Written by: FEBA South Africa
Article source: JOY! Magazine
With more than 3500 years of recorded history, China is one of the world’s oldest civilisations. It has over 1,4 billion people, a rich culture, and a volatile history. It is also known as a country that is unfriendly to Christians. So much so, that when China banned foreign missionaries, FEBA was forced to move its broadcasting operations to the Philippines in 1948. Yet, the church has boomed over the past 40 years. It is estimated that the number of Christians has increased from 1 million to 100 million. Sometimes, listeners around the world unintentionally find FEBA’s Gospel programmes. One such Chinese listener, Lou, shared her story with FEBA: “I happened to tune into FEBA’s Radio Liangyou … I had heard about Christianity in school and [decided I] would like to learn more. After listening to a Gospel programme for a week, I decided to accept Jesus as my Saviour.”
Chinese listener, Lou
A long history
The relationship between China and Christianity goes back to AD 635, when a missionary named Alopen arrived in the country. He was welcomed by the emperor and allowed to establish a monastery. By the end of the 1st century, however, the emperor’s successors had all but wiped out the Chinese church. It would take until the 13th century for Christianity to make a comeback. Since then, it has maintained a (mostly unwelcome) presence in China.
A cruel environment
The establishment of Communist rule in 1949 saw a crackdown on Christianity that reached new heights during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. Thousands of Christians were arrested, subjected to torture and humiliation, and even executed. Churches and homes were raided, Christian literature destroyed. This extreme persecution eased in 1997, but never stopped altogether.
China currently ranks 16th on the Open Doors World Watch List of persecuted countries. The Chinese government keeps close watch on its citizens. Their surveillance system is among the most sophisticated in the world. Internet and social media are strictly monitored, which makes it difficult for house churches to meet online, and neighbours often report religious activity to the authorities. Earlier this year, the “Smart Religion” app was introduced in Henan province. People are required to register on the app with all their personal information before attending religious services. Religious content is censored: a new law came into effect in March making it illegal for people to post religious content without getting permission from government. Content that uses the word “Christ” is blocked, removed, or edited, and not only online. In 2019, the Guardian reported the Chinese government’s plan to retranslate the Bible to align it with party politics.
Christian schools are also targeted
Chinese law prohibits children under 18 from participating in any religious activities. “I think the government really values the brainwashing of younger kids,” a Chinese pastor told the Gospel Coalition. “The main tool they use to teach nationalism and atheism is the school system.” Christian schools are regarded as illegal. And yet, despite all these obstacles, the church – and FEBA’s ministry – in China keeps growing.
A testimony from China
FEBA has been broadcasting to China via Radio Liangyou since 1948. One listener, a woman named Song, discovered Radio Liangyou after her husband brought home a radio, a luxury in those days. When she heard the Gospel in her own language, she accepted Jesus into her heart. Her children and grandchildren grew up listening to Radio Liangyou with her. “Under grandmother’s influence, as well as regular listening to Liangyou programmes, I began to know God in a real sense,” says her grandson, Wai. “He saved my life.” He means this quite literally. Riding his motorcycle to church one day, Wai was nearly hit by a truck that had sped past a red light. He heard a voice saying, “Get going, quick!” He obeyed and escaped without injury. “That’s when I knew without a doubt that the God my grandmother and I believe in, is a true God.” Today, Wai’s whole family are Christians.
Reaching the masses with the Gospel
FEBA broadcasts are transmitted from South Korea’s Daebu Island, as well as from Iba and Bocaue in the Philippines. Technological advances have also opened new avenues: FEBA makes use of internet broadcasting, smartphone apps, and micro-SD cards that contain pre-loaded Gospel programmes. In 2022, FEBA’s mobile apps were used more than 8 million times, with more than 42 million audio files played and more than 4 million downloaded. A further 6 million were played through other organisations and stations, and nearly 2 million downloaded. FEBA’s Chinese website received almost 1,2 million visitors in that time.
Training future generations
The Liangyou Theological Seminary has offered Bible training to laypeople, like Lou, and pastors for about 40 years. Today, the seminary provides course material online, via AM radio, smartphone apps, shortwave radio, USB drives, and in-person study camps. The aim is to make the training accessible to students wherever they live. The roots of evangelism in China run deep. Its growth remains steady, no matter how many times the government wields an axe against it, and FEBA continues to nurture that growth so that all may one day eat from the tree of life.
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Date published: 09/11/2023
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