First, just want to say thanks to all those who have been praying for the situation in China over the past couple days. The three guys and girl that were taken into the police station were released after a couple hours of questioning. They were separated for most of it, as I understand, and their questions were kind of checked against each other. The questions seemed to center on four main issues:
What kind of religious group are they?
Where does their money come from?
What role do the foreigners have?
What are they preaching?
I am truly honored to know and work with these young men. They love Jesus and didn’t deny him when the heat was on. They clearly shared with the police officer the message that they proclaim. This may be the first and mildest of many things that they suffer for Christ and his kingdom.
The police made it seem like the problem lay in a few areas. First, the size of the church. They told the guys that if they had a small meeting in their house it wouldn’t be a problem (if they didn’t annoy the neighbors). Second, preaching. They didn’t interrupt the service in the singing, prayer, or even the Sunday school classes. They waited until a few minutes into CongWei’s message. Third are foreigners in leadership (and they’re not sure that there are any). Frustrated as I am that I wasn’t there for all this, the guys are convinced that it would have gone much worse if it had been me preaching.
So where do we go from here?
Our role as missionaries doesn’t change. We are there to train young Chinese preachers of the Gospel – part of that is modeling for them the leadership of a church in a reproducible form. That may get us kicked out someday – but if we’re not busy doing that, we might as well leave.
My missionary mentor reminded me that we’ve always known that something like this would happen someday. After all, that’s the point of testing the fences. You get shocked sometimes. We know now a little bit more about where the fence is. If we went five years in China without something like this happening, it might mean we’re not pushing hard enough! The Chinese guys remembered this, too. Guess I’m the only one who forgot!
As we make the decision about what our services will be like in the future, it’s important (as another of my missionary friends reminded me) that we don’t recklessly use the word ‘can’t.’ We had services in that daycare for four months and nothing happened. Then the guys had to be questioned for a couple hours. If we go to another part of the city and try again, who knows how long we’ll go before anything happens. How can we know that the penalty then wouldn’t be just as harmless as the one they just faced? Sometimes when we say ‘can’t’ what we really mean is ‘won’t’ – unwilling to pay the price. As the Lord grants us boldness, we will always attempt to be more open in our witness than we have been. I hope we err in that direction.
So please continue to pray that the church and its leaders will move forward in boldness and faith. We’ll keep updating with any news.