Chinese street evangelist calms Christians in the face of new Internet restrictions

In China, new restrictions on religious Internet content are set to go into effect on March 1. Observers are noting that the restrictions are already having a chilling effect on Chinese Christians’ online activity. But one Chinese street evangelist is taking his bold message online and encouraging Chinese Christians to stay calm and keep on posting.

Chinese street evangelist Chen Wensheng

Evangelist Chen Wensheng, who was detained more than six times in 2021 for his street preaching in Hengyang, Hunan, took to social media earlier this month with a post entitled, “How Should Christians Respond to the Measures for the Administration of Internet Information Services”.

In his post he rebuked Chinese Christians for already changing their chat names and online IDs and shortening or dropping words like “Jesus”, “God”, and “Amen” from their online posts, and even dropping out of online Christian groups completely. He shared scriptures to encourage the believers to be bold, and he gave them a strong challenge to bring their light to the darkest place they can find, which includes the Chinese Internet.

Evangelist Chen’s online message was more than fiery street preaching, however.

Evangelist Chen said Chinese Christians need to have a basic understanding of law. He noted that the new regulations were technically “measures” and did not yet have the force of law, nor had they yet been enforced to persecute Christians. He sees the new measures as a “win-win” situation for Christians: If they continue to preach about Jesus online, any efforts to stop them can be declared illegal because the measures are unconstitutional. But if they are persecuted, then they can joyfully testify about Jesus to their persecutors.

This is the strategy Evangelist Chen uses in his own street ministry.

Chinese street evangelist Chen and his 84-year-old mother on the streets of Hengyang preaching the Gospel

On December 27, the community and local police, State Security officers, United Front Work Department, other government department officials, and the newly appointed district party committee secretary went to Chen Wensheng’s home to speak with him about his street preaching. Evangelist Chen saw it as a great opportunity to preach the gospel to them. This is what he did in each of his many prior detainments, so his advice to Chinese Christians comes from his own experience of joyfully testifying to the authorities in response to their efforts to stop him.

The scriptures Evangelist Chen shared in his recent online message to Chinese Christians included 2 Timothy 1:7 (“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”), Hebrews 10:35 (“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded”, and Ephesians 6:10 (“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”).

Evangelist Chen says, “The darkest place is where light is most needed. The place with the worst persecutions is the place where the gospel is most needed. The place with the least justice is where God’s righteous judgment is needed the most! Do you dare to come to such a place? Dare to come to preach the gospel?”

Chinese street evangelist Chen Wensheng and a family of Christians at church

In the Bible, the Lord raised up judges each time his people faced trouble. Evangelist Chen Wensheng seems to be the unlikely “judge” that the Lord is raising up to calm Chinese Christians in the face of these sweeping new Internet restrictions. Years ago he was a drug addict. When he heard the gospel, he became a new creature in Christ and began preaching the gospel on the streets. He is a member of a small church, and yet because he has been faithful through his many detentions in Hengyang, the Lord is giving him more responsibility, to calm and challenge Christians across China in this crucial hour.

Individuals interested in learning about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit https://vomkorea.com/en/china/.

Individuals interested in donating to Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/donate or give via electronic transfer to:

KB Bank: 463501-01-243303

Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리

Please note “China” on the transfer

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VOMK, VOMA, Egyptian Christians to distribute 5,000 Bibles to Egyptian Muslims

Voice of the Martyrs Korea announced today a plan to distribute 5,000 Bibles to Egyptian Muslims in 2022, through a partnership with local Egyptian Christians and their sister mission, Voice of the Martyrs Australia.

The partnership follows what local Egyptian believers and we VOM sister missions are calling a successful distribution of 2,000 Bibles to Egyptian Muslims in 2020.

A Muslim man reads the Bible that was given to him by local Egyptian Christians in 2020. 

For underground Christians, “mission” means Bible distribution and gospel proclamation to unbelievers. Whereas missionaries from Korea and the West have shifted to humanitarian aid, business-as-mission, and friendship building models of mission, underground Christians in places like Egypt are remaining completely focused on distributing the word of God to people who haven’t yet heard the gospel. It is a personally costly outreach for them, but they continue to say to us, “Give us the tools—the Bibles—and we will complete the work of the Great Commission.” We believe that is why God is primarily using local believers rather than foreign missionaries on the front lines of mission in closed countries: They are risking their lives to spread only God’s word.

Consider the testimony of “Nour”, an Egyptian who was formerly Muslim but who became a Christian through receiving and reading a Bible.

Nour’s husband kicked her out of their home and only allowed their children to visit her once a month. But every time they visited, Nour’s 15-year old daughter, Mariam, could see a change in her mother’s chracter, as Nour had become a much more loving person. Mariam kept asking her mother the reason for the change, but Nour did not want to share out of fear that her husband might cut off all visits from the children if he found out she had shared the gospel with them.

But the situation changed during the Coronavirus.

Nour’s husband’s mother got COVID and had to be admitted to the hospital. Nour’s husband had to stay at the hospital with his mother, so he sent the children to live temporarily with Nour. At that same time, one of the local Egyptian Christians we were partnering with asked if they could store Bibles at her house. So the Lord sent Nour her children and the Bibles at the same time! When Mariam found the Bibles, she asked her mother why they were there, and Nour answered, “To be distributed to those who are having hunger in their heart to know the true loving God.”

An Egyptian Muslim woman reads the Bible that was given to her by local Egyptian Christians in 2020. 

Mariam asked for a Bible to read before she had to return to her father’s home. She read the Sermon on the Mount and was amazed by Jesus’ teaching. She kept on reading the whole day, and when Nour came in that evening, Mariam’s face was covered with tears. Nour asked her what had happened, and Mariam said that she wanted the life that Jesus had come to give people. So they prayed together, and  Mariam committed her life to Jesus. That is the power of God at work through Bible distribution by local believers in closed countries.

The Bible distribution to Muslims has also opened up a door to evangelize Egypt’s “Coptic” Christians, who often have little to no exposure to the Bible or the gospel message.

One of the local believers in Upper Egypt talked to a Coptic priest and shared his plan to distribute Bibles to Muslims in the areas surrounding the priest’s church. The priest was very happy and excited to hear about the project, and so our local partner shared some of the Bibles with the priest to share with his congregation members as well. The priest wrote a thank you note that said, “We are very thankful and appreciative that you have given us the Holy Bible to be distributed through our church meetings. May the lord reward the labor of your love.” Our local partner told us, “The power of the Word of God is opening spiritual gates for Muslims and nominal Christians to know the Lord Jesus as a personal Savior for them.”

The cost of providing each Bible is 7,000 KRW (or $5.50 USD), with the total project cost of 35,000,000 KRW for distributing all 5,000 Bibles in 2022. Voice of the Martyrs Korea is accepting donations for the project until January 31. Donations can be made at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation  or give via electronic transfer to:  

국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303 

예금주 (Account holder): (사)순교자의소리  

Please include the phrase “Egypt” on the donation.

Boxes of Bibles on the way for distribution to Egyptian Muslims

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VOMK REACHES OUT TO NK DEFECTOR “LOST SHEEP” IN SK COUNTRYSIDE

Government statistics indicate that about 35% of North Korean defectors live outside of the Seoul/Incheon/Gyeonggi Province area. Yet only the tiniest fraction of faith-based humanitarian and outreach efforts are directed to them.

That’s why we at Voice of the Martyrs Korea are launching a 500,000,000 KRW (approx. 500,000 USD) initiative to evangelize and disciple North Korean defector “lost sheep” in the South Korean countryside in 2022.

Dr. Foley and Pastor Foley train NK defector students for outreach to NK defectors in the South Korean countryside as part of its Underground University missionary training school.

Jesus said if you have a hundred sheep and one gets lost, you should leave the 99 and go find the one. But when it comes to North Korean defectors, most efforts to evangelize and disciple North Korean defectors continue to focus on the Seoul metropolitan area. There are very few churches or ministries reaching out to North Korean defectors in the countryside, yet more than ten thousand North Korean defectors live there. 

