From: Su Min
Subject: China Ministry Report
Saturday 23rd November 1996
Dearly Beloved, my dear friend pastor Dennis Balcombe sends this China Ministry Report-Revival Church which is self explanatory. Do pray for this work.
It has been several months since I have put out any report on the work here, and people everywhere ask me for information so they can pray for us. Thus I would like to take this opportunity to briefly update you on developments in Hong Kong and China.
The China ministry has been the busiest and most active since we started 18 years ago. One main reason is that many people are aware of July 1997 and the handover to China, and a lot of people want to come to participate in the China ministry while they have the opportunity. Thus daily many have crossed the border with supplies of the Word of God to give to Christians in the mainland. Some have given out Gospel literature as they have engaged in one to one personal witnessing, and many have responded and written for more information. Many teams of young people have come to specifically do evangelistic in Hong Kong. During the past few years tens of thousands of mainland Chinese have emigrated here, and most have never heard the Gospel. Only 8% of Hong Kong is Christian.
Some people entering China have had the opportunity to travel to the rural areas, visit and share with the home churches, and they have all come back greatly challenged and inspired. The fires of revival are burning as strong as ever, and the converts are numbered in the hundred of thousands. Many testimonies of miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit can be heard everywhere. For example, during August, a 52 year old sister in Henan went to the home of a person who had died and prayed for him. After 1 ½ hours he came to life again, completely healed of the disease that caused his death. The family and relatives had gathered for his funeral, and you can image the great rejoicing and powerful witness this was to the whole community. Almost everyone who has been involved in the "move of God" in China can relate similar miracles.
However on the other side persecution of the house church movement is still evident in certain parts of China. For example in the Wenzhou area of Zhejiang Province, where the unregistered churches have built many buildings that seat several hundred, there have been some incidents where the authorities have completely destroyed the church. The authorities say that these Church buildings are using valuable farm land or land designated for other uses to build churches. It is true that these church were unregistered, and possibly were using farm land without permission. But very few Buddhist temples met this fate, only Christian churches.
In parts of Henan the authorities have gone into the Christian's homes in a given area and have confiscated all the items of the believers. This includes all Bibles and Christian books, tape recorders and other electrical items, furniture and all their money. Some have been fined for "illegal religious activities. One Hong Kong Christian was detained for two weeks before being released. His only crime was shipping Bibles to Christians. Few of these are given to non-believers, so is no threat to the social structure of China. But in China Christians are often treated in this manner.
Several overseas Christians have met with similar persecution. Some, including a few Americans who have been detained for a day or longer for questioning. Some were fined, expelled from China and blacklisted. However these were people who went in hundreds of time, not first time visitors. The authorities apparently knew somewhat of their activities.
In November Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited China and President Clinton gave a speech in Australia. The emphasis was that the Americans want to develop a strong and working relationship with China and work with China as partners and not to try to isolate or contain China. At the same time the Secretary of State made very clear the displeasure of the American administration on China's human rights record, policy toward Taiwan and other issues. I personally believe this approach might be a positive one and it is very possible there will be some major changes to China during the coming years. It has to be admitted that the hard-line approach under former administrations did not bring any fundamental changes.
But whatever happens, we are committed to the ministry in China as well as Hong Kong, and feel perhaps this is the dark period before the dawn of a new day. Even so, it is far better to have a nation where people are hungry for God, where Christians are praying and united, where the Gospel is preached and miracles are taking place in the midst of persecution and suffering than to have one where there is political and religious freedom, but a sleeping church and populace hardened by sin with no hunger for God. We see the former in China.
As to Hong Kong, we are not at all pessimistic about the handover to China that is to take place on July 1. Hong Kong will be governed under a "one-country two systems" principle, and China will only be responsible for foreign policy and national defence. Thus several thousand People's Liberation Army soldiers will be stationed here as a symbolical force and of course we will fly the five star red flag of the
PRC. Obviously political activities against China will probably cease and most of the political dissidentswho escaped from China are planning on leaving. The flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan) will not be allowed, which can be seen now.
But as far as religion, churches, missionaries, evangelism, the present economic and social systems are concerned, nothing is supposed to change. We are cautiously optimistic that this will be the case, at least for the first few years after the takeover. Then there will be time in which China itself might change. Of course nobody really knows what might happened, but I believe that the Chinese are sincere in wanting to maintain the same system in Hong Kong. They know they have much to lose if they mess this up. In addition to ruining the economy of Hong Kong that will have a devastating effect on their own economy, world wide condemnation and so on, they will have little hope of getting Taiwan to join them based on the same principle. A military option would be the only alternatives, something that is highly unlikely.
Thus we do not expect any major changes, but all the uncertainty has made people more responsive to the Gospel than before. Also due to fears of the loss of freedom, several notable anti-Charismatic church leaders have immigrated overseas. Thus most Churches in Hong Kong are now more united than at any time, and even most evangelical churches are now open to the work of the Holy Spirit, worship and praise. There has been a notable move of the Holy Spirit and church growth during the past year, and also many leading evangelists have conduced crusades and seminars here. In November the German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke sponsored a city-wide evangelistic outreach in which an excellent full-color Gospel booklet was mailed to every home in the territory.
