KL2020, a gospel conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was the last major Christian conference to be held before the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, we look back and reflect with one participant on how God used the conference to prepare him for the events of the last year.
CP: One year later, how did God use the KL 2020 conference to personally equip you for all that 2020 brought?
Through all the challenges and difficulties in the past ten years of ministry, the conference was the clearest sign God gave us of his presence with us. By no means could that be coincidence: it was clearly God’s presence. We were led into the storm [of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic], and we are still in the storm now after one year! KL2020 was the last large-scale Christian conference before the pandemic happened. We still do not know when we can resume any conferences.
God led us into this huge storm, and in the meanwhile also shielded us. None of the people there were infected, even after returning to China, other parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Australia, the U.S., and many more countries. We knew people from Wuhan. They were stopped from coming to the conference, and when they returned to China, half of them were diagnosed positive. Every time I share this with new people, they sigh and say: “It was God’s presence.”
Because of that, my spiritual life became quite different. God is so real. You are fearful and sometimes you are scared. This year I noticed myself spending more time in serious prayer. It is great confirmation that God has been present with us, leading us into this battle, showing that he is leading. We are just following him. Even though there are storms, as long as God is with us, we press on.
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And not just me! Among such a group of pastors, this is the common story. God is building a community who shared this experience. People go back to that moment and share and get energized to push forward. It was a great mark in my life and in many people’s lives. The lasting effect will only be known in five to ten years. God is building a community through these small battles in the midst of serious warfare.
CP: Could you share a story of how you experienced God’s hand and protection during your time in KL?
On the evening of January 28, the conference opened in the midst of expectations, nervousness, and uneasiness. Inside the venue, other than those on stage, every one wore a facemask, but none seemed bothered and all were fully engaged. Everyone who came had already fully counted the cost and was looking only for spiritual blessing; the epidemic no longer bothered them.
Both the opening ceremony and Tim Keller’s message warning against pride in persecution were especially uplifting. We were nervous and tired, but felt gratitude and joy.
After midnight that night, I was about to go to bed when the phone rang with a harsh, piercing sound. I picked up the phone anxiously and heard an urgent voice: one brother suddenly felt congestion in the chest and thought he had been infected with the coronavirus. We discovered that this brother passed through the Hankou District of Wuhan on a train. While he did not get off the train, he was concerned. After his shower that night, he began to feel congestion in the chest. A sister at the conference was an experienced and detail-oriented doctor. She consulted with an epidemiologist, and they analyzed the case together. They thought it unlikely that he had been infected due to his lack of symptoms, but asked him to stay in his room for quarantine and observation. There were continuous prayers until evening. After hearing his symptoms completely abated, all of us were greatly relieved, like a stone was lifted from our chest. Out of precaution, this brother never left his room until the conference was over. We were all grateful for his sacrifice for everyone else.
I also think about the timing of the KL2020 conference. The World Health Organization did not announce that COVID-19 was a global health emergency until the morning of the very last day. God was gracious to give us several days [for the conference]. Once I shared this with a friend, and he laughed. He said, “We have been thinking the WHO was evil in this. But maybe there was one good thing they achieved!” It was just a joke—but the timing was amazing.
CP: How was this time of preparation useful to equip the Chinese church for the pandemic and coming persecution?
An amazing God was with us. God’s presence was demonstrated again and again by his protection. In the coming five to ten years we will have a rich spiritual well to which to return. Also, the messages were helpful. Tim Keller reminded us that you can be self-righteous during the persecution.
The whole conference was overshadowed by the pandemic. During pandemic, you can only pray. How can you control the virus? You can’t. How can you control who has it, who doesn’t? All the attendees had to decide whether to come. Everyone who came had prayed. They knew what they chose, and they came. That will leave a lasting mark in their lives.