by Ruth Tucker
A selection of signiflcant articles about missions.
BROTHER JONAH, CHINESE EVANGELIST
A weekend’s ministry for an evangelist in America might involve a flight to another city, a few public meetings, some counseling, a couple of nights in a hotel, and a flight back home. What’s it like in China? Ron MacMillan in World Vision offers us a glimpse into the life of Chinese evangelist Brother Jonah.
"One of history’s greatest itinerant preachers, John Wesley, said that a true itinerant needs only four characteristics to be successful: ‘a back for any bed, a face for any weather, a stomach for any food, and strength for any work.’ That describes Brother Jonah, a native of Shanghai, who has been an itinerant preacher throughout China since 1976. He maintains a schedule that would exhaust a 20-year-old. Jonah is 73."
The weekend journey began when Brother Jonah left his home and headed for the railway station with a 60-pound bag of Bibles. Ticket in hand, he was off on a jolting 20-hour ride in third-class accommodations to Henan Province, where he had been invited by a man to come and plant a church. The man had been converted under Jonah’s ministry in another area, and now he wanted Jonah to come to his village where there were no other Christians.
During the long train ride, Jonah shared the gospel with other passengers, all the while being observed by a man who he later learned was a government official. At the end of the line, he was met by his host who escorted him five hours further by bicycle to the village. There he conducted a public meeting and called the people to re-pent. He then met separately with village leaders for an intensive doctrine course, after which he managed to escape on bicycle and by bus to another city, eluding the government official seeking to arrest him. There he talked and prayed with leaders of a large divided church, and before leaving for home, he visited and prayed for a sick boy.
"It was an amazing weekend: nine hours of bicycle pedaling, 40 hours on a hard railway seat, and eight hours on a bumpy bus. Jonah led more than 50 people from a remote village into the Kingdom of God, he started a church, held an all-night seminar on Bible doctrine to 10 young people on a train, reconciled the leaders of 5,000 Christians, and converted a high-ranking party cadre through the healing of his son."
When he arrived home, he found a letter asking him to come and give instruction to 600 full-time workers in a house church movement. "That very evening he was on the train to Gansu Province."
Ron MacMillan, "On the Road With Brother Jonah," World Vision, February-March, 1992 (919 W, Huntington Dr., Monrovia, Calif. 91016).
SUPER CHURCHES IN NEPAL
The term "super church" is typically associated with North America, or Korea, or perhaps Latin America, but not with Nepal. But recent revivals in Nepal have resulted in church growth there as well. David Wang in Asian Report tells about one of these congregations and its pastor, a man called Black Bravery.
His church among the Tamang people numbers more than 30,000, divided into 43 fellowships, and he has only two helpers. He has worked 13 years to build his congregation, which he points out, is not as large as that of another pastor, who "now has a congregation of over 40,000 converts to Jesus."
Black Bravery does not come across as a powerful chief, as his name might imply. "He is small in stature, unkempt, and almost illiterate. He has never been to school and, at 49 years of age, has no children." He was trained from his youth to be a Lama priest and witch doctor, but when his wife became ill and he was unable to heal her he began to doubt his powers. It was then that he came to faith in Christ-through a Nepalese Gospel of John that he could not read and through refugee Christians who came to his village to escape persecution.
Black Bravery ministers by walking from village to village among the 8,000-foot high mountains. "He baptizes all his converts by immersion in the freezing water. On one occasion he was baptizing a large group of people. Since he didn’t know how to count, he just picked up a pebble and put it on the shore after each person was baptized"-for a total of 285 pebbles.
Other Nepalese pastors tell similar stories. One relates how after his wife and daughter had become Christians, he decided to go to a church meeting to see what it was all about. It was his first time so he stayed outside the doorway, and when the police arrived to break up the meeting they assumed he was the guard. Despite his protests, they beat him and locked him in jail.
"Meanwhile, his wife and daughter were praising the Lord because they thought he was a secret believer and that now he was suffering for Jesus. His wife brought him a Bible and after reading it, the man became a truly born-again Christian.
