Tag Archives: China

November 2014 Prayer Letter

We were excited last month about the decision to merge the churches together, our new building, and how everything in the ministry was going, then the police showed up at the church on a Wednesday morning. Since then we have had a whirlwind of emotions and many decisions to make. Each step we have taken, the Lord has given us wisdom. We praise Him for help in a time of need!

The Police: Only one of the young Chinese men was at the church when the police came this time, but they asked many questions, took some of our information and asked for a follow-up visit. After that followup visit, the police told one of the young men that we could keep having services like normal. We were thankful for this, but were still unsure of the decision since they didn’t know the identity of the foreigners involved. I stepped down as the pastor hoping that would help with any issues of foreigner involvement and had the young men teach in my place for a week.

After praying and thinking about what to do, we decided that the “new” location was going to be a problem because of neighbors and our noise level. We decided to look for a commercial space and the Lord open up a door at the first place we went to. We rented a new place and have met there since. The surrounding neighbors in our new location are businesses who usually don’t work on Sunday. This should help with causing problems with the neighbors.

The Move: Everyone was disheartened at first because we didn’t know what the plan was going to be. We spent about two weeks renovating our new building and taking the church in a new direction, doing things nicer than we have ever done them. It seems the Lord has His hand in all this because each time the police come we find a new, better and bigger location.

Giving Opportunities: We have been through a lot in just the couple of months since we have been back. We are using all of our support each month and would like to raise more. We are thankful for those who have recently partnered with us. Also, there are several one-time giving opportunities to help this young persecuted church: rent, extra chairs, renovations, and reimbursing the confiscated funds. You can contact me directly for more details. We couldn’t do what we do without you!

Church Organization: We officially organized into a local Baptist church. We had a great organization service where several of our people became founding members of the church, signing the church charter. Praise the Lord for continuing to work even through all the troubles!

Thank you for being a part of our team, Project China, with your prayers and financial support!

At a Crossroads – Direction Known

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I want to thank everyone for praying for us over the past week and a half. It has been a stressful and trying time. Through prayer, counsel and open doors we finally know the direction we are going.

First, we plan on staying in the city and continuing our ministry here. Our actual identities are not known. We don’t see a direct threat. With the information they do know; they could eventually find out who we are if they truly were wanting to know, but they haven’t seemed to pursue it at this time.

Second, we moved the church from the residential location to a commercial location. The new location means I can be involved back in the services of the church immediately. I preached both services this past Sunday. Also, before renting this new location we asked all the surrounding businesses if our services on Sunday would be a problem for them and they all said, “no.” (Renting commercial space has its benefits… planning to write more about the benefits of this in the future. The one downside is the extra cost.)

Third, for political reasons, I will still not be the official pastor of the church but will do many of the functions of a pastor until the church has one. (This is more of a word game that, hopefully, will help us with future run-ins with the police.)

Summary: The church has moved to a new commercial location that will, hopefully, help meet its needs and allow for future growth. We will continue to lead the church and train up young men as the Lord allows. We are moving forward trusting the Lord!

(We could be wrong about all these decisions.)

P.S. We have some different projects and that we are working on and if you are interested in helping the local church here with any of these financially, let me know and I can give you more details.

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At a Crossroads – Weekend Update!

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As you probably already read, the police did not come over the weekend nor have they come for a second time. The church boldly had it’s normal services. There were no interruptions. Thank you for praying!


OVER THE WEEKEND

With that being said here is a run down of the events for this weekend:

Friday: I met with the guys who are in training and we decided that it was best that I resign the church as the active pastor. Even if I end of staying in the city and going back to work at the church, this would allow the church members to honestly say they don’t have a foreigner as a pastor. So Friday evening, I sent the church members the following letter of resignation:

Dear Church,

I have been honored to be your pastor. I have seen many of you grow in the faith. Some of you I helped believe the gospel. Some of you I baptized. Some of you I helped understand the bible. Some of you I trained to preach. Together we planted a real local church.

