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Two 20-something Alabama Baptists use music to reach Hui Muslims in Chinacomment (0)

September 22, 2011

By C.S. Stanley and Susie Rain

Hands On Challenge: Travel to a foreign country and make an everlasting impact for Christ in six-months. You most likely won’t know the language or understand the culture. Most people you come in contact with have never heard the name Jesus. Chances are — your new friends will reject your beliefs! Are you up to it?

While the challenge seems overwhelming to some, it excites Ashley Benson and Mandi Mapes. They want to share their faith in an area of the world where the gospel is not welcome.

So, the 20-somethings from The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, put their young careers — Benson an accountant and Mapes a singer-songwriter — on hold and move to China.

Their goal is to share Christ with everyone they meet through words, love and actions.

“There are still places in the world where people can be born and live and die and not hear the gospel,” Mapes said passionately. “That causes my heart to be burdened. Life is too short. When I stand before God, He’s not going to care how many songs I wrote. He cares about His glory and all of the nations. I just had to go where He said.”

Stepping outside their apartment and into the street brings the global evangelism map decorating their wall to life. On the map, most of Asia is lit up like a Christmas tree, indicating those who have yet to be reached with the gospel message. On the street, the dots become the faces and names of their neighbors and friends.

“They [the unevangelized] live right outside our apartment building,” Mapes said, pointing out it’s a huge change from her “Christian bubble” back in Alabama. “We know some of them by name. We have conversations with them. We’ve shared the gospel with them. Yet …”

Benson nods, knowing Mapes’ thought without her finishing it. Despite their zeal and enthusiasm, no one they come in contact with during their six months decides to put their faith in Jesus. The Chinese are taught in school, from a very young age, that there is no God. When you add that to the language barrier, it’s been hard.

“It’s exhausting sharing the gospel and getting rejected,” Benson admits.

Hands On Reality: The challenge is not as easy as you think, but it’s definitely worth the struggle!

“I can see why people give up and get discouraged in ministry here. It’s a hard, dark place. No one wants to hear at first,” Benson said, noting that people laughed at her for sharing her faith and even walked away. “To be a Christian here, you definitely have to count the cost. It affects what job you get, how your family relates to you — it can even mean prison or persecution.”

When the two get discouraged in their task, they look no further than the small community of Chinese believers for inspiration. Some of these friends are among the first Christ followers among their people group. Their Chinese friends encourage them to keep sharing, no matter the results. Benson admits that when you can only speak Mandarin like a 3-year-old, you have to think of creative ways to share your faith on a deep level. They try everything from baking muffins to hanging out at the coffee shop. It’s music, however, that opens the most doors for the duo.

When Mapes and Benson pull out their guitars, people flock to them, whether it’s in the park, a coffee shop or on the steps of their apartment building. They sing in English, but that doesn’t deter, music is a universal language. The best friends strum their guitars in the park. Mapes’ strong voice carries from their grassy spot to the walking track. A Chinese man stops to find a seat on the nearby bench, grinning from ear-to-ear as he takes in the impromptu acoustic concert. Benson prays for him and the others listening as she accompanies her friend.

When they finish the song, Benson asks the man if he understood, since it was in English and not Mandarin. He smiles and says, “No, but it sounded like heavenly voices and gives me peace” — giving the two Americans and a Chinese friend the perfect opportunity to share the story of Christ. He tells them that “is a lot to think about,” then leaves the park smiling and humming. Benson and Mapes are not discouraged. In fact, they are excited — a seed is planted. “When our Chinese Christian friends tell their testimony, most start out with, ‘A few years ago, an American came and shared with me and I rejected it. Then, another American came and shared with me and I believed,’” Mapes said. “Our job is to plant the seeds. It might be hard now, but one day, a harvest is going to happen.”

The young women hope someone will come after them and continue sharing with their friends. They pray that one day their friends from the unreached people groups in this city will have a testimony that goes something like this — “An American came and shared with me and I rejected it. Then, another came … and I believed.”

For more information, visit http://thetask.org/handson.

Will you be the next to share? Take the Hands On challenge and apply today. (IMB)

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