“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength... He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:25-29-13).
In our previous newsletter we shared how God has enabled us to reach the milestone of printing and distributing 10-million Chinese Bibles, over a period of many years.
Some of the feedback we received from believers was along the lines of, “Congratulations, you guys have worked hard!” and “What a great achievement!”
In our newsletter we emphasized how reaching that milestone was a great miracle of providence by the Lord Jesus Christ, and that without His supernatural power and protection it wouls be impossible to even consider such a project in a Communist country that seeks total control of its people.
A few years ago we visited a Christian bookshop. After looking around for a few minutes, we were unable to find any books worth reading amid the rows of shallow ‘self-help’ books telling us how we could ‘maximize our potential.’ As we prepared to leave, something in the corner of the store caught our attention. It was a set of ‘Samson muscles’ that children could strap on their arms to look just like Samson!
On the surface this toy seemed like just a bit of harmless fun, but we later thought about how Christians often think God’s work can be accomplished by human strength, and in so doing we rob God of the glory due His Name.
The Bible tells us that among Samson’s exploits, he tore a lion apart with his bare hands (Judges 14:6), struck down 30 Philistine men (14:20), caught 300 foxes and tied their tails together (15:4), slaughtered 1,000 men with a donkey’s jawbone (15:15), and tore off the city gate of Gaza and carried it to the top of a hill (16:3). Finally, Samson pushed down a pillar holding up the Philistine temple, killing 3,000 enemies of God’s people (16:30). Despite his moral failures, the New Testament lists Samson as one of the great heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11:32).
Did Samson indeed have huge bulging muscles like the drawings of him in children’s Bible story books and videos? Did he perform those mighty acts because of his huge muscles, or because of God’s mighty power? Some Bible scholars believe the city gate and posts of Gaza weighed about four tons. City gates at the time were often nail-studded and covered with metal to prevent them being burned during an attack.
Could the strongest man in the world today lift four tons, not to mention that he carried it for a distance of 36 miles uphill? Of course not! Anyone who attempted it would immediately be crushed like an ant. If Samson was a huge, strongly built man, would the Philistines have been so confused that they begged Delilah to find the source of his strength?
No, Samson’s superhuman strength wasn’t the result of bulging biceps. The source of his strength was the Holy Spirit. We wonder if one day we will discover that Samson was actually a normal-size man!
Over the years we have often come across the same misguided thinking in relation to God’s work in Asia. For example, if a person looks only for human reasons behind how the Church in China grew to over 100 million people under Communist rule, they will invariably reach a skewed conclusion if they fail to realize the revival is a sovereign act of the Living God. Some people we know have come to China expecting amazing fellowship with powerful saints, but have been disappointed to find the Church there looks a lot like the churches in their homeland, with failings and weaknesses that cause it to depend on the grace of God. On the outside they make look the same, but on the inside the Lord has done a mighty work in China.
In Christian ministry we have learned there are two ways to operate—in our own strength (which often leads to burnout and frustration), or in God’s strength, which achieves much of eternal value. As Christians, we don’t need ‘Samson muscles.’ Rather, we need to humbly serve God and seek His grace and strength. One day we will all be required to stand before the Creator and give an account of our lives and work. May it be found that we didn’t attempt to do God’s work in our own strength, for such efforts will be shown to consist merely of "wood, hay and stubble." They will be "burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (I Corinthians 3:15).
May we rely on the Holy Spirit’s divine power to motivate and complete the tasks He has called us to do, for the Lord said “the Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63).
At the end of the day, may we be able to say with the Lord that the work He had called us to was done “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6).
The Many Faces of China
One person who read our recent newsletter wrote to ask what our biggest battle has been over the years regarding the China Bible project. After thinking a few minutes, we realized the greatest struggle has not been with the Chinese government. Rather, the most difficult struggle has been a huge battle for the truth.
For almost 30 years, blatant lies and subtle propaganda have been spread around the Christian world claiming that there are plenty of Bibles in China today. Millions of Christians have believed these lies. Indeed, some of the most wellknown names in Western Christianity have lent their voices to reinforce this deception. At the same time, we have met many house church leaders from all parts of China who beg us for Bibles, as they tearfully explain how new believers are perishing because of a famine of God’s Word.
We have found that one of the main reasons people are confused when it comes to China is that it’s difficult to grasp the massive size and scale of the country. People often assume the small slither of information or experience they have must apply to the whole country. For example, someone might travel to a big city like Beijing or Shanghai where they meet local Christians in a house meeting. If those believers have Bibles, a wrong assumption could be formed that what they experienced there must be the same everywhere in China, across thousands of miles and more than 2,400 cities and counties that make up the world’s most populated country.
