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A Faithful Steward’s Freedom

Upon receiving the invitation to write this article, my heart immediately went through introspection. I examined my inner condition as to whether I am a faithful steward and if I am indeed free in the stewardship dimensions of my life.

In 1904, the Miao ethnic group in southwest China was at the bottom of society and its people were slaves to another Yi minority group. That same year, Samuel Pollard, an English missionary sent by God to China from Britain, prayed to know God’s will for him. One morning Pollard found many Big Flowery Miao standing outside his door requesting: “Teach us how to read and write.” In the beginning, there were only 10 people. Then the group grew to 30, then 100, and later to more than 1,000. Pollard’s house could no longer hold so many people, so he moved his missionary station from Zhaotong to Shimenkan—a place the locals described as so poor that even a worm would not live there. Using 5£, Pollard led the Miao, with their desire for God’s love and light, to build a simple church called Wu Bang Fang (Five Pound Room). Five thousand people were baptized at the completion of the church building. Not only that, he also built a Miao village school, invented a written language for the Miao and translated the Bible into their language. The Miao script has since been recognized by the United Nations as the “Pollard Script” and is still in use today.

Pollard promoted education in the Miao villages. In Wumeng, he constructed the first up-to-standard Chinese running track and field stadium, the first swimming pool with separate male and female lanes, the first football team, the first leprosarium in the nation, and the first hospital in southwest China. Most important was the general rise in educational level. A census done after the war in 1946 indicated that out of 100,000 Han, 2.19 were college students. Out of 100,000 Miao, 10 were college students (primarily from Shimenkan district).[1]

In July 1915, a terrible typhoid epidemic spread to Shimenkan and many Miao came down with the disease. A cave on a cliff under the school was used as a temporary quarantine and treatment center. There Pollard watched over and cared for the patients. Unfortunately, in the process he was also infected. He insisted on saving the limited supply of medicine for the villagers and did not get well. On September 15, he passed away at the age of 51. The villagers donated money for the construction of his grave that sits on a small hill overlooking Shimenkan. Since then, the older folks in Shimenkan have asked to be buried beside Pastor Pollard.

Samuel Pollard’s grave (on the left)

What motivated Pollard to willingly leave home for a remote Miao village that resulted in the enlivening of a people? What caused Pollard to give up his life willingly? Pollard and God had a very intimate relationship, so, through God’s eyes, he saw the preciousness of the souls of the Miao over his own life.

Dr. Rodin speaks about the four dimensions of relationships for which we are created.[2] They are: our relationship to God; to our self; to our neighbor; and to creation. When we live as faithful stewards, we are free to have healthy relationship in all four dimensions.

Pollard showed by his life of selfless service that there is only one kingdom—God’s kingdom. He was the ultimate steward serving God with all his heart and mind—a free steward.

In 2000, three years after becoming a new believer, God called me into a unique ministry in southwest China—to found and manage an international, Chinese, cultural exchange, arts center. This center has two galleries, a stage for live performances, and a café that allows people to sit and converse freely. It serves those in the arts or those who are accomplished academics who erroneously believe that arts and culture are the highest religion of the masses. It also serves those who believe they are worthless because they come from the lowest social strata of minority groups.

At my cultural center, we believe that God has absolute authority and sovereignty over all areas of life. Genesis chapters one and two reveal that the origin of arts and culture is from God, so we established a vision of stimulating reflection on human worth and values expressed in a variety of artistic forms. Through the arts (music, dance, art, literature, and theater), the artists and audience/spectators are ultimately brought back to God. In past years, more and more artists and intellectuals have begun to reflect on the meaning of life. Many people have accepted Christ and have become Christians. We have witnessed the transformation of many hundreds, confirming that even cultural revival is part of the kingdom of God.  

In my sixteen years of ministry I have seen God’s greatness and mercy. The entire experience of knowing God is like Jacob’s wrestling with God and holding onto him at the river Jabbok. Though a mark was left on his body, Jacob could only hold onto God and surrender to him. The basis for our experience of knowing God more fully is our understanding and desire for growth in the four dimensions mentioned above.

A second teaching that is important for us regards two kingdoms. We tend to describe life as one-kingdom people, where everything belongs to God, and he is Lord over everything in our lives. However, there is another kingdom—the one we build for ourselves. In our kingdom, we put the things we like to control. Here is where we play lord instead of allowing God to be in charge. It is the source of our fears and anxieties. We must stop playing lord over our own kingdoms and return to being one-kingdom people.

When we are fully confident of the total victory Christ secured on the cross, we can leave our kingdom and throne to become part of God’s kingdom. Then we will be stewards in body and mind; we will walk with God, willingly and joyfully serving only one master, the triune God.

Where the master is, there the faithful steward is also. A faithful steward knows his master’s mind and freely uses all the resources entrusted to him to grow his master’s business. Then, at harvest time, master and steward rejoice together.

Pollard and other faithful stewards of God are like the cloud of witnesses surrounding us. We are to lay aside all the encumbrances that so easily entangle us and work diligently until all God’s creatures have freedom and exalt him with resounding praises. (see Hebrews 12:1)

Shimenkan Christian Church
Header image credit: Lang De by Michael Mooney via Flickr.
Samuel Pollard’s grave and the Shimenkan church pictures courtesy of Mr. ZhiHuang,
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Helen Wu

Helen Wu

Helen Wu came to Christ at the age of 22 and immediately began serving in the church. In 1999, she and a Scandinavian missionary established the Christian Cultural Center in a border area of China, where she and her husband have lived for most of the time. As young artists …View Full Bio