China Trip--Day 4
6:48 AM The day started around 2 AM when I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. My body is still on Chicago time. Right now we’re packed because we’re moving from the school (about an hour NW of Beijing) to the Mac Center (ELIC HQ) in Beijing.
8:30 AM The Mac Center turned out to be a four or five story building next to the tomb built by a Chinese emperor for one of his eunuchs. The trees surrounding the tomb are "national trees" and cannot be cut down. We dropped off our bags, then headed out to catch the bus for church. A twenty minute ride later, we arrive at the National Library, the site of the western branch of the Beijing International Christian Fellowship, a church ministering to the international community. The congregation has two branches. The east branch is located near many of the foreign embassies. I chatted with one of the lay leaders who said that almost 1900 people attend two services there every Sunday. They started the west branch in September and it draws 400 people every Sunday, most of them students. You have to show a foreign passport in order to gain entrance. Neat to be there because you worship with English-speaking Christians from many different countries. Today's service was very much like one of our contemporary worship services. A little more informal, but the music was the same.
11:15 AM The lay leader is an American from Seattle who works for a software company. He and his wife have lived in Beijing for 8 years and love it here. He said that Christians in China can be found in various groups and congregations. He also said that there is an openness among many intellectuals and there is even a movement to officially teach Christianity partly because of its historical value to Western culture and also because of its moral values. The Summer Olympics are coming to Beijing in 2008 and that has led to a huge industrial and economic development. That also may lead to other changes as well.
11:40 AM Small world. Turns out the lay leader came to China because he was influenced by Gaius Berg. Gaius and Martha (who are well known to several people at Calvary) now live in Japan. Then I met a man who works for Gospel Light Publishing. When I asked if he knew Terry Platt (who worked for Gospel Light for 20 years until his death last year), he said yes. He attended Terry’s funeral at Calvary. I also met a man whose company translates Christian books into Chinese. I'm hoping to talk to him later this week about doing that with several of my books.
2:15 PM A few quick thoughts about Beijing. You sense an enormous energy here, a noisy amalgamation of honking cars, jammed streets, people everywhere, smoke, haze, bright lights, lots of bikes, crowded buses, buildings that stretch endlessly in every direction, loud music, and lots and lots of young people. Ancient tradition and rapid change, the new and old, poverty and prosperity live side by side. Thousands of years of history clash and meld with cell phones, laptops, Ipods, and plasma screen TVs. The Western influence is everywhere evident. Almost everything good and bad about America can be found here. One man told me that China is more capitalist that the US. On the surface, you don’t see much evidence of the church. There are churches in Beijing and you can find them if you look. I was simply told that things are happening "behind the scenes" in many places. The main point of the moment is that China is a place of vigorous energy and confidence. The economic facts are well known. Some people say that the 21st-century with be the "Chinese Century." That remains to be seen, but it is indisputable that China's place on the world stage will be large in the years ahead. More and more American companies find it profitable to do business here. That plus the 2008 Olympics lead many to hope for new opportunities to talk to others and to answer questions of the heart.
To sign up for Pastor Ray's free weekly sermon email list, click here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org.