It was a chance encounter, but one that led to thousands coming to know Christ as their Savior.
In the early 1980s, a couple from Anadarko, First, Leslie and Roberta Pain, traveled with a group on a tour of China. At the end of a day of touring, as their bus stopped in front of their hotel, the couple was approached by a young Chinese man asking if he could practice his English with them.
Bill* asked several questions about democracy and freedom, and then the Pains asked him if he would like a book that talks about the greatest freedom known to man.
The young man was elated as they handed him a Gospel of John they had picked up in Hong Kong. At the time, Bill thought perhaps the book contained the blueprint for American democracy, so he very carefully kept it concealed. When he began to read, he said at first, he was a little disappointed and didn’t understand what the book was saying. He subsequently met a house church pastor who recently had been released from prison, and he led Bill to faith in Christ, after explaining the message of the Gospel of John to him.
Bill began to pray that if God would give him a year or two to study the Bible in the United States, he would in turn give his life to serve the Lord. He did have opportunity to come to the U.S. to study and attended school in Kentucky.
The American couple he met in China had sent him some books from Anadarko’s church library. Bill found the phone number of Anadarko, First, and called and asked if there was anyone in the congregation who had been to China. He again met the Pains, who were able to help fund Bill’s master’s degree from Alliance Seminary in New York.
After graduation, Bill married a woman from the United States and began pastoring a Chinese congregation in North Carolina. After about a year and a half, he said he sensed the Lord was calling him back to China to serve his people there.
When he arrived in his hometown, the police greeted him and let him know they were watching him. He began to train a small number of students, but was subsequently arrested for his ministry. After his release from prison, he started an underground seminary, which he calls mini Bible schools. He has approximately 12 of these schools, each with 10-12 students per class, currently operating. It is a one-year intensive Bible training, and he estimates he has trained more than 1,000 Chinese, who are ministering in China and other places such as South Africa, Philippines, Thailand and even the United States.
Somewhere around 2002, Bill met a 73-year-old lady named Nora from the United States. When he asked her what she was doing in China, she said she felt the Lord wanted her to minister there. She told him she came on her own because no mission group would send her because of her age.
Bill asked her if she would like to teach the Bible to some students. She said she was interested, but there were two problems—she had never been to seminary or Bible school, and she didn’t speak Chinese. After inquiring about her salvation and church background, Bill assured her if she had been in Sunday School all those years, she knew more Bible than any of the students she would be teaching, and because Chinese students begin learning English in the sixth grade, they spoke enough to understand her. So, the first year, she taught 10 students, each about 20 years old. At the end of the year, she commented to Bill: “I’ve taught these students for one year, and now they are all going to serve the Lord for another 50 years. I’ve extended my life—my ministry—by 500 years. I would love to teach another class.”
She taught for eight more years, until her health deteriorated. According to her calculations, she had extended her life 4,000 years.
Nora is now 82, and living in London. Bill has a residence in Greensboro, N.C. and returns to China three times a year for two months. He has been arrested multiple times and served multiple prison terms.
The Pains, who visited China in the early 1980s, are the grandparents of Bryan Pain, pastor of Morning Star Church in Pottawatomie-Lincoln Association.
Because of a Baptist couple’s trip to China, witnessing to a young man in a “chance” encounter, and that man meeting an unlikely missionary on the streets of China, countless hundreds of Chinese people are scattered throughout China and other parts of the world telling the Good News of Jesus.
Bill says more people like Nora, whom he calls “our modern-day Lottie Moon,” are needed in China. He notes that a lot of retired people are on fixed incomes and finding it hard to make their money last through the month.
“If someone has a Social Security income of $800 a month, that money is easily gone in the U.S. before the month is over,” he said. “But with that same $800 in China, we can rent an apartment, have high-speed Internet for you, pay all of your utility bills, provide you with more food than you need and leave you with $100 in spending money, all for $400 U.S. dollars. That leaves $400 you can save for travel to China, which is somewhere around $1,600 for a round-trip ticket.”
For more information on Bill’s ministry or how you can extend your ministry life, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
* name changed