all nationals of the People’s Republic of China, as well as, the obligation of Chinese Christians. They kept going on and on but I’ve forgotten the rest. They said Christians should cooperate with the government. But in my heart, I knew this was wrong, although most Christians in China believe that this is right, the people in charge of the churches also thinks this is right, but I think it is wrong because no authority is greater than Jesus’ authority. Acts 5:29 says, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” The Bible never said American Christians coming to China is unbiblical.

At that point, I thought I would really have to stay in jail and couldn’t go home. I kept praying and asking God to change my circumstances. The second day was the same as the first with the exception that in the afternoon we had to watch videos teaching laws and regulations. After we watched the videos, we had to write our thoughts. I didn’t know what to write or what would happen after writing, so I asked if I could eat since I was very hungry. They ended up giving me some steamed buns and some porridge. On the third day, they sent for me and told me my wife paid a fine. Then they put me in a car and took me to the first Public Safety Bureau we started at. They gave me two documents each stamped with the seal of the Public Safety Bureau stating that I broke the law.

They returned my phone and backpack to me, and let me go home—until they get in touch with me again. They emphasized that I must cooperate with police. [After I was released], I was starving. I ate a bunch of steamed dumplings, and charged my phone. God blessed me. He got me out of there. I was so happy to get home and be with my wife and son. But I was so exhausted that I immediately went to sleep. Later some friends came to see me.

I know this is a bad situation, but I firmly believe that God is sovereign, and the Bible is right. The Chinese Three-Self Church is wrong to think the party and the government are greater than Jesus.

Where Are You Going?—A Story Of Modern Persecution

In a recent update, I mentioned about us having a dumpling activity. That Sunday, something else happened that I didn’t fully understand until the following week.

One of the older ladies in our church whom our children call “grandma” had a different Sunday morning than I did. She didn’t get saved at our church but visited not too long after she did and got clarity, assurance and baptized in our church (the government church she attended before was charismatic and bordered baptismal regeneration). She has been growing, and you can see the change in her life. Her friends and family have even mentioned the positive change.

Her husband is against her coming to church. But she has seen a change in the way that she respects him, and she has told him that change has come because she is a Christian now and she is following what the Bible says. It has been an active witness. But he is still against her coming to church.

She is a servant. She helps with the food every week, helps my wife plan activities, helps clean and helps watch the kids and do the nursery. She is a blessing to our church, and we consider her family.

Although her husband is against her coming to church, he will allow her to come if she says she is coming to help with children or something of that nature. But this past Sunday when we had the dumpling activity, she was leading it. She was leaving her house on Sunday morning with several of the things we would need for the activity. Her husband asked her, “Where are you going?” She told him she was heading to the church, and we were having a special activity that day. What happened next was hard to hear. Her husband was angry and from what I was told there was yelling and he ripped her cross necklace off, pushed her down or kicked her, and her leg somehow got a huge gash in it from the confrontation. However it ended, she showed up at church that morning with a smile on her face.

In fact, that whole Sunday I never would of know that something was wrong with her. She was abused by her husband for coming to church. But she didn’t complain or draw attention to herself. She served relentlessly that whole day. By that afternoon, we knew there was some argument that happened, but this wasn’t uncommon, so we told her she could come to our house for awhile (as we need someone to watch the kids while we went out).

She didn’t complain. She suffered with joy. She showed us how to glorify God in suffering.

I didn’t hear the whole story and see the gash in her leg until later, but when I found out and realized that she serve so graciously in spite of all that happened I was thankful for what Jesus had done in her life!

Confessions of a Missionary (1 of 3) Bold but Worth the Risk!

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I have talked a lot about being bold and fearful and even given some of my struggle with it. I imagine that many people think that I exaggerate when I talk about how fear can inhibit a believer from being all that they can be for Jesus while living in China. So today I want to share the testimony of a missionary who was indoctrinated to be fearful and yet always knew there was something that wasn’t right. He knew there had to be more. More freedom. He wanted to thrive, but everything around him said he couldn’t. After interactions with Vision For China, he realized that if God could use little nothings like us to be bold and carry forth the mission in China, then God could also use him. This is a story of freedom–freedom from the fear of missions spread by missionaries.

