Recently, while perusing some of the many religious periodicals received at the seminary, the undersigned discovered two articles which give us some insight into the life and worship of the children of God in Communist China. For many years Communist China has been closed to missionaries, and severe restrictions were placed by the Communist government upon the church. These articles indicate that there is continuing fruit upon the labors of the missionaries of the past. It is also apparent from these articles that while the restrictions placed upon the church have been somewhat relaxed, the life of the Christian in China is not without its hardships.
The first article is taken from the August 3, 1979 issue of the Calvinist Contact and we, quote:
“Rev. Isaac Jen, Chinese minister at the Back-to- God Hour, was one of about fifty worshippers at a recent Protestant church service in Peking, China. The crowd consisted of about forty local people and ten foreign visitors, including African diplomats, Europeans, and overseas Chinese.
“Rev. Jen said he ‘was filled with emotion as the congregation sang the first hymn, The Heavens Declare the Glory of God.’
“Since the preaching of sermons has been banned in China since 1966, the congregation’s minister then read three Bible passages— I Samuel 3, the story of Samuel’s call by the Lord; Matthew 4, the account of the temptation of Jesus; and Romans 5, which reminds people that there is hope even though they may face problems.
“After the message, the minister prayed, and, according to Rev. Jen ‘it was a very open, a very free prayer.’ Communion was then celebrated, with the minister blessing each person with the words, ‘The peace of Christ to you.’ The congregation’s minister says that it is only recently that local people began attending church. The increased attendance is related to the freer political atmosphere in China.
“The church, formerly a Bible society office and now the only Protestant church open in Peking, has applied to the Chinese government for permission to place a sign outside the building stating the time services are held. Larger facilities and Chinese Bibles have also been requested. The government, reports Rev. Jen, has promised the church that it would print new Chinese Bibles by the end of the year.
“Rev. Jen attended the church service while visiting his homeland for the first time since he left in 1949. ‘The experience has given me new insights into developments in mainland China,’ says Rev. Jen. ‘The result should be a radio program that brings the gospel to these people in a way that is easy for them to understand.’ While in China, Rev. Jen heard that there are many Christians meeting informally in small groups. He has also heard that a number of ministers are now being allowed to return to their own cities to preach. . . . Rev. Jen also says that Bibles are now being allowed to go through the mail into the mainland. During the past four months, Rev. Jen has been sending about fifty New Testaments per month to listeners in most of the major provinces of China.
“Rev. Jen also said that the Chinese people were friendly and that he saw no extreme poverty. Though the food supply is limited (especially meat) and the basic foodstuffs (rice, salt, sugar) are rationed, the people appear well-fed. He also reports that the Chinese government is making plans to raise the standard of living by allowing open food markets.”
The second article is taken from the July 25, 1979 issue of the Presbyterian Journal and we quote:
“China Interview Number Three”
“Tychicus Wong (a pseudonym) is a Christian living in Hong Kong, where he holds a local ‘certificate of identity.’ A single man in his 20s, he works in a small firm as a serviceman for electrical appliances. In mid-l 978, Tychicus Wong made weekend trips to Canton, China, to visit a young believer who had been led to the Lord by another Christian touring there a year earlier. The new believer, who is in his 30s, works in a factory in Canton.
“Q: For what purpose did you go up to Canton?
“A: I went to take a weekend holiday in Canton, but more specifically to take a Chinese Bible to a young believer who had come to know Christ through a friend of mine.
“Q: Didn’t your friend give him a Bible then?
“A: Only a New Testament. Philemon Kang (a Pseudonym) wanted a whole Bible—an English-Chinese version.
“Q: How many Bibles did you take with you?
“A: I took one whole Bible in Chinese and a copy of Acts in Today’s Chinese and English.
“Q: Did you have enough time to visit with Philemon Kang?
“A: Yes, I got there Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the day with him, his brother and a friend.
“Q: Did you have any trouble at customs?
“A: No, the customs officer simply asked, ‘what is this book for?’ I replied, ‘For reading pleasure.’ He let me go by without further questions.
“Q: How was Philemon Kang doing as a young believer?
“A: He and his brother both asked many questions about the Bible. Philemon has begun to share his faith with some of his close friends, giving them New Testaments he had in his possession. He wanted to witness of Christ to others too, but was afraid of being discovered.
“Q: Was he able to share Christ with non-believers other than his friends?
“A: Yes. Once he read the story of Christ’s temptation to a fellow-worker at the factory. The man was known as a bad fellow. Strange enough, this ‘no-good’ fellow showed considerable interest in the story and expressed interest in knowing more about this Jesus. “Q: What were some of the problems of faith raised by Philemon?
“A: His friends wanted to know the differences between Catholics and Protestants. His brother asked if it is permissible for Christians to drink wine, smoke or tell lies under special circumstances. I tried my best to answer him.
“Q. Did his brother show signs of faith?
“A: To a certain extent. He said that after he had confessed Christ, he began to feel a sense of wisdom, and he knew how to avoid trouble, or gained a kind of discernment which he did not have before.
