HERE AM I, SEND ME!
SHEE TSE LOONG (SINGAPORE)
A hand firmly holding a baton, Another reaching out to receive it. This poster hangs in
many a True Jesus Church building all over the world. The International
Assembly’s call for more volunteers marks an important development in our world
evangelism. For too long, we have depended on a handful of full-time ministers
who juggle between their pastoral duties and missionary work.
The Great Commission was given
verbally to the apostles’, but when the actual commissioning took place at the
upper room on Pentecost, the entire assembly of disciples numbering about a
hundred and twenty received power from the Holy Spirit to become “witnesses in
Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth”2.
Later, while the apostles remained at Jerusalem,
the disciples were scattered and “went about preaching the word”3.
Among them was Philip, who preached in Samaria.
And when Paul covered the places beyond Samaria,
he was accompanied by Joseph Barnabas, John Mark, Silas, Timothy and Titus. It
is evident that missionary work was carried out extensively by many who were
not part of the Twelve.
The Great Challenge
The Great Commission is truly a
great challenge for several reasons. One is the great disparity between the
number of workers and the amount of work to be done. It is almost two thousand
years since, but there are still unreached peoples and lands. Another is that
the gospel has become corrupted with paganistic elements of foreign lands. By
the turn of the first century, the adulterated form of Christianity
overshadowed the true faith and from thence, Christianity was introduced to the
world as a western religious (sometimes political) system.
The size of the nominal Christian
population is far from satisfactory, but the ratio of True Jesus Church members
to the world population is really dismaying. Theoretically, any saved person
should have a passion for lost souls that forces him into action because he has
been touched by the love of Christ. In practice, the majority of us are laid
back while souls perish by the second. There is an abnormal lack of urgency.
the ‘dark continent’, is still awaiting the true light to shine through the
darkness. Out of the numerous countries occupying this vast land, the true word
has only reached four countries. For hundreds of years, our fellow men living
in that land have been suffering physical oppression and poverty. Who would
help free them from spiritual bondage and enrich their souls with things
The word of truth was first
received in Nigeria in 1979
and subsequently spread to Liberia,
Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. Many of our audience have
been Christians for many years, some even for 50 to 60 years. To be able to
find the truth is indeed a home-coming to them. Are we willing to leave the
comfort of our homes to make this possible for many more out there? Do we not
have an example in Jesus who left His glorious throne to labor like a servant
and finally to die a criminal’s death?
The early Christians faced much
hardship and peril while pioneering in foreign lands. If the latter day church
were to do greater things as prophesied4, surely we must accept more
than a share of their suffering. At present, our missionaries have not really
suffered; they only have had to put up with some inconveniences. However, for
the unaccustomed, even such would be scarcely tolerable. It would be good to
know what to expect. Last year, a brother accompanied a full-time preacher to
Africa while three deacons and two brothers joined as volunteers in India.
The brother who spent a month in Africa last September had the experience of worshipping
in places like a mud chapel, a pitched tent, or simply under the shade of mango
tress. Prayers were said while kneeling on muddy ground. Often, services in the
open were interrupted by heavy rain. The schedule was hectic, and much time was
spent waiting for the tent to be erected or on travelling. Once they had to
travel for an hour on a hired lorry packed with about 70 people to the
baptismal site. On another occasion, a hired van was used to make a few trips
to get 98 people baptised. The roads were bad, and it was not easy to ford
through flood waters with their very old hired car without having to
push-start. Sometimes travelling was done on foot. Meals were simple, and there
was a lack of drinking water. Hotel accommodation was poor. One room they
stayed in had no bathroom while another had no electricity. Both had no water
supply; but hot and cold water would be fetched upon request.
The experience was nevertheless
found to be rewarding. The opportunity to address gatherings of 60% to 99%
truthseekers is seldom found in one’s home-country. The eagerness to hear the
complete gospel, the enthusiasm in asking questions and the zeal in praying for
the Holy Spirit were some of the things the Africans displayed that brought joy
to those involved in the ministry.
