As we reach the end of our look at the wonderful things God has done in Guizhou Province, one thing is clear: Despite decades of battering and persecution, the Lord Jesus Christ has raised up a vibrant Body of believers from among Guizhou's population of 35 million people.
The early Evangelical missionaries in the nineteenth century overcame overwhelming obstacles to plant the seed of the gospel in the province. The first pioneers in Guizhou expected to see a strong response from the Han Chinese, but they were surprised to find resistance to their message from the majority people. Instead, they found fertile soil in the hearts of some of Guizhou's poor ethnic minority groups, and a mighty revival broke out among the A-Hmao, Gha-Mu, and several other Miao tribes.
And what a revival it was! The Holy Spirit moved on thousands of people, causing them to eagerly press into the kingdom of God. Two Scottish missionaries, James Adam and Samuel Pollard, emerged as key figures in the work.
The adage, 'success breeds success' can also be applied in the mission world, and the majority of new missionaries in Guizhou were sent to help sustain the exciting revival among the Miao. This allocation of workers and resources created a lopsided situation in the province. Many Han Chinese were baffled as to why the foreign missionaries focused so much on the Miao, whom they had despised for centuries.
An unexpected dichotomy emerged. Thousands of tribal people were being baptized each year, but for decades the Han Chinese and many other ethnic groups remained comparatively untouched by the gospel. Even today, many Han people in Guizhou dismiss Christianity as 'the Miao religion'.
After Adam and Pollard unexpectedly died, the tribal work suffered a temporary setback, but the Lord had laid a deep foundation in the hearts of His children, and before long the churches were flourishing again.As the leadership of the Church gradually passed from foreign to local control, it matured and strengthened into a powerful remnant that was able to withstand decades of hardship.
The 1950s to 1980s marked a terrible time for Christians in Guizhou, with many being martyred for their faith in Jesus. When the long and bitter winter began to draw to a close, a new era of openness in the 1990s revealed that not only had Christianity survived the storm, but God's family had actually grown in many areas, and new tribes that had previously been difficult to reach were now receptive to the gospel, including the Nosu tribes.
The last 30 years also saw a new wave of foreign missionaries serving throughout Guizhou. They didn't come as official missionaries but adopted a variety of different roles, including teachers, students, investors and researchers. God blessed their efforts, and after the house church networks from other parts of China received a burden for Guizhou, many evangelists were sent to engage the unreached peoples in the province.
The deep racial hatred and resentment that existed between the Han and the Miao for centuries has gradually eroded. While suspicion and bitterness still exists in some rural areas today, the Han have gradually come to appreciate rather than mock the cultural richness of Guizhou's minority groups, while new generations of tribal people have slowly come to accept their position in the modern China.
Since the start of the new millennium, significant breakthroughs have taken place among minority groups that had been ignored for generations. There are growing churches today among minority groups like the Dong, Shui, and to a lesser extent, the Bouyei. The mighty revival among the Han Chinese that has spread throughout China over the past 40 years has also impacted many Chinese in Guizhou, while some of the partially-assimilated, Mandarin-speaking minority groups (such as the Gelao and Tujia) have also benefited from overflow of spiritual blessing from the Holy Spirit's visitation.
Finally, after 130 years of agonizing struggle, the Church among the Han Chinese also began to flourish in Guizhou and has grown rapidly. As the subsequent tables and maps in the Appendix of this book reveal, we estimate there to be approximately 2.7 million professing Christians in Guizhou Province today. Of these, about 1.5 million belong to unregistered Evangelical house churches, 900,000 attend government-approved Three-Self churches, while Catholics—despite enjoying a head-start of more than a century over their Protestant counterparts—today number approximately 270,000 adherents in the province.
As our 'People Groups in Guizhou' table reveals, dozens of small tribes remain isolated from the Good News, with many groups containing no known Christians at the present time. Perhaps the most urgent need for the gospel is among the two dozen Miao tribes that remain unevangelized. These distinct peoples have been grouped according to their linguistic affiliations, with several clustered together to form each of the Guiyang, Huishui, and Mashan Miao peoples. These unreached tribes continue to live as they have for centuries, going about their daily tasks without the slightest knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The Hmu remain the largest unreached people group in Guizhou. The history of Christian work among them has been traumatic, and right at the moment when many seemed to be on the verge of turning to Christ, a mass murder of believers caused the Hmu to recoil from the gospel. Their reluctance to embrace Christianity has tragically continued for more than a century to the present time. Much intercessory prayer and loving outreach will be required to break the spirit of fear and resistance that has built up among the precious Hmu people over a century.
In previous generations, Guizhou's Christians faced famine, bandits, disease and war. Today they are battling materialism, cults, and a central government that once again appears determined in their desire to obliterate Christianity. Over the years, many professing believers in Guizhou have struggled without a strong spiritual foundation, exacerbated by the lack of Bibles and a dire shortage of trained church leaders.
Although there's much to rejoice about when we consider the marvelous deeds God has performed in Guizhou, it is sobering to realize that today less than eight percent of the population professes to be Christian. This means that 92 out of every 100 people have yet to believe in Jesus Christ, and millions have yet to hear the gospel in any meaningful manner that would enable then to accept or reject God's offer of salvation.
For all the good reports of what God has done in Guizhou, much more remains to be done before the Lamb of God will receive His full reward from among the peoples of China's Precious Province.
© This article is an extract from Paul Hattaway's book 'Guizhou: The Precious Province'. You can order this or any of The China Chronicles books and e-books from our online bookstore.