We (Cadence and I) have returned to HK finally, and we will be staying here for a longer period now (I am contracted to stay in Hong Kong between now and Sept 2011) unless God wills us to step outside of our legal training! It’s been an exciting journey in Qinghai, and to those who have been on the mailing list, you have been witnessing what God has been doing in our lives over there as well.
I have done a short update summarising our time spent in Beijing (from August to December ’08), and here are a few highlights, specific things we have both learnt during our time in Xining, Qinghai:
1. Spiritual Warfare and the spirit of fear
It is easy to over-spiritualise everything, but perhaps easier to do the opposite in Hong Kong. During our time in Xining we have heard about the darkest depths of Tibetan Buddhism alongside cultural Islam (as many of Hui Chinese tribe are “born” as Muslims, similar to many Indonesians, Malaysians and Arabs today). There is much spirit of fear which debilitates the love, power, and finally sound mind of the Christian (2 Timothy 1:7) which needs much corporate prayer for.
This has helped me realise a lot of the spiritual warfare present in Hong Kong which a majority of the Christians do not realise (save the majority of charismatics and Pentecostals here who go to the opposite extreme and need to restrain themselves by the qualification of the Word). Materialism may only be a surface symptom, but once we dig deeper we soon realise that there is a lot of idolatrous hurt and abuse in the young lives of many of these business professionals of the middle class here, let alone the grassroot who need equal attention (to which I will turn to in my fourth point, the Mercy Ministries).
We have had the blessings of Phi and Beck who are full-time missionaries there and who need a lot of your prayers and support too. They literally face death on a regular basis, and working with them has opened my eyes in so many aspects, and helped me understand that “heroes” like Brother Yun (author of the Heavenly Man) and the like need to persist in faith otherwise they will only be seen as Christian “one-hit-wonders” (from what I heard, Brother Yun no longer has the same reputation he once had back in China – I will save that for another time).
One thing I had always been curious about is the gift of tongues, prophecy and healing, which Phi and Beck are very much involved in. I asked them to give Cadence and me those gifts, but Phi said that we need the Baptism of the Spirit for that (see Acts 8 comparison between a believer’s baptism of the Spirit and Simon the Magician’s attempt at ‘purchasing’ this baptism). If you know me, you probably know that I have been spiritually brought up (in my even younger Christian days) in a number of charismatic (in all meanings of that description) churches so I am far far away from the cessationist nonsense. However, I have never really indulged myself in miracles and wonders because I have struggled more with the teachings of the Old Testament; but I am glad to have met Phil and Becky because much of the spiritual warfare they face in Tibet is far more dangerous than merely doctrinal indifference – many of their work involve exorcism and the such which a Spirit-led sermon will not necessarily suffice.
By no means are they the type of Christians who say that “those who don’t speak in tongues” are not Christians – rather, they fully believe that those who do not desire these gifts and filling of the Spirit are grieving the Spirit. On that note, I heartily agreed – and we were, in that definition of “baptism of the Spirit”, prayed over and laid hands on (Cadence was specifically anointed for the casting out of the spirit of fear). So I hope you may pray for us, that we may begin to receive these gifts as a result of further baptism of the Spirit (on top of the indwelling Spirit as a deposit of salvation) so that our ministry may flourish in unimaginable ways to serve Christ’s body in Hong Kong!
2. Theology and Division
We led three conferences which covered topics of homiletics, Old Testament hermeneutics (through the Tabernacle) and the reality of new creation in helping us evangelise. We started off with a bit of anxiety because we felt too young to be given such a position of responsibility (both of us are 23 yrs old now, and most of the full-time workers we taught were averaging 50 yrs old). Although we were given Billy Graham’s materials (so it seemed like we only needed to regurgitate what someone else wrote), I felt strongly against it and edited over half of it so it would be more Word-based and more Christ (rather than self) glorifying. The materials were called “Bible-School in a Briefcase”, which I actually thought was very good but needed some further clarifications, and it is akin to using seminary materials but not in official seminaries.
As it turns out, Phi shared with us (only two days ago) that during our first conference, we had already faced some ‘opposition’ per se. Some of the workers went up to him and was questioning our ability to lead, and Phi replied that God was using us, and he trusted that He will continue to use us despite our age. By His grace and leading, we spoke without fear and we were equally blessed by that. We realise that we are young people in the world’s eyes, but equipped with the humility of Christ we have learnt even more so that God will equip us despite the unlikelihood of our usefulness in any situation.
Furthermore, the theology of the people (in general) are quite good in Xining. Many of the foreigners preach Christ crucified, and it so happens that the western philosophies (of the Enlightenment) have not influenced the mindset of the local Christians here. There is much respect and love when disagreements occur, nothing like the theological debates of the west (in general) – and the immediacy of the spiritual warfare mentioned above enables a lot of caution when theological discussion does occur. However, at the same time I feel that there still needs to be good teachers to clarify many deeper issues of Scripture. There is no mistake that the Christians there are full-to-the-brim with passion, ready to preach Christ crucified to the Tibetan Lama or monk next-door, but discipleship and long-term missions seem not to be the local Chinese’s forte. In many ways, this looks like the symptom of the early church back in the days of Rome and Constantinople, without the intellectual snobbery.
