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China missions trip changes lives for Gardendale womencomment (0)

August 1, 2002

China missions trip changes lives for Gardendale women, others

By Judy Woodward Bates

Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

It all started with a seed planted in the heart of Rhonda Kelley, an instructor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) and wife of seminary President Chuck Kelley.

“I began to feel a passion to share what we were learning with others,” said Kelley of the women’s ministry program at NOBTS. “At about that time, I was contacted by a friend with the International Mission Board who issued an invitation to bring a group of women’s ministry leaders to China for a Vision Tour. The purpose of that trip seemed to mesh with my heart,” she said.

Understanding God’s will

Kelley was soon sure that she indeed was to lead a group of women into China. Even as more information was being sent her way, she began to contact women’s ministry leaders.

“An invitation was extended ... to all women in the women’s ministry program at NOBTS. ... God brought together a unique group ... with a commitment to minister to women in China.”

Fifteen women, including some from First Baptist Church, Gardendale, made the trip earlier this year. And the trip has ended up changing these women’s lives forever. The group landed and began their work in the capital city of Beijing with its teeming population of 8 million.

One of the young women they were able to meet was Shuyu (not her real name). Some years ago Shuyu’s mother had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Shuyu had not. Later, a man in her mother’s church led Shuyu to Christ and she made a public profession of faith.

Her joy was both evident and contagious.

The group from Louisiana traveled to some locations together; at other times, they divided into smaller groups in order to take part in various special opportunities. Two team members met with a group of church leaders.

“The room was completely packed and some of these people had ridden bicycles more than three hours in order to be there,” one of the women recalled. “Most of the group were women, and the majority led home churches.

“Most of these churches had between 200 and 800 members,” the team member added. “All were growing and all were desperately praying for people to come and help them learn more about Jesus so they could better serve Him and their congregations. Some prayed to simply be able to read so they could study God’s Word; many were in need of Bibles.”

Another team member had the chance to be part of a panel discussion in front of a group of Chinese students studying English as a Second Language (ESL): “I was asked ... such things as how do I think prayer works in my life.

“I learned that women everywhere have the same problems and difficulties,” she said. “If anyone asked me about going to China I would say, ‘Go for it!’ I am certainly planning to ... go back as soon as possible.”

Stepping out of the box

The youngest team member, Christy, said, “I was always afraid to go on a missions trip. Afraid to leave home, afraid of not fitting in, afraid of what the Lord might ask me to do. Because I left home, because I did not fit in, because the Lord asked me to go, my life — and the lives of the some of the people I met — will never be the same.”

She continued, “One of the workers I met in China said, ‘We are who we are wherever we are,’ meaning we are Christians wherever we go. ...  The time I spent with the people in China made me aware of the world’s pressing need to know Christ. In China, everything is about relationships. A word we learned is gang xi (pronounced GON-gee), meaning a relationship that is favorable to you.

“This word is a perfect description of the relationship we [believers] have with Christ.”

Recalling people she met in places as varied as Tienamen Square and McDonald’s, another team member said, “I built relationships with total strangers who didn’t even speak English.

“With some of my new friends, I shared the gospel. With others, I planted seeds or watered a growing life.

“The Chinese Christians are starving for more knowledge of the Lord. Our first morning in one city, a Chinese friend was given a Christian book. She hugged it to her chest — she was so thankful for it.”

The youngest team member said, “I want my children and grandchildren to inherit a legacy of bold obedience and a strong faith in the Lord of the universe.

“Right now the Lord is building in me a faith I will share. ... There is too much at stake to remain paralyzed by fear,” she said. “My trip to China was about changing the fear that had previously paralyzed into an awe kind of fear that spurs me on.”­

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