Revival in China
Dennis Balcombe is senior pastor of Revival Christian Church in Hong Kong and regularly ministers in China. This article is edited from newsletters sent early in 1996.
a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit
We saw the Holy Spirit fall with great joy similar to what some refer to as the ‘Toronto Blessing.’ This has swept many parts of China without any teaching from the West, but in many places has been a supernatural outpouring of the Spirit.
In Asia many Pentecostal denominations are trying to be more acceptable to the denominational church world through more emphasis on theological education and degrees than prayer, fasting and the power that comes from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The opposite is true in China, for the house churches are more than ever turning to the Pentecostal roots of our faith.
We also arranged for many other well known ministry teams to teach the leaders in several parts of China. Among them were Lester Sumrall, Ulf Ekmann of Sweden, Reinhard Bonnke of Germany, Marilyn Hickey of the US and many others. One overseas preacher was excited as he was able to preach to a crowd of 6,000 in Northeast China. There has been such a revival there that nearly 360,000 were saved in a few years time.
We took on several new full time local Chinese in the China Ministry. We have encouraged the rest of the Chinese congregation to get involved in ministry in China. Of the 1,000 plus churches in Hong Kong, ours is possibly one of the few who openly advocate and participate in ministry in mainland China. Most pastors are fearful to do so for possible repercussions against them in 1997. We have made our position very clear, and though it has caused a very few to have reservations about our stand, most of the Chinese congregation know where we stand and are prepared for whatever might happen.
Thus towards the end of the year we organized three ministry trips to Yunnan, Sichuan and Guangdong provinces, and nearly 20 local Chinese participated in each trip. They all came back burning with the fires of revival as they met with house church leaders who have been greatly used of God to perform miracles resulting in mass conversions. They also realized clearly the intense persecution against Christians in China and thus are better able to prepare for possible persecution in a year or so. Their testimonies excited so many others that the next scheduled trips around Chinese New Year are all full of applicants. Never before have local Chinese responded to the
China ministry in such a positive manner.
Persecution of Christians is severe and widespread throughout China and the situation with human rights is worse than any time since China opened in 1978. The hard-liners are firmly in control and there don’t seem to be any moderate voices. In addition to long prison sentences being given to proponents of democracy, daily scores of people are executed through China, many for what we would call ‘white collar crimes’ or corruption. In elections for the Hong Kong Legislative Council in September, the pro-democratic parties won by a landslide. This was a great insult to China who considers these men as ‘counter-revolutionary’ and ‘subversives’. China has vowed to dismantle the whole elected government and will not allow any of these legally elected councilors (who are like congressmen in the USA) to remain in office after 1997. They have also strongly attacked the local ‘Bill of Human Rights’ and say they are not obliged to honour human rights in any way, for they have not signed the Bill of Human Rights in the United Nations, though they are signatories to the UN Charter.
People are now extremely pessimistic about the future here and many are saying that the only ones who got it right are those who immigrated years ago. It is quite difficult to do so now at this late date, and people don’t even know if the present travel document (British Nationality Overseas passport) or the passport that will come in next year (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC) will be recognized by foreign governments. It is not certain Hong Kong people will then be able to travel overseas without difficulty. In addition to the above, the economy has started to decline and unemployment is at an all-time high.
I continually teach the people that whatever happens we should not even consider leaving Hong Kong, for our nation will need us. But through the cell group system we are attempting to disciple everyone and prepare them for persecution, if it comes to that. Also many more people are willing to come into the ministry now than in a booming economy. We may possibly start a full time intensive Bible School in which people work together and study for preparation of ministry in China as well as Hong Kong.