“God has been working in our lives giving us a passion for boldly preaching Christ. I need to start here to explain why our approach has changed so drastically in the last year or so. From when we first arrived until a little over a year ago my family and I lived in fear of being caught spreading the gospel. I lived in fear of deportation or getting Chinese Christians into trouble. We feared every phone call, every text message, and every post on all social media venues. Even at times, we found ourselves paranoid that the Chinese government bugged our home. Honestly, it felt cool for the first little while we were here but then it just became a burden. Every time I felt the desire to tell someone even a little bit about the hope we believe in I would wonder ” does this person work for the government”? or “should I get to know this guy much more before I give him an opportunity to know who GOD is.” Then I would walk away and never see him again. Then I would continue to ask myself… “If he were a government worker did he not deserve to hear the message too. Is he less important than anyone else.” In all this, I felt defeated and felt that I would never be able to make a huge impact in China. While reading about persecution in the Bible, I would find myself saying “yeah I’m willing to die for Christ or go to prison for the sake of the Gospel.” (Philippians 1:20) I would ask myself “why do I believe I am willing to die for the Gospel when I am not willing to be kicked out for the Gospel?” What’s more important me staying here or giving more people the opportunity to hear the good news for the first time. (Romans 10:14-15) I was wondering if all my fears I was feeding with more fears were real or just illusions. I had the desire to live fearlessly and be like the examples of the Bible, but the atmosphere of fear around me kept telling me to stay undercover. Paul went into cities, preached the gospel, and the people stoned him and left him for dead. Paul then stood up and went back in, risking it all with no immediate fruit to show for it. Yes, his effort resulted in many seeds sown for someone else to harvest but no immediate fruit. Sometimes we risk it all, get hammered, and lose it all, and the possibility of losing it all so that one person may believe seems worth the risk to me.

I heard about another missionary in our city that had been in China a year less than us. He was risking it all, living a gospel-driven life of boldness, and all in the heart language. I had to see it with my own eyes. After I saw his boldness I knew this man was crazy. After witnessing his boldness in person and his online posts, I knew he would be kicked out of China in no time, in fact according to the conventional wisdom they should have deported him long ago. I did not like him because his actions challenged everything I believed about being a missionary in China. I then learned that his teammate was kicked out of China the same month that I met him. His friend was a part of starting multiple churches in another city that are still thriving today without the help of missionaries. These churches are in the process of training pastors to continue the spreading of the Gospel. I could not believe that a family could have so much success in such a short time. He is now in Taiwan attempting to do the same thing even though his heart is in mainland China. The Chinese government told him he could come back in five years.

I was intrigued and needed to learn more. I always assumed that any openness at all would get you deported immediately. After knowing and meeting many Christians from the churches of the deported missionary family, it became obvious this is not true. This guy was here long enough to start four churches in his boldness in just a little more time than we have been here, and we had not started any. I could see that the risk was real but worth it. I slowly become committed to starting a church and after losing all fear and becoming fearlessly bold I discovered the freedom and peace of Christ. This freedom and peace I mention is truly like the peace that Philippians 4 talks about that is beyond human comprehension otherwise I would attempt to describe it to you.”

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I reading about the life of John and Betty Stam. In the book there is a part that recalls a poem written by a missionary after his colleague had been martyred. The poem, entitled, “Afraid?” puts into perspective the right mindset that we as Christians should have in the Lord’s service.

O’, if modern-day missionaries in China could grasp the heartbeat of this poem, then we would see God do even greater things in this land. Missionaries of old, who were under threat of actually loosing their lives, and many did lose their live, for the sake of the gospel were able to boldly go forward preaching the gospel. In modern-day China we are most likely only to lose our visa, be fined, or banned from entering for five years.

Modern missionary, read the biographies of the great men and women of faith who came to this land before us and read of their great faith. How far we have fallen. Restore us o’ God! To God be the glory.

The poem, entitled ‘Afraid?’ was written by Presbyterian missionary E. H. Hamilton following the recent martyrdom of one of his colleagues, J. W. Vinson, at the hands of rebel soldiers in northern China. A small Chinese girl who escaped from the bandits related the incident that provided the inspiration for Hamilton’s poem.

