Few people were braving the -27C this morning and those we did see were well-bundled, their fur-lined hoods pulled low.
We sympathized with them. In preparation for this unusual outdoor sharing of God’s Word in the middle of winter, we’d all slipped on a few extra layers. While this might be expected weather in the prairies or northern regions of Canada, it wasn’t the kind of cold we were accustomed to.
As we approached the church, we saw city buses sitting alongside the few cars in the parking lot, one way the church helped bring people to the service. Other typically Chinese three-wheeled vehicles were also scattered about, while some people were still making their way to church on foot.
We piled out and made our way through the iron gates and past the decorated Christmas tree in the courtyard, its gold star still gleaming in January. Enthusiastic singing could be heard through the front doors, and as we walked through, my glasses instantly fogged up—a welcome sign of warmth.
Over 2,000 people were in attendance that morning in the main sanctuary and the overflows. After the gospel was preached, and an invitation given to come forward and commit their lives to Christ—to which over 30 people responded—we made our way through the crowds and back outside. Piles of boxes now sat in front of the gate where the people would exit.
By the time I’d dug my furry hat from my backpack and grabbed my video camera, the lines had already started moving through the gates. My fellow team members, protected in warm headgear of their own, handed a Bible to each person and wished them “God bless you” or “Jesus loves you” in Mandarin.
A river of people curled across the courtyard from the front doors of the church and kept flowing for another 45 minutes. The colourful coats and hats and scarves were a testament to the cold, but the big smiles and sincere gratitude for the Bibles helped us ignore the gradual numbing of our toes.
It was an experience we’ll always remember. That morning each one of those people left church with a new Bible in their hands and a call to share it with someone else if they already had one. A simple black Bible in the standard Union translation, these books represented a tool for them to evangelize their friends and family. Most couldn’t afford one and certainly didn’t have money to buy a second. Now they had a mission: go share God’s Word with someone else.
But would they actually do it?
Would those Bibles—paid for by donors and handed out by Canadians who’d travelled across the Pacific—actually make it into the hands of unbelievers?
Those were questions that had been on my heart since the first time I’d been to China to do this same ministry. Did people really give away their Bibles and invite people to church? This trip we had 9,000 copies of God’s Word to give away—would they really be passed along to someone else?
Within days of sharing Bibles in freezing cold Daqing, I would have my answers.
Continue reading part two of The Gospel Flow