China #2: 20th Anniversary Celebration of Jiangsu Theological Seminary

Jeff Ritchie, Mission Advocate 

We arrived in Nanjing early Monday evening and were greeted by another long-time friend of The Outreach Foundation, the Rev. David Shi (Chinese name: Shi Li). David got us checked in and deliciously fed, then told us to get a good rest so that we could enjoy the Jiangsu Theological Seminary 20th anniversary celebration the next day.

When we arrived at Jiangsu Seminary Tuesday morning, we saw parked cars and busses line up and down the street leading to the seminary. Something was about to happen!

The day began with a two-hour worship that included communion. I gave congratulatory greetings, and Juan Sarmiento presented the seminary with a portfolio of photographs of the minority peoples of Yunnan Province in the southwestern part of China. The photographer was David Bridgman, who had been born in Jiangsu Province to missionary parents in 1932 and who traveled extensively to Yunnan in his retirement (Click here to learn more about him).

Preceding and following the worship service we continued to meet people from past trips to China. Jimmy Quinn had downloaded all the photographs of his previous trips to China onto his phone and thus became a big hit with those Chinese friends we met at the anniversary. Some of these friends were now in major leadership roles in the Provincial Christian Council, in local churches, or in Jiangsu Theological Seminary.

One part of the celebration was especially meaningful for all who attended. A Chinese pastor from Hong Kong had spent the last ten years collecting crosses and photographs of crosses from all over the world. For the 20th anniversary celebration she donated part of her collection to Jiangsu Seminary to be a permanent exhibition on the campus. Her hope is that the people of Jiangsu Province can attain a deeper appreciation of the meaning of the cross of Christ for their faith.

The effect of the exhibit was powerful on us as we examined crosses from many parts of the world as well as crosses found in China from as far back as the first century A.D. Particularly inspiring to me was a cross from a church in Jiangsu Province which had been destroyed in a typhoon just two years ago. Out of the despair of that church’s destruction came hope as believers from neighboring churches banded together to rebuild the sanctuary.

During dinner the Rev. Zhang Ke Yun, President of the seminary and head of the Church in Jiangsu Province, came by our table and spoke of the impact of The Outreach Foundation over the past twenty years:

You have been good friends with Jiangsu Theological Seminary. When we needed to enlarge our dorm capacity, you helped us. When we needed books to upgrade our library, you supported us. You have come here often, and you have graciously hosted us in the United States. You are the continuing legacy of our Presbyterian heritage which we value. Please come often and sense your heritage in the churches of our province.

We left the celebration humbled by these kind words and very grateful for our 20-year partnership with the Jiangsu Provincial Christian Council and the Jiangsu Theological Seminary.