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Watching the Spirit Move in China

Some extraordinary moments in ordinary settings.
2008This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

About a week and a half into my trip to China, I was feeling pretty good about my ability to get around. I had learned how to communicate with taxi drivers, find my way by bus, and more importantly, navigate a Mandarin menu.

But pride comes before a fall. Early one evening, while hunting for a Three-Self church, I dropped straight into an open, unguarded manhole. It was in the midst of a crowded pedestrian walkway in a busy shopping district of Taiyuan in Shanxi Province. The Chinese know to look for such hazards, but I didn't even consider the possibility.

I caught myself before going all the way down—12 feet to jagged concrete and mud—but I emerged quite shaken, bloody, and embarrassed. Soon, a young woman and her parents offered to help, and a group of well-meaning people surrounded me in a tight circle. I did my best to explain what happened, and was soon escorted to a waiting squad car with a policeman holding the door—offering to drive me to the church.

This experience gave me a new glimpse into the world of the Chinese and the rapidly emerging Christian presence in China. I went there with my camera to gain a better understanding of its church. I came back with a sense that the Spirit of God is moving in a special way. It seemed that nearly every Christian I met had become a believer in the last six years. I visited state-registered churches (Three-Self) as well as unregistered house churches. It's tempting to think of the registered church in a Socialist country as being compromised and neutered, but the churches I visited were vibrant and alive. Unregistered congregations are typically labeled "underground churches," but to me this term no longer fits very well. Younger believers increasingly move ...

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