It was July 18th and I was in China at an underground seminary, speaking to a group of Chinese students about what happened on this same day in 64 AD when Nero started the fire that burned Rome. Because Nero blamed the destruction on the Christians, a great deal of persecution followed the event. Tacitus wrote that Christians were put to death with “exquisite cruelty.” In telling the students about the cruelty of Rome, I could not help but think about how many people in this country of China (perhaps in this very room) had faced the same sort of persecution for their faith. Yet the room where I spoke (I can’t reveal much detail here for obvious reasons) was packed despite the excessive heat, overcrowding, lack of proper air-conditioning, and no running water in the building. These students desperately wanted to learn about the Scripture and were willing to sacrifice much to be there in the room with me.
While it is true that things have changed in China, it is still a communist country and a westerner like me teaching was doubly problematic because not only was listening to me illegal, but the very school in which I was teaching was also illegal. I was a little nervous at times, but concluded that if these people were willing to take the chance then I could do the same. They, after all, risked jail. I doubted that I would be arrested (more probably deported) but I didn’t know for sure.
It was clear to me that most of the students were poor even by Chinese standards. Yet many had gone to great lengths and sacrificed much to be in the class, and saw my coming as a great and wonderful opportunity to learn. In other teaching situations, even in other Asian countries I often hear “suggestions” from students about being let out early. Here I heard genuine requests to be kept late. I taught from 8:30-5:30 each day (with a lunch break) and the students asked me to come back at night and teach. When I explained to them that because of jet lag, I was simply too tired to teach at night, they would gather together at night to study what I had taught during the day.
I have taught in many places, both around the U.S. and in other countries, but I don’t think that I have ever felt more loved or appreciated by a group of students than I did in China. On the last day the translator said to me “the students have a gift for you.” I was afraid that they had taken what little money they had and purchased something for me but what I received was much more valuable. They wanted to sing for me a Chinese blessing on my work and travels. It was a very moving experience.
The Gospels tell us that the Kingdom goes forth whether we wake or sleep. In China the Kingdom is moving ahead thanks to the bravery and commitment of these gracious brothers and sisters.
In spite of the small difficulties (I’ll tell you about Chinese beds in the next post), I was proud to be the first representative of Knox Seminary to teach in China and thankful to One Hope (a wonderful missions organization with contacts all over the world) who made my trip possible. You supporters of Knox can be assured that the faculty are not just sitting in the ivory tower of academia, but are putting “boots on the ground” to train Christians all over the world.
While in the country I saw the great wall, which was spectacular (I’ll write more about this later). I witnessed amazing Chinese acrobats. I walked on Tianamen Square and entered the Forbidden City. Yet nothing was so amazing as what God is doing in China. Please pray for my friends in this part of the world. They are beautiful children of God committed to sharing the Gospel with those that are around them. I was humbled to be a small part of this incredible movement of the Kingdom of God.
To be continued….
Photo Album from Dr. Lamerson’s Trip: