This is a story about some very strong Christians living in an environment that is not conducive to being a Christian. The place is Ch-na. Imagine a place that when you visit a church, there is a notice on the screen that says, "This service is only for people with an international passport. If you do not have one, you must leave." And the first announcement reinforces that notice, with a "recommendation of where you can worship." That was my first encounter with the Ch-nese Church. Nonetheless, they were there worshiping God, just like we do in the US or the Ch-nese do in their own churches here. The difference is that while the international service is registered and acknowledged, most of the Ch-nese Christians worship at unregistered (illegal) churches. Yet in this, God blesses.
Now imagine you are a Christian and you want to follow God's calling to make disciples of all nations, but you are in a place where you cannot openly evangelize and must be careful in your sharing. How do you follow the imperative of Matthew 28:19-20? You do it by developing relationships, one at a time. Through these relationships you are able to share your hope and assurance and the gospel of Jesus. It can be slow; it can be risky, but this is what God has called you to do. I would like to share a story about what a small group of Christians are doing in a major city in Ch-na. For their own safety, I intentionally don't name the city or provide their real names.
I am working with the team of people who want to reach out and are continually looking for ways to build relationships so that they can share the hope of Christ. We feel that God is leading them to develop a youth hostel that would be a place where students from Ch-na and other countries can stay when they are visiting this city. Their goal is to show "that you can be successful in business using Christian principles." Generally speaking, the hostels that are in the city do not go beyond "providing a bed." The team wants to be different; to cause the guest to be drawn one step closer to God as they stay at the hostel. They have taken to heart the term hospitality to mean loving strangers. So, they are looking at a place where everyone can experience God's love through the people who are working there.
The leader of the project, "Jane," is a very focused person, looking not only at the basics of opening a hostel, but also looking at the greater mission of drawing people to God. Because they cannot witness openly, it will be key to develop an environment where people can think, discuss and question so that the door can be opened to share about Jesus. "Jane" is working to develop an integrated plan where people are reminded about God in every aspect of their experience with the hostel - when they visit the website, when they walk-in, through their stay and when they pay their bill at the end. The decorations in the building will support thinking about life and God. They are also looking at having a "gathering place" where guests and locals can come to relax and build relationships.
"Jane's" ideas go beyond the structure and building, to the people who are on the staff. The staff will exhibit characteristics of the Scriptures and of the Ch-nese culture. I've come to appreciate the magnitude of the Ch-nese New Year - a time when people of this culture go home to family, open their homes and visit friends over a two-week period. "Jane" wants to make the hostel so inviting that those who visit feel at home and are genuinely welcomed by staff as if they are old friends. It is the belief that the Christian love, carried out within the Ch-nese culture, can be something that opens the door to share the "good news of Jesus." Please pray for "Jane" and her team, that they continue to trust God for leadership and strength, and that they will be able to make disciples in their town, with an impact across Ch-na!