China (MNN) — Symbolism permeates Chinese culture.
It's in the language, the arts, cuisine, and beliefs. Everything has meaning from the placement of furniture to the kind of color someone paints in a room. That translates to faith, too.
According to China Partner, followers of Christ in China see church and Christian school buildings as a physical demonstration of the Church in their land.
Sometimes availability or government red tape forces thousands of the above-ground Chinese believers to worship in home settings, but many of them want buildings specifically set aside in which to worship. They know that the cross on schools, retirement homes, etc. likely denotes places where the Word of God is taught and the love of Christ is demonstrated.
At the same time, the church is growing rapidly, outpacing the space where groups can gather to worship. Finally, you add in scarcity of resources like training, materials, and funds, and it's fairly clear that the Chinese Church needs help.
A call went out, and China Partner responded. By request, China Partner has been doing pastoral training in Hubei province for several years, coming alongside the local church.
At lunch one day, the topic turned to the ever growing need for new training locations and churches. While standing outside a scaffolded structure in the city of Chibi, China Partner President Erik Burklin explains, "Two years ago, we were here doing a training. At that time, this was an old building standing here at this same location. That has now been ripped down, and they're doing a brand-new facility for training lay leaders and pastors in this city."
Generally, building projects don't fall under the mission statement of China Partner. However, by the Chinese presenting a need, they could move forward. Burklin notes, "It's amazing what God is doing. It's such a privilege for China Partner to be a part of this ministry here by equipping ministry leaders and pastors so that they can reach out to more individuals in this part of China for His glory."
The Chibi building project puts believers in key areas of growth and development for strategic outreach. How strategic? Burklin says, "I asked the pastor how many baptisms they had. Last year, alone, in 2012, he told me over 2,000 new Christians were baptized. "
Burklin is wrapping up a 15-day pastoral training session in Hubei province this week. Pray that the training will enable pastors to be more effective in their work. Pray that the training center will go forward on schedule, without interruption.