To dwell on this point further, I’ve noticed a lot about the church model here. There are attempts for a western church model to be imposed in China (what the government calls the “Three Self Church”), but I think these are largely unsuitable for China, because the true church is simply a community of Christians who understand Christ’s love for them and love Him in return. In this sense, the House Church model is far more effective, despite its illegality, and I’ve seen how the people in these groups are far more convicted by the Spirit than the western model. This has shed a lot of light on missiology in Hong Kong, because I’m quite certain that for certain people whom I evangelise to, the Island ECC (the church I attend in Hong Kong) model, whether cultural or language barrier, is unsuitable for the poor, the grassroot, and the sort. Why? Not because the gospel isn’t preached there – but there is largely a cultural shift to be comprehended if one was to attend Island ECC, which seems more “American” than “multi-cultural” – and this therefore creates more unnecessary barriers between a man and God if man-made culture/tradition becomes a buffer. For one, I’m not sure whether my Hindu, Pakistani and Muslim friends would be comfortable being there, if the majority of the congregation is yellow-skinned middle-class Chinese, in which case I’m more than comfortable to introduce them to another congregation which is more fitting and preaches the gospel without imposing Americanism at the same time. A book which one of the missionaries there recommended me is “Searching for the Indigenous Church” which speaks on the topic of church-planting in these types of regions in more depth. Hope to get my hands on that someday.
As for the issues of division, this is the greatest temptation of the missionary groups there. Satan wants us to go through the “me-first” mentality, to create a rift between the WYA- and other teams (who shall remain anonymous!) because each have the temptation of being the “first-pioneers” of lifting the banner of Christ in an “unreached region” (though of course they are ‘reached’ in the sense of God’s creation proclaiming the gospel even by the sun and the moon!). Much prayer is needed for these groups!
3. Mercy Ministries
One of the personal struggles I have always had is how to approach the grassroot, the poor, the mentally/physically disabled – and this trip has more or less solved that struggle. I used to pass by people in Hong Kong (beggars) who ask for money, and my first thought is that they are there to dupe “my” money; alternatively, I would kid myself into thinking that because by merely giving money, I am supporting philanthropy without the gospel. However, one of the missionaries there, Hugh, shared that no beggar (whether duping or not) would have ever dreamed of being a beggar as a profession. The common saying, “beggars can’t be choosers” more or less applies to their life situation. This is the same for the mentally ill who I worked with during my time in the children and social welfare centres. However, these are the very people whom we should serve, and it is always difficult to reconcile the difference between the wealthy churches in Hong Kong and the still-rampant pockets of poverty even in the corners of Central (one of the richest busienss areas of Hong Kong). In fact, there have already been various opportunities where we bought food to feed the poor on the streets and still have time to tell them about Jesus Christ. They live to hear more of the gospel another day!
Phi has helped me get in touch with a local ministry called “Jubilee” – which I think is humour on our Father’s part because this blog (though in English, it is “The Sent One”) is actually called “Jubilee” (in the Hebrew on the top right corner of the blog). Jubilee is the national rest which Israel experiences every fifty years, as a type of the rest we will receive in New Creation, and there is now no way I am going to pass up a chance like being involved with that!
4. Time Management and Finances
Finally, being in a small city like Xining (with not much to do in the winter season!) our lives have been stripped to the bare minimum and how much we realise that we can survive on so little! We had planned to spend around $20,000 HKD in Xining over 7 weeks (inclusive of air ticket back and forth; train ticket from Guangzhou; monthly rent of the hostel prices; food, transport, etc) – and we have each spent less than $8,000 HKD altogether ($8,000 HKD = around 650-700 GBP!), which fulfills the promise that Christians can give back if the LORD wills (Proverbs 22:7).
It so happens that Hong Kong Christians (esp. in my particular social group) are poor with handling money (when we speak of the proportion to what they earn, despite hearing about the millions and millions being thrown at building church infrastructure but not for missions!). It is a phenomenon in most western churches, and it couldn’t come at a more suitable time that Cadence and I are going through Randy Alcorn’s “Money, Possessions & Eternity”. We are convicted that the way we spend our money, and the way we spend time with the grassroot and people in general will open up various opportunities for the gospel which we have not envisaged before in Hong Kong, which I had considered a near-dead city, and now it seems like doors are opening everywhere!
Those are our thoughts since returning, and we hope this fervour isn’t going to be temporary but will take root in our hearts and bear much God-glorifying fruit!
As for some miscellaneous updates, some stuff which I worked on in my free time, I added a little section on “Church Fathers” (a new page on my blog) as well as finalising my notes on Deuteronomy and ready to re-start my blog-commentaries from Joshua onwards, and hopefully sometime before I start work. Please keep those four points I mentioned in this blog in your prayers, and be sure to listen to the Holy Spirit if He is leading you to come to China as well!
There are two sites in particular I hope to bring your attention to – first is www.bloglines.com, which I mentioned in my Beijing summary-update. This site is wonderful for our brothers and sisters in China, because WordPress.com is censored up there. I’ve been capable of reading many blogs from WordPress because I subscribed to the RSS feed through www.bloglines.com. Please consider putting this site on your bloglines account if you travel up to China, so you can read my blog entries when you’re up there!
Secondly is our update blog at http://hosannainexcelsius.blogspot.com. “Hosanna in Excelsius” will be the primary place where we update our ministries (hopefully on a monthly or bi-weekly basis?), whereas this site is for developing thoughts on theology and Bible commentary. It is invite-only, so if you want to read it, please leave a comment or write me an email. Thanks!