‘Are you afraid?’ the bandits asked Vinson as they menacingly waved a gun in front of him. ‘No,’ he replied with complete assurance. ‘If you shoot, I go straight to heaven.’ His decapitated body was found later.

Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid – of that?

Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Savior’s face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid – of that?

Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid – of that?

Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not –
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid – of that? [1]

Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)

Whenever you put out a strong opinion about something… you can expect hate mail.

You know, the messages you get on Facebook, email, and your blog that doesn’t make sense. The person discounts all the good that happened. The messages are written in one big continuous block of text full of bad spelling and grammar. The message is hard to understand and common sense it nowhere to be found. Okay, I could go on, but there is no need. You get the point.

I have pretty strong views and write from a perspective that expresses my opinion. Am I always right, definitely nope. When people disagree, they often let me know in a not so pleasant way. I guess this is what I deserve since I often react in a bad way to things I don’t agree with instead of acting in a proper way. I am trying to grow and learn.

I hope that many of my post don’t come across as judgmental. I hope they encourage the fearful to be brave. I hope they encourage the lazy to be active. I hope they encourage the foolish to be wise.

I know this doesn’t always happen because people take personal offense, or they defend why they do things the way they do. They simply react to what they disagree with or what makes them uncomfortable. (I am fine with people having different opinions and expressing them in an intelligent, normal, productive way.)

One thing I have learned from working around missionaries to closed countries is this: everyone lives on a different level of fear and most people are looking out for themselves; therefore, brotherly love is often dismissed because fear rule one’s emotions.

Fear is a greater problem than most people imagine. Fear is one of the major hindrances of the gospel in China. Fear can hinder the best of us. Fear can cause you to doubt everything you have been taught to do. Fear makes you act crazy and respond in unusually ways. Fear is worse than culture shock because it is something you can never get comfortable with in your life. Fear causes you to think crazy things. Fear messes with your thought life and causes you to think things are happening that aren’t.

Fear is often what causes people to send hate mail.

(Side note: I have learned something else: missionaries who work together as a team that encourages and helps each other seem to do better at overcoming fear.)

Whenever something drastic happens… you can expect hate mail.

Our team had two men deported from China. We knew hate mail would come. Why? Because of our strong stance before our men were ever kicked out. Every since I have been a missionary to China, there have been haters prophesying my downfall and those I work with. I have written about all the “alarms” and discouragement from different people over the years. (A simple search on this blog and you will be able to find it.)

People have been telling us for years that we are going to be kicked out of China. Some would say it to our faces and others would just say it to others. So, why didn’t we listen to these warnings? Why didn’t we listen to the caution and the perceived wisdom of others?

This is a good question to ask and answer. I wanted to answer it for those who may be wondering. I know haters will be haters, and this won’t change them. So let me try to explain for everyone else who is genuinely wondering…

Answer: We do ministry in the manner that we do because we believe it is right and the best way to accomplish our goals.

There are two aspects to what I mean here:

(1) The Fundamentals (non-negotiable) – These are the core things that we are committed to doing where ever we are doing ministry in the world, such as, preaching the gospel, making disciples, planting churches, training men, etc. If I was not able to do these things in a consistent manner, then I would change fields or be persecuted for doing them. To me, these “fundamentals” are to be obeyed or disobeyed.

Many people working in China often give up the rights to some of the fundamentals so they can do the other or vice versa (usually give up everything else for the opportunity to do some evangelism). But most people would agree that we need to obey these, and they usually don’t send hate mail to us because we shared the gospel with someone (though you might be suprised).

The hate mail usually comes from the second aspect:

(2) The Preferences (negotiable) – These are all the “hot button” issues. How open should we preach the gospel? How much information do we put on the internet? Do we have to talk in code? Can you send a text message to someone with “Bible words” in it? Can you invite strangers to your church or do they first have to have a relationship with someone, so you know they aren’t undercover police? Can you use Facebook? Should you use a false name? Should you witness to a police officer?

