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An On-Going Story
by Liang-Shwu Chen
It all began in one bright morning, spring 1994. Deacon Mark Yu came to see my husband Rev. Grant Chen, then serving the Lord at the Bread of Life Church in Torrance, California. This brother had a heavy burden in his heart. He wanted to seek advice from his pastor.
A Grain of Wheat
Mark just came back from a trip to China. What he saw broke his heart. As a diligent oversea student from Taiwan, he led a successful life in America. When the stage of retirement drew near, he went to China to explore business opportunities. Only this time his interest was no longer earning money for himself. He would like to donate the profit of his commercial gain for the spread of the Gospel in China. Maybe a non-profit foundation should be established for this purpose.
Grant took him to discuss with Rev. Edwin Su, the Executive Director of the Overseas Campus Magazine. Edwin¡¯s ministry has been focusing on converting the Chinese intellectuals overseas, especially those from Mainland China. He must have deliberated upon the strategies of evangelism in China.
Since a non-profit organization was in view, the three thought of inviting some Christian businessman to participate. Jason Lok became their first choice. An enterpriser from Taiwan and a dear brother, he joined our church just a few months ago. His family moved here to oversee the newly developed business in America. When being approached, Jason willingly accepted the invitation. Another brother, James Liao, became the fifth member of the original board. He was a long friend of Mark, an experienced business consultant, and recently transferred to our church
One evening in May the five brothers gathered at Mark¡¯s home for the first board meeting. I attended as an observer. Mark and his dear wife personally prepared a delicious dinner for us. I could witness that the Blessings Foundation (BF) was established in an atmosphere full of God¡¯s love.
Glancing back, Mark¡¯s big smile and glowing passion still looked vivid before my eyes. In the spring of 1999, to our sorrow and surprise, he was taken to the Lord due to medical complication after kidney transplant. His life was like a grain of wheat that buried yet brought about harvest through the Blessings Foundation.
Ploughing the Cultural Ground
After finalizing the registration process in September 1994, the board continued the discussion about the strategies of evangelism in China. They agreed that the greatest hindrances of the Gospel lie in Chinese culture. It is quite impossible to see a plentiful harvest before these barriers being removed. Ploughing the cultural ground to prepare hearts for the Gospel became the vision of the Blessings Foundation.
However, what are the most effective ways to take? A lot of ideas were put on the table. The board soon realized that a capable general secretary was needed to fulfill the vision. Yet at the moment no suitable candidate was in view. Then Rev. Su introduced a sister to the BF. A fine writer, Yuan-Yuan Zhou has dedicated her pen to the Lord the year before. She became the first staff, working in the BF for one and half year. Her published articles during this period were made into two books. She also hosted a radio show in a Chinese broadcasting company in Los Angeles for half a year.
The board gradually learned that well-prepared and mature servants of the Lord are indispensable to the success in cultural mission. They agreed that the most urgent matter is not to do the ministries right away, but to nurture talents. The Blessings Seminarian Scholarship was the fruit of this contemplation.
A Team in Formation
In accordance to the vision of ploughing the cultural soil, this scholarship is only offered to two kinds of seminarians, potential scholars and experienced media talents. For academia and media are critical battlegrounds in cultural warfare.
The relationship between the BF and the seminarians is unique. These chosen seminarians are deemed as BF family members. Once a year the board members and the seminarians gathered together for a 3-day retreat to share with one another. After graduation they are still invited to participate in this ¡°BF Family Retreat.¡± Through sharing in depth the bond between the ¡°family members¡± became strong. Thus, an informal ¡°team¡± is gradually in the making.
Up to the year 2006 we supported 22 seminarians. A few graduates devoted to the academic cooperation. One held a teaching post in a university in China. Several graduates involved in various kinds of literature ministries. One served in broadcasting arena and inserted programs about Christianity while possible.
Navigator of the Ministry
My husband had no idea that one day he would become the helmsman of the BF. In 1997 he left the church and kept his father company in Taiwan for a couple of months after the passing of his mother in September the previous year. Later he decided to pursue Ph.D. in Trinity Theological Seminary in Chicago with concentration on intercultural studies.
The burden to transform Chinese culture grew deeper during his time of study at Trinity. Upon graduation in 2001, the BF board asked Grant to consider leading this ministry that has a huge vision but lacks suitable person to carry out. He accepted the invitation. As the President of the BF he initiated and promoted three strategies. Besides continuously nurturing talents, the BF should start academic cooperation programs and launch out media ministry.
Open Door in Academia
The BF entered into the academia rather naturally. Some of our graduates were lecturers in Beijing Universities before coming to the United States. They have connections with a number of Chinese universities. One of them, Zhongxin Wang, Ph.D., established North America Chinese Christian Scholars Association. He already started the ministries of inviting Chinese professors to the US to participate in conferences related to Christianity. He asked Grant for support and advice. Grant got acquainted with some Chinese scholars in the activities held by NACCSA and was in turn invited by them to visit universities in China.
The heat of studying Christianity in Chinese universities is phenomenal. Over forty universities offer courses related to Christianity, such as Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, Christianity and Chinese Culture, Bible as Literature, Church History, Classic Theological Masterpieces in Original Language, Greek, Hebrew, to name a few. Most of the teachers are non-Christians, yet friendly to Christianity and eager to learn. They welcome guest lecturers. They need suitable textbooks and references. There are plenty of rooms to introduce Christian faith to them.
Rev. Daniel Ling Li, one of our graduates, felt led by the Lord to join the BF to develop this ministry. He served as Director of Academic Cooperation since August 2005.
Prospect of Media Ministry
Grant founded a quarterly magazine, Blessings, in October 2001 to promote the concept of cultural mission. For among the Chinese churches very few realize the need or the importance of this aspect of missinonary endeavor.
Starting from 2003 we publish a yearly periodical, Christianity and China, which is a symposium of the annual conference held by NACCSA.
A former BF seminarian, Ziyin Wang, joined the BF after receiving his M.Div. degree. With a background in TV industry and a master degree in journalism, his vision is to use mass media to reach millions. He became the Director of Mass Communication since June 2006.
Prayer and Harvest
Rev. Grant Chen is a man of prayer. Born in a Christian family and converted at the age 15, he knew the sweetness of drawing near to God and the importance of intercession. During the final year in high school he encouraged other students to pray with him in the church every day at 6:00 AM. As a coworker in the Village Gospel Mission after the volunteer military services, he led college students to do evangelism in the villages and taught them to engage in the spiritual warfare with intensive prayer. While serving as the pastor in the Bread of Life Church, he started the Morning Prayer Meeting in the Mandarin congregation. Facing the great challenges of cultural mission, Grant holds on to the same principle. To him prayer is always the key to serving God in any form of Christian ministry.
Though named as a ¡°Foundation,¡± the BF does not have stored ¡°funds¡± at present. It operates just like a faith organization, depending on donations from concerned brothers and sisters. We believe that God will raise many people to work hand in hand with us to accomplish the task of moving the barriers of the Gospel in Chinese culture. The great harvest in China will then be expected according to His appointed time.
May God¡¯s will be done and His name be glorified.
Director of Administration/Editor, BF