In December Pastor David Kiteley of Shiloh Christian Fellowship in Oakland, visited Hong Kong and with David Wang of Asian Outreach ordained Kathy Balcombe also a ‘pastor’ in RCC. She has been operating in the capacity for many years as I am away from Hong Kong much, but this will give her more authority to make decisions when I am away and deal with other matters. The church is growing rapidly and many are finding the Lord almost weekly. The goal for this new year is ‘Revival’ and we are believing for 50% growth this year. We usually have close to 500 people actually attend on any given Sunday, but like any church there are many more who don’t always come except a few times a year. On special meetings we might have over 600. We are not only believing for more numbers, but for an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and evangelism. Several sister churches have been planted by our own Chinese or missionaries working with the church.
We now have nearly 130 full time missionaries under the visa sponsorship of RCC, and many more who now have their own visas (which are given after 7 years in Hong Kong). We have set up special intensive training for all the missionaries, and hope that many more new missionaries will be granted visas to come here, which it may be impossible after the change of sovereignty. None of them plan on leaving though the laws about overseas foreign church workers after 1997 is still very ambiguous.
Lastly I would appreciate your prayers that we have sufficient funds to purchase Bibles. For nearly 15 years we received Chinese Bibles free of cost or at a discount from other organizations. However due to different philosophy in ministry, they will not provide us any Bibles at discount, so we have to pay to have them printed in Sri Lanka. The price last year was about US $1.50 per Bible, but now we can get them at $1.35 per Bible due to offerings from Norwegian Christian. It is still not safe, economical or logistically possible to print and distribute large amounts of whole Bibles in China, though many (including ourselves) have printed limited amounts of other types of materials including New Testaments. The sale of Bibles through the official channels is severely restricted as everyone knows, so the only way most of the church leaders in the rural areas can receive Bibles is through ministries like ours.
Due to the lack of funds there were a few occasions last year when our workers had no Bibles to take to China, and we were only able to provide teaching materials. However we want to keep the ratio of Bibles to teaching materials of 80% to 20%, for we are primarily providing these to Spirit filled church leaders who are actively involved in church planting all over the nation. We have direct contact and relationship with about 50 large evangelistic teams which are ministering to about 10 million believers. These are all people who are baptized in the Spirit, speak in tongues and exercise gifts of the Holy Spirit. They in turn reach out to the lost in which their ministry is confirmed by mighty gifts of the Spirit, as in the Book of Acts. They also reach out to the small percentage of non-Spirit filled believers, for almost every Christian in China greatly desires the power that only the Holy Spirit can give.
Therefore we desperately need a large supply of Bibles to supply these growing Spirit filled congregations. We were also saddened to hear recently that a large shipment of 85,000 large study Bibles taken in by container through other organizations were confiscated by the PSB police a few weeks ago in Liaoning Province. These study bibles are very expensive and not really that necessary as most of the rural church leaders are not trained to use such comprehensive materials. They basically only need the whole Bible and a few good study books such as ‘The Shepherd’s Staff’. Rather than teach them doctrine or give them study Bibles with all kinds of exposition and sermon outlines, I personally believe it is best to teach the leaders how to study the Bible and allow them to dig out the treasures themselves. I have been amazed over the past 18 years of ministry in mainland China to see how Spirit filled leaders almost speak the same message and preach pure doctrine. The Holy Spirit will ‘lead us into all truth’.
Concerning these large operations, we have found over the years that it is very difficult for such big projects to succeed due to the restrictive situation in China. It is best to take in the Bibles in smaller amounts by several dozen people daily and maintain a continual flow of distribution throughout the nation. We have done this and met with little difficulties. In fact last year only a few bags of literature were confiscated, and this was due to spot checks of the mainland Chinese Christians on the road or train. To facilitate such a ministry, you need many workers both in Hong Kong and mainland China and a safe reliable tested method of distribution throughout the nation. We believe we are this position as we have been doing this for the past 18 years and have probably distributed over four million books in this way. However we thank the Lord for everything others are doing and don’t want to be critical when things go wrong, for we are in ‘warfare’. Even so, the need is so great and resources are so limited, it is essential such ministry is effectual and economical.
