January 2017 Update

2016 is now in the history books and we wish you a New Year of immeasurable blessings and joy. Rolf arrived home on December 29th without incident – no flight delays, no bad weather and he has already applied for his visa to return. He needs to be back by March 1st to start his classes.

“Then He said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 NKJV

It has been an exciting year! Rolf finished up the last lesson of his “Faith or Fiction” class the Saturday before he left.  All 21 one of these students are now Christ followers and going to church! What great joy to look around on Sundays in church and see so many of his students there. Usually after he and some of them will get together and meet at a restaurant for lunch. It is very rewarding to be a part of what God is doing and to see how these classes have grown and how some of the students are now teaching and/or reaching out to others.

A little while before Rolf left he did get a “wake up call” and reminder of the caution needed when he got the news one of his student leaders was arrested and placed under house arrest. What was her crime – bringing children under 18 to church! He had to ask her to stay away for a while as a safety precaution for himself and the others. As we rejoice in what God is doing there we must be mindful that caution and awareness is necessary! PRAY for protection and safety for Rolf, his students and the school where he teaches and also holds his “Faith or Fiction” classes.

Sherri is glad to put 2016 behind her – at least the end of it. November brought on a lot of respiratory illnesses for many, Sherri ended up being no exception. After being treated for sinusitis and bronchitis and not getting better she ended up in the hospital for 4 days with pneumonia. Not the way she planned on celebrating Thanksgiving especially when it was to be at our house!  The family came and stayed anyway and when it was learned she wasn’t going to be released on Thanksgiving Day like thought without skipping a beat they just went back to our house, cooked the dinner, packed it up and brought it to the hospital for us to make a memory and enjoy dinner together in her hospital room!  We are so blessed and grateful for all the care and phone calls, texts, visits, gifts and meals she received during this time from our wonderful family, neighbors and friends.

We are heading to Florida for 2 weeks the beginning of February. We look forward every year to this time to spend with Sherri’s sister-in-law, Debbie and with various friends. As much as we look forward to our visit with Debbie it will be bittersweet with Sherri’s brother Art no longer being there too. PRAY for quality time and for safe travel as we travel by car at a time of year when weather could be unpredictable.

We couldn’t do this without your prayers and support. We need you and we are grateful and thankful that you team up with us to be a part of bringing the Light of Jesus to those living in darkness in China. The end of year giving did however fall short and we would ask you to prayerfully consider if there is any way you can help us in making up the deficit so we can continue unhindered this coming year.

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Year End Update 2016

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Every November, after Thanksgiving but before the commotion of Christmas and New Year activities, we take time aside to pray and seek the Lord, to ask Him to speak to us about the direction of International Ambassadors for Christ for the next year. As we prayed and asked the Lord Jesus to reveal His direction we believe He wants us to persevere, and as the above verse says, “to let nothing move you.” Perseverance is a key to bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.

The Bible reminds us: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9. Serving the Lord often is adventurous, but as we look back over the years we see how God brought much growth in our work as we kept on doing the challenging everyday tasks He called us to do.

Many of those we serve with in the neglected mission fields of China have also been called to stand and persevere in 2016. We write these words from the heart of Chinese people we have been meeting with, the various project leaders we have been teaching and praying with, and the exciting new strategies in the coming year to advance the gospel even more through the local Church. Because of your sacrificial giving, we were able to provide long-term assistance to local servants of God who were called to faithfully persevere as they continue carrying the light of the gospel into the hearts of unbelievers.

Many people there are under great pressure in various ways. Some struggling with converting from one religion to another. Others are feeling pressure from Islamic fundamentalism, as growing numbers of young Muslims are attracted to the warped ideologies of the ISIS death cult. Many Chinese Christians struggle to overcome the temptations and trappings of rampant materialism and consumerism, while retaining their passion for the Word of God.

We try to operate with as few overhead expenses as possible, so that resources get to the hands of the front line workers of God’s kingdom—the many Chinese Christians we are honored to assist and serve. We are thankful for each person who prayed for and supported our work last year. Without your vital partnership none of these things would be possible. Like many ministries, the “provisions” are low and need to be replenished and we are trusting God will meet all our needs.

It has been a great privilege to serve the Lord in China for another year, and we are blessed to be a link in a chain that has resulted in many people coming to know Him. As we end 2016, we want to thank you for your prayers, encouragement and support throughout the year. We pray the risen Jesus Christ will truly be part of the Christmas Season for you and your family. Next year we hope, by God’s grace, to continue serving the people in China and we not only invite you but need you to partner with us to see this happen. God bless you abundantly!

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Jesus Crucifixion

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This is the best “crucifixion” scene of Jesus, and the view count speaks for itself.

I could rattle off a heap of “quotes” about Jesus Christ to try and convince the world what he did for us, but the best we can do is let this video stir your “heart” and let the Holy Spirit speak to you where you are sitting and watching this, if you open your heart.

All I can say is you will never know the love and power of Jesus unless you seek him and search for him, then he will open the door and answer you.

When you get a “revelation” of him, then you will know that he is “your” Savior. Don’t wait till it’s too late.

You can “pray” right where you are and “talk” to him right now.

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Thirty Years in China

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Thirty Years in China; Four Observed Trends
By: Joann Pittman

Thirty years ago, I set off for what I thought would be a “one-year” teaching stint in China. Twenty-eight years later, I moved back to the States. Either I’m really bad at math or that was one very long year.

