Thursday, June 25: Reporting from China About Our First Day
by Rob Weingartner
What a joy it is to be in this place together, listening and learning. With plane issues in the U.S., our group ended up arriving on three different flights instead of one, but everyone did make it in, if a bit tired from the long journey.
History and context are especially important here in China in understanding the life of religion in society, the birth and growth of the church, the hard days of the Cultural Revolution and the explosive growth of the church since congregations were allowed to reopen. Yesterday, Wednesday, we walked through some of that history passing by Tienanmen Square, touring the Forbidden City and traversing a bit of the Great Wall. We were grateful for our guide, Helen, who led us through the day.
Today, Thursday, we were richly blessed by two visits: The Haidian Church is a large congregation with a rich ministry in an area of Beijing that features leading universities and many tech companies. Members of the pastoral staff, including Senior Pastor Wu and his wife, Pastor Ruth, shared with us about their work. There are 10,000 members with another 5,000 participants. They have six services each Sunday and 58 meeting places, and while there are 17 pastors serving the church and its preaching places, much of the work of the church is carried out by 700 lay leaders who receive training each Wednesday at the church. Pastor Wu, who is completing a D.Min. at Fuller, has a special burden for strengthening the discipleship ministries of the congregation. It was interesting to see a group of members copying the Bible in beautiful Chinese script. Members are united around God’s Word as they come together to copy the Bible by hand every six months!
After a delicious meal with our new friends, we flew to Xi’an where we were welcomed by Brother Wei, vice-chair of the Shaanxi Provincial Christian Council. He shared with us a beautiful testimony of his family’s deep commitment to the Christian faith, including donating their homes to be used for the church. Their village of Yong Ping (“Everlasting Peace”) is about three hours’ drive from Xi’an. Of the 1,400 villagers, about 150 now come to the church, more on special days. During recent months, with the need for more space, church volunteers have constructed class and small meeting rooms on land given to the church by the government. Really! In the next week or so a contractor will begin work on a new sanctuary, even as the people pray for the resources that are needed. Please join us in praying for this project.
Haidian and Yong Ping, a large church and a small church, each living as salt and light in this part of the world. What a joy to meet these followers of Jesus!
Grace and Peace
Rob Weingartner for the team