This year, like never before, the eyes of the world are focused on China. The Olympic Games will be held in Beijing in August, putting the international spotlight on a historic and fascinating land that is emerging as a global superpower.
China almost defies comprehension. In a land about the same size as the United States, it has four times as many people. One out of every five people on the planet lives there. The population grows by almost a million people a month. Hong Kong–where I preached in November–will remind you of New York City in many ways. So will Beijing and Shanghai, and there are close to 100 cities across China with more than a million people each.
China is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, home of the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. As rich as it is in tradition, it is also one of the fastest-changing places on the planet. Each year, millions of people stream from the countryside to the cities, seeking a better life.
Missionaries such as Robert Morrison and J. Hudson Taylor brought the Gospel to China in the 19th century. Nobody knows exactly how many Chinese have become Christians, but no doubt there are tens of millions. House churches are thriving. More than 33,000 people responded to the invitations to make a commitment to Christ during our Crusade in Hong Kong.
China has always had a special place in my heart. My grandfather was a medical missionary there in the decades prior to World War II, my mother was raised there, and my father has preached there several times. Having heard their stories, I was blessed to be able to accompany my parents to China in 1988, when we visited the house in Huaiyin where Mama grew up.
I’m reminded of the day in 1975 when I first visited Hong Kong with Dr. Bob Pierce, the founder of Samaritan’s Purse. Hong Kong is now part of China, but then it was a separate British colony. At the time, we were not allowed to enter mainland China, but we visited an Army outpost overlooking the mainland and prayed that someday God would open the doors for us to work in China and share the message of God’s love.
Today, those prayers are being answered. I just returned from a visit, where I had the opportunity to speak in churches and to meet with Christian leaders in several Chinese cities.
We’re thankful that at this moment in history, God has opened doors in China for us to share the message of God’s love. As China dreams of Olympic pageantry and medals, we look forward to even greater rewards. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV).