When Ned Graham, the youngest son of Billy and Ruth Graham, first visited the People's Republic of China in late 1990, he had an unusual experience.

On his first night in the country, he was driven through Xiamen, in southern China's Guangdong Province. Thousands of people rode their bicycles through the dark streets. Cars went by, without their headlights on, a peculiar habit of Chinese drivers at the time. The drivers flicked on the car lights only as they passed the bicyclists, their faces illuminated for an instant. A series of still frames flashed before Ned's eyes as he looked out the window: Darkness. Light. Faces.

"I found myself all of a sudden just weeping," Ned, 40, says. "Then it was like somebody took warm oil and poured it on me. I felt this incredible feeling of peace and contentment. ? I felt like I was home?not home in the sense of residence, but home where your life is lining up with God's will. It was absolutely overwhelming. And I realized from that moment, within about 20 minutes, that God was calling me to spend the energies of the rest of my life on China."

A top to bottom strategy

Ned made that first trip through East Gates, which was then an embryonic organization aiming to help believers in China. East Gates had only limited goals and no comprehensive strategy for ministry, Ned says. His mother, Ruth, was on the board, though, and he and his friend David Dove, an attorney, had been helping them get started. As a result, Ned and David were asked to visit mainland China.

On that trip, Ned had his experience in Xiamen. The rest of his stay confirmed God's call in Ned's life?"to change church history in China"?though Ned had no intention of getting more involved with East Gates.

He did, however, challenge the organization's leaders to work legally in China at both the highest levels?top government leaders?and at the lowest levels?small house church groups?in order to improve the lives of all Chinese believers. The idea was not readily accepted.

A couple of weeks later, however, after returning to the United States, Ned was asked to join East Gates' team. He declined, but promised to pray about it. After prayer and discussions with his wife, Carol, his family and friends, he agreed to join East Gates on one condition: he would be the president, with total control of the finances and philosophical direction of the ministry.

In 1992, East Gates signed a historic contract with the China Christian Council to print and distribute to house church Christians more than 1 million Bibles a year for five years.

"The greatest single inheritance I have is the name Graham," says Ned, the father of two boys, Alex, 10, and Samuel, 8. "I wasn't about to give my name and the credibility of that name to anything that I didn't have control over."

p>Ned's offer was accepted. In May 1991, he left his pastoral ministry at Grace Community Church in Auburn, Washington, and became president of East Gates. Today, East Gates, incorporated as East Gates Ministries International (EGMI), is doing extensive work in China. Ned has become a world-class diplomat, developing relationships with Chinese Communist Party leaders and the country's Christian community.

Bibles made in China

Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of EGMI has been Project Light, the printing and legal distribution of more than 2 million Bibles to house church Christians in China since 1992. With government permission, these Bibles are printed in Nanjing by Amity Printing Press, which was established in 1985 by the China Christian Council and United Bible Societies.

The China Christian Council, an official government agency, works primarily with the Protestant churches of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), a government-sanctioned organization started by Chinese clergy in the early 1950s, after foreign missionaries were forced to leave the country. Three-Self (Self-Governing, Self-Supporting, and Self-Propagating) churches, claiming an official total of 10 million members, are registered with the Religious Affairs Bureau, the agency that oversees all religious activity in China.