07/09/2016: Mission Tales
As a pastor in China, I travel often, encouraging believers, praying and studying with new interests, visiting the sick and performing baptisms. In my travels, I’m blessed to hear many stories of how God’s work is advancing. I know you’ll be blessed to read a few accounts of the Holy Spirit’s work in my homeland!
Last August, at my home church in the Shaanxi Province of China, we had a weekend celebration to commemorate 100 years of Adventism in our province. It was a special time of reminiscing for the older church members, some of whom had attended the Seventh-day Adventist school before the Chinese Revolution of 1949.
At the 100-year anniversary service, I had a chance to visit with Brother Yang, whom I had had the privilege of baptizing three years earlier in August 2012. Brother Yang had been the director of the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, when Christians were severely persecuted. Like Saul of old, this former persecutor had joined ranks with Christ’s people.
Before his baptism, I asked Brother Yang, “Who preached the gospel to you?”
“Pastor Zhang!” he replied.
How could it be? Pastor Zhang had passed away 20 years before, in 1992. “How did you hear the gospel from Pastor Zhang?” I asked Brother Yang.
“It was 40 years ago, in 1972,” he explained. “Of course, the church was closed then, and my party was persecuting the believers. One day, I ordered Pastor Zhang to come to my office and explain his faith to me. Pastor Zhang came and testified to me about God. That day I told Pastor Zhang, ‘One day I will be a member of your church.’” The former communist smiled. “Pastor Zhang was shocked!”
Now, three years after his baptism, Brother Yang told me that since he had accepted our health message and given up drinking, smoking and eating pork, his health had greatly improved. “I give thanks to God,” he said. “Although my wife died years ago and I live by myself, God is with me. I do not feel lonely with Him.”
After the 100th anniversary celebration, I traveled to Shi Yan City to visit friends. While there, I met a middle-aged businessman who sells organic produce to shops in a bigger city. I talked with him about our health message and praised him for providing people with healthy food. Then my friends and I shared with him about Jesus and asked him, “Are you willing to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?”
“Yes, I am willing,” he answered. I encouraged him to read more about Jesus in the Bible, and he promised to do so. Before leaving the city, I arranged with the local pastor for church workers to visit this man and study the Bible with him.
One evening in September, I boarded a train to Xi An. Upon finding my seat, I opened my computer to do some work. However, when I heard a lady behind me preaching Jesus to the other passengers, I immediately closed my computer and listened to her message. This 60-some-year-old lady turned out to be a medical missionary who knows how to give prescriptions for Chinese herbs! Quite a few passengers came to ask her for treatment and consultation, and she helped them all free of charge. When she finished speaking with a lady who had rheumatic arthritis, I gave the patient a massage. As more people came we worked together to help them, all the while appealing to them to believe in Jesus.
As we worked, the lady told me her story. She was born with a congenital heart disease, and her mother passed away while she was still a young girl. When her father remarried, her stepmother neglected her and treated her harshly. When she was 14 her stepmother abandoned her, saying her heart disease would never be healed and that she would be a curse to any family.
Even as a castaway, she still had one family member who loved her: her grandma whom she had gone to church with as a young girl. Now, her blind grandma along with two aged sisters in the church fasted and prayed for her for a whole day, and her heart disease was healed! After seeing God’s power and care for her, she couldn’t help but follow Him and be baptized.
She learned herbal prescriptions from her grandma and even had the opportunity to study with a medical doctor for six years. Although she had attended school for just one year and could not read or write, she knew the uses of herbs by memory.
In time she married and had three healthy children. She told me she is very thankful for God’s leading in her life. Because of what He has done for her, she loves to help others and share the gospel with them. When we got off the train, my new missionary friend and I exchanged telephone numbers and promised to keep in touch.
Later that month, I took an overnight train to Ba Zhong City in Si Chuan Province for my third mission trip to Si Chuan. Preachers and leaders from the area came to study with us, and I taught them Bible study techniques.
There were no Seventh-day Adventist believers in this area until 2003. Then a sister named Huang, who had accepted the Seventh-day Adventist message in Shanghai, came home to Ba Zhong City. Locating a huge Sunday church that held services on both Saturday and Sunday, Sister Huang was able to preach the Seventh-day Adventist message there on Sabbath. When the believers heard it, some of them accepted the truth. However, they soon faced persecution from their former brethren. Eventually they had to leave that church and rent their own facility.
In 2012, another group of over 20 believers accepted our message and began keeping the Sabbath. Today there are over 50 believers in Ba Zhong! On the Sabbath during my September 2015 visit, we had a baptism and communion service. I baptized five ladies: a former Buddhist, a backslidden Adventist, two former Sunday-keeping Christians and a previously bitter, non-religious woman whose heart God had changed. Each one had a special testimony to share!
On my next journey, I visited a struggling family and studied the Bible with them for two days. The wife told me how she had carried bitterness in her heart against her husband and mother-in-law for many years, but had recently reconciled with them both. As we prayed and studied together, the woman told her mother-in-law, who had severe liver disease, that if she had no burden of sin she could see Jesus soon. On the morning before I left, the mother-in-law went to her rest trusting in the Lord. The couple was very thankful for time we had shared together.
In another place I visited a brother suffering from lymphatic cancer. Although he had been a very rich director in the Communist Party, he was now bankrupt and nearly friendless. Our sisters from the church had visited him in the hospital almost every day until finally he and his wife accepted Jesus. The morning after I visited him, he died peacefully in the Lord. I felt very thankful that God had given me one last opportunity to pray with him.
We held his funeral service at the local Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many of his relatives and friends came to pay their last respects, and we took this opportunity to share gospel booklets with them. Soon after, the man’s son and daughter-in-law came to worship God with us.
I am so thankful to see the work going forward in my country. When I preach in our churches, Christians from other denominations often join us. When I share gospel messages over the web, I see believers from many different churches tuning in. The work in China is advancing because ordinary Christians are doing their best to share. Will you do the same in your home country?
By Pastor Mark Li, a graduate of Hartland College working in China.