It surprises many to learn that there is effective prolife work spreading in China. My previous post outlined how various house church networks are training people to cherish human life, including the preborn, and to faithfully answer God’s call to “rescue the innocent and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11). If this is surprising, given the one-, now two-, child-policy, the pandemic, and the increased regulations disrupting the unregistered church, there is another surprising aspect. Prolife work, and specifically, the work of pregnancy crisis intervention, is proving an especially effective entry point for engaging people with the gospel.
In Beijing, I was introduced to “Ling”1 just prior to her delivery. She had attended a house church for the first time six months earlier. She heard the pastor speak about abortion. He pointed to the fear of God shown by the midwives of Egypt in disobeying Pharaoh’s orders to kill babies. Their faith and courage to help babies live, he taught, was a model for the church in China.
A few days later, Ling, unmarried, learned that she was pregnant. She was sent to have an abortion. From inside the clinic, she called the pastor. “If you have the courage to leave,” he said, “we have the courage to help you,” For safe-keeping, Ling moved in with three Christian sisters. Every time Ling wept, they prayed with her and shared promises from the Bible with her. They showed her how to trust in Christ and pray for guidance and provision. They helped her select a couple to receive her baby. Within six months after placing the child with a couple, she married a Christian leader in her house church.
After 30 years of teaching biblical bioethics and crisis intervention strategies from Boston to Kazakhstan to Zambia, including 29 trips to China, I’ve come to see why prolife work is so evangelistic. There are several reasons, but there is one supreme reason: People in a pregnancy-related crisis, are in a crisis of faith and are searching for salvation.
Professionals in critical incident stress management stress this point. Crisis Intervention Strategies, now in its eighth edition, says:
Many human services workers regard it as an exposed electrical wire, not to be touched on pain of death for fear they will be seen as either proselytizing for their religion or insensitive to other spiritual beliefs. However, to deny or act as if religion, faith, or spirituality are not part of any crisis, is to neglect a large part of a crisis response for most people.2
In a pregnancy-related crisis, women or couples are asking, “How will I feed this child?” This is a faith question, “Can God provide?” For the career-minded student, pregnancy often feels like a death sentence; the end of her life, at least as she has projected it. Abortion feels like a life-saving necessity and the abortion doctor is her savior. Shame and guilt are often part of the crisis, both prior to and after, abortion. Those most afflicted with guilt and shame are always the ones most ready to receive the gospel as “good news of great joy.”
According to the Bible, abortion is always a crisis of faith. “You want something but do not have it, so you kill. . . . You do not have because you do not ask [God]. (James 4:2). Or as John Piper says, based on this text, “Abortion is a substitute for prayer.”3 Abortion is always a spiritual issue first, a question of who to turn to for salvation.
When people of faith are directly involved with people experiencing a crisis of faith, gospel ministry happens. Now this is true in all times and all places. But it is especially true in reaching into communities walled off by religion or in piercing a materialistic worldview.
Christians in Gansu province are reaching out to Muslims, Tibetans, and completely secularized Han couples— simply by serving those in pregnancy crises. They tell me “against all odds” stories of God helping them help mothers overcome difficult, even grave, circumstances with few resources. It does not always lead to conversion, but it always leads to gospel engagement. The lesson they seem to have learned is that when you help a mother save her baby, in the providence of God, the baby often saves the mother.
In my view, pregnancy-help ministry is the new medical missions. In the 19th century, hospitals served as an entry point to people in crisis across China. The medical care they received exposed them to a Christian worldview. They felt the visible and tangible care of Christians. In the context of crisis, walls came down and prayer and the promises of God were shared and received. China’s growing prolife work, designed to rescue the innocent, is often and naturally, bringing good news to the guilty.
- Burl E. Gilliland and Richard K James, Crisis Intervention Strategies, Eighth Edition, (Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2016), p. 42.
- Personal conversation with John Piper, based on his sermon, “Where Does Child Killing Come From?” available at desiring God, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/where-does-child-killing-come-from.
Images courtesy of the author.
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.