In 2017 I was privileged to visit a church near the city of Qujing in Yunnan province. This church was established by Pentecostal missionaries, Max and Emily Bernheim, in the 1930s. The Bernheims, along with one son, were murdered by bandits in 1940. This tragic event left their five remaining children orphans. The bodies of Max, Emily, and their son, David, were not found until late in 2015. The church discovered the site of their burial and moved their bones to the church’s current location in 2016.
A Chinese Christian brother notified me of this more recent development. So, along with a group of friends, I visited the burial site and found a beautiful memorial stone marking the Bernheims’ grave. More significantly, I found that the church they planted (there were about 50 believers in 1940) is vibrant and thriving. The local Chinese believers repeatedly expressed their thankfulness for the Bernheims’ ministry and sacrifice. The church now numbers over 700 and the church leaders were deeply aware of their rich legacy. They noted with thankfulness the truth of Tertullian’s words, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Shortly after this experience I learned that two young Chinese missionaries had been martyred in Pakistan.1 When I saw the photos of their faces, they reminded me of a number of my Chinese Christian friends. Of course, many could only see a tragedy and mutter, “what a waste.”
I saw the matter far differently. The Bernheims’ story had prepared my heart. Indeed, both of these experiences encouraged me to consider these events and my own life in the light of eternity. Paul reminds us that we are part of a building that will last. God is creating an eternal dwelling place, a building which has Christ Jesus as its chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19–22).
The Lord is building this eternal dwelling and the stones he is using to construct this beautiful “holy temple” include dedicated young men and women from various parts of China like the two martyrs in Pakistan and like the Bernheims. It is a privilege to be shaped together with them by the Spirit of God.
For a defense of the traditional understanding of the church’s mission, see Robert Menzies’ recently published article, “A Tale of Two Stories: Amos Yong’s Mission After Pentecost and T’ien Ju-K’ang’s Peaks of Faith,” Themelios 46.2 (2021): 391–401. Available online here.
- For more information on the deaths of these Chinese missionaries, see “Mourning Two Chinese Christians Killed in Pakistan,” Chinese Church Voices, ChinaSource, June 20, 2017, https://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/chinese-church-voices/mourning-two-chinese-christians-killed-in-pakistan/. Accessed February 17, 2022 and “A Servant Is Not Greater than His Master” by Steve Schirmer, ChinaSource Blog, June 21, 2017, https://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/blog-entries/a-servant-is-not-greater-than-his-master/. Accessed February 17, 2022.
Image credit: Rice fields by Tim Zachernuk via Flickr.
Robert Menzies, (Ph.D. University of Aberdeen) is an adjunct professor at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in the Philippines. He has taught at Bible schools and seminaries in the Philippines, Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Russia, Holland, Korea, and the United States. Dr. Menzies has authored several books on the work of …View Full Bio
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