Category Archives: witness

Chinese and Americans–One People Under God


Mao Zedong was born in Shaoshan village in 1893. This village was just one hour by car from the birthplace of Cumberland Presbyterian missions in China in 1898. Dr. Lawrence Fung and I led a group from the USA to visit Hunan, Shaoshan village, Changsha, and the infamous mountain atomic bomb bunker of Mao in the Water Dripping Cave near Shaoshan in 1998.

The Entrance to Water Dripping Cave

The Entrance to Water Dripping Cave

Our visit to Shaoshan village came in the early years of China opening their doors to foreign tourism so all the displays were simple. Everything looked so dusty. The presentation yelled, “We don’t care about tourism.” It was easy to see that capitalism had not embedded in the Chinese culture. But we saw it raising its head with the building of huge amusement parks that aimed to bring the Disney mentality to China.

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The Childhood Village of Mao Zedong

The village demonstrated how a young boy, born in poverty, could catch a fleeting spark of hope for change that led to the overthrow of the Chinese government. And, how good intentions for the populace would mutate into another form of government that limited the freedom, peace, and joy of the common people.

I was most impressed when we stopped to see the process of the rice harvest. When I saw the sheaths of rice, I became overwhelmed with the immense task of reaching the millions of people in China and other unreached parts of the world. And, the words from Matthew popped into my mind–“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Mt. 9:38).

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The Harvest is Plentiful

Additionally,  on that day trip, we were able, accompanied by Chinese government officials related to the Three-Self Patriotic Church of China, to visit a village church not far from the Water Dripping Cave. We had to walk about a half a mile from a country road through rice paddies to get to the small church perched on a small hill overlooking the fields we had just traversed.

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This was our only opportunities to relate with the poor working class, the farmers, of China. These were the people that had eked out a living for their full life and had no doubt heard about the evil materialism and colonialism of America through the propaganda machine of communist China. There we stood in the wee church singing praises to God and laughing with these warm smiling people that had seen very few foreigners. And, I thought, “Why must there be war?” None of us present, neither Chinese and American, would ever want that. And for a moment we all forgot our separate patriotic loyalties and we were one people under God.

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A Preacher Gets Listeners in an Unusual Place


I was in Lisbon, Portugal in April and saw a very interesting mosaic in a church. It pictured St. Antony preaching to a receptive multitude of fish. The following is the story behind the tile presentation.

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From “The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi,” 1476


Christ, the blessed one, was pleased to show forth the great sanctity of his most faithful servant St Anthony, and how men ought devoutly to listen to his preaching, be means of creatures without reason. On one occasion, amongst others, he made use of fish to reprove the folly of faithless heretics: even as we read in the Old Testament that in ancient times he reproved the ignorance of Balaam by the mouth of an ass.

St Anthony being at one time at Rimini, where there were a great number of heretics, and wishing to lead them by the light of faith into the way of truth, preached to them for several days and reasoned with them on the faith of Christ and on the Holy Scriptures. They not only resisted his words but were hardened and obstinate, refusing to listen to him.

At last St Anthony, inspired by God, went down to the sea-shore, where the river runs into the sea, and having placed himself on a bank between the river and the sea, he began to speak to the fishes as if the Lord had sent him to preach to them, and said: “Listen to the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, seeing that the faithless heretics refuse to do so.”

No sooner had he spoken these words than suddenly so great a multitude of fishes, both small and great, approached the bank on which he stood, that never before had so many been seen in the sea or the river. All kept their heads out of the water, and seemed to be looking attentively on St Anthony’s face; all were ranged in perfect order and most peacefully, the smaller ones in front near the bank, after them came those a little bigger, and last of all, were the water was deeper, the largest.

When they had placed themselves in this order, St Anthony began to preach to them most solemnly, saying: “My brothers the fishes, you are bound, as much as is in your power, to return thanks to your Creator, who has given you so noble an element for your dwelling; for you have at your choice both sweet water and salt; you have many places of refuge from the tempest; you have likewise a pure and transparent element for your nourishment. God, your bountiful and kind Creator, when he made you, ordered you to increase and multiply, and gave you his blessing. In the universal deluge, all other creatures perished; you alone did God preserve from all harm. He has given you fins to enable you to go where you will. To you was it granted, according to the commandment of God, to keep the prophet Jonas, and after three days to throw him safe and sound on dry land.

At these words the fish began to open their mouths, and bow their heads, endeavouring as much as was in their power to express their reverence and show forth their praise.

St Anthony, seeing the reverence of the fish towards their Creator, rejoiced greatly in spirit, and said with a loud voice: “Blessed be the eternal God; for the fishes of the sea honour him more than men without faith, and animals without reason listen to his word with greater attention than sinful heretics.”

And whilst St Anthony was preaching, the number of fishes increased, and none of them left the place that he had chosen. And the people of the city hearing of the miracle made haste to go and witness it. With them also came the heretics of whom we have spoken above, who, seeing so wonderful and manifest a miracle, were touched in their hearts; and threw themselves at the feet of St Anthony to hear his words. The saint then began to expound to them the Catholic faith. He preached so eloquently, that all those heretics were converted, and returned to the true faith of Christ; the faithful also were filled with joy, and greatly comforted, being strengthened in the faith.

After this St Anthony sent away the fishes, with the blessing of God; and they all departed, rejoicing as they went, and the people returned to the city. But St Anthony remained at Rimini for several days, preaching and reaping much spiritual fruit in the souls of his hearers.

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Growing Up in the Midwest


Thug Can Be Only Skin Deep

Dad taught me with his thoughtfulness that a woman loves to receive flowers, wants to be pampered, and desires both closeness and space. He may not have bought many flowers during a more than fifty-year romance, but certainly brought Mom a lot of wild ones. Those deep purple winged violets and root beer brown and deep yellow daisies brought a loving pause to Mom’s busy meal preparations for an unpredictable number of friends and workers.

Dad had incredibly good taste in selecting the prettiest woman in the county. He was a small town boy—a very, very ornery one. The following photo makes him look a bit like a thug. But, then, like father like son. The next picture was taken of me taken 28 years later.

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Hints about Writing and Storytelling


 

Telling Your Story Is the Best Way to Witness

But there is one more important reason to recognize and write stories. Our stories are one of the best ways we have to witness without presumption to the “mighty acts of God.” Jesus asked his disciples to be his witnesses. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He was really asking them to be His storytellers. Through the careful writing and telling of our stories, we shift a story about “me,” and use it as a testimony that demonstrates God’s intimate role in the life of people. Our stories remind the listener that God is actively pursuing every human on earth. His pursuit transcends religion, nationality, and race. That pursuit is a moment-by-moment process with significant events occurring at unforeseen and unpredictable times. The most spiritual people of the world may arguably be those who carefully build a structure in their life that heightens their awareness of God’s interaction in their life.

Some of the best of life is lost because important experiences are not recognized, are not written, and are not retold. If you don’t think your story is important enough to write and tell, then you have missed so much of what God has been trying to share with you. Your story is a LOVE STORY about God’s love for you. You cannot predict the importance of one of your stories. Erin Morgenstern wrote in The Night Circus, “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”1