We are expecting an increase of at least 100% in ‘Donkey’s for Jesus’ workers who carry Bibles into China, and desperately need the funds to purchase the Bibles. Revival Christian Church has invested heavily in this ministry and last year purchased a floor for the China Ministry Offices at nearly US $300,000 and monthly rents a warehouse for US $1,300. Therefore please pray with us that overseas Christians will help us to purchase the Bibles. We still have not found anyone who will donate them, though several have talked about this possibility. Yes, it is possible to print Bibles in China, but it is much more expensive now as it cannot be done in large quantities for safety reasons and they don’t have the equipment or paper to print on thin bible paper, making the transportation more expensive, dangerous and difficult. Only Amity Press (associated with the Three-Self-Church) prints on thin paper, but their total output is severely limited by the government, as it is an official press. It still it has not been possible for house church leaders to purchase large amounts of Bibles from them.
Please pray with us that 1996 will break all records for safe and responsible distribution of hundreds of thousands of Bibles and teaching materials in conjunction with many training sessions for the house church leaders. Thank you for your prayers for the work here. I hope this information has been helpful. Below are some recent testimonies relating to the ministry we are involved in.
From 3-9 December, 1995, together with Rodney Kingstone and Ian Rowlands from England, we went to two cities in Henan Province to minister to the brothers and sisters there. They both move in the prophetic and prophesied over 180 people. They also taught on the gifts of prophecy and the Church exercised the gift right after the teaching. Below is their testimony from this trip:
Our expectation as we arrived in China was not that we had come with all the answers but that we have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters. We wanted to encourage and release them in the area of the prophetic ministry, with the anticipation that they would do the same for us in other areas. So at all the places we ministered at, we asked them many questions and made sure that they prayed and laid hands on us!
At one of these times we were really encouraged by one of the prayers that one of the leaders prayed for us. He prayed that wherever we traveled we would take and impact the place with some of the revival power from China and that we would be partners together in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
One of the things that amazed us, during our stay, was the incredible courage and bravery of the believers – risking everything for the sake of the gospel. Most of the leaders we met were on the run from the police and couldn’t live with their families – some had not been back home for 20 years and had to find other ways of seeing their wives, children and relatives.
We ministered to many leaders on the subjects of prophetic ministry and intimacy with God. There were many hours of note taking while sitting on benches no wider than 3- 4 inches! We had the privilege of praying over everyone there and we prophesied over all but a handful as well. We received excellent feedback on the accuracy and confirmatory nature of these prophecies.
There were a lot of memorable times, here are some snippets:
In one meeting after we had prophesied over some of the leaders, Rod had a word of knowledge about some people having severe pain and discomfort in the lower back area and God wanted to heal them. After praying three sisters testified that they had been healed:
* one had suffered from back pain and not been very mobile but was now totally free.
* another had fallen down some steps while evangelising and the doctors had told her there was nothing they could do for her but God had just completely healed her.
* another had fallen out of a car and could not swing from side to side but was now able to and no longer had any pain.
At one of the 5.30 am prayer meetings one of the leaders prophesied about a river of God’s blessing followed by us both prophesying about God’s river and its effect, this was followed by us inviting God to come and meet us and us all praying. After a little while one of the sisters started laughing and crying and then most of them ended up on the floor on the top of one another and then many of the brothers also started to laugh. The prayer time finished with a great celebration of singing and dancing!
Our lasting impressions – and the challenge to us – was that we had portrayed to an environment that seemed close to the Book of Acts in its power, simplicity and naturalness. It really was a where the people were truly supernaturally natural.
This was evident when we asked the question. ‘Are you still seeing miracles?’
