As we celebrate Christmas, which groups should us Christians reach out to.
By Priscilla Li
on November 29, 2017 03:11 AM
American couple Jon and Peggy Sperling have been happy married for decades. As Christians, they wanted to share their happiness with the world.
The Sperlings are "In-Country Directors for China" for Global Partners in Hope(GPiH), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Omaha. Its purpose is to meet the tangible needs of people in communities across the globe, and the Sperlings have traveled to China 25 times over the last eight years. They provide Bible-centered training covering business, leadership, morality, marriage, and parenting for Chinese schools, companies, and churches.
Jon Sperling, a human resources expert, focuses on the business and pastors' track for GPiH in China. He has a passion for teaching in a church in the United States and leads a Bible study in their home. His wife Peggy, the Family and Life Skills Director for GPiH, has a background in education, ministry, and building business teams. She is also a certified human behavior consultant, teaching personality profiling and spiritual gifts.
Their story in China began in 2008 when many problems like ethics and integrity issues and rising divorce rates emerged after the rapid economic development in China. They were invited to teach Biblical principles and values to promote harmony and unity in the country.
Provide Bible-centered principles to help people solve problems
Most of the trainees, including white-collar workers, couples with family conflicts, and parents worrying about educating their children, are non-Christians. It can be a bit touchy to talk openly about the Bible in the atheist country. The Sperlings are wise in dealing with this --- leaving off references of Bible verses and making the names of the books in the Bibles acceptable to the public. For example, Proverbs becomes "a book of wisdom".
Although where those biblical principles come from is omitted, the principles are universally applicable because they are created by God. A large percentage of their audiences express gratitude for hearing the excellent principles. The couple gives glory to God and tell them that all the wisdom is from the Bible and invite them to the church. Many become Christians.
In addition, they love to make friends with the Chinese people and preach the gospel in their leisure time. Peggy is good at sharing the gospel with colors. This method was primarily developed by Hudson Taylor. He explained the truth of the gospel plainly by using different colors on a big flag. She gives out bracelets with five colors as gifts to people, telling them the significance of the colors. She said that more than half of about 40 participants stood up and accepted Jesus in one meeting. Those converts brought their friends to join in the meetings afterword.
Jon once shared a Christmas story with some children. His words interested the audiences and one man asked Jon to share the story with them. Then he began to tell the story of the gospel.
Fresh water among moral confusion and value of money
There is a Q&A part after their speeches in the training. A lot of tough and realistic problems are put forward. Once, a twenty-year-old girl said that her mother urged her to have a child to honor the mother, regardless of whether she was married or not because God said that she needed to honor her parents. But she felt that God called her to be single. The daughter and mother are both Christians.
Peggy and Jon told them about the gifts of singleness and marriage in the Bible, why Christians should not have sex before marriage, and the consequences of premarital sex. The mother turned around and thanked Peggy, saying that they had not heard the teachings before.
Jon said, "They (young people) expect when they are sexually active, they are going to be happy. They expect when they earn a lot of money and get rich and get a lot of education, those things will make them happy. They are finding that ... it doesn't come true for them. And they are still looking for something. So when we talk about these values and about God, they're some things they're curious about and want to hear more about..."
English acts as a bridge to link Chinese people with the world.
Apart from leadership, marriage, and parenting training, Jon plans to launch English teaching programs in 2018 as an opportunity to meet more young people. GPiH will cooperate with other organizations like Christian colleges in the United States. Students from those colleges will be involved in teaching through "English corners" in Chinese churches and also sharing the gospel.
According to the official website of GPiH, Jon and Peggy have been collaborating with American and Chinese business professionals to create a program called "Voices of Hope" that will start next year. GPiH's partnership with Crown College has expanded the vision for linking English language learning with the upcoming "Voices of Hope" business program. The idea is that "Voices of Hope" would offer Chinese business professionals the option to register for an online MBA program through Crown. Graduating from the "Voices of Hope" program would then qualify as credit hours toward an MBA at Crown.
However, finding their English level poor, Jon decided to organize English training and help them pass the TESOL to enter the MBA program.
Moved by Chinese Christians' passion
Asked about features of the Chinese church, the Sperlings replied that Chinese Christians have a passion for God.
Jon used the example where Jesus saw a woman in the temple. She gave one little penny, all what she had. "In some ways, that's like the Chinese church. You have limited resources and you have more challenges in your culture, and yet you're excited and want to give everything you have as believers. " He said.
Peggy added that she was moved by the passion and excitement of Chinese Christians for God. They were open and hungry for God's word. By comparison, Christians in the United Stated have become lazy and lost their first love in a more comfortable environment.
Furthermore, there are many megachurches in the United States, having thousands of members each. But nobody notices who disappear.
The majority of the Chinese house churches are small gatherings where only a few dozen people worship together and know each other. Jon said that everybody knows who didn't attend a Sunday service and that was good for Christian practices. At the same time, everyone in the church has a part to play, thanks to its small size.
The teams led by the couple are inspired by the Chinese Christians and become passionate again.
Challenges in China
Regarding problems the Chinese church faces, Jon said that many Christians divorce faith from their life. People do things against biblical principles at work because they have to keep the job.
What is worse, family issues are serious in China. Even some pastors and preachers encounter problems in their marriages, but they feel ashamed to share with others and lack counseling.
The single children, like little emperors in their families, also lack discipline. As they grow up, they are unable to face adversities.
The Chinese churches start to lose teenagers. They face so much study pressure and don't have time to go to church, so it is necessary to figure out how to minister and care for them in the church.
- Translated by Karen Luo
As we celebrate Christmas, which groups should us Christians reach out to.
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