An Unexpected Mercy

Sa Zhong Zi (meaning “sow seeds”) is the pseudonym for an American living in China assisting with the support and strengthening of the Chinese house church.

One of the great joys of our ministry is the seminary that we were able to be a part of starting at the beginning of 2012. We are currently training over one hundred and sixty house church leaders from all around China (roughly sixteen different provinces). In the short time we’ve been blessed to conduct classes, we have been further blessed by a wide-ranging respect, and a good reputation. Many Christians in China know about our seminary and think highly of it.

In addition, we have had the support of the local church such that we are not dependent on outside finances. About 97% of our classes are conducted in Chinese with only the occasional teacher needing translation. All the textbooks, syllabi, and communications are in Chinese. Students study for their M.Div. or bachelor’s under teachers who know the issues that face pastors in this context, and who are able to help the students grapple with the implications of the gospel in their native environment.

These are all tremendous blessings, but one thing that often does not get publicized is the unspoken stories. By that I mean the people who are impacted through our seminary who are not students. Mostly through the constant presence of our staff, specifically our administrative staff, we are able to see God use our seminary in unconventional ways. It is wonderful to see students’ lives changed and their ministries enhanced through the training they receive; but when we see God use our seminary in unexpected ways, it is a special blessing. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Just last week I went in to talk to our administrative manager, Grace, and have lunch with one of the other pastors. As we prepared to have lunch, our administrative manager took me and the other pastor aside to have a word with us.

“The cook just prayed to receive Christ,” she told us. “She’d like you two pastors to pray for her.” 

This middle-aged woman, Mrs. Tan, who had been making meals for our seminary instructors for over half a year, had just prayed a few days prior and wanted to talk to us. As we sat down for our lunch, we began to ask questions.

“I’ve seen the love you all have for one another. It’s different and I’d like to be part of it,” said Mrs. Tan

She sat there and told us about her husband and her college aged daughter. Her daughter just came back from France where she studied and obtained her bachelor’s degree. She wanted to go on and study for a master’s degree, but had to come back because Mrs. Tan could not afford tuition. Her husband was a classic deadbeat husband who had a long history of cheating on Mrs. Tan and abusing her. She was desperate and Jesus met her in her desperation.

Mrs. Tan didn’t want money, or favors; she just wanted Jesus and his body, his church. 

“I don’t know much. I’m reading the Bible, but I don’t always understand,” she told us

Pastor Chen and I gave her some advice and prayed for her. She thanked us and then went back to work cleaning up the dishes from lunch. What a blessing to see God use our seminary in such an unexpected way.

Another similar thing occurred last year in a longstanding relationship we’ve had with the elderly landlady of our male student dorm. When we began to rent the dorm in 2012 we were nervous about telling the landlady, Mrs. Zhang, that we wanted to use her apartment to house our male seminary students. Our administrative manager and my wife tried explaining who we were and why we wanted the apartment without using the word “Christian” since we felt she might be unwilling to rent to us. After fifteen to twenty minutes of trying to explain who we were the landlady still looked confused. 


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Finally Grace blurted out, “We are Christians and we are training church leaders.”


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Mrs. Zhang’s eyes opened up, “Why didn’t you say so? Christians are good people. I’m sure the men will make good tenants.”


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Later Mrs. Zhang became ill and several of our administrative staff went to the hospital to pray for her. She prayed to receive Christ and was baptized in the hospital by one of the local house church pastors. When our administrative manager told me about this, I couldn’t help but smile and think about how God is doing something far beyond the ministry we have in the seminary classroom. 

This organic ministry of God using his people where they are, in these natural relationships, brings to mind the early church – God’s people being used as salt and light to bless people they interact with on a daily basis, both educated and uneducated, both rich and poor, both the influential and those with little influence. Please keep praying for our seminary, that God would use all of us – teachers, students, administrative staff, and the cook and landlady – to lift up his name in this city.

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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
Read More

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

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Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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