Seeing Beyond the Impossible
Hung Ping Yung has been East Gates’ China/Hong Kong office manager for the past 26 years. His balanced perspective in viewing and handling every situation as well as wealth of Godly wisdom have been invaluable to the ministry. We thought you would appreciate some of his insights...
East Gates: In the 26 years you’ve been with East Gates, serving your Chinese brothers and sisters, what are some of the greatest changes you’ve seen occur in the registered and unregistered churches?
Hung Ping Yung: China is a huge country where anything can happen anywhere and therefore, everyone doesn’t always know what’s going on. Looking back at the Church in China over the past 26 years, many things happened that were expected and unexpected all at the same time. Overall, the general trend of the registered churches has been a good one compared to times past. The situation regarding the unregistered churches has also improved, especially in their desire to seek greater knowledge of Jesus Christ.
When China instituted Deng Xiao Ping’s Reform Policies over 25 years ago, believers were requested to have their meetings at churches authorized and registered with China’s government. At that time, appointed church leaders may not have been that familiar with Christianity or been aware of the importance for believers to have fellowship but it didn’t matter because they were mainly selected by government officials to maintain stability within society. Over the years, the atmosphere in the registered churches has changed for the better as the Government now has a better understanding of Christianity and the younger generation of Christian leaders are more open-minded and biblically educated.
As for the unregistered churches and the majority of the House church believers, they did not stop meeting in small groups during the Cultural Revolution (1967-1977). Strong fellowship and continual Bible studies kept them well-equipped and spiritually strong. I believe their emphasis on those factors kept them bonded and unified. Even when the Reform Policy came into being, the unregistered churches kept the same style of meetings as before. Because of their history, they were still cautious and leery of the Government. But with the Open Policy, the constitution now accommodated for the type of religious freedom whereby unregistered churches were able to spring up like mushrooms.
At this time, overseas believers from various churches and denominations flooded into China to help the unregistered churches. Based on their own denominational traditions and backgrounds, they brought in different types of ministries and teachings. Understandably, the unregistered churches had their own common history and experience as well. As time went by, unity within the unregistered churches diminished. In the past few years, different kinds of unregistered churches have risen. Although the spirit of seeking Bible truth is still high, the unity among unregistered church is not like what it was before.
EG: How has China’s views changed on Christianity?
HPY: The Communist Party once viewed religion like a flood and beast of prey. It was only because they didn’t understand it, especially Christianity. Also, through what they studied of European history, religion had a powerful sway on politics and the State (i.e. Catholicism). The Communist Party is cautious to any religion they’re not familiar with or understand. As a result, even after China’s government implemented the Reform Policies, it was still cautious towards religious groups, especially Christianity, given its overseas history and background. Therefore, Christians had more restrictions.
Over the past 25 years, however, there has been more communication and exchange with Christian churches, ministries, organizations and believers from overseas countries allowing the Government to gain a better understanding of Christianity. They’ve come to see it as a more common and orthodox religion so there is greater leniency towards its practice than before. For example, the Government now allows the printing of over 3 million Bibles annually and anyone in China can easily purchase a Bible without fear or worry. Today, we hear leaders from different levels of China’s government as well as from the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) department say, “A good Christian is also a good citizen of the country.” Praise God.
EG: What do you admire most about the early Chinese missionaries and pioneers who served during some of the most challenging times in China’s modern history (1930 – present)? Is there anything we can learn from them?
HPY: Many adversities occurred during China’s modern history. Millions were challenged including Christians. During this timeframe, faithful Chinese missionaries and pioneers of Christ were serving the Lord faithfully. No matter what kind of trials they faced, be it heavy persecution, ridicule or imprisonment, they encouraged believers to be faithful to Christ through their good testimonies. These pioneers, such as: Jia Yu-ming, John Song, Yang Shao-tang, Ji Zhi-wen and others, faithfully preached the Gospel and taught everyone to believe God’s Truth. In God’s strength, they bravely faced whatever came their way. They are a sterling example to us of what it means to be faithful, devoted and courageous.
EG: What advice would you give young missionaries who want to serve in China or Hong Kong today?
HPY: My advice would be to make sure you have a real calling from God in this area. You should study the history surrounding the Church in China. Make sure you know and understand the positive and negative aspects of each church and group of believers you feel called to serve. Be sensitive to the political climate in that area. Have a servant’s heart and be considerate of the Chinese believer’s perspective and views on things. Just like each one of us, there’s always a reason of how and why we came to see the world and God in the way we do. Teach them the truth in love, not by force. Spend time with them in prayer and fellowship. If possible, work with those Chinese believers and/ or churches in the most patient, quiet and flexible manner possible.
The situation in Hong Kong is totally different when compared to China since Hong Kong has much more religious freedom. It’s easy to start a registered church in Hong Kong. Hong Kong believers need help in knowing how to implement God’s Truth and values in everyday life. So if you can live your life successfully in this context and teach the same, you will be effective in Hong Kong. Life is tough on the island and so many aspects of the culture conflict with God’s Kingdom culture.
EG: In all of your travels throughout China, is there a testimony you would like to share that has significantly affected your outlook on life?
HPY: I remember a pastor in the central part of China. Before he came to Christ, he was a Mafia leader and a really corrupt person. When he finally repented and offered himself up to Christ, I could see the power of God on him and how it changed his life. From that point on, he had a hunger for the Truth, equipped himself and answered God’s call to become "the shepherd of a flock." Believers at his church shared with me how they love this pastor because he is gentle and kind. He loves them as he loves himself. They appreciate how he spends so much time teaching them the Truth after he equips himself. I felt the same thing these believers shared when I had the chance to meet him years ago. To me, the complete transformation of this pastor is really quite unbelievable. How could he change into a totally different person from what he was? Many believers (including myself) reflect on how it would have been if we were in the same situation. Most of us would have said, “There’s no way I can change.” I oftentimes ask myself, “Have I really changed (my pride) through the power of God?” Am I truly submitted to His leading without complaints? This pastor showed me what true repentance is all about.
~ Hung Ping Yung