God’s Work In China
The year was 1923, the 26th of April, and Missionary to China Joseph Cunningham walked outside to check the construction of the new Chapel he had commissioned to be built. He was with other missionaries in Kweilin, China, and the Taiping rebels had the city under siege for 3 weeks. Joseph had been called to China 27 years before. Raised in Salem, Virginia, him and his wife started a ministry in China in 1896 and had seen suffering, pain, and tragedy through all those years. They had also seen the birth of their daughter, the building of dozens of Churches, and the translating of God’s Word into Chinese. They had seen the Lord working in many ways, and Joseph was not going to let a siege stop God’s work.
A year before this siege, the city of Kweilin had been surrounded by a large band of robbers, but Joseph and another missionary were able to negotiate their departure away from the city. Even during this siege some dangers had been experienced. The city was emptied very quickly of water because of how many refugees had sought shelter, but instead of panic, the Christians and Missionaries prayed and God sent such a rain that the wells were restored.
China in the early 1900’s was a dangerous place. War Generals attempting control through battles, robber bands peppered the countryside, and sickness and hunger were real threats. This was the frontier for American Christians who sailed over there to share the truth of Jesus Christ. Yet, through all the danger, they counted their lives loss for Christ.
While walking outside to look at the job of the builders working on the new Kweilin Chapel, Joseph was hit in the head by a stray bullet from outside the walls of the city. He died instantly.
The Present Panic
Now, we live in the captivity of tyranny, but it is a weak captivity. As Christians we have voluntarily given up the work God has given us, trading it for temporary safety. Many have decided it is not worth the work anymore. “No more children!” They cry. “No more fellowship! No more marriage! Run! Run for your lives! Don’t build the Church! Don’t spread the Word of Christ! Build a shelter, for the end is here! Keep working for money, but stay inside and be content there!” The cry of Satan is effective.
The Jewish Captivity
There was once a captivity so great, the Bible says that nothing like it has happened so tragically before, or since. When the Babylonians came to take the Israelites captive, the Prophet Jeremiah was still preaching the truth. He rose up early in the mornings according to the word of the LORD, and preached until late. Yet, many did not believe whey were told that they had to go into captivity or else they would die. The same panic as today ensued, and many ran away from the captivity, and perished withal.
For those who obeyed, they arrived in chains to Babylon. Their lives were surely over, it seemed. Yet, the word of the LORD came to the Prophet Jeremiah again and said, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
“Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that they may be increased there, and not diminished.
“And seek the peace of the city, whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7). God said to ensue peace, not panic.
The Work of God
The commandment of God is never to give up his work. Even if we are on the run, in captivity, besieged, in dangers, in turmoil round about, as Christians we continue God’s work. To do differently is disobedience, to say differently is wickedness and lies. The Lord never told us to stop building houses, to stop marrying, or to stop having children. “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Peter 3:10-11).
What place ever seemed more forsaken than a war torn country like China? Or a captivity that promised to be treacherous, like that of the Israelites? Yet the work of those that fear God never ceases, therefore, brethren, do not quit even though your country is destroyed. We have a better country than this one anyhow.
Joseph was asked to preach at the annual Missions conference in Kweilin some years before that day in April, 1923. He preached that a missionary must be like Jesus. “Jesus, the Good Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep, and that which he freely gave away – His life – has been immeasurable multiplied in the lives of his sheep” (Verbyla, 2010).
Jesus lost his life for his sheep on the cross, Joseph said, and so it is with missionaries who “See their lives multiplied in the lives of the Chinese – Christian as well as heathen” (Verbyla, 2010).
Missionary work must be carried out with “Interest, love, and compassion of the heart, and their lives should be laid down for the sake of their sheep in every deed and truth. A good shepherd is ever an alert watchman who gladly braves the storms and bitter cold for the sake of his sheep. The nights he spends searching are but an act of love” (Verbyla, 2010).
How many souls were saved because of Joseph and his wife did not give up on God’s work? Mrs. Cunningham said that she saw the peace and joy on Joseph’s face as he lay dying. She met him again in God’s glory a few years later. Their work is done, let us continue the work, as God gives us grace. Let us not give up, for God is always with us, and comforts us, and strengthens us.
Brethren, let us not forget God’s work in this country.
Quotations from Aunt Mae’s China by Bernice A. Verbyla
Would you like to receive more daily bread like this one?