Feature

The Percolating Power of the Gospel

Adapted from The Alliance Weekly, June 8, 1935

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When Alliance missionaries were forced to leave China in 1949, they knew that the fate of the country’s 1–2 million believers—and its remaining unreached masses—rested in God’s hands. Despite decades of hardship and adversity, the Church in China has grown at a phenomenal rate—thanks, in part, to the witness of faithful people like Mr. Lan. Today, there are an estimated 80 million followers of Christ in China . . .

Mr. LAnIn the famous report of the findings of the Layman’s Committee there occurred a statement . . . that the preaching of the gospel by a missionary or Bible woman in a country village [that] was not adequately followed up was like a desert stream that became entirely lost in the sand. This statement provoked a lot of thought . . . because it contained some truth mixed with a lot of untruth. Around Kingyuen, we have no sandy deserts, but under the thin crust of soil there are lots of limestone rocks, so that the vagaries of the streams around here form quite an interesting study. Often they enter a fissure in the rock at the base of a hill or perhaps disappear straight down into a hole in the earth, . . . but never do they become entirely lost. This, we believe, is a picture of the way the gospel often works.

We have an interesting example of this in the case of Mr. Lan, a Chwang tribesman and former Taoist priest, who lived out among the mountains about 30 miles from Kingyuen. He maintained his existence partly by the proceeds of his farm work and partly by the money received from the people for whom he performed various Taoist ceremonies. One day robbers came to live in the neighborhood, and . . . fearing for his life, [Mr. Lan] came to Kingyuen to live. Here he heard the gospel, believed and was baptized and gave promise to become one of our most useful Christians. However, after a year or so, the robbers left the district, and Mr. Lan returned to his native village and was apparently lost to our church in Kingyuen.

He had not been back long in his village, however, when we heard that he was witnessing faithfully to his fellow villagers, and not a few of them had taken down their idols and . . . commenced . . . to worship the true God. . . . [T]hey requested that we visit their village to hold a baptismal service. . . .

A day’s brisk walk brought us to a market town named “White Mountain,” where we spent the night. On the following day, after preaching to the people who came to the market, we continued our journey. Skirting the base of the mountains for some distance, we entered a “chong,” or extremely narrow valley enclosed on either side by a mountain chain. After traveling for some time up this “chong,” we arrived at a small village on one of the rocky hillsides, and turning abruptly to the right, we walked right into Mr. Lan’s house. We found, to our glad surprise, that the guest hall had been transformed into an attractive little chapel. . . .

Each morning we had extended morning prayers and a gospel service every night. The evening services did not begin until quite late, as the people work in the fields until almost dark. . . . Although they had to get up again before daylight the next morning, they did not mind staying quite late in order to listen to the gospel. After the meeting was over, a little fire of grass was kindled in which each one lighted his torch . . . and started homeward. It was quite impressive to see them wending their way through the valley, and some over the hills, with their torches flaring in the pitch darkness, one turning off here and another there as they reached their homes.

South China sceneOn the second day, the three of us together with Mr. Lan, went to visit some Christians and enquirers who lived, according to Mr. Lan, only a short distance from this little gospel center. The distance may have been short in a straight line horizontally, but not being able to fly, we had to follow the contour of the hills up and down, and make four long ascents and descents, sometimes using both hands and feet, until finally we came over the rim of a crater-like opening, in the bottom of which were two houses, two or more families living in each house. . . . The husbands of two of these families had already been baptized, and the wives of these two men, together with a third man and his wife, were candidates for baptism. Conversation was very difficult, as even the men understood but little Mandarin, yet they really seemed to have a heart for the Lord Jesus Christ and for the message of the gospel. As we were leaving, six or seven children . . . were standing around, and Mr. Lan asked them to sing for us. To our surprise they sang a number of gospel hymns quite well, making the rocks all around . . . echo with the praises of God and of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .

The next day was . . . set for the baptismal service. . . . Some of the candidates had arrived the night before. Among these were three women who had climbed the mountains we had climbed the previous day, two of them carrying children on their backs, and walking a good part of the way after dark. . . . At about three in the afternoon a little procession wended its way down to where the stream that runs down the valley had been dammed. Again the hills resounded with praise to God as we united in singing, while eight women and two men followed the Lord in baptism. The evangelistic meeting that evening was crowded. At the close, without any urging, six men raised their hands and came out to the front as an indication of their desire to accept Christ as their Saviour. . . .

During these few days since we have been back in Kingyuen we have felt very much burdened concerning the future of this little company of believers. . . . Since Satan has been unable to keep the gospel from entering this secluded region, he will doubtless do his utmost to prevent the growth of this infant church. . . . Please join with us in prayer that Satan may be defeated, God glorified and the needs of this little flock met.

China . . . has always especial claims upon the interest of Christians. . . . This greatest mission field of the world will probably be the next which our little band will attempt to occupy in the name of the Lord Jesus. Already several persons have offered themselves for this field, one of them only last week, a devoted lady, born in China, and devotedly consecrated to the work of God.

—The Word, Work and World, March 1, 1885

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