Past, Present and Future

10 06 2012

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for us – Debbie has been trying to get all of her grading done for her students as they approach the final days of school – Joel has made three trips into China in this past month.  Some of those trips were devoted to following up with pastors on church construction and leadership training projects we are partnering together on. It is exciting to see the vision that these pastors have for equipping believers for the work of the Gospel in their communities, and be able to encourage them along the way.

Guilin C&MA Short Term Bible School – 1948

The last weekend of May we were both able to attend the 100th anniversary celebrations for the Guilin City Church in the southern province of Guangxi.  In reality this weekend was chosen more as a milestone celebration as the first missionaries actually came to Guilin in 1898 – Rev & Mrs. Joseph Cunningham of the C&MA – followed by workers from other mission groups including the Southern Baptists and Church of England (Anglican).  This weekend provided an opportunity for local believers and guests to reflect back on those pioneer workers – whether they were foreigners or local pastors – who served faithfully in difficult times. It was encouraging to see pictures from years gone by and hear stories about how God was at work and used a variety of people to see the church started in this area of southern China.

Then on the first weekend of June, I attended the ordination service for two young pastors at the same church in Guilin.  I had the privilege in 2008 of being there when this husband and wife were appointed as the first pastors for the Guilin area church of YongFu. It was an honor to attend this service and together with local believers affirm God’s calling on their lives. It has been refreshing to see their passion for the Lord and willingness to follow God wherever He leads them.

Guilin City church pastors and staff

After a time to reflect on all that was said and done, I agreed with the one pastor who said these two weekends gave everyone a glimpse of the past, present and future of the church in Guilin.  As I listened to church leaders over these two weekends talk about where the church in Guilin is right now and their plans for the future, it was obvious to me that they shared the same objectives in ministry as the pioneer workers who went to Guilin so many years ago.  Just like the pioneer workers, I have seen this generation of pastors and believers driven by a passion to take the Gospel into every county and town of the Guilin district.  Their aim is to help small groups of believers grow in their faith and increase in numbers to become lighthouses of evangelism in their own area. And finally, they desire to train and equip the next generation of leaders for their local church, who will in turn continue to find ways to visibly demonstrate the love of God to those in need in their communities.

Much has changed in the 100+ years since Joseph and Anna Cunningham first went to Guilin. But a new generation of leaders for the church have answered the call from God, and He is using them to impact the greater Guilin area with the good news of Jesus. Many people in China still need to see and hear the Gospel. Thanks be to God for those believers here in this city and its vicinity who are faithfully taking the lead in building on the foundation laid by those who have gone before them.

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie

We will be back in North America this summer (June 11 – July 31st) – spending time with our family and sharing with some groups about our ministry.  Even though there will be a lot of travel involved this summer (Oregon, Washington, California, Michigan & Ohio), PRAY that we would be able to get some much needed rest and rejuvenation.

Debbie’s dad has experienced some health issues over the past 6 months.  PRAY for his continued recovery, and that we would be an encouragement to the family during our visit this summer.

Guilin City Church—100th Anniversary Celebration