I had spent the summer of 1995 in Hong Kong smuggling Bibles and other teaching materials across the Chinese border where they were placed in the hands of the Chinese underground Church. From that time on I made a determined effort to finish my schooling as soon as possible so I could return to China as a missionary. By January 1998 I had finished my career as a student and was ready to begin life on the mission field. During this season in my life I was not closely connected with any church but had joined a mission organization based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Through this organization I received some basic orientation about living in China and a position as an English teacher in a Chinese university in southwest China. I arrived in the city of Chongqing only one month after graduating college at the ripe old age of 21.
During the year and a half that I lived in Chongqing I learned Chinese while teaching English at the university. Being young and single I didn’t require much in terms of support. My position as a teacher provided me with $175 a month and an apartment to live in. I should note that when someone does overseas ministry through a mission organization, that organization doesn’t generally provide any support. In fact one must pay the organization for the services it provides such as training and counsel. Since I wasn’t closely connected with any church this $175 was my monthly lot while I lived in Chongqing. Since I was young, and my daily expenses consisted of only a few simple meals, plus the added luxuries of an occasional can of Coca-Cola and a package of Oreo cookies, I got along just fine!
In the previous couple posts we began talking about unreached people groups. We tried to demonstrate that these groups have a distinct urgency in the mission that the Church is called to fulfill. This urgency stems from the fact that they have not heard the Gospel, and unless they are intentionally targeted by the Church of Jesus Christ they never will. This dire condition gives them a special place in the heart of God. These are the lost sheep of the Lord’s parable. God surely cares for the ninety-nine sheep that have access to the green grass of the Gospel. He surely wants His people to “care for His sheep” and “feed His lambs.” Domestic and foreign missions must never be put on the back burner or considered something less important than pioneer missions, but the Lord has made clear to us that He feels a special urgency for His lost sheep that have no access to the Gospel. In this post we want to discuss the “highways and byways” in which these lost sheep find themselves. We want to ask the question, “Where are these lost sheep?” We are not now discussing the condition of the world’s unreached peoples, but we want to focus on the territories and countries in which they reside.
In this post I want to share the salvation testimony of a Central Asian Muslim in order to illustrate my last post concerning Unreached People Groups. Due to the sensitive political and religious nature of the country this brother lives in I have changed his name and left his location unspecified for his safety.
Soon after Esther and I were married I had a chance to take a trip to Central Asia. We were living in China at the time and had met some leaders of a short-term mission organization. They were interested in expanding their ministry into a particular country in that region. Since I had been living in Asia for several years and was familiar with the customs of that region, our new friends asked me to come along and help them get around.
In the last few posts I made a distinction between foreign and domestic missions. I have tried to argue that the two have more in common than we usually think. Whether you define preaching the Gospel in Mexico missions or not, really depends on whether you are from Mexico or another country. If you are an American pastoring a church in Mexico City you would be colloquially referred to as a missionary working on the mission field. On the other hand if you were born and raised in Mexico you would simply be called a pastor. I contend that in either case you would be involved in the Great Commission and could be biblically classed as a missionary. Since you are working to fulfill the mission given to us by the Lord, you are a missionary.
(In this post I want to share a testimony of one of the disciples that was raised up in our church in Jakarta in order to illustrate the conclusion of my last post “Defining Missions – What is a Missionary?” The brother’s name has been changed in order to protect his family and his labors in China)
A Chinese Testimony
XiaLanfeng grew up in a small village in southern China. Like most children in rural China he was told that if he studied hard he could improve his lot in life. So from childhood this is what he sought to do. After graduating high school he was fortunate to be accepted to a university in the modern city of Guangzhou. While in college he continued to focus on his studies and in this way avoided many of the trappings Guangzhou had to offer.
When I visit churches in America I am always interested to hear how the pastor will introduce me from the pulpit. I usually hear something like “Today we have with us Brother, uh… Missionary, uh… Pastor Chris.” I can’t count the number of times that I have been approached by good hearted and humble disciples in the stateside churches with the question, “What should I call you?” I might be mistaken, but I can’t imagine that any of our American pastors are used to hearing this question. I’m not keen on titles, so it really makes no difference to me what people call me. In fact when faced with this question I usually grin and say, “My mom named me Chris.” But this confusion on what to call a missionary sheds light on the vague understanding we have about what a missionary actually does. For many, what a missionary does is as mysterious and strange as the lands in which he ministers. I am convinced that the vagueness of the term “missionary” is partially to blame for this mystery. And I believe that this mystery causes some real and practical harm to both the missionaries that are sent and the churches and pastors that send them.
I want to share the testimony of how I came to Christ for 2 reasons. The first is that I wish to magnify the kindness of God in my life. The second is as a way of illustrating the importance of understanding that missions is defined by the mission we are fulfilling, not where we are fulfilling it. Click here for the previous post “Defining Missions – Where is the Mission Field?”
An American Testimony
I grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. My family weren’t church-goers, but my parents raised me with the assumption that Christianity was true. So as a child I believed that Jesus was God’s Son and that He had “the whole world in His hands” and that he loved “all the children of the world; red, yellow, black and white,” including me. Come to think of it, that is not a bad starting point for understanding of the Christian faith. But that beginning was as far as it went for me. And the ideas I had about God and His Son, didn’t come up very much in my thoughts or life, as I went about the business of growing up.