Fearful Thoughts About Coming to China
Before coming to China, we heard a lot about what life should be like in China. We were in Churches that never heard of a missionary to China to churches that supported several missionaries to China. We met people who had friends or family living in China and people who had just read stories on the internet about China. We also met people who had served and lived in China themselves. Everyone’s experience relating to China and how they viewed the current situation varied, therefore we received encouraging and yet not so encouraging news about our plans to move to this country.
One of the encouraging times was when a previous missionaries to China took me out to dinner and shared his story with me. He shared of his struggles and how God brought them through. He shared of the victories of how He was used of God to lead several to Christ. He then offered a helping hand through prayer with understanding of what we were about to enter in the months ahead. They were really a blessing to me. But not everyone was like that!
A lot of the time when people spoke to us about China it would cause fear to come knocking on the door. It was a battle I had to learn to deal with over the next several months (I am thankful for a pastor and mentor who helped me keep the right focus).
I first met opposition when I called pastors to book meetings. Some pastor’s would tell me crazy stories they heard about China. They seemed to”know” about China and unwilling to learn about China. Here are some of the oppositions:
- A pastor told me I couldn’t do what I was claiming, he even called to ask friends, he wasn’t comfortable having us in because of it.
- A pastor told me that I can’t…(be a church planter in China).
- A pastor told me they can’t support a missionary to China because it is against the government and you have to lie to get into the country.
- A pastor told me that I was too open on the internet and there was no way the government would let me into the country once I got to the border.
But it wasn’t just from pastor’s over the phone. It came from many other people, people we met in person, over email, on Facebook, or random phone calls. They would tell us:
- Don’t be open on the internet, use Facebook, or anything like that.
- Make sure your name doesn’t show up in google, especially with anything religious or about China.
- Don’t use Skype in China because they screen your calls and know what you’re saying.
- Don’t download anything on Chinese servers because they all include spyware.
- Your telephones are tapped in China so you have to be careful what you say.
- Speak in code words, don’t openly talk about the ministry.
- People follow you around and will constantly be watching you.
- Be careful what you write in emails because they are scanned by the government.
When people are constantly telling you things like this, it begins to cause fear to set in. When your life is going to be under complete surveillance, it causes you to act and think differently. Especially when the next thing happens…
Fearful Thoughts Continued…
When people are constantly telling you things like this, it begins to cause fear to set in. When your life is going to be under complete surveillance, it cause your to act different. Especially when the next thing happens:
A guy calls my sending church and spoke with my pastor about me. He claimed that he worked in Washington DC for the government. He knew through some special intelligence that the Chinese Government was downloading information from google and they would have all my information because of my website. This would prevent me from going to China etc. Of course, he wouldn’t give all of his details, since the information he was sharing, he wasn’t suppose to be sharing. Weird!
Another story I remember from deputation went like this: I was at a church and a man started to share some top-secret information with me. He was nervously looking around the room to make sure no one else could hear him as he whispered to me about a ministry that was in China. He wasn’t suppose to tell anyone but thought the information might help me. He was obviously very nervous about the information and how top-secret it was. The fear factor was taking over and he wasn’t going to or even apart of the ministry in China.
There are so many other stories and things that have happened. But we are in China now
, learning the language, and seeing God do great things. The stories haven’t stopped (though almost all of what we were told can be easily debunked). People are still saying many of the same things and even more so. People are still talking to us in code over the phone, email and in person. Some act as if you should take extreme caution in who you witness to and invite to church. But for us things have been different. We have been able to work with a team who wants to see God do great things and who are boldly living out the Gospel. We have been less fearful since coming to China, but we still have to keep a handle on fear and not let it creep into our lives. I read this quote the other day on twitter which said:
“Boldness isn’t about being comfortable with what’s outside of me, but being propelled by the grace and power of the One who lives inside me.” via @PaulTripp
Hearing all these stories and everything people told us didn’t cause us to be comfortable but very uncomfortable. But we can keep going forward because of being propelled by the grace and power of Jesus who lives inside us!
The same day I read this quote from the World Evangelism Quote of the Day by Hudson Taylor:
“China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women. The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, [and] souls first and foremost in everything and at every time–even life itself must be secondary.“
At the end of the day, we are missionaries serving in communist China. We didn’t sign up for an easy job. Persecution is something that we might have to face one day, but we aren’t going to live in fear to avoid it… “We’re missionaries, it’s an occupational hazard.”
Stories & Rumors of Stories
Through out our short time here in China, we realize that a lot of what happens is interpreted and seen through the lens of “our purpose for being here.” We hear many stories of things taking place and we live many of the stories. But what do you do when things like this happen:
- Police want to meet up with you or your friends for unknown reasons.
- Your name and church was supposedly turned over to the cops by someone mad at you or acquaintances.
- Hear stories of persecution in your country taking place in other parts of the country.
- Others spread fear to you and your wife.
- People reject your invitation to church.
- You offer a police officer a Bible and he rejects it.
- Stories of “suspicion” start to fly around.
- Cops seem to be on the street more, you see them more often around your place.
- There is a reported “crackdown” for house churches in the internet news.
- A police officer looks through your Pastor training resources.
What should you do? Stop? Move Locations? “Take a Break”? Leave the Country?
Well everyone man will have his own answer depending on the severity of the situation, but for the most part many should just keep on doing what you have always done. We have learned this from our team and time here. We didn’t try any crazy stunts because we though our time is short, nor did we run into hiding and drop everything. Stories and rumor of stories are going to be a constant way of life for us, so our reaction to them needs to be fairly consistent. We can’t run at every hint of persecution nor can we stand on the street corner with a bullhorn preaching our (supposedly) last words. We have to trust the Lord and not stop. The stories and things that have happened, for the most part, just pass on by and there is no effect on our end. The preaching of the gospel should never stop when persecution starts but should be proclaimed in spite of the end result.
Questions to Ask
I always like to know the details of a story. I want to know more than just someone’s perception or interpretation of what happened. Everyone looks at things through their own lenses so things can easily be looked at different. I think this is especially true when hearing stories of persecution. I thought of some questions to ask missionaries and ask ourselves when stories arise.
Questions to ask those involved:
- What was the main reason for your problems or persecution?
- Did you or your family feel in danger?
- Where you forced to do anything?
- Did you make anyone mad that could have reported you?
- What were the consequences?
- What was your ministry like? How will this change your ministry?
- What kind of place where you meeting in? (if involved with Church Planting)
- On a scale of 1-10 how bold/open where you being?
- If you are not allowed to return, are you satisfied with what you accomplished?
- Where the believers in any danger?
- Did the police act unkind and hateful?
- Was there any warning signs?
- Were you involved in anything political?
- Does this seem to be a widespread thing or do you think it was an isolated case?
- Was there a raid, crackdown, or interruption of any of the services?
- Did the internet, email, or a website have anything to do with it that you know of?
- Do you feel you were under surveillance? Phone tapped? Spies in the services?
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is it an isolated case of persecution? Why or Why not?
- Is the persecution caused because of the Gospel or political involvement? Why?
- After evaluating what happened in the story, does the problems seem to be with the ministry or was it something else? Visa? Job? Money? Bad Relations?
I think the first set of questions can help understand the story and what really happened, where as, the second list of questions can help you make a conclusion about the story. I have found that after asking many of these questions, I get a better understanding of what “really” happened and see the situation less dangerous than original presented.
This post was originally posted as a 4 part series on www.chinaramblings.com and was reposted here by the original author.