I am one of the fortunate people who has visited China on numerous occasions. And, ever trip taught me more about the unfathomable differences and similarities between Americans and Chinese. The common people of all lands, even those enslaved by years of a false hostile ideology or those that believe that their country is the only one on earth, immediately with little reluctance, are overjoyed to meet people from another country when in a non-hostile environment.
I am thinking about my many trips to China. I have to drift back to 1980 when I caught my first glimpse of mainland China. That resulted from an unexpected gift from a friend. The date was early 1980. I was in Tennessee for a one-year furlough from missionary service in Colombia, South America. The phone rang and Dr. Marie Blackwell quickly asked me whether I was going to Hong Kong in May to attend the organization of Hong Kong Presbytery.
My response was simple…”No, I will not be able to attend.” Her next question was as simple, “Why not?”
I answered without thinking, “That is very expensive.”
She said, “I think you should represent the work in Colombia. Would you go if I pay your way?”
I was in Hong Kong on May 4th, 1980 for the organization of the presbytery. Those were the years while Hong Kong was still a British Colony. But we did take time during the visit to travel north to the border between Hong Kong and Mainland China. I peered cautiously from Hong Kong into mainland China. This was just four years after the death of Mao Zedong.
From 1966 to 1976 during the Cultural Revolution, the expression of religious life in China was effectively banned, including even the TSPM. The growth of the Chinese house church movement during this period was a result of all Chinese Christian worship being driven underground for fear of persecution. To counter this growing trend of “unregistered meetings”, in 1979 the government officially restored the TSPM after thirteen years of non-existence, and in 1980 the Chinese Christian Council was formed.
Little did I know I would one day travel widely around China to visit sites of interest in the ministry of the Christian Church.