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Chinese Bible college president trains, equips students, partners with Alabama Baptist pastorscomment (0)

January 30, 2014

By Julie Payne

Chinese Bible college president trains, equips students, partners with Alabama Baptist pastors

The students at a Bible college in China study the Word of God intensely for countless hours. And when the clock strikes midnight, even after a full day of studies there are still groups of them poring over Scripture.

These same students are financially burdened and wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for their studies otherwise. But the Bible college — started by Zhou, a man with a vision from God — funds their theological education and has now seen 218 students graduate.

Zhou, who serves as the Bible college’s president, is a third generation Christian within his family. While born and raised in a loving, Christian home he was “very rebellious toward religion,” he said of his early years.

Zhou noted that at one point a tumor developed on his leg. When he went to have the tumor checked, the doctor advised surgery to remove it or else he would possibly become crippled. After his mother encouraged him to pray to God, Zhou decided to ask God to heal him — within 30 minutes. When his mother asked why he would say such a prayer, Zhou replied that if it was truly an experience of God’s intervention, and not just from the medicine he was about to take, he would be able to experience a speedy recovery.

What happened next amazed Zhou. The tumor suddenly vanished. “God healed me and heard my prayer,” he said. That’s the moment when God changed Zhou’s life and he truly came to know Him, he said. 

But even with his newfound faith, Zhou still wasn’t willing to fully surrender his life to be used by God. 

He sought a public service position and ranked at the top of the pool of applicants, but he was not selected. However, he experienced God again — this time in a still “voice” saying that while the world rejected him, God wanted him.

“I listened to God and surrendered to Him and I started doing church work,” he said. What started with eight people grew to a staggering 1,500 in just three years. 

Zhou said God then led him to begin doing missions work at the end of China’s Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s. (The Cultural Revolution was launched in 1966 by Communist Party leader Mao Zedong in order to reassert his authority over the Chinese government, and it lasted roughly 10 years, according to history.com.)

During his early years of missions work, Zhou was distributing gospel tracts and was soon arrested by the police before being subsequently let go.

“I took the opportunity to share Christ with anyone willing to come and listen,” he said. One particular day he decided to buy some fresh fruit at the marketplace. This attracted some children, and he began to share the story of Jesus with them. In the evening the children’s parents came to pick them up, and Zhou was able to preach to the adults and encouraged them to come back. As a result 42 people received Christ as their Savior.

Zhou also shared a story about preaching one day when a demon-possessed woman began disrupting the group. “God spoke to me to lay hands on this woman to cast out the demon,” he said. “And with God’s power I [laid] a hand and prayed for her and cast out the demon.” 

Many of those in attendance were hearing the gospel for the first time and stayed through the evening to hear more about Jesus, he said. 

But Zhou was arrested again, being told his open evangelism was a disturbance to the public and was attracting too many people. Despite the suffering he said he experienced while in jail, Zhou remained dedicated to the Lord’s work. Once he was released, God gave him a vision to have a “big church,” he said.

Planning for this church building was a five-year process from 2001 to 2006. As the church’s construction was wrapping up, God gave Zhou the next phase of the mission — to begin a Bible college to train and equip students to become pastors. 

The Bible college would run out of the new church building and would specifically recruit students in dire financial situations. 

“The Bible college offers free tuition and all their living expenses,” he noted, adding he doesn’t draw a salary as president. 

“Though it is hard work, there is much joy inside because it is such an honor and privilege to be able … to equip so many students to do God’s work,” he said.

Zhou noted one of the greatest needs for Christians is that there are not enough pastors, preachers and teachers. There is a great need for China to hear the gospel, he added. With a population of 1.3 billion there are an estimated 100 million Christians there, he said. 

“There’s still a great number of people … who have not heard the gospel,” he said. “Therefore it is our desire … to continue to work hard to get more students graduated and sent out to different parts of China.” 

A team of co-workers serves at the Bible college, and invitations are often extended for guests — professors and others from overseas — to serve as guest lecturers. Ryan Whitley, pastor of CrossPoint Baptist Church, Trussville, is one of the Bible college’s previous guest teachers. 

Meeting Zhou approximately three years ago was “a providential appointment that God arranged,” Whitley said, noting he was connected with Zhou through a pastor he knew in Hong Kong. In March 2012, Whitley, along with Buddy Gray, pastor of Hunter Street Baptist Church, Hoover, and John Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pell City, made their first of two visits together to teach at Zhou’s Bible college.

The tables were recently turned in mid-January when Zhou visited Alabama during his first-ever visit to the United States. While in Alabama, his visits included speaking at the three Baptist pastors’ churches.

“We invited [Zhou] to come to the states and visit our churches,” Thweatt said. “He did … and it’s been a thrill to have him come.”

Thweatt said that throughout Zhou’s message to the First, Pell City, congregation, in which Zhou shared his testimony and news about the Bible college, people were laughing, clapping and crying.

“We took up a very generous love offering for him to support the students,” Thweatt noted. “It was one of the highlights of recent years as far as having a guest come into our church.”

And the feeling was mutual for Zhou, who quickly sensed the churches’ warm welcomes and said he felt at home while visiting Birmingham. “No matter where we go … we have a heavenly Father who guides everybody together.” In Christ we are all brothers and sisters, he said.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Name adapted for security reasons.

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