November 29, 2010 | Da Yong —
Many of us have a lot of misunderstandings about missions work in China let alone China itself. We probably all think of Hudson Taylor when we hear China and Missions. But, what about these facts, do you know that…
The first recorded missionary to China was a man named Olepen (Alopen) a Nestorian Christian and a heretic. He arrived in Chang ‘an, present day Xi’an, in the year 635. He was welcomed by the emperor and Christianity grew until two centuries later Emperor Wu Tsung persecuted Christians and the church.
John of Monte Corvino, a Franciscan missionary, bought young boys from non-Christian parents and after baptizing them and training them sent them out as ministers in 1294. He worked in China for 11 years and baptized more than 6,000 people.
Today we can call our travel agent and book a flight for Shanghai or Beijing in a matter of minutes and the flights to China usually last about 15 hours, not bad for traveling half way around the world. A hundred years or more ago, travel to China took enormous amounts of patience and even more courage! From England to China it took travelers at least 6 months by boat. Many people never made it to China because they often got sick and died on their way there.
It was a capital offense to print evangelistic and Christian literature in the early 1800’s. It was even forbidden for foreigners to learn Chinese! Chinese Tutors of foreigners often carried poison to swallow in case they were caught to avoid torture by the Chinese officials.
Robert Morrison was the first protestant missionary to China in 1807. His pioneering work produced a 6 volume Chinese dictionary and a translation of the Bible. These two accomplishments opened the door for other protestant missionaries to share the Gospel across China!
Early Protestant missionaries served as international diplomats because they were fluent in Chinese. They played key roles in much of the international issues China and the Western powers were dealing with. William A.P. Martin was responsible for writing a clause in the Treaty of Tianjin, which, allowed missionaries to enter the interior of China. This treaty opened the door for Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission to win thousands to Christ in the unreached parts of China. Today English is everywhere in China! In fact by law children must begin learning English in kindergarten. It is required that every child spend 3 hours a week learning English in school.
Early Catholic missions focused on converting the elite class of China. Matteo Ricci arrived in Beijing in 1601 and made immediate inroads with the literati because of his fluency in classical and spoken Chinese. Protestant missionaries did the exact opposite. They reached out to the poor masses in the 19th and 20th centuries.
China was the largest Protestant mission field from 1830 to 1949. There were over 8,000 missionaries in China at its height, which was the 1920’s. In spite of the Chinese government expelling missionaries in the 1950’s the church in China grew steadily until the 1980’s.
The official church of China is called the Three-Self Church. The first self stands for self-governing. As a communist government the officials certainly do not want outside influence to run a portion of the population. Self-supporting is the second self and again no outside monetary influence that might cause an uprising of some kind. The last self is self-propagating. The Three-Self idea was actually the invention of a missionary named John Nevius who desired to plant indigenous churches!
The largest massacre of Protestant missionaries took place in China. During the Boxer Rebellion, 188 adults as well as children were martyred. John and Betty Stam were martyred in 1934. In a note to the mission head-quarters he wrote that they were taken prisoner and finished the letter by quoting Phil. 1:20 whether life or death, Christ be glorified.
Are you willing to glorify Christ in life as well as death? For more information about helping with the harvest in China contact the author of this article.
American serving the Lord in China
Contributor – Baptist.org
Featuring : Little-Known Facts About Missions and China