The time has come for me to resign as the pastor of the church. The law in China doesn’t allow me as a foreigner to be your pastor. I know that we ought to obey God rather than men, and I hope that we will always do that. The Bible also gives examples of preachers moving on to other cities if they receive persecution. My continued leadership and attendance at the church will cause more problems for the church. If I resign, you shouldn’t experience those problems and can continue to build the church without hinderance.

I am praying that God will send you a pastor to help lead and guide you. I will help the church in every way possible, but I will no longer be the pastor of the church. Therefore, if the police ask if the church has a foreigner as a pastor, you can truthfully answer, “No.”

Whoever the pastor is, I will commit to training him and helping him to lead you, in the same way that I did.

I love you. Keep serving Jesus and building His church because He is worthy.

Also, two of the young men committed to leading the church and to continue the preaching and teaching until the church has a fulltime pastor (hopefully one of them with time).

Saturday: I left town and one of the guys from the church went to the police station to fulfill part of the request of the officers who came the Wednesday before. They wanted to know what we believe and wanted every who attends information. We obviously aren’t willing to give that information of everyone who attends, but we are willing to explain to them exactly what we believe. So that is what they did. At the end of their meeting, the church was given permissions to keep having services.

Saturday: The church had services with no interruptions. I was not at either of the services but in another city.


A COUPLE QUESTIONS

What does this mean? I don’t know. We are taking each day a step at a time.

But didn’t they give the church permission? Yes and no. The officer who he talked to said they could keep studying. Is there an underlying purpose for this, I hope not. But the local police station’s job is more to keep the unity among neighbors and to keep problems from arising. They don’t carry guns and they aren’t very intimidating. So the question is, what are they going to do with the information they attained? If they are required to file a report to the religious bureau, then we could have problems. That is what we are waiting to see. The religious bureau specializes in raiding the house churches and it is their job to keep the religious situation in China under control. Therefore, even if the local police don’t really care about the church, there is a good chance the religious bureau will if they find out.

What do they know about you? The local police station acquired more information about us from the talks, but nothing that gives away our identity yet. We are still praying for wisdom about our next step. Now, we are returning to our city and will continue training as we try to figure this out.

Next Step? As of now, we aren’t planning on attending any of the services but will be looking into doing something else for my family for the time being.

We still need your prayers.

Thank you.

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Revisiting “On the Edge”

After I had surrendered to go to China as a missionary, I was taught that one of the ways to reach China was to live in a neighboring country. Our original name for our team strategy wasn’t “Project China,” but “On the Edge”. With recent events, I decided to revisit our original strategy. Here is how we defined ourselves:

What is On the Edge?

– On the Edge is a passion… for the millions living in Communist or former-Soviet nations.
– On the Edge is a team… committed to do whatever it takes to reach them.
– On the Edge is a strategy… to make an impact in China by training leaders outside of China.

Below is a basic summary of some of our ideas:

1. To plant vibrant, missions-hearted churches in _________?

The first stage of the plan involves building a stronghold outside of China from which we can export prepared Chinese laborers.

2. To disciple young men to become passionate leaders.

…Chinese students who are planning to return to their homeland after completing their education. What do you think would happen if these students could be reached for Christ and trained to do the work of the ministry? What if they could be prepared to make an impact when they return to their homes in China? This is the second stage, the very heart of our plan.

Please pray for our training center, which will be the center of all our operations on the border. Pray that God will fill it with students set apart to glorify His name. Pray that He will energize and equip them for His work. And pray that He will help them to make a difference when they return to China with the Gospel.

3. To conduct leaders safely into China.

Importation of trained leaders is the key to reaching China with the Gospel. As we train converts outside China’s borders to be leaders of leaders, we must support them as they return home to preach their Gospel to their own people. The Chinese that are trained for the ministry create much better channels for the Lord to work as they perfectly look, speak, and act Chinese. They will be able to work in underground situations much more secretively than foreign missionaries.

4. To develop means to transport new students to _________?

The greatest strategic challenge that we face is that of getting Chinese converts from mainland China to our training center in _________.

