By Jason Shuler
Last Summer, I had the privilege to visit Beijing, China for seven days on a survey trip to plan for a trip next summer with our teens. Here are a few lessons I learned while on this trip:
Lesson 1. Revelation
Perhaps the greatest revelation during my time in China was the masses of people everywhere you go. On the streets, in the subways, in the marketplaces—people were literally everywhere!
New York City and it’s surrounding areas boast a population of around 13 million people. New York is the largest city I’ve ever been in, until arriving in China. After passing through immigration, I headed to baggage claim when I was startled by the number of people awaiting those coming through the airport. Thousands of people were being held behind gates for a couple hundred yards on either side of us. I felt like I was walking the red carpet at a Hollywood event. Seven to ten people deep, they stood looking for someone with cameras and iPhones. I waved at all of them, playing the celebrity card; I was one of the few Americans passing through, so I got some additional attention.
Beijing and its surrounding areas are difficult to calculate. While I was there, the census was explained, the immigrants that work in Beijing who live there but aren’t registered as living there, as well as the “foreigners” who visit Beijing throughout the year. They estimate about 40 million people are in Beijing at any given time…That’s a lot of people!
Lesson 2. Reality
One night, we were at dinner with a couple missionary families enjoying some authentic Chinese food. They were sharing some of the difficulties of ministering to the Chinese people. One missionary shared the story of an American who had come to Beijing years ago and visited Tiananmen Square. After spending the day at the square with a tour guide, the tour concluded. The tour guide had shared facts, stories, and statistics about the square. Once the tour had ended, he opened the tour up for questions. The American asked, “Where were the tanks?” The guide said, “What tanks?” The man continued, “You know, the tanks, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, all the people that died? Where exactly did all of that happen?” In complete honesty, the tour guide replied, “Sir, you must be mistaken; those things never happened here.”
The missionary went on to explain to us that in China, the coverage was never seen of the Massacre of 1989. In China, the newspapers never printed a story, the television never recorded any footage, and the Internet is heavily restricted there. How sad to not have an accurate view of your own nation’s history.
I’m proud to be an American. Although our nation has its faults and shortcomings, I’ve never been more proud to be an American than after my visit to China.
Lesson 3. Renewal
When I was a kid, I used to think that people who were in ministry (pastors, preachers, etc.) were superheroes. So much so, that they became Super Christians. They never sinned, felt discouraged, or ever struggled with the things that common Christians do. As I’ve become older, I’ve realized that isn’t true. In fact, it seems like they are sometimes more susceptible than most because they can receive more opposition than most.
Missionaries are no different. The missionaries that we were able to spend time with in China are wonderful people doing a work for the Lord there. The fellowship was a delight: hearing stories, spending time together, and sharing meals. To me, it seemed commonplace to spend time with people in the ministry and fellowship with them; but in a country like China—missionaries are few and far between. It would be easy for a missionary to become discouraged without the edification of other believers and strengthening on one another. One of the ways I was challenged was in the area of being an encouragement to the missionaries we met. It has been my goal since my trip to pray for these doing a work in China.
As a reader, I hope that there are missionaries that you pray for. I would encourage everyone to go out of your way to personally be an encouragement to someone today. You never know who needs your encouragement, and perhaps someday—you will need that same encouragement.
Lesson 4. Responsibility
One of the questions I had while in China was, “What is considered the national religion of China?” In my paradigm, every country was founded by some group of people who claimed to a particular religion. I’m sure that at times China has claimed Buddhism or the teachings of Confucius; but today, there is no official religion among the Chinese.
In addition, I asked a missionary what it was like to witness to a Chinese person. Here was the conversation he used as an example:
Missionary: “Do you know Jesus Christ as personal Savior?”
Chinese Man: “Who is Jesus Christ?”
Missionary: “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the only way to Heaven”
Chinese Man: “What is Heaven? Who is God?”
A majority of the Chinese people has no concept of God; there is no national religion in China because there is no concept religion at all. The people in China desperately need Jesus. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of responsibility to pray for the people of China, pray for the Christian missionaries in China, and do what I can do to help the Gospel get to the Chinese people. Mark 16:15 says, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”