“Q: What kind of trouble was he referring to?
“A: He is one of the ‘young intellectuals’ who were sent down to the countryside after the Cultural Revolution. He escaped and is now residing at home without any identity papers. So he has to be very careful wherever he goes. He must preserve his nonidentity, even though this non-identity excludes him from most legal privileges as a citizen.
“The younger brother felt that Christianity is something good. He asked, ‘Why do so many countries have Christianity but not China?’ He hoped that in the future more Christian people would come to tell about Jesus to the Chinese people.
“Q: What did Philemon Kang want to know about the Christian faith?
“A: He wanted to know how others believed in Christ, what Christians do in Hong Kong, whether they are organized and get together, how Christians prove their true membership, etc. He wanted to know the history of the Christian people since the time of the apostles. He even wanted to know how to become a minister of the gospel.
“Q: Did Philemon express any sense of assurance of faith?
“A: He asked: ‘Did I believe because God specifically chose me? Why do some believe and others don’t?’ He also told me that not too, long ago when he visited some of his former friends they were gathered for divination by playing tip-sin (‘sorcery plate’). A dish would spin by itself, and a voice would be heard. He used to participate in this kind of activity. But during his recent visit, he would not participate in it, saying to himself that since he was now one who believes in Jesus, the sorcery plate would no longer work with him and that he would not touch such a heterodox thing. So he went outside. As he was looking at the sorcery plate through the window, the plate stopped spinning and all those in the room were astonished and frightened from this experience. Philemon discovered that he was orthodox and that they were heterodox.
“Q: Did you talk with him in his home most of the time?
“A: No, after a couple of hours in his home, he helped me to look for a place to stay. So we talked on the way over. Then we had dinner together.
“Q: What did you talk about most at the dinner table?
“A: The conversation centered mostly on his dissatisfaction with the present political and administrative system in China. I commented that under the present policy for modernization, things would improve in China. But Philemon remarked that while the higher eschalon of the central government in Peking mean well to improve policies, most of the time orders are not implemented at the lower grassroots level. People are so used to ways formulated during the Cultural Revolution days that it is very difficult to change. ‘It’s like a snake whose head may move about, but the tail remains the same on the ground.’ So he thinks that people are so tired of politics that there is no hope for the future of China. In a way, he felt strange that I as an outsider have more hope for China than he does.
“Q: Did he give you any reason for his continued despair?
“A: He gave me two examples. He cited one instance where a young man was wounded and lying on the street. Everybody stood around looking at him but nobody did anything to stop his bleeding. The hospital was nearby, but it wasn’t until half an hour later that another man jumped off from his bike and helped him to the hospital. A second instance concerned blood donations in China. The government gives JNP now one hundred dollars (sixty dollars U.S.) plus ration tickets for ten pounds of meat for every one hundred cc of blood donated. He pointed out that in many cases the doctor himself kept the tickets, while a middle man who found the donor gets a big share of the money. So his conclusion was that Chinese humanity has become corrupted, tilled with selfishness, lacking compassion, and insensitive to human suffering. He wants to leave.
“Q: Where did you go after dinner?
“A: Philemon Kang took me to visit his friend, Mr. Lai. Lai also works in a factory, is married and has a son. I had opportunity to explain the basic rudiments of salvation to him: the birth, death, resurrection and second coming of Christ. Lai, like Philemon Kang, is very interested in the second coming of Christ. I promised him that the next time I went up I would take books of that kind to him. Lai was surprised over the difference between me as a Christian from Hong Kong, and his non-Christian relatives who were also from Hong Kong. He was surprised by my philosophy of life and my knowledge of China, since I only had a grade school education. Then Philemon broke in and added, ‘That is the difference between those who believe in Jesus and those who don’t.’
“Q: Did Philemon witness to Lai?
“A: Yes, he has loaned a copy of his New Testament to Lai. Lai remarked that one day when his son, who was five years old, got hold of the New Testament, he was so happy that he shouted for joy. Lai couldn’t understand why.
“Q: What was Lai’s main concern?
“A: His main complaint was against the present economic and work system in China. Lai said that China should permit limited capitalism to provide some sort of incentive to work. He thinks that China as a whole is already on the capitalist road, yet she still insists on calling it socialism just to save face. Feeling disillusioned he asked me, ‘Why do you, an outsider, still have hope in China, while we who are inside have given up hope?’ Before I could answer him, Philemon Kang asked, ‘Why don’t you have someone preach tothe senior officials of our government? China would be a better country if those up there believed in Jesus.’
“Q: What is your own feeling after this ‘pastoral visit’?
“A: I feel very happy that I was able to provide some encouragement to the Kang brothers and their friend as well. I hope to go up again in the near future and take books and hymnals to them. It also appeared to me that in spite of nearly thirty years of Communist education, the intimacy of the Chinese family is still very well preserved. Only a small minority of the people were won over by Communist ideology, and a majority are still basically Chinese in their values and ways.”