I often hear Ron Pearce on the radio with his Empowering Moments spot, so it was good to see and hear him for a longer longer length of time. When he asked Missionfest's organiser what he should talk about, he was told to tell "stories that hit you and stay in your brain," so he tried to tell as many as he could. He spoke so fast, I sometimes could get only short little "sound" (print?) bites.
Empower Ministries goes to spiritual hot spots in the world to provide Bibles, motorcycles and goats, along with other things.
When we look at what is happening in Egypt the past two weeks or remember 9/11, we don't need to be afraid. We don't need to worry about whether the end times are here or not, he said, because in the end, we know that God reigns.
Twenty-two years after the massacre in Tienanmin Square, those protesters are some of the strongest Christian leaders in China. How cool is that?
Ron directed us to the story of Philip in Acts 8. Why is the story of Simon the magician in the Bible? Simon became a believer and had been following Philip around "constantly amazed" (NAS) at the miracles he saw. So he wanted to buy the power to do the same so that others could be amazed at what he did. Do we do things for a show or as a way of life?
In China, miracles and people turning to Jesus have become so common-place that the leaders are no longer amazed when they see these things happen. For them, it's become an expected way of life. While Simon wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, others craved God. New believers in Asia are maturing in their faith so fast, they move past the amazement quickly.
There is estimated to be 120 million Christians in China currently but one old woman, a Christian leader, believes that it won't be long before a quarter of all the population will be Christian. And these aren't shallow Christians who show up to church on Sundays and the rest of the week do what they want. These converts know that they could be thrown in prison or killed because of their decision and the living out of it.
Vietnam has 1.6 million believers. Ron was there, one time, speaking, when he saw a young man sitting near the front, crying--for two solid hours. Afterwards, the man came to speak with Ron. He took his hand and wouldn't let go and then hugged him as though they were married. He had just recently been ordained but already he had started 30 to 40 churches with 27,000 believers under his leadership.
How is this possible? He and his team go to a village and look for the sickest person there. Ron told the story of an old woman with multiple leg fractures. They prayed for her, her bones healed immediately and she got up, walked out of the tent and waved to everyone waiting to see what would happen. The whole town believed. This woman was a leader in the district so she took the team to other towns and villages and because she endorsed the Christians whole towns and villages turned to Jesus.
Six months ago in Myanmar, a church leader carried 50-70 pound packs of rice past road blocks to feed the starving people. As a result, 250 monks and thousands of people accepted Jesus.
There is one prison in Myanmar that is considered by some to be the worst prison in the world. When prisoners die, they are left in the prison to decay. However, there are six pastors imprisoned here. I don't remember the whole story but I think the governor was so impressed with what the church leader did in carrying rice to the starving people, that he asked the pastor what he would like the governor to do for him. Reminds me of those stories where a king offers up to half his kingdom. What the pastor asked for was to have a little twig shack built in the prison so that the pastors there would be able to have a place to minister to the other prisoners.
The governor flatly refused. Instead, he built a brick church in the centre of the prison complete with pews and stained glass windows. 250 men have already accepted Christ and the imprisoned pastors are now considering staying in jail once they're free to go so that they can continue to minister to the people there.
After the 2008 earthquake in China, a 23-year-old girl started 30 churches. She's hoping to go to Bible school eventually, but while she waits, she's starting churches.
David is another pastor in China. He started planting churches in the 1990s. Wherever he went, people accepted the Gospel. One day he was arrested. He was tied to the rafters of the prison and beaten with a stout metal pole for the next 45 days, resulting in multiple breaks in his back. When he was released, he went back to teaching. When he was arrested again, he was put into a wee little cell for two months and then was tricked into signing an agreement to stay in the prison for another two years.
In China, prison means hard labour and he was assigned to carry bricks despite all the injuries to his back. Despite the pain and the labour, David continually smiled. It was as if he couldn't stop. Finally he was asked by one of the guards, "Why are you smiling?"\
"I won't tell!" he answered coyly.
David's wife was put in prison when she was three months pregnant. The cell was 8 x 8 feet and she shared it with nine or ten other women. I can't imagine! Whenever it was her turn to be beaten, the other women would cover her with their bodies to protect the unborn baby. She was released just before the baby was born.
The growth of the Church in China is phenomenal and there aren't enough people to be leaders to go out and explain Jesus to others. This is something we can pray about. The Chinese are praying for those of us in the Western Church, that we would have a closer walk with Jesus and be as on-fire for God as they are. I wonder what it will take for us to get to that point.
[Edited July 30, 2013--a few portions removed at the request of Empower Ministries for security reasons.]