Heartbroken

I have a lot to say, but I haven’t had much time to write. My normal attitude of “adjust, adjust, adjust” isn’t playing out as smoothly as I hoped it would. Relocating, busyness and culture shock have been hitting us hard and me the hardest.

There have been many emotions that I have experienced since we returned to China. We were excited to return, although I told my wife it didn’t feel the same. Then once we found out the news, I was sad. That soon turned into anger. But then on the horizon was excitement for what the future holds.

I eventually came to a reckoning: “Honestly speaking, the move out of Dalian and the mainland has been hard. But I am reminded of the advice that I often give others: our calling is not primarily to a place but to a mission, a task, a ministry. Thus , even if the location changes, whether by choice or force, our calling doesn’t. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, and as we become more familiar with this new city, one thing is for sure…millions of souls hang in the balance needing the message of reconciliation and God has brought my family here for such a time as this…to tell them.”

But there was still something lingering: heartbreak; heartache.

We truly were heartbroken to leave China. Our team in China was heartbroken. Our friends were heartbroken. So many people felt the pain that we did. There was so much excitement for our return. There were many plans in the works. Hopes. Dreams. I preached that Sunday morning for about an hour and challenge the church the best I knew. But it still seemed somewhat like a funeral.

There are two events that I won’t forget:

(1) When I told our two older girls what had happened and why we had to leave. They asked where we were going. I told them Taiwan and they responded with excitement, as if this was another adventure. But they immediately realized what we were leaving. As we talked, their eyes filled with tears. They really loved this place they called home and these people they called family. I won’t forget those tear filled eyes.

(2) The second event happened in the airport as were were walking to security and I was talking with the Chinese pastor, Charles. I explained that I was so looking forward to returning from furlough so we could go forward planting more churches together and working together over the next term to do great things, and yet here we were being forced to separate. His eyes filled with tears and it was hard to muster up any words afterwards. The thought of leaving him and he having to face this on his own was very heavy on me. The only thing that gave peace was truth–knowing Someone much greater than me is always with him: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”.

So we are working through this. I am working through this.

“The future is as bright as the promises of God.” – William Carey

There is a plan. We just have to follow. Heartache and all. Trust and obey.

Was it worth it? Absolutely, Jesus is worthy.

More thoughts to come…

December 2019 Prayer Letter

Special Announcement | From the USA to China to Taiwan

On November 11, we left Atlanta, Georgia to return to Dalian, China. A few days after our return, the Chinese pastor that we trained up was taken in by the Chinese Nation Security Bureau. Once the Chinese pastor returned, he informed us that they knew I was back in the city and they were seeking information about me to deport me from the country. We got council and prayed for guidance. We concluded that the Lord was leading us away from living in the mainland to living on the island of Taiwan. Choosing to stay would have put our ability to work in the mainland at high risk (since they were actively seeking to deport me already) and continued to put more pressure on the locals to turn over information on me.

On November 17, we left the mainland and relocated to the city of Taipei, Taiwan. There is religious freedom here similar to the USA and a wide open door for us to do ministry. This will allow us as a family to have a home base and to start a new church, but also, serve as a launching pad for us to continue making trips into the cities of Northeastern China that we were ministering in previously. God is at work in our midst, and even though I don’t understand all of it, I know that the missionary life, and even more so, the Christian life, is a series of small steps of obedience following God’s leading.

Stories of God at Work  | No Turning Back, No Turning Back

On November 24, the church of one of the men we are training was raided by the police. The members and pastor were taken into the police station and then later released. As I was trying to encourage this Chinese pastor, he sent this simple text which translates into: “The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back, no turning back.” Amen! 

Special Needs | New and Unexpected Needs: Please Give and Pray

Our move to Taiwan was unexpected. Thus, we need to raise at least $30,000 above what we were originally were raising for our Church Planting and Reentry Funds for the mainland. These additional funds will help cover the cost of resetting up life here in Taipei and, Lord willing, be debt free at the end of it. Thus after merging our previous funds with our additional needed funds, we are at 62% of our target goal. A one-time love offering will help us continue the work the Lord has given us to do. We are thankful for our partners who support us on a monthly basis, those who have recently given to help us with our other recent funds and our praying friends, but now we are asking for you to consider again a one-time love offering of any amount to help us reach these needs.

