God loves us, and we love you!: Loving the City that Hates You, Part 2

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Editor’s note: Sister He Kewang continues to share about how the church is called to love and bless the city where she exists—even when that city rejects and persecutes them. Although the world may not understand the love they witness from the church, God’s people are to remain a faithful presence that serves and cares for the suffering and the afflicted, as well as witnessing to the righteousness of a patient God.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Part one of this interview can be found here.

China Partnership: Do you have a vision for what God will do in your city? Could you tell me about that?

Sister He: The first Chinese pastor in China, Pastor Liang Fa, was born in the city where I live. From the early 1900s to the 1950s, about ten missionary organizations came to my city. But seventy years has passed; it is very sad that there are very few believers and only a handful of churches in the area. Wendy [another sister with a similar heart for prayer] and I both have seen many signs of God’s grace for this land after our conversion. Seven years ago, Wendy and I prayed to God that he would give this land warriors who would fight for the lost souls of this city and plant as many churches as possible here.

CP: What role do you believe your church plays in the life of the city?


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Sister He: A church in the city should be the comforter, the guardian, and the provider for the city. A church should be a refuge for the heartbroken, the despairing, the poor, and the afflicted. When people are suffering, the church should be the first place that they think of. The church should be the guardian of the city. We may not have earthly power, but through prayer, we can bring the needs of the city to God. Through prayer, we can thank God for the good things within our city. The church should provide for the spiritual needs of the city, because the church has the truth, and only the truth can pierce all lies. Our church has been here in this city for fifteen years. We regularly care for and watch over the city, but are still lacking ministries that bring comfort and provision for the physical needs of people here.

CP: You have mentioned that many local churches are praying together every evening for your city in the midst of a recent COVID-19 outbreak in your area. What does it look like for God’s people to love and serve a city that is in pain?

Sister He: Six weeks ago, cases were suddenly discovered in our city: the entire city had a collective panic attack. The churches gathered, taking turns from one week to the next to pray for the alleviation of the pandemic in our city, and for the people of our city to turn away from false gods and return to the true God. At this point, the pandemic is almost under control and people are beginning to return to normal life. While we were praying for the city, an incredible thing happened: a fire broke out in a 300-year-old center of idol worship. We believe that God was warning the people of this land who worship idols to stop their worship of false gods.

CP: You have spent a month and a half in jail because of your faith. Why are you so passionate about blessing and praying for your city when you have been harmed and oppressed by the authorities of this city? What is it like to love and serve your city when the city is harassing you?

Sister He: God has placed us in this city, as the Scripture says, “because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.” It is not that we make the world our enemies, but that the world unreasonably hates Christ. Because the world hates Christ, it unreasonably hates those who believe in him. What is more, the world does not believe in love that has no explainable cause.

The officials of this city began to persecute us simply because we did not go to the government-approved Three-Self Church. Officials persistently asked our landlord to stop leasing the building we used to house our church to us. We were restricted from leaving the country many times, and constantly taken to the police station for questioning. Several brothers and sisters have been imprisoned two different times at the local police station. The officials’ request is simple: give up our faith, or flee the city. Once, out of curiosity, those who arrested us asked: “Why did you not leave the city as quickly as possible once you were released?” We replied: “Because God loves us, and we love you!”

On the one hand, we love our city with great patience and endurance. On the other hand, we love our city by seeking justice. After we were released from the illegal detention we went through, some of us in our church began a year-long journey of pushing for justice through legal channels of administrative reconsideration and litigation. For the brothers and sisters within our church, this has been a process of growing together. Although we lost every single case, throughout the process, God’s good name was preached among the government officials of our city and within the judicial circles of the city. Because of our cases, these people came to know that a group of God’s people lived within this city! After the legal battle, to this very day, our church has enjoyed a relatively peaceful environment.

As Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians: “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” Amid all kinds of hardship and conflicts, God delights for his children to grow in knowledge and to overflow with love.

He Kewang is a pseudonym for a ministry leader in southeast China who has a heart for prayer.

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

– Pray for Sister He and her church to continue to love their city with patience and endurance, and to love their city through their pursuit of justice.

Our blog exists, not just to transmit information, but to resource the global church to share the joys and burdens of the Chinese church. Our hope is that everything you read here will lead you to intentional, knowledgeable prayer for the Chinese church.

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Further Reading

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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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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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