China #3: A City Church, a National Seminary, and a Global NGO Founded by Christians

Day 2 in Nanjing 

Ten bleary-eyed new arrivals joined the Outreach team for our second day in Nanjing. They had arrived in Nanjing well after midnight from their long trip but were determined not to let fatigue stop them from seeing what God is doing in China.

Our first stop was Sheng Xun Church, a beautiful, 5000-seat church located in a new area of Nanjing which was the site of the 2013 Pan-Asian Games and the 2014 Youth Olympics.

The senior pastor, Rev. Zhao, welcomed us to the church. She pointed out that the sanctuary is shaped like a cup overflowing with living water. There are seven entrances to the church, also symbolizing the free access of God’s grace. One enters the main sanctuary and sees the “8 Blessings,” which is the Chinese name for the Beatitudes, inscribed in Chinese and English on the circular walls.

The church shares the blessings of God through its three services, one of which is held in English for foreign residents. It also blesses the community through a medical outreach in which doctors from the church volunteer to do health screening in rural areas. As we heard the pastors describe the church life and ministry, they blessed us with their sense of joy and centeredness in God amidst the many demands of ministry.

From the Sheng Xun Church we drove to the national seminary of the Church in China, Nanjing Jinling Union Theological Seminary. This seminary is also located in a new area of Nanjing, one of the “university towns” in this city of 9,000,000. Dr. Wen Ge, professor of systematic theology, hosted us for lunch. With him were several faculty and students, and we had a delightful time getting to know these new friends.

We toured the beautiful chapel which was dedicated a year ago. Shaped like an ark on one side and like the square cap which graduates wear on the other, it symbolizes the integration of study and ministry. Before leaving the campus, we saw a deeply meaningful sculpture of Christ on the cross. Designed by a student, it depicted the crucified Christ looking down on the cities of the world with a reference from Philippians 1: “For me to live is Christ.”

Our team then divided three ways. Some went to the 500-year-old city wall built during the Ming Dynasty. Others returned to the hotel to overcome their jet lag. The rest of us visited the Amity Foundation, a non-governmental organization founded by Christians in 1985 to print the Bible for the church and to serve the wider Chinese society through health, development, English, and social services.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a long history with Amity, and The Outreach Foundation had a key partnership with it in a community-based health program in Shandong Province a decade ago. Our visit today was providential as they have a new General Secretary, Ms. Ling Chunxiang.

Amity today is deeply involved in building the capacity of Chinese churches to engage in social and community ministries. It has an increasing global footprint with offices in Switzerland and Ethiopia. We were reminded that the strongest Presbyterian connection to Amity in the past had been through the English teachers we sent, and we are urged to send teachers again for 1- and 2-year terms or for summer programs and “gap year” experiences for young adults. Mr. Qiu, the outgoing General Secretary, concluded our time by underscoring how important it is for Chinese and American Christians to build bridges of peace in a time of tension between our two governments. He hopes that a renewed connection with Amity will be one of those places where bridges can be built.

We left Amity challenged to renew a significant part of our recent Presbyterian heritage in China and grateful that one of our team members, the Rev Choon Shik Lim, was already creating multilateral global connection with Amity that involves the PCUSA, churches in Korea, and Christians in China. In less than two weeks Choon will be with some of the same colleagues we had just seen for a diaconal training program in Hong Kong for young adults from three denominations in Korea and young adults selected by Amity from the Church in China.

Our team reunited for a banquet at a local restaurant, and afterwards, a few of us met a long-time friend of Jeff’s, the Rev. Bao Jia Yuan, who shared about his years of service to the Church in China as director of training and Bible distribution. It was a long, full day, but our cup was overflowing.