Prayer Requests and Praises | Transition, Persecution, Church Plant

  • Praise for a safe transition during our relocation and pray for our readjustment here!
  • Pray the three Chinese pastors we are training in the mainland as they lead their ministries in the midst of persecution. Pray for them to be encouraged and emboldened in the Lord.
  • Pray for our new ministry in Taipei. We are praying to get setup ASAP and be launching a church plant shortly after. Also, pray about coming over on a short-term trip to help us.

We know that we couldn’t do anything without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, to be happy in the Him, and to make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

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Urgent: Persecution Continues. We Need Your Help And Prayers!

A Snapshot Of Our Move! Big Family, Big Move!

On November 11, 2019 we left our house around 6:15 in the morning (local time EST) to head back to China for our official second term. Here is a quick snapshot of what it looked like when we returned to the field: we had 28 checked bags (14 free bags, 1 free stroller bag, 13 paid bags); 7 carry-ons (one for each person); 2 strollers (for the twins); 2 car seats (for the twins on the plane); 6 personal items (5 backpacks and 1 diaper bag); all of this totals 45 “items” plus 7 people (2 adults and 5 kids). I must say that I have a faithful wife who loves God and is brave enough to travel to the other side of the world with this entourage. We arrived in China on November 12 around 10:15 at night (local time). There was a group of 11 or so Chinese waiting on us, many whom we longed to see since our departure last year.

A Radical Change Of Events: Persecution Continues…

The very next day we started house hunting. We had a friend watching the kids so we could spend the majority of the day looking at houses. The very first house we saw was exactly what we were looking for and in the very area we wanted to be in. Although the initial price was out of our budget. We continued to look at places. By the end of the next day, we ended up choosing the first house and discussing the price with the landlord. He was a friend of a friend. We met over tea and he agreed to a very reasonable price. We were praising the Lord for this. We were very excited and prepared to sign at least a two year contract the next morning and turn over six months of rent plus deposit. But the following morning the Chinese pastor received a WeChat request from the police officer who had given him trouble at the beginning of this year. He works for the Chinese Nation Security Bureau. We knew this wasn’t good news. After adding his WeChat, he requested to meet with him in person. He agreed to meet him that afternoon. The following five or so hours was long as we awaited news about what was going on. I fasted and prayed. My wife and a Chinese friend took the kids to a mall to play as a distraction for them. Once the Chinese pastor returned, he informed us that they knew we were back in the city and they were seeking information about us to deport us from the country. He said they were very clear about their intentions. This was a surprise to us as we already went through the necessary protocols and were issued work visas, allowed in the country through customs and security etc. But it appears there was someone who possibly reported us. The police officer had mentioned that someone gave him the Chinese pastors WeChat. We had only been in the city around 3 days and now it seemed that we wouldn’t be able to stay. 

Over the next several hours, we brainstormed about what to do. We got council and prayed for guidance. We concluded that the Lord is leading us away from our current city of ministry to another one, for the time being. Choosing to stay is putting our ability to work in the mainland at high risk and putting unnecessary pressure on the pastors who know me because they are being persecuted to turn over information on me. The Chinese pastor has to meet with the police again in the future because he did not cooperate with them by giving them my information. We are thankful he was released, but he might not find that favor at their next meeting. God has given me faithful men who put their own livelihoods at risk so we can minister here. They are truly willing to live persecuted lives for the sake of the gospel. I am humbled by their reasonable service to our Lord. WILL YOU PRAY WITH ME FOR THEM?

As we started praying about what city we could go to, we felt the best option for all things considered is to move to Taipei which is the capital city in the Republic of China (Taiwan). This will allow us as a family to have a home base and to start a new church and ministry, but also, serve as a launching pad for us to continue making trips into the cities of Northeastern China that we are ministering in. So the goal with this move would be to: (1) have a new base of operations since we are compromised in our current city; (2) have a place to easily travel from to the mainland so that we can continue to work with the Chinese pastors we are training and with our American teammates.

Relocating Setup Fund – A Special Need For Such A Time!

