Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday at a House Church (Day 3)

Today Peggy, Liz and I were able to attend a Sunday morning worship service at an urban house church led by Josh and Sabina, a mature young couple with a toddler and baby. Peggy arranged it at the last minute after I asked permission to visit a Chinese church.

Sabina with little Promise
Located on the 25th floor of a high rise, we walked into a small apartment filled with at least 60 people and several young children. Tiny chairs with seats no more than 10 inches in diameter were lined up in rows facing the podium and a pull down screen for projecting the words to the worship songs.

It was beautiful to listen to their voices singing along with the sound track on the computer that provided the instruments and lead singer. Then an older man strode up to the podium to share his "testimony" of how he had lost his job last year, had been offered a job as a restaurant manager but refused it because it would interfere with his "service" to the church on Sundays, and then found a job in the filming industry that gave him flexibility and freedom on weekends. His face radiated joy as he shared how following Christ impacted his job choice.

Josh then gave the message from Acts 3 about Peter healing the blind beggar. He exhorted the church to consider whether it was more spiritual to go to church to pray, which is where Peter was headed, or to stop and heal the beggar. Josh affirmed the latter and asked the believers to consider works of kindness as evidence of their faith.

Peggy and I looked at each other with amazement as we heard Josh's sermon. Since I had just experienced two full days of a "justice" conference in Portland, I had asked Peggy whether the Chinese churches were active in reaching out to the vulnerable in Beijing. Did they have a vision for "loving their neighbor" and impacting their immediate communities? Peggy indicated that these concerns were not quite on their radar scopes yet. Most of the churches were already poor themselves and did not have many resources for meeting needs outside the church.

Hoping there would be an opportunity to speak about biblical justice in a church, I started writing out a sermon from the things I had learned at the conference on the plane flight to Beijing. So I was surprised and thrilled to hear Josh's sermon parallel my own thoughts. He even drew from one of the same passages I did - Matthew 25 in the parable of the sheep and goats. Peggy and I were both encouraged to hear Josh's exhortation to his congregation and I was grateful for this wonderful group of brothers and sisters and this sensitive, godly man.

Me, Liz and Sabina
After church, we shared a meal prepared in the kitchen of the church apartment - seaweed, noodles, cabbage and rice. Then the table was cleared, the dishes cleaned and the chairs gathered in a circle for the moms and dads who stayed to listen to Liz and I speak on parenting, the topic suggested by Sabina when Peggy asked her what the church needed in terms of teaching and encouragement. Their church was growing and was just beginning a children's ministry. The moms especially were struggling to discipline their children in a culture that creates "little emperors," an outcome of the One Child Policy.

After sharing about my own insecurities in parenting, I encouraged the moms and dads to take responsibility for their children's spiritual growth rather than expecting the church to do that. After reading Deuteronomy 6:1-9, I focused on verses 4-7 and shared how my husband's family created a legacy of faith:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I described how Scripture memory was important so that at each meal everyone had to quote a verse before eating, including guests. I described their family devotions each night and how they incorporated their "family gift" of music. Just as each person has a spiritual gift, I suggested each family might have one so that they could design their devotions around it. Our family gift was storytelling which Jon excelled in.

After some more thoughts on family values and practical suggestions, we opened it up to a Q&A. The next one and a half hours were amazing as I realized the struggles of these moms (with some dads listening in) are no different than American moms trying to do the right thing. They too are getting confused by conflicting books on parenting. If only there was one set of instructions that would work for raising all children!

We left the apartment and headed to the silk market where we did some shopping. Liz and I ended up eyeing the same purse but the purse chose Liz. :-)


  1. Great job Harriet. I was following your blogs to China. Last week I was on the East Coast and didn't catch up to it until now.

    It is great you were able to make an impression to those folks in China.

    Your pal (hopefully) and Pat's classmate I am looking for big things in the future from you young lady.

    1. Thanks, but I'd love to know who "Habu" is?! :-) I'm going blank on my memory if I should know. And thanks for calling me "young lady"! ^_^