Friday, February 17, 2012

Young Asian American Missionaries in the People’s Republic of China

Our family is biracial.  My husband and I are European American and our children are Asian American.  Our kids were born in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).   Consequently, in the last ten years, we have traveled to the PRC several times. 

While in the PRC, I have been to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.  I have stayed in high-rise Western-style hotels, shopped at large malls, and eaten in nice restaurants in large cities.  I have even eaten at a sparkling KFC in Beijing and had kosher take-out in Guangzhou.  Those are all impressive aspects of the PRC.  They give the impression of affluence and modernity.  They seem familiar to those of us from the West.  But I have also been privileged to be able to travel to more remote areas of the PRC that are rarely visited by Westerners. 

In the United States, we currently seem to think of the PRC as an economic powerhouse.  In reality, the PRC has a staggering population and relatively scarce natural resources.  The country has a lot of land, but much of it is so rugged that it is not habitable by humans or productive for human needs.  As a result, there is still a tremendous amount of poverty in the PRC. 

When you drive away from the large modern cities, things look much different in the countryside and in smaller towns.  There can be long stretches of road before there is any place to get clean drinking water or to go to the restroom.  When you do find a restroom in such outposts, it may just be a stinky hole in the ground with lots of flies.

I have visited the orphanage where one of my daughters spent part of her infancy.  It was a powerfully moving experience.  The orphanage facility was very humble and quite dreary.  The lives of the children there were bleak.  Without family or an opportunity for a decent education, their futures were uncertain; they are vulnerable.   Because of the plight of the children, I spent much of my visit at the orphanage with tears streaming down my cheeks.  I couldn’t seem to get them to stop.  What I witnessed was pretty overwhelming.

On a happier note, I have also had the fascinating opportunity to worship at a Christian church in the PRC.  It was a small, crumbling Catholic church built by European missionaries in another century.  I could not understand precisely what was said when I was at the church, but the Catholic mass is pretty standard world-wide, so I definitely caught the gist.  And some of the songs had familiar tunes though the lyrics were sung (with great gusto by the congregants) in a Chinese dialect.  Later I also had occasion to visit several times with the church’s priest, who called himself “Father Tom.”  His English was not that strong, and my Chinese is non-existent, so I had a hard time understanding him.  But when we asked about freedom of worship, he seemed to indicate there was no problem whatsoever.  My American friends and I were quite skeptical of this assertion.

In truth, the officially Communist nation persecutes various religious groups.  Foreign missionaries are not welcomed at the present time and many Christians have gone underground. 

Our family has some American friends who currently live in the PRC.  Because the husband was a Christian pastor until a few years ago, it was tricky for them to get a visa though he is now employed by a secular company in a non-religious position.  The family has to be very careful to not proselytize openly.  They are also very cognizant that they are being monitored and have warned friends in the U.S. against explicitly discussing Christianity or missions in their communications.  The family has known other Westerners who have been expelled for suspected missionary work.

With that background, I came across an interesting report about clandestine mission work in the PRC by a group of young Asian Americans.  The report apparently ran on Current TV, the progressive news channel founded by Al Gore.  I don’t regularly watch that channel; I came across the report on the internet.  The link below contains a video of the report.

I admire the passion of the young idealistic Christians in the video.  They are risking a lot to proselytize in the PRC.  They must be careful and creative.  But they apparently traveled so far and work under tough conditions because they have a great deal of love for the people they serve in rural China.

I also like this particular news report because it demonstrates that missionaries are not all of European heritage.  White missionaries are the ones who traditionally have garnered the most attention in the media.  In prior posts, I’ve also mentioned that most of the people, whom I’ve personally known to do mission work, were Anglo Americans.  But the reality is that Americans from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds make sacrifices to do important work as missionaries.  It is nice to see those contributions recognized.

Luke 24:47

…and that a change of hearts and lives and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, starting at Jerusalem.

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