The world has been looking toward China as we watched some of the greatest athletic events since the Athens games four years ago. The 2008 games ended Sunday, but let us continue to pray for all of those who were involved as athletes, coaches, or spectators.
The prayer team at Long's Chapel United Methodist Church set aside a Day of Prayer for China and the Olympics when it began on August 8. Prayer bracelets from the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs were available for each person. The words in Chinese and English remind us to: Pray for China.
Our focus was on several things. The first was for the athletes, their coaches and their safety. A magazine from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes gave us excellent pictures and stories of the people who would be in various games.
From an article entitled, "Coaches' Wives Unite," Rebecca Carter wrote:
"This summer as we go to China, FCA is issuing a challenge to Christian coaches' wives from across the nation to stand in the gap and pray. Pray for the safety and strength of those competing and serving - for the favor of those athletes and coaches who are Christians - and for those who have never heard the name of Jesus or given their hearts to Him."
But what can one believer do to change a life that is thousands of miles away? The greatest power we have is prayer. We prayed that those who were in Beijing would have an understanding and respect for China.
President George W. Bush also used the Olympic Games to pressure the Chinese government to have no fear of religious freedom. He declared that "God is universal, and God is love and no state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion."
In China, the government monitors the printing of religious material. Bibles are legally published and Christians freely worship at registered churches. However, there are millions of Chinese Christians who attend unregistered house churches and they are the ones who are at the risk of being arrested.
There is a dynamic ministry that has been at work for fifteen years to heal the divisions in this vast land. Ned Graham organized East Gate Ministries that stands on the promise in Matthew 19:26, "With God all things are possible." Their vision is to see beyond the impossible.
Graham continues in the footsteps of his mother, Ruth Bell Graham who was raised in China in a Christian medical missionary family. Ned is confident that East Gate Ministry is led by God's Holy Spirit. He says: "We continue to be completely and utterly dependent upon Him for all that we have and all that we do. One of the biggest needs that China has is for the training of leaders and more resources to give to the people who are already believers."
In the current magazine, "East Gate Connection" one of the writers was with us for our Day of Prayer. Laurie B. St. Denis is from Sarasota, Florida. She is a co-worker with East Gate Ministry and brought great insights into their work. Several years ago Laurie and her husband adopted a little girl and since then have felt a strong tie of love to the Chinese people. Ned Graham's ministry brings encouragement.
Laurie believes that East Gate is well grounded in its mission to build the body of Christ in China. With that faith, she has visited China many times and has begun her own ministry to orphans called "Seeds of Hope China" (Lbstdenis@msn.com
). We were happy to have her daughter, Hannah, join her mother in the presentation.
When our special Day of Prayer came to an end we were ready to watch the Olympic games with more understanding of the country and athletes. We saw awesome events happen before our very eyes. Athletes joined in competition with respect and caring. We know that God's love is at work within the hearts of Christian athletes and their coaches because they pray for opportunities to witness to their faith.
Ryan and Sara Hall are distance runners. They were intentional about preparing, spiritually, for the Olympic atmosphere. In the Fellowship of Christian Athletes magazine, "Sharing the Victory" Sara stated: "We're reading books and really learning what we can. Ryan will have a ton of time outside of racing, so we know we'll be like missionaries over there." The Halls believe that they not only represent the United States, but also Jesus Christ.
I will always remember the impact that my introduction to a deeper view of China has had in my heart. And I will never forget that Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19 ). Let us join our prayers in one accord as we continue to: Pray for China.
Lucy Neeley Adams has always loved music. She began telling the story of hymns on Christian radio WWGM in Nashville, TN, in the '80s. She then wrote a newspaper column titled "Song Stories" for five years. During that time Lucy's book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions, was published by Abingdon Press in Nashville. Each of the 52 stories contained in the book is written in a devotional format, with the words of the hymn concluding each devotion.
Lucy, dubbed "The hymn lady," can be heard on the first Thursday of each month when she discusses hymn stories during a telephone interview with Michelle Mendoza of "Living Christian". The program is aired on station KCIS in Seattle, WA.
Lucy lives at Lake Junaluska, NC, with her minister husband, Woody. They have four children and fourteen grandchildren. She may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her at 52hymns.com.