Seeing Beyond the Impossible
EAST GATES’ 20-YEAR CONTRIBUTION
In 1978, China implemented the Open and Reform Policy. Only a few years later, in the early 1980s, churches that were closed during the Cultural Revolution, gradually reopened in every province and city throughout China. In time, large numbers of pastors and Christians were released from labor camps or prisons in border areas where they were exiled. Among them were well-known House church leaders such as Wang Ming-dao, Samuel Xian-gao Lamb, Alan Xiang-zhen Yuan and others. Many Christians that had been imprisoned for over 10-20 years, who thought they would never see freedom again, were freed.
I contacted many of those Christians after their release and I found they all had a common mindset. They felt that given all the time they had lost in prison, they would treasure every opportunity to witness and share the Gospel. It was their heart’s desire to offer all their remaining years to God. I believe the majority of Christians that had not been imprisoned at this time, felt this way as well. The passion for evangelism now was so great.
As a result, the Gospel blossomed and bore fruit in ways unimaginable. The number of believers grew rapidly. Conservatively speaking, in the mid-1980s, the estimated number of Christians now reached well over ten million. The number was tenfold what statistics showed in 1949, right before the “New China” was established.
The Ai-ji Printing Press in Shanghai, managed by the China Christian Council (CCC) and National Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), became the first legal Bible printing press in the country. It was reported that Ai-ji printed and distributed approximately two million Bibles before the well-known Amity Printing Press was founded in 1987, which eventually took over Bible printing for all of China.
Once the West became aware of the great disparity between the growing number of Chinese Christians and lack of Bibles, overseas believers, churches and other related organizations tried smuggling millions of Bibles into China, mostly targeting House church members since it was very hard for them to buy Bibles from the CCC/TSPM.
Even though many different methods were used to smuggle tens of thousands of Bibles into the country, the supply could not meet the demand given the rapid development of the House church movement and the sheer number of growing Chinese believers. Even though the Amity Printing Press went into operation in 1987, for the first few years, it could only print several million Bibles so millions of believers still had to worship without God’s Word.
The second year after East Gates was founded in 1990, House church leaders made us aware of the fact they needed over a million copies of the Bible. Thank you Lord. They encouraged East Gates to have detailed discussions with different House church parties on this important issue so everyone could come to an agreement on how to properly provide Bibles to Christians in China.
In time, God led and opened the way for East Gates to have detailed discussions with the China Christian Council, United Bible Society, Amity Printing Press and other parties for the sole purpose of providing Bibles to all Christians in China. By the grace of God, a final agreement and contract was signed by all parties. In just three years, East Gates was able to deliver millions of Bibles to churches in cities and provinces throughout China. All the glory goes to God!
In the late 1990s, China’s Central government began to develop the Northwestern part of the country. They wanted a greater balance in economic development between the flourishing coastal regions and the interior (i.e. Xinjiang Province). At that time, the House church movement to these remote areas was spreading like wildfire. In the past ten years, when we would visit areas in the Northwest and Southwest parts of China, oftentimes we would run into mission teams sent out from the Zhejiang, Henan and Anhui Provinces. First, we would carefully observe their work and in time, we became partners with them. Given the incredible Christian growth in the Northwest and Southwest areas, East Gates has been helping these mission teams establish more meeting groups, Christian libraries, and training centers.
I especially remember a situation whereby two groups told me the same thing, back to back, on totally two different occasions: “If you want to write about the history of the Church in China in the past 20 years, especially regarding the House church movement, then a Chapter you cannot leave out is the involvement and support of East Gates Ministries.”
This comment surfaces often, and on behalf of East Gates, I mention it not to sound conceited or prideful, but only to say that if anything, we are incredibly humbled and indebted to God for this great privilege and honor.
Thank you Lord, for using East Gates in these 20 years, this tiny organization with oftentimes, insufficient resources. You Lord, allow us to be a valuable part of Your Plan and blessing to China. You have allowed us to be participants and witnesses in how You are bringing revival to the Church in China as well – choosing and growing the increasing number of faithful servants to evangelize in different villages and cities for the purpose of allowing more Chinese to come to know You and turn towards You.
Someone that genuinely serves God knows that his labor is not in vain and will produce a great harvest. Over these past 20 years, the toil and hardships I’ve experienced is nothing compared to the joy and blessings that have come in serving my Lord. All glory to my Lord! Amen!
~ Tsang Honwah, Project Coordinator/Trainer