China #6: Humility
by Laurie Denham, National Presbyterian Church, Washington DC
October 21, our group split the day between Jiangyin and Suzhou. Those of us in Suzhou spent most of the day at Lion Mountain Faith Church with the delegation from University Place Presbyterian Church (UPPC) in Takoma, WA. We arrived at the church to discover they were having their annual rummage sale to benefit the surrounding community. As we entered the sanctuary, I immediately observed a wonderful diversity of age and socio-economic status in the congregation. This is a church that truly serves their community.
The service began with contemporary worship music that we were able to join in as they played familiar tunes. Pastor Mike Moffett from UPCC preached on the gospel of Mark 9:17-20, centered on faith and doubt. Our colleague Rev. Chris Wang, a graduate of Princeton Seminary who returned to Suzhou to serve his region, interpreted. The most moving part of the service was at the end when the first-time visitors were invited to the front to introduce themselves and tell how they were led to church this day. The stories had all the elements we experience from being invited by a friend, to having a heavy heart and being there to seek hope.
The highlight of the day was our conversation during lunch and fellowship with the founding pastor, Rev. Gu. Thanks to Julia and Choon’s fluency in Mandarin, he began to share his story. The congregation started as a home church 17 years ago with 35 people. As they grew, he realized to continue at the pace they were growing and for sustainability, he needed to register with the TPSM/CCC. He was told he must first rent a building to show credibility, and the group found a faux chapel in a former amusement park. The church grew, and he was then allowed to register. During the ten-year period it took to build the church, Pastor Gu took no salary, just living expenses. The church is now thriving. He is the head pastor to this 3,000-member church with five staff. They have recently planted two offsite churches and have a Saturday program for children of migrant workers.
His prayer request is for he and his staff is to be compassionate in serving their brothers and sister in Christ. Pastor Gu’s management philosophy is to care for his staff, so that they can care for lay leaders, who in turn care for the congregation. His humility and compassion were evident.
In reflecting on this day, I am reminded that our Lord’s presence is consistent around the world, that our service in his kingdom calls us to humble ourselves before him.