Every mirror offers a new slant to reality and after a while one begins to get lost in the conflicting perceptions of the same truth.
What will you change?
This is a question that has come up from namely an American audience, but also other fellow co-workers in China. Sometimes this question is handed to us in a mild form of rebuke for possessing a bolder approach to missions in China. Often, our open use internet including this blog is flagged by our critics (not by the Chinese police) as being the culprit of our deportation.
So I am writing a response for those young men who desire to serve God in China. Really, who or what is to blame for us getting kicked out of China, and what would we do different?
Deportation Through Our Eyes
Firstly, we knew being deported was and is a real possibility for anyone church planting in China. It is illegal. For us, there are some things about missions and ministry that are not negotiable, like doing ministry out of a local church body. If there is not a local church body, then one must be planted before God’s biblical requirements are met to do anymore Gospel ministry. In China, there is no such thing as a missionary visa that will allow you to start churches. But there is enough room in China that will allow somebody to begin starting churches and training men. It can be done, it has been done. The four churches had seven years of history before we were expelled. Our experience tells us that is enough time to plant Gospel seeds in men who will withstand the sun of persecution and still be found faithful.
We do not consider deportation as failure. But I need to clarify what I mean. If we were deported for anything other than preaching the Gospel, I would head back to the drawing board to recalculate where we failed, but that is not the case. Our expulsion, I promise you, is not the result of deception on our part, nor was it because we failed to fulfill some condition in a contractual agreement, nor our presence on the internet. If deportation or incarceration is equivalent to failure then Paul was the worst failure on the planet. So if its for the Gospel, don’t worry about it. Paul didn’t.
Joy that Cannot be Manufactured
Paul died a happy man because of his spiritual sons like Timothy that he had trained. Paul left all for the sake of growing Christ’s church and raising up sons in the ministry like Timothy. Paul in a Roman prison cell, a direct result of his obedience to the Gospel, expressed his thankfulness and joy over Timothy. The Christian faith was born in a place where it was illegal and it has always flourished in places of severe adversity. Real joy and faith cannot be taken by man, because it does not come from man.
I feel like my time had been cut short in Harbin, but God blessed our time in Harbin. We are much more confident to do ministry today than the first day we landed in China. God used us while in language school to mature a young man to spiritual faith. The Lord did the same for my wife who experienced real ministry teaching young ladies in our home. The experiences in Harbin has persuaded us the ministry that was done was blessed without question. After losing our home and most of our material possessions as result, we have great joy from what we left in Harbin and what we have in Christ. Yes, our God can do that.
If It Aint Broke….
Why under heaven would we want to change something that God mandates and blesses? Someone says, “because of your presence, the poor Chinese people are in danger.” They were it a lot more danger before they got saved. Perhaps you think it’s better to leave to the wrath of a Holy God? “You guys got kicked out because of putting stuff on the internet.” We spent more than enough hours in a police station and years on the field to know that our presence on the internet had nothing to do with it. The police knew everything about us and the churches. They knew our names, phone numbers, and where the churches were located. They were happy to brag on their wealth of knowledge about us and how they got it. Nothing of our internet presence was ever mentioned. They did not know about our websites or blogs. It never came up in the interrogation sessions we sat through. If we had not started churches and if we had not done any ministry, we would still be there today. The verdict was clear, Jake and I are out because we are preachers of the Gospel.
Why blog? We want to help others serve the Lord. I love to fish and I love it when someone who is catching the fish tell me how their doing it. Friends, they are biting in China, but there is a price to pay to catch them. But let me say this when about our blogs and internet presence. Unlike church planting and training men, a blog is negotiable. We would take it down if we thought it would of helped our cause in anyway. If China had the persecution such as the kind in N. Korea or in some Muslim countries, our approach to church planting would look different, but it would remain a church planting ministry.
I do not want to give the impression that our spirit is unteachable and shut down to outside advice. Even negative criticism is considered if it merits any true and thoughtful provocation. We are not likely to bend to the non-negotiables, but we’re all ears to everything outside of it.
Back To the Drawing Board?
Missions doesn’t need to be reinvented for every new generation that comes on the scene. Again, I am speaking of the non-negotiables of the Gospel mandate: Discipling men, church planting, being unashamed of the Gospel, boldness in preaching. Expect more of the same from us, church planting that is. Wherever the Lord might open a door for the Gospel, Lord willing, we will be over-joyed to repeat Harbin a thousand times over.