Another deception that many believers around the world have believed is the notion that persecution of Christians is a thing of the past in China. In reality, things are currently very difficult for house church believers, with many leaders saying the persecution now is the worst it had been in 20 years. The Chinese government appears to be determined to crush the unregistered part of the Body of Christ, while at the same time they assure the world there is religious freedom and harmony.
In the last few years most of the publicity in the global Christian press has focused on the removal of thousands of crosses and the destruction of church buildings in Zhejiang Province. In our opinion, such things are of little consequence. The Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell in crosses or man-made buildings anyway, but in the hearts of God’s children. As one veteran China missionary recently commented, “The believers in China would much rather have crosses separated from their church buildings than to have their heads separated from their necks!”
Right now many house church leaders throughout China are missing or have gone on the run. Some are being detained at so-called “black jails” - secret facilities where the authorities torture people without trial and beyond the scope of public knowledge. As awful murder took place several months ago in Henan Province, when Ding Cuimei, a pastor’s wife, was bulldozed into a pit and buried alive.
Please pray the severe persecution would result in the rekindling of revival throughout China, so that the Church would grow even stronger and larger!
In the remainder of this newsletter we would like to report on another face of China that many people are completely unaware of. While most Christians have heard about the revival fires that have burned throughout China for much of the past three decades, few are aware that this great land is also home to 500 non-Han Chinese ethnic groups, ranging from Turkic-speaking Muslims in the northwest deserts, to dozens of colorful and diverse tribal groups along the border with Southeast Asia. Of these 500 distinct people groups, a staggering 410 are still unreached.
We first encountered China’s minority groups in 1988, and ever since they have been a major focus of the vision and work of Asia Harvest. In 2000 we published a large color book, Operation China, which profiled all the peoples of China and brought their existence to the attention of the worldwide Body of Christ. (The book & CD are still available from us if you’re interested, and all the individual profiles from the book are freely available on our website).
Earlier this year we spent a wonderful time of prayer and fellowship with the leader of a great Chinese ministry to the unreached peoples of China. At one stage he showed us a video that made us weep with tears of gladness. What a blessing it was to see hundreds of minority people throughout China being baptized!
For the first time we are hearing of breakthroughs among many of China’s smaller unreached people groups. Although the number of new believers is not huge at the moment, dozens are being saved here and there. Added together, the Gospel is beginning to flourish and lives are being transformed from darkness to light. On the following pages we present brief profiles of six of China’s minority groups. Our coworkers currently have local evangelists ready to serve among each of these groups.
If you believe the Lord would want you to help one or more evangelist among these groups, we invite you to support them through our Asian Workers’ Fund at $25 per month each. One hundred percent of donations received go to the workers on the field. If you would like to support a worker among one of the following six people groups, please note the name of the group when you send your gift. A laminated prayer card will be sent to each donor, and a written update is sent every six months to those who continue to support a worker.
Christians: less than 0.1%
More than one million Amdo Tibetans inhabit the towns and plains of the Tibetan Plateau in western China. Many are nomads, moving frequently to new areas when their yaks, sheep and goats need new pasture. There are thought to be no more than a few hundred Christians among the four different Amdo language groups. Please pray many would soon hear of Jesus Christ.
The Bai are the descendants of the powerful Nanzhao kingdom which ruled southwest China about 1,500 years ago. Today almost 2.5 million friendly Bai people inhabit the towns and villages around the ancient town of Dali. Most have never heard the Gospel in their lives, although there are moderate numbers of Bai Christians in various locations.
Living not far from the Bai people in southwest China, the Pumi tribe number about 45,000 people. Most Pumi are poor, hard-working farmers. In recent years small numbers have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus for the first time. Our co-workers are working hard to train these Pumi believers to take the Gospel to the hundreds of villages that have never heard of Jesus.
Christians: less than 1%
Although only 20,000 De'ang people live in China, they have three different subgroups each speaking their own language. An additional 700,000 live across the border in Myanmar (Burma), where they are better known as the Palaung. New believers are often severely persecuted by the Buddhist monks among this tribe. We are supporting evangelists reaching this group in both China and Myanmar through the Asian Workers’ Fund.
Christians: less than 1%
The majority of the 500,000 Shui people in China are animists, who worship elements of nature like rivers, mountains and even large trees. Most have never heard of Jesus Christ. We are helping a few Shui Christians who have a passion to reach their own people for Jesus. Please pray for a breakthrough among this unreached group.