Involvement with NK defectors in the countryside is the result of the teaching strategy we as a ministry have employed at our missionary training school for North Korean defectors in Seoul over the past 15 years.  Voice of the Martyrs Korea uses traditional North Korean underground church methods and materials to train North Koreans to reach other North Koreans for Christ, wherever North Koreans are found. We started with North Korean defector students from Seoul, and they evangelized and discipled North Korean defectors in places like Paju, Yongin, and Yangju. These defectors then evangelized and discipled North Korean defectors in places like Daejeon, Gwangju, Gimhae, and Jeju. And now in this year alone those North Korean defectors have been evangelizing and discipling North Korean defectors in Seosan, Wanju, Gongju, Cheongju, Okcheon, and Wando.

Our mission is expanding rapidly because it is based on the principle that ordinary North Koreans are more effective at reaching other ordinary North Koreans than anyone else. It’s very similar to the Bible women model of the early Korean church. (I should note that most of the defectors in our Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s training schools are older women, active in a local church congregation but without a title, position, or seminary education.) They are just ordinary old North Korean defector women who love the Bible and who have learned how to use it to introduce other defectors to Jesus and how to apply his teachings to their lives.

There is no available list of names and addresses of defectors living in the countryside. Instead, Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s NK defector students must use word of mouth to make contacts and plan trips to visit them. Sometimes they are able to track down a defector who is now living in the countryside whom they met when they first came to Korea. Sometimes they get the name of a North Korean defector “friend of a friend” who married and moved to the countryside. They then call that defector in the countryside and set a time to visit. Then they work with us to get there. Sometimes we go by bus. Sometimes we go by train. This year we bought a used RV to drive to these places which are often very far out in the countryside. Our visitation schedule in the countryside is now so full that we are working to purchase a second RV and hire a driver.

NK defector students at VOMK’s Underground University missionary training program pray together with an NK defector in the countryside, aboard a used RV the ministry is using in its new “Lost Sheep” outreach project.

While Voice of the Martyrs Korea staff always accompany the students, the students are the ministers. When North Koreans meet other North Koreans, even a short visit can accomplish a lot. Ordinary North Koreans can talk frankly about common experiences using a common language without being embarrassed. Even the Bible we use is a North Korean dialect Bible, which they understand much better than other Korean translations.

The living conditions of North Korean defector women in the countryside are often tragically similar to those of sex-trafficked North Korean women living in China. One North Korean defector woman we met in the countryside is married to a South Korean man who is extremely jealous and possessive. He made his defector wife quit her job and stay at home all day every day, and he set up CCTV all over their house so he can watch her when he is not home. Whenever she goes out, he calls her repeatedly to check up on her. But our student is just an old North Korean defector woman.  When she visited their home, the husband wasn’t there but could see her on the CCTV, so he was not suspicious. Our North Korean student could empathize with the North Korean wife immediately, and she was able to share the gospel and share wisdom from the Bible about how to pray and what to do. She told the woman, “God has given you all this time at home, so you can read the Bible and pray.” She gave the woman a Bible, and the woman clutched it tightly and said, “I will surely believe in God. He is very much knocking at my door.”

The outreach to North Korean defectors in the countryside is a missed opportunity of the Korean church. It’s popular these days for South Korean churches to each adopt different cities in North Korea and to set aside money to plant churches there some day in the future. But what we are seeing happen today is North Korean defectors each adopting different cities in South Korea and reaching the North Korean defector ‘lost sheep’ who live in these cities. God is using these ordinary North Korean defectors to turn the traditional South Korean model for North Korean evangelism upside down.

An NK defector student at VOMK’s Underground University prays with an NK defector woman at her home in the South Korean countryside.

The Coronavirus has also played a role in our shift to focus on the countryside. In following the Coronavirus restrictions, it became impossible to continue to gather our large number of students together for class. We prayed, “Lord, what do you want us to do now?” And at that time we received a phone call from a few North Korean defectors in Daejeon, asking us to go down there to teach them. We realized that God was using the Coronavirus to shift us away from a “gathering” model to a “going” model. So we shut down the classroom and told our students, “It’s time for us all to go out to the countryside and reach every lost North Korean defector sheep, one at a time.” We started going out the next week. We typically drive hours to visit one or two defectors in one or two homes in the countryside. And the Lord pours out his Spirit. You can feel his good pleasure with this work. The farther out in the countryside we go just to meet one lost North Korean defector sheep, we rediscover the spiritual power and fruit of the early Korean church.

More information about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s outreach to North Korean defectors in the South Korean countryside is available at https://vomkorea.com/en/project/northkorea/uu-school/.

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