Over the eight years we have spent in China, we have waved through the storms of persecution. We have stayed, fled, moved locations or did whichever one we though was right for the situation. But each instance seems to bring them a little closer as they build a track record on me. This time we have chosen to flee (and avoid deportation from our current city of ministry) to another so that we may live to minister another day in the mainland. I am reminded of the following:

Go forward speaking the gospel and if needed flee to another location. Jesus tells His disciples that when people persecute them in a certain city they were allowed to flee to another city. We should be aware and alert to the danger that could happen and if needed move to another location as long as we keep on preaching the gospel. We are permitted to leave a city because of persecution but we shouldn’t stop preaching the gospel. Thus, the task is more important than the location—even if the location can’t be changed. Matthew 10:23

Lesson: How Can We Go Forward In The Face Of Persecution?

Thus, we are relocating. But this means that we also have to start from scratch for our setup. We will be able to take our belongings with us, but we won’t be able to take our furniture or vehicle and selling them second-hand in China won’t give us a good enough return to replace them in the new city. Thus, we will need to raise an additional funds for this special need so that we get establish and, Lord willing, be debt free at the end of it.

In our last prayer letter we were raising funds for this return to China and we reported the following: “We have raised nearly $5,500 of the $10,000 needed in our Church Planting Fund and nearly $17,900 of the $20,000 needed for our Reentry Setup Fund. Altogether we have reached 78% of our total goal. If you haven’t already, would you pray about giving a one-time love offering of any amount to help us reach these needs?

So we need to finish raising those funds but also raise at least an additional $30,000 for our move to Taipei to cover the cost of resetting up life there…as if it was our first time arriving on the field. This will help cover the cost of the following:

  • Plane tickets for our family of seven to the new city.
  • Moving cost of sending our belongings to the new city (extra baggage cost on the plane).
  • Cost of a new vehicle (van) for our family.
  • Furniture and appliances to furnish the house.

I am sure there are going to be much more cost as we get setup that we haven’t even thought of yet, but this should at least get us started and somewhat settled.

Will You Give A One-Time Love Offering?

We are NOT planning on returning to the USA but relocating ASAP to avoid the chance of deportation. Thus, a one-time love offering will help us relocate and continue the work the Lord has given us to do. We are thankful for our partners who support us on a monthly basis, those who have recently given to help us with our other recent funds and our praying friends, but now we are asking for you to consider again a one-time love offering of any amount ($100, $250, $500, $1,000, $5,000 etc.) to help us reach these needs.

Will you be willing to give a one-time love offering of however much the Lord leads towards our church planting and relocation setup funds? Your one-time gift of any amount will help us, Lord willing, relocated and continue to evangelize the lost, establish many more local baptist churches and equip and train national leaders. I hope that you will prayerfully consider partnering with us to see the cost of our relocation and the need of this new church plant funded.

Will you be an extra blessing to this ministry with a one-time love offering?

We know that we couldn’t do anything without the help of God’s people. All gifts and love offerings of any amount can be given online, ChinaMinistry.org, or sent to Vision Baptist Missions, PO Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009 with a note in the memo. Thank you for giving, praying, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, to be happy in the Him, and to make Him known! 

November 2019 Prayer Letter

Stories of God at Work | God’s Grace in Times of Waiting

“Why?” was the question I was pondering in the back of my mind. Our visas were delayed much longer than we anticipated. We were hoping to already be back in China. But as we were running into delay after delay, I started to think about what God was going to do through this. Now we know a couple of those answers: (1) Our second oldest daughter brought a friend to church for a family revival and that friend got saved; (2) My wife was sick for a couple weeks and she finally was able to get recommended to a doctor. The doctor fit her in at the last minute and ran some test. Her blood work showed that she tested positive for Celiac Disease (and also allergic to milk and eggs). We are thankful that we now know where her problems are coming from and, Lord willing, learning the treatment to go forward. If we would have already returned to China, we wouldn’t have done this testing. So we are thankful for God’s grace in this matter. Not only theses things, but in many small ways we have seen God work over this period of waiting.

