Dear Praying Friends:Though Chinese people continue to demonstrate widespread openness to the Gospel, a number of obstacles make effective ministry to them difficult. Distance: Most Chinese live in China! Only a few foreigners can go there for any length of time. Political Restrictions: Though the constitution of China guarantees religious freedom, strict regulations govern the activities of non-Chinese citizens who want to share the Gospel. In general, direct proclamation of the Christian faith by foreigners is not allowed, and any attempt to work with “house churches” is illegal. Language: Though many Chinese university students can understand and even speak English, that is not their “heart” language. In order for the truth to penetrate their minds and become rooted in their own culture, it must be expressed in Chinese. Culture: Even then, however, massive cultural barriers make it hard for Chinese people to assimilate the faith into the depths of their value system and ways of thinking and acting. To give only two examples: How do you help a Chinese person overcome the pull of family obligation and the pressure to “save face,” unless you are aware of the long history and profound influence of those values in Chinese culture? Our Own Culture: Westerners approach Chinese people with our own assumptions and values, which may not necessarily come straight from the Bible. For instance, Chinese friends of ours have often indicated that they consider our focus on individual rights and freedom a bit overdone. They think we have too little regard for one’s obligations to the group. Nationalism: Though Chinese tend to treat foreigners with great courtesy, and often enjoy their friendship, we must not be ignorant of underlying tensions. Particularly with the Olympics coming up, Western criticism of China’s human rights policy is running head-on into the intense national pride that its people have in hosting the 2008 Games.
How are we trying to surmount these barriers? Distance: Though we live (mostly) in the West, C.I. workers have ready access to the many Chinese who have come here for further study and work. Randall and Connie Chan in Cambridge, England, and Dori and I here in the U.S. have multiple contacts with Chinese from the People’s Republic, Taiwan, and Singapore. Laura has made friends with a couple of non-Christian women as well. Our churches have vigorous programs of outreach to internationals, and most who respond are Chinese. We also have ongoing mentoring relationships with Chinese Christian leaders. We also overcome distance by preparing and publishing Christian materials in Chinese. In Taiwan, Belle Huang translates my articles and devotional messages, which are then posted on the Chinese page of our Web site (www.chinainst.org). My books, likewise, go where we cannot. Political restrictions are absent for those who live and work outside China. That’s one reason I go to Taiwan. Complete freedom there and in the West make unhindered ministry among Chinese possible. Language and Culture: Though we are keenly aware of our linguistic limitations, after years of language study and relating to Chinese friends, we all have enough ability in Mandarin to understand most of what our Chinese friends say to us, and to speak the Gospel into their lives. Randall, in particular, has qualified for all but the highest level of interpretation requirements for the British court system. In various ways, we all seek to expand and deepen our understanding of Chinese culture – Dori and I as “Anglos” with some experience with Chinese people, and the Chans as American-born Chinese. My assistant Laura has been reading about China in the course of her work with me, and I read and review books about Chinese history and culture; it forces me to grow in my knowledge, as well as to help others learn. Nationalism: Though we must always be careful what we say, we are less likely to offend those who have come overseas to live than those who remain in China. Here there is no government restriction on the news, so Chinese can gain a different perspective from the biased one which the PRC government allows to be disseminated at home. Finally, we spend a great deal of our time equipping Chinese believers, who have none of the liabilities we do, to share the Good News with their own people. Mentoring by all of us, and my teaching in Chinese-language seminary programs, are a high priority. We value your prayers as we seek to overcome obstacles and share the truths of the Gospel with Chinese people. “For with God nothing will be impossible! Luke 1:37 In His mercy, Wright