"Two years later he was released and now he is a dynamic evangelist and pastor. He is helping to shepherd 30 churches in his local area."
David Wang, "Black Bravery," Asian Report, May-June, 1991 (Asian Outreach International, GPO Box 3448, Hong Kong).
THIRD CHURCH, THIRD WAVE, THIRD MILLENIUM
"The Third Church riding the crest of the Third Wave into the Third Millennium. The most obvious characteristic of all three is that they are time concepts- futuristic metaphors rooted in historical process," writes Douglas J. Elwood in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. "As we look ahead to the year 2000, we are challenged to respond to these complex events- complex because all three converge at the same time in our own lifetime."
The Third Wave, as he defines it, is the third in a series of three revolutions: the Agricultural Revolution (beginning around 800 B.C.); the Industrial Revolution (beginning around A.D. 1650); and the Information Revolution-the computer age, which began in the West in the 1950s and is now spreading throughout the rest of the world.
In some places, these waves are colliding with each other and producing great social upheaval. "Take the crisis the Philippines is now experiencing, … It can be understood, in large part, as resulting from colliding waves of social change, as Filipinos feel simultaneously the impact of three social revolutions: the agricultural, the industrial, and the informational."
The Third Church is also the third in a series of three eras of church history. The first was the church in the Eastern Mediterranean world of the first millennium, which ended with the Great Schism in 1054. The second was the church of the West, beginning in the 11th century and continuing through the 20th. "The Third Millennium in the history of Christianity is expected to be predominantly the history of the church of the southern hemisphere, that is, the newer churches which are the end product of global mission."
Elwood does not suggest that the churches of the first and second eras will be replaced by those of the third, but the "Third Church is destined to become the ‘first’ as far as vitality and influence are concerned. . . . Given present growth trends, by the year 2000 there will be more Christians in the Third Church than in the First and Second Church combined…. All this means that the centers of the church’s influence in the future may no longer be Rome, Geneva, or Canterbury, but more likely Nairobi, Buenos Aires, and Seoul,"
The increasing influence of the Third Church is due in part to the Third Wave, the Information Revolution, which also offers opportunities for greater cooperation between all three churches. Since 1980, there has been a phenomenal increase in the use of computers by Christians and Christian organizations worldwide, which has resulted in 56 "Great Commission global networks" that bring together ministries from more than 200 countries. Therefore, there is room for optimism, according to Elwood, who challenges his readers to look to the year 2000 as the beginning of a new era of partnership in global mission.
Douglas J. Elwood, "Riding the Third Wave," International Bulletin of Missionary Research, January, 1992 (490 Prospect St., New Haven, Conn. 06511).
TEAMING UP WITH SOVIET BIBLE TRANSLATORS
There are over 150 different languages in what was once the Soviet Union, more than half of which do not have a complete Bible translation. According to a report in Word Alive, making the Bible available in these languages was one of Cameron Townsend’s dreams, but political barriers stood in the way. Today the situation has changed.
In many of those languages, Bible translation is already under way, but the need for outside specialists is crucial. "These opportunities are very different from those in areas of the world where SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) traditionally works. The emphasis in the Soviet Union is generally on facilitating Soviets to do the translations."
Soviet Christian leaders place great emphasis on scholarship and "are interested only in help which will produce quality translations. But in addition there is a strong sense of national dignity." They want to do their own translation work, rather than depending on outsiders.
Technology has contributed to the goal of giving all the Soviet people the Scripture in their own language. This has been particularly evident in the Bible translation for the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia, who are separated by the Bering Sea from their relatives in Alaska.
During the Cold War, Dave and Mitzi Shinen prepared a translation for the Yupiks in Alaska, and now these "translated Scriptures are accessible to the Yupiks in Siberia, thanks to technology. Wycliffe programmers developed a computer program that automatically changes the Yupik Eskimo Roman script into the Russian Cyrillic-based alphabet used by the Siberian Eskimos."
Word Alive, January-February, 1992 (Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada, Box 3068, Station B, Calgary, Alberta T2M 4L6.)
Copyright © 1992 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.