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Back in China

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)

Our recent journey back to China was nothing short of remarkable. After a four-year hiatus due to the challenges posed by the covid pandemic, we received a heartfelt invitation to reconnect with pastors and church leaders in China. As we stepped onto the vibrant streets of Shanghai, we were greeted warmly by Rev. Wu Wei, the esteemed president of the China Christian Council and their Overseas Department. Accompanying me were dedicated individuals: Charlie and Sharon Li, China Partner board members, and Rev. Frank Wang, China Partner’s Director of Training. In these moments, Rev. Wu expressed gratitude for China Partner’s unwavering ministry spanning over three and a half decades. We eagerly anticipate the unfolding chapters of our enduring friendship and eagerly await to witness how God will continue to use the church in China for his glory.

Our journey took us to Nanjing, where we had the privilege of meeting with Rev. Zhang, president of the Jiangsu Theological Seminary, and Rev. Shi, a devoted pastor in Jiangsu province. At the iconic St. Paul’s Church, a masterpiece built in 1922, I had the honor of delivering a brief message during the Sunday service. Prior to the service, we met with the venerable senior pastor, Rev. Tan, whose connection with China Partner dates back to 1991, when he attended our inaugural pastoral training seminar as a seminary student. For three decades, he has faithfully served his congregation, embodying the spirit of unwavering dedication.

From Nanjing, our journey led us by train to Nanchang, the bustling capital city of Jiangxi province. This return held a special significance, for it was in this province that my grandparents ministered from 1925 to 1950. During our visit, we had the honor of addressing the student body of the Jiangxi Provincial Bible School. The rekindling of ties with our cherished friends from Jiangxi filled our hearts with gratitude, and we fervently pray for God’s continued blessings upon these students as they are being prepared for their future ministries.

Yet, amidst the warmth of these encounters, we couldn’t ignore the challenges faced by the church in China. The government’s tightening grip, marked by restrictive regulations such as denying minors (children under the age of 18) the freedom to attend church, even when their parents are devout members, was a cause for concern. In some cities, agents from the Religious Affairs Bureau now patrol, ensuring minors are barred from entering church premises.

In the face of these challenges, the words of a profound truth resonated deeply within us:

We need to be anchored to the foundation of the truth, which is Jesus Christ and his Word. At the same time, we also need to be sensitive to the culture that we are finding ourselves in, which is the Chinese culture. And part of this culture is living within a communist ideology. That’s not ideal, but God has placed us here for a purpose to spread the gospel and to be faithful to him.

These challenges notwithstanding, the resilience and unwavering faith of the Chinese church are awe-inspiring. God’s grip on his church remains unyielding, and amid adversity, a vibrant faith continues to thrive in the hearts of believers across China.

As we reflect on our journey, we are filled with gratitude for the open doors that continue to beckon us in China. Looking ahead, we eagerly anticipate two more trips in 2024. During these visits, our goal is to reach out to more pastors and reconnect with old friends, bridging the physical gap of four years. We are committed to nurturing the future leaders of the Chinese church, empowering them for effective ministry. Through our efforts, we aim to ensure that the transformative message of Jesus Christ reaches more hearts, offering hope and salvation.

Everywhere we traveled, the resounding plea from pastors echoed: “Please come back.” What a joy it is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Chinese church, to partner in their mission, and to serve alongside them. Our mission remains steadfast: to serve the church in China. We are deeply grateful for the privilege of participating in God’s mission in this great nation. With hope in our hearts and faith as our guiding light, we eagerly anticipate the next chapter of this incredible journey.

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Image credit: Richard Tao via UnSplash (header); in-text images courtesy of the author.
Erik Bürklin

Erik Bürklin

Erik Bürklin, MDiv, is a third-generation missionary whose grandparents served with China Inland Mission (now OMF) taking the gospel to China before it closed to foreign missionaries in 1950. In 1989, his father, Dr. Werner Bürklin, founded China Partner , and in 1993, Erik joined his father and then …View Full Bio

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