A Personal Glimpse of Foshan 佛山 Aadventist Church (1999 - ...)
by Robert Luk, 2013
Views expressed in this account are those of the author and were not initiated by the Adventism in China project team members.
Small Beginning in 1999
In November of 1999, came a request for help to establishing a place of worship for a newly formed small group of Adventist believers in the city of Nan Hoi 南 海 (pinyin Nanhai), Guangdong, China. The call was answered by a member from the then First Capital Chinese SDA Church in Maryland, USA. In the Fall of 2001 the donor and I had the opportunity of visiting the "home Church" in a small apartment, purchased with the funds provided by the donor. While there, we had the opportunity to fellowship with this small group of ten to twenty-plus member congregation.
Initially a sign was placed on the outside wall of the church, showing that this was a place of worship for Seventh-day Adventist Christians, and also acknowledging the donor. But to comply with the general practice at the time, public sign of Christian worship must be placed inside the building. The group have to worship and evangelize quietly. Visitors passing by this apartment home, unless they were explicitly told, would not know that inside there were a small congregation conducting Christian worship. How could they share their message with others?
Second Visit in 2010
I had lost contact with this group since we say good bye, back in the Fall of 2001. Nearly ten years later, in the Summer of 2010, I had another opportunity to visit China. While there, I was hoping to visit the Church again at Nan Hoi 南 海. And since we had not communicated with its members, the only means of possible contact with them was the ten-year list of old phone numbers that I got from them in 2001. Nevertheless I went down the list, dialing number after number, only to hear a disconnect or "not-a-working-number" message. With hopes getting dimmer, I began to dial this one final number, sent to the donor via E-mail. The phone kept on ringing, which gave me hope that this might be a working number. Finally a lady voice answered. To my surprise and joy, she was one of the original members of that congregation. She told me that she was on her way out the door when the phone rang and that brought her back to answer the call. In my heart I shouted “Praised the Lord”. For if, I would have dial just a moment later, I would have missed her, and perhaps this story of what God has done, for His people, in one of the city of Southern China would not have been told.
As we talked further, I found out that this Church is not only still active, but had literally outgrown the old apartment home and had moved to a new location. She gave me the address of the new Church. When we got there, we had difficulty locating the new church, Fortunately one of the sisters came down to meet us at the cross streets. We then went up the stairs to find where they were meeting. Once there we were surprised at what we saw. Not just the twenty or thirty members that I was expecting, but the congregation had grown to one hundred plus members. They all crowded into this "large Church", which again became too small. I could not help but whispered,“Praised the Lord for His Blessings”. At the end of the service, I inquired of the sister as to what had happen during the past ten years.
I was not prepared for the amazing story that follows. After the sign was removed from the outside of the premise thus making it difficult if not impossible to recruit new members, this small gathering of members did not lose sight of the need to share their faith with others. Through personal friendship ministry, health ministry, community services, hospital visitations, and small group visitations to homes, they continued to reach out to peoples around them in the local community. Their faith in God and their love for His message enabled them to share the Gospel with deep conviction drawing many to Christ. God blessed them with a membership growth that far exceeded their expectation. And within six to seven years, this small congregation, became an overflowing group of worshipers that exceeded the capacity the original building.
Seeing the crowed situation, members gathered to gather and prayed for divine guidance. With faith on what God had done for them in the past, they proceeded to look for a larger place of worship. When a new place was located, there was not enough funds to keep the old Church and rent the new one. But with faith, they went ahead and rented the new place. When they rented out the old apartment, they found that there was enough to cover the rental of the new place. “Amen, Praised the Lord!”. I uttered to myself. During the time we were with them in our second visit, we witnessed faith in action as exemplified in their trust in Gods’ leading. They continued to bring a steady flow of new members to their church, resulting in over filling the larger Church. Before we left, the members was again in the process of looking for another larger place of worship. But they also realized the financial short fall, which brought some members, suggesting the possibilities of partitioning the local Government for permissions to used a Government sanctioned Church building, where other denominations was also using for worship.
Third Visit in 2012
The story did not end in 2010. Let us witness once more how God opens doors for His faithful people. In the Spring of 2012 I went back to that part of China for a third visit. This time with the advance of cell phone communication, I was able to contact our sister at Nan Hoi with relative ease. My heart was again filled with praises as I joined the local Foshan congregation on Sabbath to worship in a much large premise provided by the local government. This means they have the official permission to openly meet in this Government provided church building. This is a non-denominational church building that other groups may also worship on Sunday.
It was in back in 2011 when our Foshan brothers and sisters applied and were granted permissions to openly meet in a Government sanctioned non-denominational church building. Still no signs are allowed outside the building as the church is shared. However, this building provides enough spaced so that the children are able to have their own Sabbath school rooms. I was privileged to visit this Church and worshiped with the many brothers and sisters in that building. As I sat there on the pews, a rush of humbleness and praise filled my heart as we sang and talk about Jesus, and how He had blessed and continues to bless our believers there. I consider myself extremely privileged to be able to experience in person the inspiring worship that weekend in that Church in Foshan.
At the time of this writing, the Fashan congregation still do not have an official pastor to lead them. Their worship services are performed solely by lay people who are faithful and love their Lord dearly. But that does not prevent the church in experiencing tremendous growth through friendship ministry.
Lessons I Learned
I cannot help but thought to myself, "This group may look small in such a big church building. But what will it look like in a few years?" God can do great things for those who put their trust in Him. ( Pic.9)
In conclusion, I observed that this group, indeed fit the Biblical model of layperson ministry. Money, shortage or abundance, was not one of their priorities, because each time when they needed it, all their monetary needs were supplied (Phil. 4:19 ) through their faith in God. But the winning of souls for Jesus is their priority. My own faith and trust in God, were strengthen as I follow the growth of this church congregation in Foshan. It is my hope is that we continue to pray for Gods’ message to spread throughout the land of China, and around the world, as we await His soon coming. (Pic.10)
Figure 2: Original Home
Figure 3: Worship sign removed from entrance door.
Figure 4: Layperson First Church
Figure 5: Layperson Second Church
Figure 6: Worshiping in new location.
Figure 7: Layperson Government Church
Figure 8: Children Sabbath School room
Figure 9: Full view of the Foshan Church today.
Figure 10: External view of the Foshan Church today. The Chinese characters read Christian Jinsar Church, which Jinsar is the name of the local district.