Happy Chinese New Year, Hope Honolulu!
While much of the Western world celebrated the arrival of 2021 last month, as many of you know, the Chinese continue to follow a lunar calendar, and so their New Year celebration begins February 11th.
Although China has increasingly been in our national and global news, over the last two years there has been a particular kind of news that has become increasingly difficult to come by: news of the Church of Jesus Christ in the People’s Republic of China. The situation for Christians in China, whether members of the official Three Self Church or one of the House Church streams, has dramatically worsened. By all reports, Christians, as well as other minority groups such as Muslims, are facing a season of persecution and trouble that has not been seen since the so-called Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s—when approximately 45-80 MILLION people died due to various expressions of government policy—under Mao Zedong.
"Perhaps the biggest example of this was the Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi Province, which had a congregation of more than 50,000 members. The building, which was constructed with official permission, was blown up by the Chinese authorities and is now a pile of rubble..."
President Xi Jinping—who recently had the Chinese laws amended so he can remain in power for as long as he wishes—first raised concerns among Christians three years ago when he spoke about the need to control "illegal religion." Since that time, persecution has greatly worsened, with hundreds of house church pastors “vanished” and even government-recognized Three Self pastors censored and churches destroyed by national or regional government authorities. China is also extending its anti-Christian influence into neighboring countries. We have received reports of believers in Nepal, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam being warned not to spread the Gospel across their borders into China, or they will face severe consequences. Perhaps the biggest example of this was the Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi Province, which had a congregation of more than 50,000 members. The building, which was constructed with official permission, was blown up by the Chinese authorities and is now a pile of rubble: http://www.dw.com/en/in-xi-we-trust-is-china-cracking-down-on-christianity/a-42224752.
Christian activity in China has long been strictly monitored, but now with the presence of tens of millions of facial recognition cameras that have sprung up in nearly every city, town and village, as well as within large church buildings, too, leaders and members are regularly interrogated by public security personnel. The data from these cameras is fed into a massive computer network around the clock. Using 'artificial intelligence,' alerts are sent to the police if the computers detect any suspicious activity, such as a group of Christians gathering at a location for worship or Bible study. Many Chinese Christian websites, Bible apps and other resources have also been blocked by the government. Where there were once large, thriving House Churches with hundreds, if not thousands gathering, believers have been forced to scatter and meet in groups of no more than four or five people, with some saying that even one-on-one gatherings are difficult. This short video from the BBC is a sobering, but helpful tool to help you understand what you’re reading here: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-china-42248056/in-your-face-china-s-all-seeing-state.
"...even non-Christians are harassed or even arrested for such things as renting facilities to Christian businesses, churches, or meetings. Legitimate businesses and hotels have been troubled and forced to shut down by various kinds of economic, legal, and social pressure..."
Consequently, whether on the Chinese mainland or in Hong Kong now, even non-Christians are harassed or even arrested for such things as renting facilities to Christian businesses, churches or meetings. Legitimate businesses and hotels have been troubled and forced to shut down by various kinds of economic, legal and social pressure: denial of bank loans, accusations of tax evasion, threats against family members and children, and stories of people being “vanished” and the use of "black jails"—or secret facilities—where they are mercilessly tortured and usually never heard from again.
As you walk or drive around Honolulu and see the telltale signs of Chinese New Year celebrations, please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as for God’s mercy and salvation for the nearly ONE BILLION people who have yet to see and hear of the Person and Message of Jesus Christ. Satan and wicked men have continually tried to destroy God's people over the centuries, but God's purpose and plans have continued to progress through the prayers and perseverance of His saints.
Let’s continue to watch and pray for God’s work and leading in our hearts, homes and world, and pray that our faith, hope and love would bear faithful and fruitful witness to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ entrusted to all who call upon the Name of the Lord!
1. Please continue to pray for the leaders of our nation, state and city, in business, government and education, for the leaders in and around the Pacific, for the people of our nation and theirs, for the nations that your own ancestors have come from, that God would grant them repentance resulting in salvation and the wisdom, discernment, faith, resource and courage they need for the problems they face not just in their work, but also in their own hearts and home.
2. Please offer up prayers of thanksgiving and blessing for new and incumbent members of our Church Council as we begin a new year with new challenges, our Oversight Team, MiniChurch Pastors, and those volunteers who make our live and online community and gatherings possible, as well as for me and my house. Please pray for our provision and protection as we prayerfully seek to follow God’s leading, wisdom, direction and resources!
3. Please continue to pray for those—nearly 60% of our local population—who are unable to pay some or all of their bills, who are anxious about unexpected expense, their health or that of their children, food, clothing and shelter, let alone education or entertainment. Please also pray for local business owners who are drowning in debt and fearful for their employees as well as their own. Please pray that they would seek and learn to trust in the God of heaven and earth in these difficult times!
4. Please continue to watch and pray that God would provide for and protect both those who serve and gather in our live gatherings as we try to provide regular opportunities to worship and learn of God for those whose faith and circumstances keep them from joining our Zoom Celebrations.
Please continue to send prayer requests and praise reports to email@example.com and, if you haven't already, consider joining or email intercessory Prayer Team so you can help support others in prayer and rejoice with them at God's miraculous answers!
May daily reminders of God’s power, love and faithfulness be revealed to you, in Jesus’ Name I pray!