Over the past couple of months, we have published on Chinese Church Voices a number of posts about the growing awareness of the importance and practice of cross-cultural missions by Chinese churches. The first post highlighted the work of some Han churches in reaching out to ethnic minorities in western China. The second and third posts were an extended interview with a pastor from Shenzhen who leads missions trips to Southeast Asia.
Lest we think this growing heart for missions in the Chinese church is something noticed and reported on only by Christian media outlets, along comes an article in The Global Times, a state-run English language daily newspaper, titled “Dangerous Mission: Chinese Missionaries Working in Muslim World Cause Safety Concern.” It is a surprisingly positive look at house-church based missions endeavors.
The main points of the article are nicely summed up in the opening paragraph:
The past decade has increasingly seen Chinese "house church" congregations send missionaries abroad, some with a focus on evangelization in the Islamic world. The missionaries do their best to adapt, learning the local language, dressing, acting and behaving like the local people. But the work can be risky, as apostasy and blasphemy might be against law in some predominately Muslim countries. Religious experts warn that Chinese Christians' evangelism might cause safety concerns and diplomatic disputes.
The reporter writes about a missionary from Beijing who is working in Kazakhstan:
Huang Ying (pseudonym) was among the first batch of missionaries sent out by a Beijing house church. She became a Christian in her 20s when she studying in a Beijing university and became determined to be a missionary. Beginning in 2009, she visited Kazakhstan for two weeks to a month every year, teaching Chinese in a language camp for primary school students.
Missionaries are volunteers. They cover living expenses by collecting money from local believers and through remittances by their sending church. Churches typically offer classes on local language, culture and customs before missionaries are sent abroad.
Before Huang started her missionary work, she had to undergo six months of training.
Huang believes he [sic] is "answering the call of the Lord" by converting people.
Writing about the scope of missionary work by Chinese churches, the author says:
The Global Times' research found at least 10 churches in Beijing with projects involving missionaries to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and other Islamic nations.
But most of the churches are still in the preparatory phase, focusing on recruiting and training missionaries.
Most of the churches that have sent missionaries focused on short-term missionary groups led by the church's pastor, as a way of preparing for longer-term missions. "Normally, [the missionaries] stay in the regions for one or two weeks, to get to know the local people, get accustomed to the situation and meet the missionaries who have been there for decades, and to further confirm on their faith and to prepare for the long-term missionary work," a pastor of a Beijing house church who gave his surname as Li told the Global Times.
Churches in East China's Shandong Province have also sent missionaries to Muslim countries, according to Christian Times, an online Christian news provider. Some of them have established connections with local people by helping local people to build houses, a marked improvement over the makeshift straw huts common in many areas of those countries. They also endear themselves to local populations by offering financial support to the poor.
The article then concludes with a look at the growing security and diplomatic risks that accompany this missions movement.
That an article like this is published in a state-run newspaper is nothing short of, well, fascinating!
As they say, read the whole thing!
Image Credit: Early morning in Almaty by Irene, on Flickr