China #5: Grasping the Lord’s Abundant Grace
By Julia Sensenbrenner, for the team
On October 19, we left Nanjing and drove to Suzhou, where we visited Dushu Lake Church and enjoyed a delicious dinner of Suzhou specialties. We marveled at the beauty of the church, opened in 2010, with its commanding statue of Jesus and beautiful stained-glass windows, including many by He Qi, a Chinese artist who trained and taught in Nanjing before moving to the United States. We enjoyed meeting Pastor He and Pastor Thomas, two of the four pastors of the church, which offers three worship services each weekend, including a Sunday afternoon service oriented toward young people.
The next day, October 20, we visited Jiangyin, site of an early church and hospital established by George and Emma Worth, grandparents to our team member Julia Worth and great, great aunt and uncle to Betsy Wilcox. In 1895, Wilmington 1st Presbyterian Church sent out the newly married couple as missionaries to China. The amazing fruit of their labors--combined with the Lord’s ongoing providence--was clear in the Jiangyin Church and Jiangyin People’s Hospital. Both institutions grew out of the Worths’ planting of the city’s first church and first hospital, then called Gospel Hospital. Visiting the new Jiangyin Church, opened at Christmas in 2017, was a blessing, particularly as we joined hands with Pastor Mary and other church leaders in the spacious sanctuary to pray for the Lord to bless, use and expand this congregation. Our group’s doctor and nurse especially enjoyed the tour of the newly expanded People’s Hospital, led by Vice Director Heng Gao. With the addition of a beautiful, state-of-the-art building, which opened earlier this year, the hospital now ranks in the top 100 hospitals in China, a major accomplishment for a county-level hospital.
On this trip, our devotional focus on Ephesians 3: 20-21 serves to underscore the ongoing reminder that the Lord is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. During these two days, we have seen this demonstrated in:
The estimated 200,000 Christians in the 67 Three-Self churches in Suzhou;
The 150-200 annual increase in members at Dushu Lake Church, which has grown from 270 members when opened in 2010 to 2200 members in 2018;
The approximately 70 people who came forward at the Dushu Lake’s “revival” meeting altar call on Saturday night;
The gift of funding to finish the Jiangyin Church, construction of which was stalled for several years due to a lack of funds;
The unbelievable coincidence of Jiangyin’s Tourism magazine featuring an article about George Worth—and the improbable decision of Julia Worth to pick up a copy, even though the publication is written in Chinese;
The amazing inter-generational transmission of faith over the decades and even centuries. All the Chinese church leaders we have met tell a story of family members who came to faith one, two and even three generations prior. For me this is the most amazing story: the 10 years of church closings and severe persecution during the Cultural Revolution couldn’t stop believers from passing on their faith to the next generation, which ultimately has created a strong foundation for the rapidly growing Three-Self Church.