5. To involve American students in the world-plan of God.

God wants to raise from the forces of our churches a capable army mobilized to carry the Gospel to the lost of this world. We want to give every Christian the opportunity to make a personal impact in China.

If you have been burdened for the Chinese people and have been looking for an outlet of service, then I invite you to pray with us for the ministry to the border of _________ and China. We have some great dreams! Come and dream with us!  

Originally, the blank was filled in with Russia, but in today’s world, Russia is not ideal, and it would seem Taiwan would be the best option available. (I think at the time of the original strategy, there was no direct flights from China to Taiwan, but now there is.)

Our original ideas was preparing Chinese pastors out of the country:

Many missionaries are beginning to search for more strategic and effective methods for ministry in China. For On the Edge, this means building an exterior training center to prepare Chinese pastors.

I think there is a lot of truth in the original plan, especially when it comes to being able to “setup a base” to work from. There is a great loss in stability working only in the mainland. I think our original strategy, and what we have learned since then, will lead us into an even more effective strategy.

As we are working these things out and finding your role in all this, one things remains to be true:

Until we have young men and young women of God who are willing to do anything necessary to see God’s name glorified, there will be no city-taking. Until there is a generation willing to suffer, willing to bleed, and willing to die for the glory of God, there will be no conquering of the land God has promised us. We may watch walls fall and doors open, but it is our hearts that determine whether or not the cities of this world will be taken.

All quotes taken from “On the Edge: A Strategy for China in Our Generation”

Weekly Mind Dump: The Up & Down

✪ Ministry in China is having its ups and downs right now. We have made some big changes to help things go forward, and we are seeing growth, but not without hindrances. To know what I am referring to, read this: At a Crossroads – Prayer Needed!

✪ This past Sunday – Tuesday we had a great conference with a visiting pastor from Harbin and several Christians from the churches there. Over the three days, we had three services, two workshops and two evangelism outreaches. We are excited to see the fruit of this meeting.

✪ I have laryngitis. I almost completely lost my voice and was down just to a whisper. It has been over a week, and I am just now starting to feel somewhat better after trying to not speak for a whole day.

✪ One of the young men that we started training has really stepped up and started serving in the church as much as he can. I am excited about what God has in store for him.

✪ Today, I am 30. Boo.

✪ We are going to be traveling this weekend to take the baby and wife to their doctor’s visit. Pray for safety as we travel.

✪ I meet with the guys tomorrow to discuss what our next step is. Pray for them and me as we try to be obedient, wise and bold. We are using these two days to consider our options and pray for God’s will to be done.

✪ In the midst of “the ups and downs” of ministry in China can I send out a plea for the need of more labourers. We need more labourers to come, preach the gospel, train men and plant churches. Will you come?

✪ Here is a two-part series I published in October of 2011 called: Foreigners Are a Problem! Here is an excerpt: “I agree that foreigners are a problem, and I said on deputation that the biggest hindrance to missions in China is me, a foreigner. I have come to China to work myself, eventually, out of a job. Lord willing, I can see many national pastors raised up in the lifetime that the Lord gives me.”

✪ Summary of prayer request for this week: (1) Wisdom in making decisions about our next step. (2) My health to recover. (3) Safety in traveling over the weekend. (4) More labourers to come to China. (5) Dalian Grace Baptist Church as they go through the trail together.

At a Crossroads – Prayer Needed!

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We are at a crossroads in the ministry. We have some hard decisions to make in the very near future, and we would like to ask for your prayer so we can continue to move forward wisely.

Here is the situation: This past Wednesday morning one of the guys who is training to possibly be a pastor in the future went to the church to study. When he arrived, there were five policemen waiting at the door of the church. Two were in uniform and three were not. They asked about the church, and they all entered together. The looked around asked some questions, told him that they church needs to register with the government, and took a few things small things that had information about the church on them. The police were nice, never said that we had to stop having services, didn’t confiscate anything and their main objection was that we are not registered.