Their eyes lit up and their response was immediate. ‘Yes, every day.’ They then told us story after story of what God had done. Here are some examples:
Testimony 1 – by Brother Yeung
In 1987, Pastor Dennis Balcombe came and led us into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Since then we started to see miracles happening as we go out to preach the Gospel. Because of the miracles, many people came to know the Lord. One time other co-workers and I went to a meeting. There was a 40 years old lady who was demon possessed who came into the meeting. She was scolding and screaming at us while I was preaching. She was disturbing the whole meeting so that I could not continue to preach. I then asked the whole congregation to kneel down and pray. As we were praying, she came to the front and continued scolding and laughing at us.
I then stood up and said, ‘In the name of Jesus shut up!’
Not only she did not shut up, but she said the same thing to me, ‘In the name of Jesus you shut up!’
I then said, ‘In the name of Jesus kneel down!’ but she said the same thing back to me.
Whatever I said she would repeat the same thing. I had never experienced that before. I didn’t know what to do but cry out to God desperately.
I prayed to God, ‘I don’t want to be defeated by the power of the devil.’ I decided that no matter how long it may take or how hard it was, I was going to continue to pray until the demon was cast out.
At that time I knew that I could not pray in the understanding for she would repeat every word I said. So I laid my hands on her and started to pray in tongues. As I continued to pray I discovered that she wasn’t saying anything and she was softening down. As she became weaker, I became stronger in the Spirit. Then the lady tied her hands together and put her head down to the floor. She cried out, ‘Please don’t pray anymore!’
I continued to pray in tongues. After a while, she felt on the floor like a dead person. Then after a few minutes, she woke up and was back to normal. Because of this miracle, many people believed in the Lord in that village.
Testimony 2 – by Brother Yeung
One time we had a evangelistic meeting in a village. Many people came to the meeting to listen to the Gospel. But as my co-worker was preaching, some gangsters came in the meeting to cause trouble. When I saw them coming in, I asked my co-worker to sit down and I stood up to preach.
I thought to myself the reason that they were causing trouble was because they didn’t know the greatness of God. So I spoke loudly that our God is a true and a great God and He is able to perform miracles. Then I prayed to God to perform a miracle. I then asked the congregation if anyone was deaf. Then a sister brought a lady up who was deaf. As soon as I prayed for her, she was immediately healed. I then asked all who were deaf to come forward and that night they were all healed.
The gangsters were amazed as they saw the miracles happen. Some people in the meeting including the gangsters went back to their home and brought back their family members who were sick. There were eight paralyzed people who came and six of them were healed immediately. Because of the miracles, the whole village including the gangsters all believed in Jesus.
I believe the reason for such a great revival in China first is by preaching the word of God and second is by the miracles of God.
Testimony 3 – by Brother Yeung
One time we had a meeting which had 600 believers and 200 non-believers. Because the meeting was in a home Church, the house was so packed that many people had to climb up to the roof of on the trees in order to listen to the message. That night I shared on the message of healing. After I preached for about 3 hours I started to pray for the sick.
As I was praying, I saw an old lady who was praying desperately before God. I asked her what she wanted from God. She told me that her daughter who was 19 years old was blind since birth and she was asking God to heal her. Her daughter then stood up and I prayed for her in front of 800 people.
After I prayed, I asked her if she was able to see again. Then I moved my fingers to test her sight. Immediately, she was healed and the whole congregation sang Psalms 150 in praise to the Lord. That night many blind people and paralyzed people were healed, and because of the miracles, the whole village came to the Lord.
Testimony 4 – by Brother Yeung
One of my co-workers went up to Saan Xi Province to preach the Gospel. The people in that area are very superstitious and they worship many idols. He went and preached to the people saying, ‘Our God is a great God. He is the one who created the universe. He is able to cause the blind to see, the deaf to hear even the dead to raise again, but what can your God do for you?’
After he preached, a man ran to the hospital where a boy has just passed away. He told the boys parents, ‘There is a Jesus from Henan came who said he can raise people from the dead.’
So the mother took her dead child to my co-worker saying, ‘Jesus from Henan please raise my son from the dead.’
