Starting with just one language in 1954, God has allowed Trans World Radio (TWR) to take God’s Word to all nations, tongues, and tribes. Today, TWR speaks hope to the world in more than 300 languages in 190 countries by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and instructing believers in biblical doctrine and daily Christ-like living using various media platforms.
In 1977, TWR’s ministry expanded to Asia with the addition of a shortwave transmitting site on the island of Guam. Since then, TWR has been using shortwave and other forms of media to overcome barriers to bring the hope of Christ to people in countries that are closed to the gospel, such as China.
When we think of China, one of the first things that come to mind is the country’s Great Wall. For those who have seen it and walked on it, it is indeed an architectural wonder. It was built to keep invaders out, and historians estimate it to be around 3,000 years old.
Fast forwarding to today, China has changed significantly since the Great Wall was built. The nation is now one of the world’s biggest economies, and it has begun to wield considerably more power and clout on the world stage.
While China has changed a lot, some things have not changed. Today, another wall has been built to keep out foreign invaders and influences. But instead of stone, bricks, and mortar, this one is built with bits and bytes and has been termed the Great Firewall of China.
Over the last few years, we have been seeing a tightening of controls both online and offline. These have been well documented, so I will not go into detail, but suffice it to say, the religious atmosphere has grown progressively more difficult for churches and Christians in China.
Restrictions on religious organizations and their activities are reminiscent of those in the 1960s and 1970s. At the recently concluded 20th Party Congress, Xi Jinping was returned as president for an unprecedented third term. The situation for religious groups does not look like it will get any easier for some time.
With all these restrictions online and in print, we foresee a future when Christian content in China is either watered down to present the “approved” version of the gospel or edited to fit an agenda.
How, then, do we overcome this barrier to bring the truth and hope of God’s Word, in its entirety, to the people of China? What if I told you there was a safe, secure way in which information can be received by people in China? It cannot be easily turned off or blocked, it cannot be traced, it leaves no digital footprint, and best of all, it cannot be censored or edited.
I spoke with a Christian worker who had served in China for 16 years until he was suddenly asked to leave the country about a year ago. Due to the restrictions online, he shared that it is increasingly difficult for people in China to access Christian content on the internet or on mobile phones, and he said that radio is still the best way to reach the Chinese people.
As you know, media outlets in China are controlled by the government. This is why shortwave is starting again to become a way that information can get into the country from the outside, and it is a viable way for us to broadcast the full, uncensored, unedited, and unfiltered gospel into China.
We received this message from a pastor in the northern part of China after we had provided his church with some radios:
Through another pastor, we received this resource, and in the current climate, it is very helpful for us. Those who are familiar with the house church situation in China will know that the situation is really difficult for us now, especially the pressures from the government and the restriction of books and materials from overseas. As a result, the house churches are facing a difficult situation. We are very thankful to God for these radios and thankful to brothers and sisters in Christ who have blessed us with this. We hope that God will continue to use you to help more pastors and believers in remote house churches receive this resource…We are glad to be able to continue learning from your programs.
This message was received in 2019. Today, the situation is considerably more difficult and challenging for believers in the country.
One of the greatest needs is to provide local believers with solid biblical truths and teaching so that they can continue to grow in their faith despite the lack of online and print material, stand firm in the face of increased restrictions, counter heretical teachings by cult groups, and finally, to reach out to non-believers and nurture new and younger believers in the faith.
Ironically, China is the world’s largest shortwave broadcaster today, both internationally and domestically. The country has 12 transmitter sites (three outside China) that cover the entire world in 43 languages, and 16 transmitter sites that cover the whole of China in 12 languages. The number of shortwave frequencies China requests and requires each year is more than the VOA and BBC combined. This is why it is crucial that we continue our shortwave broadcasts to China and maintain a clear voice in the conversation.
Currently, TWR broadcasts 24 programs per week in nine languages over shortwave to China. Here is one of the responses we received from a listener in Inner Mongolia:
More than 30 years ago, TWR’s program had led me to receive Jesus to be my personal savior. Since I trusted in the Lord, I can feel inside my heart that Jesus had led me with his great love to do good. Today, I am still listening to the gospel program of TWR. The gospel programs from TWR have accompanied me for more than 30 years. I never stop listening. Thank you TWR. Our Lord Jesus Christ’s truth is our salvation!
I strongly believe that radio is not going to go away in China anytime soon. As a result, we have been increasing, and are aiming to continue to increase our broadcasts there. We are also looking to develop more discipleship programs in Mandarin as well as in UPG (unreached people groups) languages, in order to address the anticipated need as restrictions continue to tighten so we can keep making new disciples and nurturing believers in China.
We thank God that despite the challenges, he has allowed us to carry on ministry to China and to the Chinese people.
We must remain faithful to what we have been called to do and trust God to do what we cannot. That means continuing to be faithful in preaching the Word, developing quality content, and finding the best ways to distribute it. The Holy Spirit will be the one who convicts hearts and changes lives.
In the midst of the challenges, all we can do is lean on God and trust him more and more each day. There will be new challenges. There may be newer and tighter security and religious restrictions in the days to come.
But with your prayers and support, and with God’s help, we will continue to press on to overcome the barriers and provide the Chinese people with unlimited access to the gospel.
Image Credit: Courtesy of the author.
Ethan Koh (pseudonym) started his service with TWR about 20 years ago preparing programs for shortwave broadcast to China. Since then, he has served in various capacities at TWR, including the Chinese Internet Ministry, and was also responsible for the operations of the Guam transmitter site for a time. His …View Full Bio
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