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Beijing: A city of opportunity

BEIJING, China (BP)–The sign at the park’s entrance said much. It was the social contract for Beijing.

It admonished the Chinese to cherish the young and to show respect for the elderly, to work well and hard, to live in harmony with all, and to be broad-minded and open-minded.

With 18.2 million people crowding the city, Beijing’s 500 parks are filled daily with people who are approachable.

Early in the morning, groups gather for Tai Chi, muscle-strengthening exercises tied to the martial arts. They also gather to play sports and musical instruments, to walk, think and engage each other in conversation.

Scores of people visit the parks to escape the busyness of the city. The beautiful, intentionally landscaped parks are a great contrast to the bustling city streets, which congest the air with stifling smog.

The smog also is due to an overabundance of industry, especially active now in preparation for the 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing in August.

Modern buildings overwhelm the city’s hutongs, where for centuries communities gathered together. All over the city’s landscape, new buildings are being built, new subway lines developed, and people everywhere are preparing to be in the world’s limelight.

Underlying it all is a sense of God’s movement, an underground growing interest in spiritual matters. For years, the communist government forbade any expression of faith, but there is a sense that God is at work, even as foreigners are given the opportunity to gather.

Passport-carrying foreigners may freely worship together in closely monitored worship services. Despite the surveillance, there is a collective sigh of relief as foreign Christians gather to take off their masks, worship the True God and pour out their hearts freely for an hour a week.

In these services, the presence of the Lord is palatable. There appears to be no complacent Christians. These Christians understand what it means to offer their lives sacrificially in an environment where they may be forced to leave if they are found proselytizing local residents. They know the difficulty of reaching people who for years were not allowed to pursue matters of the faith and who fear losing their own lives if they do.

Yet, the foreign Christians gather to celebrate the growing population of Chinese Christians. They marvel at the way they experience God moving in the nation.

One Christian, unnamed for security reasons, explained with tears in her eyes, “It is the greatest feeling to explain to a new believer, ‘There are millions of Christian brothers and sisters in your new family. They are all over this city.'”

Among the Christians in China, there is a deep faith, an exhilarating, purposeful relationship with God and His church. Though exciting, the experience saddened the American ministry leaders who visited.

“I don’t want to bring the American church here,” a pastor from the United States said, expressing concern about bringing the Western version of Christianity to China. “The Jesus I experience here, I want to bring to America.”

He explained, “I get to go home to be on staff of a church of apathetic believers who don’t want to be with lost people.”

Understanding his concern, an unnamed Christian man who now lives in Beijing said his decision to move to China was crucial. “I remember asking myself, ‘Do I want to spend the rest of my good working years doing the same Bible studies or do I want to live as the disciples did?'”

Though he had a successful business in America, he and his wife opted to move in order to live out their motto: “Making an eternal difference in the hearts of others.”

They have the opportunity every day to make such a difference.

A Christian American leader who visited them in Beijing pondered why he should bring Western Christians to China. “Why, if I have someone unwilling to do something in their Jerusalem [their local context based on the Acts 1:8 model], why would I want to take them to the end of the earth?” he asked with great concern.

“Because foreign missions is a catalyst for your Judea and Samaria,” the Beijing worker replied, explaining that teams who minister in China come back to America with great excitement, ultimately rejuvenating their local church ministries.

Another Christian American leader agreed, encouraging the Americans to bring teams to Asia where God is at work.

“God calls and challenges us to join with Him in His work,” he said. “Because He is truly at work here, there are great opportunities for your church members…. As they come and serve here, they cannot flee from God anymore. “They cannot be complacent anymore. Let God use them as His instrument. Where there’s the greatest darkness, there’s the potential for the greatest light. Give people the courage and the faith to join with Him and say, ‘I will walk with you, Father.’

“It will be wonderful,” he said.
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • Lee Taylor*