China Chiristian Daily

- September 24, 2017 -

Church

Only One Church in County of Yunnan, Once Losing Thousands of Believers by Eastern Lightning Cult

By Yi Yang
on August 30, 2016 02:08 AM

jinzhong-church-in-huize-county
Jinzhong Church in Huize County :

The Gospel entered into Huize, a county in Yunnan, in 1883 when missionaries from Britain and France brought the good news from Europe and presided over religious affairs, according to the book Christianity and Christian Ministries in Yunnan. However, evangelism was only allowed in surrounding urban areas. 

Around 1880s and 1890s, the Methodist Church sent Samuel Pollard and F.J. Dymond to preach in Zhaotong and Huize. Churches and schools were also established.

In 2000, the believers in Huize reached 40,000, but a large percentage of them were captured by the cult "Eastern Lightning" (or the Church of Almighty God). The church only had hundreds of members left because of the cult. Currently, the whole county has more than 3000 believers and just one church remaining in a village. There are no pastors or local CCC&TSPM, only a preacher, an elder and four deacons.

Huize's history spans over two thousand years. It was once a town for mineral mining and copper melting in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It has been listed as a national historical and cultural city. 

In the 18th century, the ancient city was a trade center where merchants converged and a thoroughfare connecting Yunnan, Sichuan and Chongqing. As a result, it became the first mission station of the Methodist Church in Yunnan.

The book continues that in 1952, the provincial authority repatriated the foreign missionaries and Christianity stopped spreading since then. By the late 1950s, many workers from other provinces were transferred to support the local power plants by the state. At least 20 of them were Christians.

In 1978, Wang Jiashui, a worker of a local power plant , wrote letters to Wang Zhenzhen from the mainland research center of Asian Outreach based in Hong Kong. Wang Zhenzhen then instructed Philip Du, a liaison of the center to command Wang's ministry in Huize.

Since then, Wang began to believe in Christ and stated to reach out to believers, staying in touch with the overseas religious organization. He had over 500 members until the end of 1981. A year later, the provincial public security department, which originally approved the Christian organization led by Wang, was banned publicly and he was put in prison. After being released, he resumed his evangelism and held 16 pastoral training programs, trained about 320 people since 1989. Most of the local believers were taught by him. The number reached its peak in 1993 and 1994.

Statistics made by the former Qujing area in October 1995 showed that there were over 8000 believers in 72 gathering sites in the 105 villages of Huize. It had a self-proclaimed 48 pastoral staff, consisting of nine pastors, four elders and 37 preachers. The situation attracted the attention of the local authority. 

Data from the county's bureau of ethnic and religious affairs revealed that it had a population of over 870,000 and at least 26567 of them are Buddhists, which accounted for 3.06% of the population. It also had Muslims, Catholics and Christians. There were also 37 legal registered religious venues, including a Christian church covering 278 square meters. The church had three rooms and 3152 members with an elder and a preacher.

After the religious freedom policy came to effect again, the local believers who used to gather at home purchased a residential house where the current church -- Jinzhong Church, sits. 

Brother Zhou, who serves as a group leader of the church since 2008, tells CCD that the church has over 200 registered members with the Sunday attendance of 40 to 50 members. The majority of the congregation are Han people.  It has a preacher, an elder and four deacons approved by the government. It carries out a simple Sunday school, Saturday morning prayer meeting and social service ministry.  Renovations took place in 2014 to improve the church.

It is said that there were about 20 pastors and elders who joined in the "Eastern Lightning" cult. Although some of them repented and some still serve the church, they are questioned by the believers and they not approved by the authorities to continue their church work.

Because of this, a pastor in Yunnan said that the believers reached about 40,000 around 2000 and three years later, Wang Jiashui was enticed by the cult. He brought co-workers from 40 local gatherings to join the cult. As a result, only hundreds of believers stayed in the gatherings. 

Consequently, there is no formal pastor in the county. Pastors are invited from other places like Qujing to baptize believers. Preachers from the county church are allowed to distribute the bread and wine, which doesn't comply with the rules set by the national CCC&TSPM.

"I hope that Huize (County) can have its own church and the local CCC&TSPM can also be established, which is convenient to communicate with the related department of the governments." Says Brother Zhou. 

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