Blog - Embodying Truth
Merchant-Missionaries from ChinaSunday, April 24, 2011
Nearly a month has passed since posting my last blog. The reason: preparing for and spending nearly two weeks in China. I went as one of a group of graduate students from various nations, visiting Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai. During that visit, and from reading books on China associated with that course, I learned some encouraging facts about workplace ministry there.
Although we did not visit the city of Wenzhou, I had read about the world-wide influence of its business people in David Aikman’s book, Jesus in Beijing. Aikman had been in Italy, attending a conference on Islam, when he noticed all the Chinese Christians hard at work in retail businesses. When he asked one of them where in China they were from, she told him, "Wenzhou.” As he dug further for information, he learned that about 25 Christians from that city had settled in Florence and set up shop.
Aikman encountered the same "Wenzhou” influence during a visit to Barcelona, Spain. The largest of three Chinese churches in that city "consisted of merchants who hailed from Wenzhou.” After that, friends told him how Wenzhou Christians had begun churches in Paris, Khabarovsk, Bucharest, and Budapest. Aikman writes, "Everywhere the Wenzhou retail merchants went, it seemed, at least from the 1980s, they also started churches.”
Several years ago, Christians in Wenzhou and Henan had a vision in which two groups of believers—one from each city—would carry the gospel "back to Jerusalem” via the old Silk Road, the 4,000-mile network of trade routes that connected China with Rome. While in Xian, our group heard from a house church leader who had received a similar vision.
In 1992, he opened a room in his broadcasting company as a meeting-place for a "house” church. He had been praying intensively for the Jews in the Holy Land. As time passed, he began to sense a vision from the Lord: to carry the gospel "Back to Jerusalem.” The good news had traveled westward from Jerusalem and circled the globe. Now, having reached China, the gospel needs to go from "Xian to Zion.” In 2008, he and 14 other believers, in four vehicles, made the journey along that ancient Silk Road. This route, of course, runs right through predominantly Muslim countries. He and many others believe that future delegations of Chinese Christians will use the trade route to reach them.
As Aikman sums it up: "Referred to simply as ‘Back to Jerusalem,’ this vision has become familiar to the Christians of China’s house church networks, and to many foreigners who have met with them. . . . [Wenzhou’s] Christians have a longing that they share with a large number of China’s Protestants: to move out on a missionary road that will take the Gospel back to the Middle East, from which it originally came to Europe, North America, and finally China.”
I returned from China with a whole new picture of merchant-missionaries, workplace-witnesses. In his well-known words of Matt. 28:19, Jesus literally says, "As you are going, make disciples. . . .” Christian business people from China are on the go. And as they are going, they are making disciples.