On the whole, the Africa ministry still needs to be strengthened in many
ways. Our African brethren, especially those in Zambia, are rather poor. Physical
poverty has affected the faith of quite a number of them. Subsidies are needed
for construction of decent places of worship. Religious education is only
slowly taking form, and proper set-up will be looked into this year.
India was visited twice last year;
in March and September. Though the word was brought to this country in 1969, we
only have churches in two out of 24 states. Two other states have prayer
houses. It was only last year that we managed to reach out to one more - Bangalore. Moreover, few
people are sufficiently familiar with the situation in Madras and Kerala, where we have churches. It
is necessary that ties be strengthened with our own brethren before any attempt
to break new ground. The first trip in March was mainly for fact-finding. Most
of the volunteers admitted having little or no idea of the India ministry
before embarking on the mission. One deacon remarked that despite being briefed
before the trip, it was only upon arrival that he began to see what it was
To enable the team to work better
during the first trip, two brothers from the Tamil Fellowship of Federal
Territory Church (W. Malaysia) joined as
volunteers. Besides serving as interpreters, they also acted as cultural
advisors. But they too felt a cultural gap. It seems advisable that volunteers
of Indian descent be more involved in this work. This would agree with Paul’s
extreme passion for the salvation of his own race5. It could be a
good alternative to reach out to the large Chinese communities in Bombay and Calcutta,
since a substantial number of them still maintain Chinese literacy, as
evidenced by the existence of the Chinese press circulating a few daily
newspapers. The majority speak the Hakka dialect which happens to the most
predominant vernacular amongst our churches in Southeast
Asia. However, it is not desirable that the main composition of
our churches worldwide be Chinese. God’s redeemed should hail from every tribe
and tongue and people and nation6. The aim of global evangelism is
to save the native people of each land we visit. So ultimately, it is the
Indians that we want in India!
Apart from cultural differences,
our volunteers encountered physical difficulties that required adaptability and
spontaneity . Once, they arrived at a village late in
the evening and discovered that there was no electric supply. The church was
lit with only one gas lamp. The sermon had to be preached off the cuff, relying
on God’s inspiration. Travelling was extensive yet difficult, due to pollution
and insufficient transport. One of the voluntary workers was nearly thrown off
a very packed bus. Hygiene was poor and basic amenities were inadequate. Using
the open latrine in the bushes was commonplace while toilet paper was expensive
or unheard of in the rural areas. Transportation and infrastructure was poor,
which aggravated the hectic schedule.
The second trip was easier as the
voluntary workers had become more accustomed to the conditions. It would seem
prudent then, to have a core of committed workers willing to go for future
trips. Work would then be more efficiently carried out in the long term.
Getting a totally new group of volunteers to adapt is time-consuming.
There is much benefit in joining
ministry. One member pointed out that it gave him the opportunity to be totally
cut off from secular cares and be fully dedicated to the Lord’s work. He
admitted honestly that back home, he had been fitting God’s work into his
secular schedule rather than making it his primary concentration. Another said
that instead of just going there to teach, he was in fact taught by the example
of the Indian believers. Their faith was simple, and though physically poor,
they had great zeal in reaching out to remote areas to establish churches. He saw
his own inadequacies and regretted his lethargy. It was, he said, “like having
cold water splashed onto my face to awaken me and to make me sit up and take
action”. This vast land of more than 800 million souls presently has only 3,200
believers. There is an urgent need for more of us to take action. Have we felt
the cold water on our faces?
Beyond the Iron and Bamboo Curtains
For many years, communist
countries like China and Russia
have suppressed religious activities and persecuted Christians. Many of our
churches in China
went underground and in some places, members just scattered. The government
ban on teaching religion to children below 18 years old has hindered the
passing on of the faith to the next generation. Many children of our China brethren
were not baptised in infancy and grew up with little knowledge of Christ.
has about 300 million children*, who are not legally allowed to hear the
gospel. Till recently, communication with churches in the free world was
virtually non-existent. The International Assembly made a milestone visit to
the People’s Republic of China
last year and made some headway in Russia.
The current situation in the ChineseChristianChurches,
according to our IA visitors still reflects centralised control. The two main
organisations, namely the Chinese Christian Council (CCC) and the Three-Self
Patriotic Movement (TSPM) Council, generally referred to as “the two councils”, seek to unify the churches into a single
“post-denominational” church, anonymous and concordant in faith and polity.