Now, we have seen this situation played out many times. This could lead to a bigger raid by the religious bureau (which is what happened at our other church location when they confiscated the money, took people in for questioning, and told them they couldn’t have services) or it could just be a slap on the hand with no immediate consequences.

I was not there and so they don’t know me, but they do know that there is foreigner leadership in the church. Because of this, I have to believe they will not or can not agree to this and will make a reappearance at the church trying to catch us in the act of leading the church. Also, I was told by another Chinese pastor that the government is currently putting more effort into looking for house churches with foreigner involvement.

Why did they come? Most likely, it was a neighbor that called the police and reported us. I was going to write in the weekly mind dump, that I never got around to, to pray as we are in a new neighborhood, and there is always a chance of a neighbor not liking us or what we are doing. It just so happens, that this seemed to be the case. We think a little old lady reported us (you know the kind that thinks they are the neighborhood watch dog).

Anyways, this is the second time the police have come to one of the churches in our city. Both times I was absent, but they know my Chinese name and that I am involved, but that is it. They don’t actually know who I am.

So this leads us to the question, what is our next step? This is where we need prayer and wisdom.

We can conclude that being caught leading a church will most likely lead to deportation. This is a risk we are willing to take when we first move into a city because there is no church and no men trained, therefore it is our only option if we are wanting to start new local churches in China. But once we have some men trained, should our role change, and if so how? Can we take less risk once we have the ministry going, to stay and work in a training position, but not be the pastor of a church?

Also, currently, in China, the main problem in house churches seems to be foreign leadership. Our friends who were deported left churches who are still meeting at the same locations, same times and continue on without any major problems from the authorities.

So my thinking, at this time, is that if I remove myself from the church, then they can continue on in the same location without any major problems. I am not a threat to the Chinese being thrown in jail, but a threat to myself being deported from the country.

So we are at a crossroads. Here are the different ideas we have come up with:

  • If none of the men that we have been training are willing to step up and lead the church, then we can continue leading the church like normal and let things take its natural course.
  • Abandon the ministry for the sake of being able to stay in the country and start over. (I don’t think this is right and believe I would risk deportation before I abandoned them.)
  • Stop having services for several months and then start-up again when things cool down. (I don’t think this is right either)
  • One of the men that we are training will step up, be the pastor of the church and I will no longer attend regularly or be the pastor of the church, but move into a training position and give the majority of my time to training him and others who want to be pastors. This would allow them to report to the police that in accordance to registration requirements, they no longer have a foreigner as pastor. (What would my family do about going to church in this scenario?)
  • If none of the men that we have been training are willing to step up and lead the church, then we could find another young man who is finishing his training from another ministry to step into the position of pastor and I could continue in the city training him and others that are interested. Possibly, start another church in a different part of the city.
  • We could move the location of the church and chance it in another neighborhood. I would still be the pastor.
  • One of the men that we are training will step up, be the pastor of the church, and I move to Taiwan then make regular trips into the country to continue their training. I would start a church in Taiwan and have a border ministry for the mainland.
  • One of the men that we are training will step up, be the pastor of the church and I move to another city in China and start something new, but also make trips back to this city for continued training.
  • Any combination of the above ideas. (Note: We have guys that are in training, but not are fully ready like we would want.)

The hard part seems to be that if we continue like normal, that it will end in deportation sooner than later, so if that is true, what changes can we make to be effective, but also protect our ability to enter the country for training. Otherwise, if we are deported, we will be limited to training over Skype.

I told the guys here that it would be wise for us to go ahead and make plans now that would protect our ability to stay in the country and continue training, otherwise I could be deported and they would be completely on their own.

It seems that we have been given the opportunity to make a decision for our future. We are assuredly gathering their needs to be changes. Our strategy needs to evolve with the current actions and attitudes of the government toward true Biblical churches.

I asked the guys what we should do and they said, “keep meeting together as a church” so they will continue going forward, but what is our next specific role in all this? We need your prayers.

