We continue to find it an enormous privilege to experience wide open doors for ministry in conferences, churches, Christian Unions etc. How good God is to us! And it is so encouraging to see much fruit from these times of speaking both overseas and around Britain.
Our latest speaking engagement was an away weekend in Norfolk for the Cambridge Chinese Church. Elizabeth gave a much-appreciated talk highlighting lessons from her family – she is a fourth generation missionary and we can learn so much through the stories of the previous generations in India and China (see her book “Roots and Wings”). I was asked to give three main talks on growth in the Christian life and service of the Lord. We much appreciated many good personal talks particularly with Christians from mainland China, Inner Mongolia, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
In Britain today we face enormous opportunities with students from mainland China. About 100,000 flock each year to our universities and they are wide open to God in Jesus Christ, if the Gospel is made relevant to their culture and situation. They are disillusioned with the Communist ideology which has been the foundation for everything in life in China. Does the Christian faith have an adequate ideology for modern life in China? What difference could the Christian faith make for industry, education, politics, family life, agriculture etc.? And is the Christian faith really a western religion or can it be genuinely Chinese? Of course as a Jew myself I struggle with the same fundamental question – can we understand and live out the biblical Scriptures and theology through Jewish eyes after almost two thousand years of European domination in the church, biblical studies and theological formulations?
Although mainland Chinese formed the majority in our conference, there were also many from Hong Kong, a few from Malaysia and Singapore, and a good number of “BBCs” (British Born Chinese!). It is easy to talk about ‘Chinese culture’, but actually these different backgrounds produce radically different cultures and they do not always find it easy to relate with each other. Of course ethnic minority churches commonly face the tension of more culturally traditional older folk with the more liberal and anglicised younger generation. Language difficulties further complicate relationships – first generation immigrants commonly use their ethnic language, while the second and third generations are educated in English and speak English with their school and college friends. In our conference too Mandarin, Cantonese and English vied with each other. Elizabeth much enjoyed using her Mandarin and this always helps our relationship with Chinese Christians. They also appreciate very much her childhood experiences in China, including her three years in a Japanese prison camp in China – the same camp as Eric Liddell of “Chariots of Fire” fame (see her life story “God can be Trusted”).