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China: Land of a billion souls


IN THIS COMMUNIST NATION, once thought off-limits to Christianity, churches are finding news ways to influence lives through official, diplomatic visits. 
But Churches of Christ are finding open doors to serve the 1.3 billion souls in the world’s most populated nation.
Rick Atchley, minister of the Richland Hills church in North Richland Hills, Texas, and Royce Money, president of Abilene Christian University, accompanied a group of evangelical leaders to Beijing recently to talk about ways Christians can serve China’s people. The visit was organized by John Bentley, who attended the Abilene, Texas, university in the 1980s and oversees an orphanage near Bejing.
“It was probably the most interesting seven or eight days I’ve spent,” Money told The Christian Chronicle. The Americans told Chinese officials that they wanted to help the people of China — above ground and legally. The officials agreed with the ministers that they share a desire to meet people’s needs, Atchley said. An official in China’s social work department told the ministers they were “ambassadors from Jesus who have come to love our people,” Atchley said.
Money said he invited Chinese officials to visit ACU so they can “get a feel for what our campus is like and what our churches are like.
“We stuck to our basic message,” he said. “We saw this as one small step in a long journey.”
A delegation from the Waterview church in Richardson, Texas, also has traveled to the China for a diplomatic visit. The invitation resulted from the church’s outreach to the Chinese community in the Dallas metroplex, church member Wilena Grigsby said.
Chinese students at the nearby University of Texas at Dallas have visited the Waterview congregation for years, Grigsby said. “We want to know about ‘the God,’” one student told her.
Grigsby and her husband, Jim, have entertained hundreds of Chinese people in their home — including the head of China’s State of Religious Affairs bureau.
“He was sitting at my little kitchen table,” Wilena Grigsby said, adding that the ministry has blessed her more than her students.
“It’s been such an amazing faith-builder for us,” she said. “People come into your lives who have no idea what God can do in their lives.”
Nov. 1, 2006

Filed under: International

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