Theological training is centralised at state-sanctioned seminaries, and only
those trained at these seminaries can be licensed to serve as ministers in
their individual churches. The unique identity of our church would naturally be
challenged in the spate of such ecumenism. Also, the official position of the
authorities, which is in line with the concept of a “post-denominational” era,
disallows the posting of signboards. There is also some difficulty in
conducting baptism by immersion in the open, since evangelistic activities in
the streets, hospitals, or prisons are outlawed. Hence, some Christian leaders
deem the True Jesus Church as non-conformist.
Despite the hindrances, the church
is flourishing in Fuzhou, Fuqing and Xiamen. Quite a number of
churches have been erected bearing our church’s name. As one journeys farther
into the interior, pressures upon the true church are reportedly more
tenacious. Nevertheless, the IA visitors found in Nanjing,
Wuhan and Beijing
many groups of workers and lay ministers who demonstrated strong faith and
members who hold unswervingly to the doctrinal tradition of our church. In the
seminaries at Nanjing and Wuhan, our theological students have
introduced the true gospel to their fellow-students. Instead of succumbing to
ecumenism and liberal theology, they are effective witnesses who are
instrumental in bringing many students to the truth. This has inevitably caused
displeasure among some in the faculty as well as the student body.
On the whole, the holy work in China
is dynamic, abounding in signs and wonders and conversions to the Lord. The
churches in China
are in urgent need of Mandarin sermon cassettes, theological training materials
and a continuing supply of periodicals. Above all, they require our
intercession and actual participation. If Hudson Taylor could be so willing to
spend and be spent for the sake of China, why should we feel less for
the land where God first raised the true church of the last days?
The work in Russia is very new, and limited to Moscow and St.
Petersburg. Although pioneering started in Moscow in May 1994, due
to the lack of a permanent centre, only one person, a Chinese, received the
Holy Spirit and subsequently reverted to his own church. The present flock in Russia traces its beginnings to the same year
when a brother from the United States
sent tracts and cassette tapes to Chinese friends residing in Moscow. Two became very interested in the
truth and contacted our church. Thus in January 1995, a second trip was made
which met with some success. After preaching for ten days at the Beijing Hotel,
where about 30 attended, a number were strongly convicted of the truth and even
received the Holy Spirit. A follow-up trip was made in the same month, lasting
a fortnight, and by then there were more than 10 stable truth-seekers, most of
them having received the Holy Spirit. In March, during a 10-day visit, it was
noted that regular attendance at services and Bible study had doubled to 20.
For four wintry months, the truth-seekers
burned with zeal, having regular services and unceasing prayer. Despite having
been brought up in an atheist educational system, they personally experienced
God and increased their faith. Not only were they observing the Sabbath and
paying tithes, they zealously brought friends to hear the gospel. Finally in
May, a total of 34 were baptised, including five entire families. A further
nine were baptised in the months of June and July, bringing the total Russian
membership to 43; 34 in Moscow and nine in St. Petersburg.
The economic and political
situation in Russia
is rather unstable. Businessmen and missionaries have suffered violence. The
underworld is gradually gaining strength. The newly established church in Moscow has been entrusted
with a great responsibility. The IA will have to help her train personnel, so
as to bring the gospel to the ethnic Russians and even the Jews residing there.
There is an urgent need for evangelistic materials in the Russian language.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union,
the opening up of communist nations like China
are great opportunities to preach the gospel. We must also realise that the
time available is not indefinite. Though many have remarked that communism is
dead, we know from God’s Word that before the world ends, it will rise to great
power. if this present period corresponds to that of
the “mortal wound” in Revelations, then when the wound is healed, we will have
no time to preach. Before the sleeping giant awakes, before the curtains close
on us again, let us bring the gospel to the end of the earth.
Mt 28:16, 19 2. Acts 1:8 cf 1:15; 2:1-4 3. Acts 8:4 cf 8:14 4. Hag 2:9 5. Rom 9:3;
6. Rev 5:9
* From New Evidence,
January/February 1996 issue