The only negative development was that of the city-wide publicity given to a church called, "Church of Zion," that has been declared to be a cult by the 1,100 Protestant churches in Hong Kong. The main reason is the leader, a Leung Yat-wah, has been urging his congregation of over 1,000 people to orally ingest hydrogen peroxide as a miracle cure for all diseases. There are many other aspects of their doctrines and practices that are in serious error and thus they are truly a cult. However it is sad, as they are also a "Charismatic" church, and in fact some of the leaders left our church 12 years ago to join Leung Yat-wah. I believe they were deceived. Recently the police have arrested several of these leaders for illegally storing large quantities of hydrogen peroxide, which is classified as a poison here. They police are looking at ways to take more legal actions against this group, lest they continue to damage the health of their people. There is also concern that there might be a mass suicide, as the leader admires David Koresh and the "Branch Davidian" cult in which he and his followers died in an inferno in Waco Texas a few years ago.
But even this has had it positive benefit for we have had the opportunity to identify with the evangelical and Charismatic churches who hold fast to solid doctrine and stand against this church that uses "revelation and gifts of the Spirit" to promote heresy. The Charismatic churches like ours who have taken this stand have received great respect from the evangelical community and thus our voice is stronger. Also the people in the community will respond to Christ more readily when they know you support solid Biblical teaching and condemn heresy and cults.
We are very excited for the Lord has provided the opportunity to purchase a new building, a vacant movie theatre. The building is only 10 years old. We have already obtained a loan from a bank (a mainland Chinese communist bank) and have received the keys to this new building, that can easily seat up to 800 in addition to a lot of room for offices, Sunday School and so on. It is about 15,000 square feet compared to less than 5,000 square feet in our present church. The price for Hong Kong, which has about the highest property values in the world, is reasonable. It is only US $ 1.9 million, a price that is close to what some people pay for homes of less than 2,000 square feet. Also the location is excellent, right across from a main artery of transportation, and close to the new airport that is to go into operation in 1998.
Though the overall price is reasonable, it is a great challenge for our people, and most of our people have given much of their life savings so we could have sufficient funds for the down payment of US $388,000. Now we are looking to the Lord for funds to remodel the building, a project that could cost up to US $500,000. We want to do a good job, that this can be a center of revival and evangelism. All churches in Hong Kong have a hard time in finding meeting places, and we want to make the building available to other churches for seminars, special meetings, prayer conferences, and so on. Also being close to the new airport and the involvement of RCC in China, it will be used to continue our outreach into China after 1997.
For the past 18 years since China opened, our church has devoted its workers and resources to reach the people in this great nation. We have provide tens of thousands of overseas Christians the opportunity to enter China and participate in this ministry. We of course have been greatly benefited by this, and now hope that churches overseas will help to invest in our church here. If you know of anyone who would be interested in helping, we could send more detailed information about needs in this area.
Some people have said that we are "crazy" in making such a major investment knowing 1997 is on our doorstep, in which everyone agrees there may be major changes. But we have done this partly as an act of our commitment to Hong Kong and faith in the future. The main reason is we expect a great harvest during the coming months and years. After the handover, without a doubt the 6.5 million people remaining here will be more responsive to Gospel than ever, as is true in mainland China.
A few other items of information:
- I am now helping to pastor a Chinese church in Paris, France, that was stared a few years ago by Christians from mainland China. We have grown to almost 200 people, and are now registering with the government as "Paris Revival Chinese Church." I or one of the elders go there several times a year, and believe to see a great harvest among the hundreds of thousands of Chinese living in France. The church, like that in China, is Spirit filled and full of life and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
- We are quite active now in Vietnam, where many of the refugees that were under our ministry in the refugee camps, have returned as Spirit-filled believers to serve the Lord. Some of the workers are making regular trips to Vietnam to minister.
- Working with the Sowers Ministry of our church and other ministries, we are spending a lot of time in Nepal, India and other nations in S.E. Asia, and have conducted several leadership training seminars. There is the beginning of revival in these nations. Fifteen years ago, there were almost no believers in Nepal and it was a closed nation. Today there are over 200,000 believers and it is opened to the gospel.
- Michael, our son, who is 20, is in Long Beach, California going to school and active in the church, Bethany Chapel, where I attended five years before entering the ministry.
- Our daughter Sharon, who was married to a Chinese brother, Samuel Lau last year, is now pregnant and expecting by next May. They are both working in our China ministry.
- We expect to be in our new church (presently called the Kwai Fong Theatre) by the first of March. We will later notify you of the new address. All our phone numbers, FAX and e-mail will remain the same, as well as our residential address and phone.
- We have incorporated a new company, "Revival Chinese Ministries International" in the United States. In the future our China Ministry to mainland China as well as all our overseas activities will be under this new corporation. In view of possible pressure from the SAR (Special Administrative Region) government after 1997, the ministry in China will be legally separated from Revival Church. But China missions will remain the main vision our church, in which we will work with other churches and ministries in Hong Kong and around the world.
Thanks for your prayers and do contact us if you have any questions or suggestions. God bless you.
Pastors Dennis, Kathy Balcombe
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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