American missionary Todd Matthews has certainly obeyed Jesus’ command to take the gospel to the world’s “uttermost parts.” He has been trekking into the mountains and gorges of China’s Yunnan Province for 16 years, bringing the good news to the remote villages of China’s ethnic minorities like the Lisu, Naxi, Bi, and Yi. He has also been arrested numerous times by Chinese police. His efforts have paid off with fruit, however. Churches have been planted and disciples are making disciples.
Ten years ago, Todd and three other missionaries trekked to a tiny village named Qian Jin that is perched on a mountainside high above the Yangtze River. One friendly villager named Hu Jian Xin (pronounced “Hoo Chee-awn Shin”) welcomed them into his simple log home. He not only spoke Mandarin, but he was also able to translate the missionaries’ message into Naxi, the common language of his village. He agreed to spread the word to nearby villages about a movie that the missionaries would be showing after sunset.
That night, a crowd of people who had never heard about Jesus watched a film projected onto a bed sheet about His life, death and resurrection. Jesus spoke their language. When the missionaries presented the gospel afterwards, several people responded, including Hu. Todd and his team members admonished the new believers and gave them Bibles. A church had been born.
Six months later, Todd and his team returned to the village to nurture the little church and further evangelize with the help of a Chinese Christian who spoke Naxi. More villagers responded to the gospel. The little church was growing.
When Todd and his team returned three months later, however, they received a very cold reception. They soon learned that local police had visited the village, confiscating Bibles and threatening believers with jail and property seizure if they continued to believe the “deception of the foreigners.”
The missionaries were not welcome to even spend the night and had to sleep on the ground outside the village. Greatly discouraged, they hiked out the next morning. Gospel seedlings had withered under the hot sun of persecution.
Fast-forward three years. The Naxi-speaking Chinese Christian who had joined Todd during his second and third visits to the village told Todd that he’d experienced repeated dreams revealing that there were steadfast believers in Qian Jin. He persuaded Todd to return. After an eight-hour drive to the remote trailhead, they embarked on their five-mile trek to Qian Jin Village—only to meet Hu coming from the opposite direction. He was thrilled to see them, and he told them that he had dreamed the night before that they would be returning! Then he told them even better news: He was still a believer, as were several others in the village. The seed planted four years earlier had not died. Since that day, Todd and other believers have repeatedly visited and discipled the young believers in Qian Jin Village.
I had the privilege of visiting Qian Jin myself in 2007. In an effort to serve the believers and soften hearts of unbelievers, Heaven’s Family provided funding for plastic pipe and concrete to build water reservoirs, the most pressing need in that village of subsistence farmers. I visited a second time earlier this year to see the completed water projects for myself. I was happy to observe that Hu is bearing fruit by demonstrating concern for those who still lack sufficient water and for those who don’t yet believe in Jesus. He arranged a meeting in a nearby village for our team to share the gospel.
Please pray for the believers in Qian Jin. In the deep valley far below their simple homes, the Yangtze River has become a steadily rising reservoir behind China’s Three Gorges Dam, displacing 1.3 million people along its length at lower elevations. Consequently, displaced people are moving into Qian Jin Village, giving Christians there a chance to let their lights shine, and Heaven’s Family an opportunity to help them.