As a team, we have taken an “open” stance in both of these areas. For us, the “fundamentals” are settled. It is the “preferences” that are constantly changing. We do have limits. I don’t think anyone on our team has been preaching on the street with a bullhorn. We don’t think there is anything wrong with it; we just have chosen not to do it because we don’t think it helps us accomplish our goal. Opportunities for us to present the gospel in a more clear and effective way are abundant. So we have chosen a different route.

Other areas, such as our openness on the internet and lack of code words often get us hate mail. So why do we not listen to these objections from others? Because we don’t think that it hurts our ministry in China. We don’t believe what most people say about this aspect of ministry in China is true. We have found no links between any of the cases that we have studied. Maybe we aren’t studying the right people, and we are ignorant on the subject (most haters would agree we are). Here is a part of a comment I left in response to someone on my blog in 2011:

“I will never deny the technology is possible because enough research will scare anyone to not post anything on the internet. I think missionaries are low on the government’s radar, and they aren’t investing money into hunting down missionaries online.”

“I could be wrong but from looking at the facts and actual situations leaving the “fear” aspect of it aside, I see no great danger at this present time. Every worker in China must make their own decisions about their “online presence”. One day it might be a serious problem, but I have found that when you worry about the smallest of things, you usually let that affect the larger more important things.”

Another question you might have is: How is this the best way to accomplish your goals if you get deported?

Answer: We believe that we can produce more fruit doing ministry with a wise forwardness (boldness) in a short period than doing ministry with a fearful mindset over a long period.

The above answer may be offensive to some. Sorry.

As I mentioned above, the “fundamentals” are settled. The “preferences” will change when we see a problem arise. If we are doing something that doesn’t have to be done (non-fundamental) and it causes us problems, then we will change it up. We don’t desire to cling to “it has to be done this way” traditions.

In conclusion, if you see our team doing something that you are wondering about, it is probably for one of the five reasons:

  1. We don’t think it is a threat.
  2. It is a threat but a fundamental.
  3. It is a threat, not a fundamental, but the effectiveness is worth the risk.
  4. It is not a fundamental, but we don’t know if it is a threat or not, so we are testing the line and willing to take the risk.
  5. It is not a fundamental, but it is a threat and we are not wanting to take the risk.

Below are a five examples of how the above reasons are practically applied:

  1. The internet, we don’t think it is a threat.
  2. Church services are a threat but a fundamental.
  3. Introducing myself as a pastor to strangers is a threat, not a fundamental, but the effectiveness is worth the risk.
  4. A church sign is not a fundamental, but we don’t know if it is a threat or not, so we are testing the line and willing to take the risk.
  5. Street preaching with a bullhorn is not a fundamental, but it is a threat and we are not wanting to take the risk.

What is Persecution?

I have studied persecution for a long time now. Through my studies, I have learned a lot about the subject and am still learning more and more. The subject became even more interesting to me when we decided to come to China as missionaries.

I have prepared material for and taught a course called the “Theology of Persecution”. In this course, I attempted to form the doctrine of persecution from Genesis to Revelation. My hope was to show that servants of God through the ages have endured some form of persecution, and it still is happening today. (I have wanted to turn this into a blog series, but this post will do for the time being.)

The following is from the introduction of the course, but it will help us better understand what persecution is.

In this study we define persecution in the following way:

Persecution is hostility, harm, harassment, death or any other ill-treatment towards Christians because of their obedience to the will of God, even more so, to His will as revealed in Scripture.

Though this definition may seem broad, below are some points to narrow our position: We are not referring to human rights. We are not referring to principles or grey areas. We are referring to the clear and unchanging mandates of the will of God. We will be focusing on current mandates given to the New Testament Church. We are not referring to suffering in a general sense.

Also, as we considered those persecuted for righteousness sake, we noted there are three areas or reasons why people suffered persecution:

Association – Because they identify with God or the people of God.
Proclamation – Because of the message they preach or proclaim.
Submission – Because they are obedient to and do the will of God.

So with this as a basis for understanding persecution, the next question to ask is “Is what is happening now considered persecution?” I undoubtedly say, “yes.” As I had written before: “Church services were stopped. Christians were detained and questioned. Some were threatened to be kicked out of the country. Items were confiscated by the police (computers, money, song books, etc.). Houses were searched though, and privacy was invaded.”

