China (MNN) — Yesterday, we told you about China Partner’s recent trip to China, where regulations are rolling in and the Church is facing more and more pressure. But did you know that for China Partner’s president, Erik Burklin, the trip was actually a sort of homecoming?
The team spent most of their time at the Jiangxi Bible School in Nanchang.
“Nanchang was one of the cities where my grandparents ministered many, many years ago, and it’s also the city where China Partner has raised thousands of dollars to build a Bible school,” Burklin said.
In fact, the missions station Burklin’s grandparents established is still there to this today.
“They now have a government protection over that building. It’s considered, so to speak, sacred and cannot be torn down, even though it was built by foreigners,” Burklin said. That’s uncharacteristic for the local government, especially since it’s a religious building.
Now, right next to the mission is a “big, beautiful, growing, and vibrant church,” and the influence of Burklin’s grandparents is still being felt generations later. Even the local government leader remember when his grandparents lived in Nanchang.
“For us, it was a really fun highlight to see that the long, hard labor of 25 years of missionary work had not gone to waste. Just the opposite; it had caused all kinds of fruit-bearing,” Burklin said. “Many more have come to faith as a result of what my grandparents had started in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, and it was very rewarding to see that.”
Burklin’s grandparents lived in China, and his father started China Partner. To some extent, Burklin says living up to that legacy can be intimidating.
“You always question ‘Am I worthy of doing what my grandparents did? Am I doing as well as they did?’”
However, his history also gives him unique insight into the world he’s trying to reach into.
“What I love about this legacy is that it immediately allows me to have close fellowship and relationship even with government officials,” Burklin says. “There’s something about family that translates beyond cultures and translates beyond countries… When a grandson comes back to the very same city where, many years ago, another couple was living, to them that’s very special.”
This immediate connection with the community means Burklin has many practical connections to Nanchang, but he also has many emotional ties to the city. The street where the mission stands is virtually the same as it was when his grandparents lived in Nanchang, and he says he could imagine his grandmother walking down the street to buy food from nearby markets or butchers.
“To visualize that again, to see that in person was very emotional. I was just thinking ‘Wow. She was here. She lived here. Now, I get to do the same things.’”
A Father’s Impact
So was the mission field inevitable for Burklin? Not in his mind. He says faith and missions must be a decision made on the part of the individual.
“It was not only because my grandparents were living and working in China that I then chose to become a missionary in China,” he said. “It was really more of a calling that developed over the years.”
After college, he was involved in youth ministry for 11 years before he even considered missions in China. Things changed when his father founded China Partner and began working with Chinese churches to provide leadership training. He wanted to work alongside his dad, and today, he’s the president of the organization.
“You progress, you are on a faith journey with Jesus, and as you continue along that journey you sense more of a calling and sense more of a draw,” he said.
The Real Legacy
Being a part of a family that has always done ministry “is an honor” for Burklin, but he says it has never just been about him or his blood. Instead, he says the focus should always be on Jesus and what He is doing in China, not just one family’s legacy.
“The legacy that we would like to leave behind is that we were an organization that was there for them. We exist to serve the Chinese people, and we exist to serve the Church in China.”
“What I love about what we do is that the Church will continue long after China Partner doesn’t exist anymore, long after I’ve passed away.”
Burklin’s family might have a unique impact on China’s Church, but first and foremost, it’s God’s Church.
Header photo courtesy of China Partner