My co-worker was shocked when he saw the dead child for he had never raised anyone from the dead before. There was nothing he could do but just cry out to God. At first he was very worried in his heart that if nothing happened, all the people would say he’s a liar and they would not believe in Jesus. So he started to pray, but after a while, nothing happened so he prayed again and still nothing happened. Then he prayed to God, ‘Lord, I don’t mind to loose face, but I really don’t want this to cause the people mock your name and not believe in you. Please show forth your glory in this place.’
As he was praying that prayer, the mother of the child said, ‘Look, my child is alive again!’
He saw the child stand up and he ran throughout the house. Due to this miracle, many people in that area burnt all their idols and believed in Jesus.
Testimony 5 – by Brother Lui (who is a Public Service Bureau officer)
I have been a Christian for two years. The reason I became a Christian is really a miracle. Two years ago, I had a strange disease in which I had a bad headache all the time and my heart was beating very quick. Not only that, I suddenly had a great fear in my heart that I was going to die. I went to see many doctors and even stayed in the hospital, but there was nothing the doctors could do.
One time after I went to see the doctor, I meet a Christian lady who was preaching the Gospel. Because I had nothing to do, I listened to what she had to say. My Aunt is a Christian, so I knew a little about Jesus. As she preached the Gospel to me, I decided to believe in Jesus. But because I was wearing my police uniform, she didn’t believe that I would really become a Christian.
That night, I felt a great peace in my heart, and I prayed to Jesus, ‘Jesus, I know that you are here and I am willing to truly believe in you.’
The next morning when I woke up, the strange diseases all left me, I knew that Jesus had healed my disease. Then I went back to the place where the sister preached the Gospel to me, tried to find her, but I did not succeed. I did not give up but went everyday to wait for her. She finally came on the fifth day and led me to her Church and baptized me. I have ever since served God with all my heart.
Testimony of one distribution of The ‘Shepherd’s Staff’
This is the testimony of how God saved us from evil while we were distributing the ‘Shepherd’s Staff’ books of Bible readings.
On 31 July, 1995, the four of us took around 300 copies of the ‘Shepherd’s Staff’ from Guangzhou to bring back to Henan. We took a train to go back.. The train that we went on was very crowed, we had no place to sit but just stood by the doorway. After riding for four hours, the train stopped in a city and some police went up the train to have an inspection. A policeman came to us and asked us why we carried so many bags. We told him that we were porters, and we were hired by a man to carry the bags to Henan. But he did not believe us and asked us to open up the bags. We told him we had no keys for the locks but he still insisted we open the bags.
When he opened up the first bag, he checked and didn’t say a word. Then he opened up other bags and found out that they were all books named the ‘Shepherd’s Staff’. He asked us what were the books for, we told him that it’s to teach people how to shepherd. He then checked the books and found out they were a Christian teaching book. He was very mad at us and told us to follow him to the restaurant on the train. At that time we knew that the situation was not good and that he was going to arrest us.
Because the train was very crowed, with all the bags that we had, we were not able to pass through all the people. So the policeman had to go in front of us to open a way for us. At that time the train started to move. As we passed through the first car, the policeman was at the other car, and we knew that that was the only chance to escape. I then told the other three brothers to leave the bags and run. Two of them ran immediately and jumped off the train from the window. Myself and the other brother also started to run, but because the train was going faster and faster, we could not jump at that time. So we just ran through one car and the other until the train approached a small station and started to slow down. We then jumped off the train from the window.
After we jumped off the train, we ran up the mountain until we reached the top. When we reached the mountain top, we knelt down and prayed to God. On one hand, we were thankful that God has protected us, but on the other hand, we were very worried about the other two brothers and were sad that we were not able to bring the ‘Shepherd’s Staff’ back to our brothers and sisters in Henan. But thank God, as we returned to our home town, we met the other two brothers. We rejoice in tears that God was with us and saved us.
© Renewal Journal #9: Mission (1997:1). Renewal: Brisbane, pp. 22-30.
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