Geoffrey Black sees work of yesterday's missionaries pay off today in China
Written by Staff reports May 16, 2013
The Rev. Sharon Watkins and the Rev. Geoffrey Black place flowers at the monument commemorating Minnie Vautrin at Nanjing Jingling Women's College in China.
United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black is traveling across China for two weeks with the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The leaders of the two churches that form Global Ministries will meet with mission partners in that country, as they learn about the ways the two denominations can assist the rapidly-growing Christian church movement in China.
Black and Watkins arrived in China on Thursday, May 9, and will travel throughout the country before they return to the United States on May 23. Global Ministries' focus in China includes educational and community development programs, particularly in underprivileged parts of the country.
One week into the visit, Black and Watkins are experiencing the vitality of Christian churches that began in China decades ago.
The Rev. Black is keeping a journal during this mission and wrote a second installment about his trip.
Huangshan and Nanjing
We have been in China for just over a week and the experience has been incredible. So far we have traveled to four cities, and we have visited with mission partners in local churches, hospitals, educational, social service and government agencies. The pace has been brisk to say the least. Hospitality has been more than gracious and the delicious food has been very different than Chinese food that I have come to know at home in the United States. Maybe I have not been to the right restaurants.
Certainly, almost everything has been interesting, even fascinating (Remember, this has been my first visit or China). However, there have been more than a few highlights. I'll share just a few of them.
Sunday was Mother's Day here in China as it was in the United States, and it was celebrated as a special occasion at the Huangshan Christian Church, where we worshiped. The honored guest preacher was the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. The children had prepared special dances and music, as had the choir and the pastor, the Rev. Ma, who accompanied the choir on the Erhu, an ancient Chinese two-stringed instrument with a beautiful, even haunting, tone. This worship service was joyful and inspiring. The enthusiastic participation of the people, all 1,000 of them, in the singing and liturgy was noteworthy.
The Rev. Ma
The historic work of 19th and 20th century Christian missionaries in China is held in high regard by many in church and society. Several institutions that we have visited were established by those missionaries and these institutions continue to serve the Chinese people. Our visit to Nanjing Jingling Women's College was an opportunity to learn about a Disciples missionary, who is remembered for her courageous actions to protect women and children during the Japanese invasion of Nanjing in 1938. Her name was Minnie Vautrin. On the campus there is a very visible monument dedicated to her memory as well as a well-documented display depicting her heroism.
These examples and many others have given us pause to reflect on the vitality of the Christian churches here even as they face many challenges. It is also clear that although today some in our own country have reservations about the initiatives of missionaries in earlier times, they are held in high esteem by people here. In many ways their efforts have made a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and institutions that continue to render great service to the nation.