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Foreigners Are a Problem! (2 of 2)

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Foreign Christians can’t just expect the national Christians to evangelize on their own time. If a national Christian isn’t as excited about reaching his own people with the gospel as a foreigner is, that doesn’t mean the national knows best, it means move out-of-the-way and let the foreigner do the work.

Of course a national can do a great job, just as good or better than the foreigner but that isn’t the problem.

Christians in American and nationals of their own country need to get a heart for not just reaching “their people,” but to reach the world. The goal isn’t to “stay local” but to “go global.” Foreign or national, we are joining together for the great commission.

We are to teach the Chinese people, “Here is the Gospel, reach your people and in the sane way we come as a foreigner into your country, go as a foreigner into another country carrying the Gospel.”

The spreading of the Gospel will take foreigner involvement. This is not new to the Bible. In the Bible we see two main people groups, Jews and Gentiles. The Jews had to cross the boundaries of the Gentiles. Different cultures and language gaps were crossed and God did a work.

Foreigners are a problem. We don’t do things like everyone else around us. But we need to have the right mindset and not just sit on the sidelines. We need to pray that God will allow us to learn the language and penetrate the culture with the Gospel. I think we can see God do great things. We need to be willing to spend and be spent; to be willing to train those we win instead of winning and leaving. We need to teach them in all things.

I agree, we are a problem, but who else is going to do it?

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Foreigners Are a Problem! (1 of 2)

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In the area of missions there are always problems between nationals and foreigners. Foreigners meaning one who has left his home and lives in another culture and nationals just meaning the people who are native to the place the foreign now resides. You can divide “culture” into many small details but basically you have the major divide in country and language. For example, an American living in China.

These posts are not trying to deal with the problems than can arise from the foreigner-national relationship in the area of missions, but to discuss a certain mindset that foreigners are a problem, therefore the means of foreigner involvement should be extremely limited!

I agree that foreigners are a problem, and I said on deputation that the biggest hindrance to missions in China is me, a foreigner. I have come to China to work myself, eventually, out of a job. Lord willing, I can see many national pastors raised up in the lifetime that the Lord gives me.

In China foreigners are a problem and always have been. The Chinese government doesn’t like foreigners. The government church is called the “three-self church” because they want to be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing. Sounds familiar, right? I am all for that philosophy. But they also don’t want you to evangelize outside of the church and don’t want children to attend their services. That is a problem for me.

Some would suggest that we “foreigners” need to get “out-of-the-way” and just let the national Chinese Christians lead and reach their own people and we can just sit back and support them with Bibles and money. This is a problem for me.

There are millions in China who don’t know the Jesus I know. Millions who are still unreached. This is a problem for me.

We, foreigners, may be a problem but…

…this isn’t just their fight.
…this isn’t something that doesn’t involve foreign Christians.
…this isn’t a “Chinese church” task.

…we have a responsibility to obey the Bible and take the Gospel to all, including China, even if other Chinese Christians don’t want our help. They can do their own thing, but we must be obedient to the call, the blood of their people isn’t just on their hands, it’s on ours too.

I know the truth, I can’t stand by on the sidelines.

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A Band of Men

In 1 Samuel 10:26 the Bible reads “And Saul went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.” I have a little note written in my Bible next to this verse that says “God is going to have to touch men’s hearts to follow you.” I believe I wrote that note there when my pastor, Austin Gardner, was preaching out of this text. What is going on in the surrounding verses is that Saul is being anointed king. And as he was the God chosen leader at the time, God also touched other men’s hearts to follow him. I ask that you will pray with me that God will touch men’s heart to get involved in His work. Pray in two ways:

  1. Pray that God will touch men’s hearts as we travel around the United States and preach in hundreds of churches. Pray that souls will be saved and that God will touch men’s hearts and allow us to band together to take the Gospel to the world.
  2. Pray that God will touch men’s hearts in China. Ones that we can raise up, train, and send out to plant other churches with a heart to not only reach the 1.3 billion in China, but the 6.5 billion around this world.

I have been privileged to work with such men whom God has banded together to get the Gospel to the world. As we branch off I pray that it will grow stronger, and we can see more fruit and men; as a result.