China (MNN) — We told you yesterday that China Partner is taking a team to Jiangxi province in October. What you might not have known is that the team is smaller and more experienced than the usual crew. Why?
“Over the last several months, there have been some new regulations passed down by the Communist regime, specifically through their new president, Xi Jinping, so we want to be careful not to overstep our bounds.”
Erik Burklin, President of China Partner, says many of these regulations “have been on the books,” but now they’re being more heavily enforced.
“Communism in its core values is anti-God,” Burklin says. “They are very atheistic in their belief system, so obviously they will do whatever they can to control any religious activity in their country.”
These new regulations include pushes for the underground Church to register, censorship of electronic Bibles, and a renewed pressure for Christians to stay apolitical. China Partner has always tried to stay neutral about politics, and because they work primarily with the registered Church, they’re doing everything they can to comply with new regulations.
“Whenever we go, we’re really going there on a tourist visa as a guest of China, but we’re obviously watched because we’re foreigners and strangers to them in a way.”
They’re filing all the right paperwork, telling the government where they’re going to be, and making their intentions as clear as possible. It’s something they’ve always done in the past, but now they’re doing it with renewed intentionality.
“As a result [of our efforts], we’ve had tremendous freedom to go just about anywhere, and we’ve never been curtailed in our teaching or in what we were able to present.”
Still, they want to be cautious, hence the smaller team. They’re also only taking staff and board members. They want to be ready for the unexpected.
Local churches, even registered ones, are also trying to be careful. Though they don’t necessarily condone the government’s actions, many of China Partner’s contacts are working with the new regulations.
“Even they don’t know what that means for them practically, so they’re kind of in an unknown state right now,” Burklin says. “They want to be careful, and obviously they don’t want to overstep any bounds, but they don’t know how these regulations are actually going to be enforced, so pray for wisdom for us and for protection.
“They are worried about some of their policies, but they will respect it, and this is something we at China Partner have learned from our Chinese brothers and sisters, so we’ve decided to do the same thing.”
Burklin acknowledges that this doesn’t work for every group. Different organizations work with different local churches and do things in different ways. This is just how China Partner thinks they can best reach their specific partners.
Ministry is important, and it needs to go hand in hand with wisdom. No matter what regulations are put in place, the people of China still need the Gospel. China Partner may be working with the registered church, but there are local congregations that are struggling under the new regulations and Church leaders who are being arrested.
Pray for patience and wisdom as the Church moves forward through this time, and consider supporting China partner as they prepare for October’s trip.