Special Announcement  | Furlough Ending: Plane Tickets Purchased

Finally, we were able to get all the paperwork needed to officially apply for our visas to China here in the States. We have already sent in our applications and purchased plane tickets. Lord willing, our visas will be issued soon and we will return to China on November 11. We are excited about this next term on the field and all that God is going to do!

Special Projects and Needs Update | 78% of Our Goal Reached

We have raised nearly $5,500 of the $10,000 needed in our Church Planting Fund and nearly $17,900 of the $20,000 needed for our Reentry Setup Fund.Altogether we have reached 78% of our total goal. If you haven’t already, would you pray about giving a one-time love offering of any amount to help us reach these needs?

Prayer Requests and Praises | Health, Family Returning to China, Thankful

  • Pray for my wife’s health as this disease means a lifestyle change for our family to deal with. Also, they mentioned that this is genetic, so our children might have it too.
  • Pray for our family of seven as we return to China and get readjusted to the language, culture, food and doing ministry in a closed country. May Jesus be glorified!
  • Praise the Lord for a wonderful furlough. We have had so many people help, sacrifice, give, bless, and love on us. We are thankful for all our supporters and your faithfulness.

We know that we couldn’t do anything without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, to be happy in the Him, and to make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

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October 2019 Prayer Letter

Stories of God at Work | From English Teacher to Church Planter

Several years ago, I was put in contact with an American English teacher in China. His name was Austin and he was newly married to a Chinese woman. He had a heart for God and desired to make an impact for Christ in China. He was fluent in the Chinese language, but he needed more practical ministry training. As we talked, I encouraged him to take a giant leap of faith: to follow the same path of training that I had taken. And he did! He moved back to America and trained at our home church. Now he is on deputation heading back to China as a church planting missionary. Just this past month, I was honored to preach and pray at his ordination service. I can’t wait to see what God does through this man of God and his family.  

Special Projects and Needs Update | 64% of Our Goal Reached

We have raised nearly $5,400 of the $10,000 needed in our Church Planting Fund—which helps covers the cost of our next church plant. We have also raised nearly $13,900 of the $20,000 needed for our Reentry Setup Fund—which helps cover the financial cost of returning to China and resetting up life there. Altogether we have reached 64% of our total goal. If you haven’t already, would you consider a one-time love offering of any amount to help us reach these needs as we plan to return to China by the end of this month?

Prayer Requests and Praises | Visas, 99% Support, Rest and Productivity

  • Please continue to pray for our visas to be granted quickly. The company we are using made an error and we have to wait until after the current Chinese holidays before we can finish the process. This could delay our return by a couple of weeks. We are still asking the Lord to allow us to return on October 28th, but we know it is all in His hands and timing.
  • Praise the Lord for all of our supporting churches. We are at 99% of our target monthly support amount. This means that we should meet budget before we return to the field. But as many of you know, a budget is just that, an estimate of our expenditures over a period of time, and like anything else in life, there are hidden costs or things we didn’t think of. Thus, even though we will, Lord willing, reach full support based on our budget, any support above and beyond will still be needed, used accordingly, and greatly appreciated. And we know that we don’t trust in money or things, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
  • Praise the Lord for rest and productivity. Since our last prayer letter, we have only had a few meetings in FL and OH because we were finishing up our furlough travels. This has allowed me to gain much needed rest and time with family over this past month. And it has given me the time to catch up on things that needed to be done for our return to China.

We know that we couldn’t do anything without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, to be happy in the Him, and to make Him known!

In His Joyful Service,

Mark

DOWNLOAD THIS PRAYER LETTER AS A PRINTABLE PDF

How Much Should A Believer Give?

  • Devotional: How much should we give? Second Corinthians 9:7a says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give…” God lets people decide how much they are to give. For every person it is different, we need to seek God and decide in our heart what we can give regularly according to our means. A good place to start is anything above 10% of our income, because it shows that we are no longer under the law where people were required to give a 10% tithe, but under grace. We have so much to be thankful for, so let’s excel in our giving.
  • Prayer: Dear Father God, thank You for all the blessings You have given us. Help us to live our lives for Your glory and kingdom. God, please give us wisdom on how much You would have each one of us to give. Help us to give sacrificially and help us to decide to give an amount that would honor You. Thank You for giving us the money that we can use to be able to give back to you. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.