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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