Why did this happen? Why are our friends being threatened to be expelled from the country? As I noted in an earlier post: “The reason for the persecution is simple: believers were actively, consistently, and boldly teaching the Bible and establishing local independent churches.” If the Chinese nationals or the American missionaries would stop doing this, then they would not have a problem with the government which does not allow this to take place.

Let me be clear, there has not been any violent persecution. There has been no beatings, stoning, or jail time. The police and those that have been involved have not had to use force because the Christians have been “harmless as doves” during the process. But that does not mean things can not escalate in the future. If often happens like that in the Bible.

Persecution also isn’t just measured in degrees of physical pain. I do think there are degrees of persecution, some obviously worse than others (the greatest being martyrdom), but that does not diminish the less painful forms.

It is hard to fully understand the context of what is happening here unless you are living in it.

Yes, the Americans will be sent back to the comforts of America (if they get deported) so it does not seem like persecution. But when your entire family is forced to uproot themselves and leave the place they have labored in for so long simply because they were serving Jesus, that is considered to be persecution in my book. Their hearts will be broken for the people they desire so much to give the gospel to and yet blessed because they were worthy to suffer in a small way for the sake of the gospel.

The Chinese will stay. They have been warned in the past with multiple offenses. They will continue leading the churches despite the illegal status of the churches. Maybe the government will allow the churches to register (they haven’t in the past) or maybe they will continue to cause them trouble. The Chinese believers will need your continued prayers.

Finally, let me end with this Bible example of persecution that is relevant to this situation:

ACTS 13:14-52

Who was Persecuted?
Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:46)

Type(s) of Persecution? (how)
They spoke against the things spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming them (Acts 13:45), raised persecution and expelled them from their coast (Acts 13:50)

Reason(s) for Persecution? (why)
He preached Jesus to them in the Synagogue. (Acts 13:16-41)

Response(s) and Result(s) to the Persecution?
They first turned to the gentiles and preached to them (Acts 13:46-48) and then they shook the dust off their feet against them and went to Iconium (Acts 13:51). The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:52)

What next? How do we go forward?

Through the interrogations at the police station, they know just about everything about the Harbin ministry. They know how much money is spent, where the churches’ location are, who the leaders are, the names of everyone that was in attendance, etc. So the obvious question is, “What next?

Many people are probably wondering “how do they move forward” after an event like this happens.

If our American missionary friends get kicked out, how can we in good conscience tell others to go? How can we encourage people to continue to be bold in China? Were we out-of-place in our thinking and bold approach to ministry in a closed country? We talked much, and now we are in trouble. What now?

To me, the answer to these question are simple: we will keep doing what we have always done because it is biblical. Nothing changes. We do not advocate being bold because we think you won’t get caught, but because it is the Bible thing to do.

There are mixed emotions that come with an event like this, but I do know that it encourages me (to train men and continue attempting great things for God). You can be confident that…

We will not back down.

We will not be silent.

We will be loud.

We will be bold.

The churches in Harbin were ultimately caught because they were bold in ministry and the people who don’t approve of Christian activities found out and persecuted them for it.

The reason for the persecution is simple: believers were actively, consistently, and boldly teaching the Bible and establishing local independent churches. If they would stop doing that and just become timid evangelist, there would be no persecution (proof is in the evidence of the thousands living in China just occasionally “sharing” the gospel when opportunities arise).

So, how do they/we/you go forward?

For the churches, they should continue doing what they always have done. Yes, they may evaluate some of the areas they have used for outreach and change the methods, but they must continue getting the gospel out and teaching the Word of God. They must continue meeting together, partaking in the Lord’s supper, baptizing new converts, supporting their pastor, etc. lest they cease to be a local church.

For perspective missionaries, come with us to China and risk being deported for the gospel. When the police came the first time in 2011, I was the only one on our team that was in attendance. They questioned me on the spot and warned me about all the laws of China. At that time, there was one main church in Harbin and no churches in Dalian. Now, there are four churches in Harbin (with men training to start more), and there are two new churches in Dalian. Look how much was accomplished within a short-time! Let us help train you to do just this, start churches and train men!

For us, China is risky, and we will risk it. Afterall, we are missionaries, it’s an occupational hazard. This is not the first time of persecution for our team. You can read back through the post on this blog and see that we have experienced this as a team and will continue to experience it.

Read through the blog post from 2011 and you will see that we haven’t changed much, but will continue boldly serving the Lord, even in persecution!

August 07, 2011 – Urgent Prayer Request
August 07, 2011 – What Happened on Sunday Morning
August 09, 2011 – Thoughts from What Happened Sunday
August 10, 2011 – The Questioning, Things to Note
August 12, 2011 – Church Situation – Quick Update
August 13, 2011 – A text from the Police Officer
August 14, 2011 – Great Service this Morning!
August 15, 2011 – What’s Next?
August 16, 2011 – Serving in Persecution
August 17, 2011 – 4 Red Flags
August 19, 2011 – The 007 Perception vs. Reality

Boldness Fail

I had a boldness fail the other day. I almost let fear win when someone was inquiring about the church.

I went to the Christian bookstore and bought 160 bibles and 10 audio bibles (I would have bought more bibles but that is all they had in stock at the moment). As I was checking out, the woman asked me about the bibles, why I was buying so many. I told her that we have a church and ask her if she was a Christian. She said she was a Christian and goes to a church.

We made our way to the elevator (she was helping me carry a couple of bags as I used the dolly to move the boxes of Bibles). As we waited for the elevator, she asked me about coming and visiting the church and she wanted the church phone number (which is my number). Then the thoughts came… people say that if you buy bibles in China, they will take your information and follow you. I entertained those thoughts as she stood there and waited for me to give her my phone number. I quickly gave her a number that had one number wrong, gave her the church website and told her the service times. I told her I didn’t have any business cards (that we just printed) and I didn’t, but I did have a flyer about the church and english corner that I could have gave her…and didn’t.

In that moment of entertaining the wrong thoughts I had a boldness fail. Proverbs says “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: But the righteous are bold as a lion.” I wasn’t acting like who I am.

As we stood there waiting, I thought to myself, “How can I expect God to do anything great in China if I am to afraid to give this woman the right phone number?” I realized I had no idea what her intentions were and I shouldn’t be the judge of that but leave it in the hands of a sovereign God.

I quickly corrected my actions and gave her the right number and told her to call when she wanted to come.

That was on a Wednesday. On Thursday, I got a text from her saying that her and a friend wanted to come and visit the church. I sent them the address. I left the situation in God’s hands and continued like we normally do.

About 20 min before the start of the service, her and a guy friend showed up. They came in the church and we started talking. It seemed as if they were genuine Christians and just genuinely interested in coming to see the church. They already attend another house church in the city but offered to help us in any way that we needed. That Thursday was one of our best services and largest attended service since we started the church.

The man who came with the woman even offered to help with the audio bibles we bought.

It was a blessing… that I almost missed… because of fear.

Maybe the cops will show up tomorrow or maybe these two people are really good undercover agents, but I will just leave that in the hands of my Sovereign God.

Boldness: Two Reactions

Think about the following scenarios:

(A) You are a missionary to China. Are you excited and eager to get the gospel to as many people as possible. You pass out tracts openly. You try to talk with people about the gospel as much as possible and are earnestly trying to get the gospel out. One day, you give a tract to the wrong person and the next thing that you know, you are surrounded by police.

(B) You are a missionary to China. You are excited about getting the gospel to as many people as possible. You start a church and the gospel is being preach every week. One day the police show up and stop the service.

In both scenarios God does the miraculous. You don’t get kicked out of the country. You praise God for allowing you to stay and continue the work of the ministry.

Think about the two responses to the above scenarios:

(1) I was bold and got caught so I need I be careful. 
One can easily reason with themselves that they were being too bold and the line was drawn. Even though God delivered them from being kicked out of the country, there is a new cautiousness based on being caught instead of a new boldness based on God’s deliverance.

(2) I was bold and got caught but God delivered me, therefore, I have faith to be even bolder and trust God for another miracle.
 This one is harder to reckon to be true, but I think it is the right reaction to have. We see God work in our lives and we should trust him to do more. We need to see that He did it once and can do it again. It should build our faith to do even more than what we were doing before!