This week, as I was travelling on Taipei’s recent but excellent Metro system, I suddenly heard my name in Chinese being called by another passenger. I looked round and saw a young lady was calling out my name. As we chatted, I discovered that she was a graduate of the Barnabas School Of Missions, a school that I started here in Taipei about 10 years ago, to train local Chinese speaking believers in cross-cultural mission.
But what really encouraged me was her ongoing comment “I am going for six months to a middle Eastern country to work as a missionary next year.” That kind of unexpected encouragement makes the work we do in the schools of mission in Taiwan and China all worthwhile.
We work to encourage Christian believers here to learn how to do cross-cultural work, and then to go out into the field. I should have retired by now (!), but I have a strong conviction that we are about to see a great wave of missionaries from China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries go out from their Chinese churches. So training and encouraging those who go and those who send, keeps Christine and myself busy in the Far East.
As far as Taiwan is concerned, there is a rather unique problem. The church to which I am connected here has planted over 400 churches worldwide. That’s exciting, of course. But the problem is that almost all of these churches speak Chinese, even though they might be in Paris or London or Delhi or wherever! That is pretty logical when you think of it, because wherever you go you’ll bump into Chinese, and indeed probably many of them. So it’s a great idea to serve them.
But my challenge is that it doesn’t help the local population of most countries to have a Chinese speaking church in their capital or elsewhere, because locals would then have to learn Chinese before they can hear about Jesus! And that, simply put, is not going to happen.
So the challenge for Chinese believers, here in Taiwan and elsewhere, is to learn other languages and understand other cultures, to then reach their new neighbours!
That mission movement has started. It’s exciting. But it’s only a beginning, it’s a trickle on the beach, not a tsunami wave. But I believe that will come. That’s why FieldPartner is currently building a Chinese school of missions online, using first language Chinese speakers with experience of cross-cultural mission.
We are putting the physical schools that we have run successfully in Taiwan and China on to the internet. That way any Chinese speaking person anywhere can be trained and prepared for mission. Then one day it won’t be just one voice on the Metro, it’ll be a chorus of folk saying they’ve been trained and they are about to go!
So many events take place that speak of the grace and power of the Lord in answer to prayer, yet at the same time we may not hear about them if they take place in “closed countries”. When we do hear, we are encouraged and challenged to pray for the Lord’s work in other nations, knowing that He is faithful to hear our prayer on behalf of the suffering church.
In 2016 Yazdan, a young man living in a ‘closed’ Muslim country, became a believer in Jesus. Yazdan had met a believer on a work related task, and while working at the believer’s house, he saw Christian literature and a Bible on the desk, became interested in Christianity. After talking with the believer Yazdan gave his life to the Lord.
At that time, Yazdan was 15 years old. Yazdan soon became a successful evangelist and a church planter. He turned his little shop into an underground church gathering place. The same week as he gave his life to Jesus he invited his customers to his shop and testified about Jesus. 60 students turned to Jesus. During the next 5 years, he planted 13 churches and led hundreds of Muslims to Christ.
Because of his activities, Yazdan's parents got very upset as they were radical Muslims. They went to a religious police station and betrayed their son. Yazdan was put in prison after his own father had handed him over to police officers for his faith and spiritual activities. Because his father was a religious leader in the city and had a great reputation, Yazdan’s case was even worse.
During his stay in a temporary jail, he was visited by the mullah of his city. This leader urged Yazdan to renounce his Christian faith, telling him to confess before a camera that Christians gave him money to spread Christian literature; otherwise he would be hung publicly. Yazdan refused to renounce his faith, telling the mullah that even if they killed him by hanging 1000 times and then they raised him 1000 times from the dead, he would announce publicly 1000 times that he was in love with Jesus and that Jesus is his Lord and Saviour. As a result of this, the mullah became angry and said he would kill Yazdan with his own hands.
After this, the prosecutor accused Yazdan of crimes that he had not committed: international terrorism, drug dealing and rape. Thus they changed his offences from religious ones to terrorism and drugs; they did this so that his arrest would not come before the Human Rights Commission and no one would know about Yazdan’s case.
There was a big possibility that he would be executed in 2016. The court did actually sentence him to death but then commuted it to over 20 years in prison. The court offered his parents the chance to mediate on Yazdan’s behalf and to pledge their house as security but his father refused.
Folk who knew about his situation prayed that God would change his father’s heart. Finally, his father made the decision to be a guarantor for his son and Yazdan was released and expelled from his country. He is now safe and secure in another country, but for the time being, he is unable to talk publicly for security reasons – his parents are still in that country and they are in danger.
In answer to prayer the Lord reached out and rescued this faithful young middle eastern believer. Whether for one or for many, our heavenly Father’s promise remains true as we pray for believers and those not yet saved in other nations, as we enlarge our hearts for “the ends of the earth”.