In a northern city, I met a team of Christian volunteers who shuttle between street markets and communities to do a lot of modest public welfare work. While they do their jobs they wear white T-shirts which display four eye-catching Chinese characters in red: "Jesus Loves You".
Sometimes they share this public message while sorting garbage in the city square; sometimes they collect scattered QR code bicycles and put them in their appropriate places; sometimes they collect garbage in the streets; sometimes they put up banners in the shade of trees in a park or by a roadside. The banners read: "Free Hair Cutting Services, Blood Pressure Check, Blood Sugar Measurement and Massage". Apart from the free services seats, are provided to passers-by. Sometimes they train passers-by with aid skills and knowledge of emergency CPR.
As I see it, in bustling streets their love initiatives are like one single light shining through. They simply share their love of Christ with total strangers in the communities. People who come and go will also stop to accept and enjoy the loving services – blood pressure, blood sugar measurements and massages. In the shade of the trees they look at these Christians with surprise. The movement has received praise from the public. Part of this surprise stems from the phrase "Jesus Loves You" printed on their T-shirts – as one passer-by put it: "How have Christians who are usually religious maniacs suddenly become so loving by providing free charity and public services?!"
The founder of these Christian volunteers is nothing more than an ordinary lay person, a sister who is reluctant to live within a self-enclosed and highly formalized system of the Church. The sister is in her 40s, but she looks rather ------. She was baptized over two decades ago. She told me that the idea to create the team came up coincidentally. One day, on a TV programme she learnt of the national award of top ten outstanding Chinese citizens who did good work for communities. As she was a Christian, she thought why couldn’t Christians become the outstanding people like those on TV? She had a further thought that although God is love, in the church they talked about love for more than twenty years and had never had love. So, on October 8, 2017, the sister created a Christian volunteer team. The team started with only five or six members and did extremely simple things – protecting the plants in summer, clearing snow in winter, visiting the elderly in nursing homes and children in orphanages. Over the years, the team has grown to more than a dozen people who are Christians and faith seekers. They do public welfare activities once a week.
What causes this sister the most sorrow is that from time to time they receive rejection and ridicule from all sides although they are full of enthusiasm to do public charity. They want to show the love of Christ, however little the deeds may be, and not to boast about them and they do not expect anyone's praise as they do this for the Lord. Regarding this phenomenon, I posted photos of the team's activities to various online Christian communities. I was intentionally doing a simple and small survey to hear people’s opinions and seek corrections and advice.
Here are a few excerpts from the comments made by some pastors and believers.
- "The New Regulations on Religious Affairs stipulate that no religious activities are allowed outside recognized religious venues so better behave under this COVID situation."
- "To whom are they salt and light if Christians do not proactively participate in the world? Hide yourselves in the Church and shine on each other then? The Bible also tells us not to desert the world. The problem is that the Church should not do too much lecturing but should actively cooperate with the relevant agencies to relieve drug abuse or juvenile crimes and show love and acceptance to persuade victims to come back to the Lord. Culture is influenced by spirituality. Lecturing alone is doomed to fail. You say you are light, but you have to be recognized as true light. You say you are salt, but you have to be recognized as salt."
- "What a wonderful scene it is to see these volunteers practice their faith in daily life services so that our faith could have an opportunity to be widely known!"
Summarising all the opinions, the majority of the survey participants have a positive attitude to the team’s deeds. Those who hold a negative attitude are not denying what they do, but show concern about the members of the team. Their focus is on how Christians can distinguish the boundaries between religious activities such as evangelism and social welfare.
Article 41 of the New Regulations on Religious Affairs states: "Non-religious groups, non-religious institutions or colleges, and schools, non-religious venues, non-designated religious venues shall not organize or hold religious activities, and religious donations shall not be accepted." Article 56 stipulates: "Religious groups, religious institutions or colleges and schools, religious venues and religious clergies may, in accordance with the law, set up charitable undertakings. No organizations or individuals may use public welfare charitable activities to evangelise."
In response to the Regulations, a pastor quoted a verse from Galatians: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law." That is to say, the most important thing is that this team displays the fruit of the Holy Spirit by relying on His guidance and prompts.
- Translated by Charlie Li