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China: Tears, hope for ‘lost’ city of 500,000

EDITORS’ NOTE: During the 2003 International Missions Emphasis, Nov. 30-Dec. 7, Southern Baptists will focus on the theme, “That All Peoples May Know Him: Follow God’s Purpose.” The national goal for this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $133 million, with a challenge goal of $150 million — every penny of which will go to send missionaries and support their ministries in such regions as southern China, the setting for the following story. The International Mission Board relies on the Lottie Moon offering for 50 percent of its annual income.

SOUTHERN CHINA (BP)–Sheer hills rise around a quiet Chinese town, framing the idyllic setting like a Chinese alpine village.

Often overlooked in a province known more for ethnic minority groups, the city of nearly 500,000 is often just a bus stop on a frequently traveled commercial route.

There is a park with a relaxed, festive ambience for strolling couples and groups of older women practicing aerobic dance at twilight. On sunny afternoons, men fly kites — pinpoints of color against the steep foothills of southern China.

It was to the top of one of these surrounding mountains that “Barnabas,”* a Baptist worker, brought four natives of the city — Christians he had met.


Barnabas describes the city like many other Chinese cities, in the sense that “it has existed within a spiritual vacuum for so long,” the result of a government preaching atheism to two generations of people.

A Buddhist temple and a Taoist monastery stand, “but nobody is believing in anything,” Barnabas says. “Religion exists only in form, almost nonexistent.

As they looked out over the city, Barnabas asked how many believers there were. The Chinese answered that there had been 1,000 believers, but about 700 of them “are with the Lord now.” Only 300 remain.

“Then I asked them: ‘How do you think God feels about only 300 believers out of 500,000 people?’ They dropped to their knees and began to weep,” Barnabas recalls. “I didn’t need to ask them how they felt about it — it was obvious by their weeping.”

Barnabas knelt and, with his Chinese friends, wept for the city. “Our tears were like a prayer,” he says. “This was our beginning.”


Shortly after this experience, the Gospel began moving in the quiet town — reaching into hearts that had been waiting to hear the truth.

As someone looking in from the outside and praying for a movement of God in the city, Barnabas’ enthusiasm is barely contained.

“People are believing the Gospel almost instantly — as soon as they hear it!” he says. “One lady, as soon as she watched the ‘JESUS’ film, believed in the Lord and started sharing with her family and friends.

“Another man believed and was delivered from alcoholism,” he says. “It wasn’t like in Western society where [many people] add religion as another component of life — accepting Christ became a whole new life for him, his reason for being.”

This particular man “heard the Gospel from another new believer, who had heard from someone else, who had heard it from [a visitor to the city]. It’s a chain reaction,” Barnabas says. “It’s like the New Testament; they don’t have to be told to share — they just want to.”


Barnabas and the Chinese Christians in the city know, however, that much more needs to be done, particularly in getting the Gospel further into the city’s growing business center. Through creative seed-sowing methods, dozens of business owners have read Christian materials and many have been looking for more.

Through self-initiative and curiosity, one particular business that came to have the Gospel “began studying the Gospel of Luke every morning,” Barnabas says, “two weeks before anyone ever came to talk with them. They were ready to believe and be trained. God is doing this work.”

“Mr. Zhou,”* who owns several restaurants, enjoys flying kites in the late afternoon. After dark, once the dinner crowd has moved on and the short, greasy tables are wiped clean, Zhou’s extended family gathers in their restaurant by the lake and eats their own evening meal.

In the warm restaurant, the family makes small talk and quick work of plates of vegetables, fried chicken parts and pickled meats. Zhou and his brothers use the arrival of a visitor to toast with cups of homemade liquor.

A bucket-sized bowl of broth is brought out and, with chopsticks, Zhou deftly flips rice noodles, raw eggs, uncooked bacon, chicken and onions into the bowl.

“Only in [this town] will you find noodles like this,” Zhou’s wife says proudly. Like most of the city’s residents, the family has never left, nor do they want to. “People are happy here. No one leaves and we don’t need to,” Zhou says.


Barnabas is confident that it is within God’s plan for people like Zhou and his family to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This will happen as the numbers of believers and house churches “grow to the point of reproducing and training their own leaders. This will be a self-sustaining movement within the house churches,” he says.

The people of this once-forgotten city will be reached as local Christians grow to love the Lord and desire the city to come to Him, Barnabas adds. A widespread church-planting movement lies first in the mountaintop experience Barnabas shared with his Chinese spiritual brothers as they wept, broken for the city.

“I think if we can stir — even within brand-new believers — a deep burden for the lostness of this city,” he says, “God will use that burden to motivate the [Chinese believers] to share the Gospel with everyone, and, ultimately, to other parts of this province, China, and even to other parts of the world.”
*Denotes that names have been changed to protect identity.
— For new believers for their continued boldness, as many Chinese believers consider it an honor to share in Christ’s suffering.
— That the Gospel will penetrate every segment of society. Many parts of this city are completely untouched by any Christian witness. Pray that Communist Party members, government leaders, hospital workers and all levels of business leaders will hear the Gospel.
— For indigenous churches to be born that will rapidly reproduce and reach the people of the city, and that these churches will have a vision to share the Gospel beyond the city.
— For people who distribute literature and Gospel packets, as well as individuals and teams to prayerwalk the city.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: UNAWARE, REDEEMING A MEMORY, and SOUL-SEARCHING CALL.

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