I worked in three different cities: Zhengzhou, Changchun, and Beijing. I wore many different hats: English teacher, Chinese language student, Chinese language program director, English teaching program director, cross-cultural trainer. I learned lots, and of course, made many mistakes.

I count myself privileged to have had a front row seat to watch China transform itself from a country on the brink of social and economic collapse to the world’s second largest economy.

My connections to China actually predate 1984, though. I grew up in Pakistan in the 1960s during a time when Pakistan was one of China’s only friends. My mom drove us to school every morning, and along the way we passed the Chinese Consulate, with its imposing portrait of Chairman Mao. As kids, we had a nickname for him, but it’s probably better left unspoken. It was from Pakistan that Henry Kissinger made his secret trip into China that laid the ground for Nixon’s visit in 1972. When I was in junior high school, there was even talk of a class trip to China; unfortunately the Chinese government. decided it was not in their interest to have a couple dozen American 8th graders roaming around their country.

My first actual visit to China came in 1979, the first year that China “opened up” to American tourists. I was doing a summer internship in Hong Kong, and when the opportunity to do a three-day tour to Guangzhou with a group of American college students came up, I took it. What I saw was a country unlike anything I had ever seen (and I had seen a couple dozen countries already). China was just three years out from the end of the Cultural Revolution, and the exhaustion and oppression was palpable. I remember thinking that if it continued to open-up, it might be interesting to work there someday. As I look back over three decades in China, these are some of the trends that I have witnessed.

1. Ration coupons to Wal-Mart
When I arrived in China, ration coupons were still in use. The political campaigns of the 60s and 70s had brought scarcity (and even famine), so essential foodstuffs were rationed: meat, flour, sugar, and eggs. As foreigners, we could not get the required ration coupons, which meant that we could not purchase any of those items. However, our school was given extra ration coupons so they could feed us. The ration coupons remained in use until the end of the 1980s.In China today, there is no shortage of food or consumer goods available to those with purchasing power. Every major city has a Wal-Mart or some other big box store with food and other items stacked floor to ceiling. Sometimes when I see older people wandering around in these stores, the ones who experienced the famines of the 60s, I wonder what they are thinking.

2. Isolated to Engaged
In the 1980s the world of a Chinese citizen was quite small, existing primarily of family and the work unit. It was difficult to travel within China, and almost impossible to travel outside of China. The students that I taught knew almost nothing of the outside world, and I was the first non-Chinese they had ever seen. I remember one of my students telling me that he had secretly learned English from VOA broadcasts while hiding under the bed. Today the nation of China is fully engaged on the world stage. Its economy is integrated with the global economy and China is seeking to establish itself as a major world power, a second superpower to act as a counterweight to the United States. Chines citizens are traveling and living and working abroad in record numbers as passports and visas are easier to get. In the 1980s I worked hard to explain what a “hamburger stand” was (it was a lesson in the textbook we used), but today kids often ask me if we have McDonald’s in America too.

3. Conformity to Self-expression
One of the enduring images in my mind of China in the 1980’s is the uniform drabness of it all. In addition to the sky and the buildings all being various shades of grey, everyone was still wearing the same dark blue or green “Mao suits” (Chinese call them Sun Yat-sen suits, by the way). Everyone dressed alike and thought alike. The political and social system had no room or tolerance for self-expression. Today, one only occasionally sees Mao suits worn by peasants or construction workers, and everything from fashion to architecture seems to scream out “LOOK AT ME!” The post-90s generation is all about individual self-expression and their own (as opposed to state-mandated) social connections.

4. The Church: Hidden to Visible
In the 1980s the church was in survival mode, having just come through the Cultural Revolution during which religions were banished from Chinese society. Churches were slowly beginning to reopen and pastors were being let out of prison and back into their pulpits. By and large, the church was invisible to society around it. Throughout the 90s and 2000s the church moved into the shadows it was visible, but not very. As it became more visible, it found ways to serve the needs of society. And today, there is even the beginning of a sending movement, with missionaries leaving China to go to other countries. To go from survival to sending in the space of 30 years is an amazing testament of God’s grace and the power of the gospel.

It will be interesting to watch what happens in China over the next thirty years. To quote Rob Gifford, author of China Road: Journey into the Future of a Rising Power, “the next thirty years cannot and will not be like the last thirty years.”

See my personal blog “Outside In” for more China stories.

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Joann Pittman is Senior Vice President of ChinaSource. She is the editor of ZGBriefs and Chinese Church Voices, as well as a regular contributor to ChinaSource publications. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and most recently, cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has previously taught Chinese at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (MN), and is currently a guest instructor at Wheaton College and Taylor University (IN), teaching Chinese culture and communication. Joann has a BA in social sciences from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (MN), and an MA in teaching from the University of St. Thomas (MN). She is the author of Survival Chinese Lessons, published by Dawson Media. Her personal blog, “Outside-In” can be found at joannpittman.com, where she writes on China and issues related to “living well where you don’t belong.” You can find her on Twitter @jkpittman.com.

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Luring Kids Into Religion

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In a new set of “education” rules, the Chinese Communist Party is urging citizens to “spy” on their neighbors and “report” parents who raise their children in a “religious faith or have them attend religious services.”

In the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the government “released” the new education norms, with special “emphasis on religious formation,” according to the U.S.-based human rights group China Aid.

The new “rules,” which will go into effect on November 1, stipulate that parents cannot “organize, lure or force minors into attending religious activities,” or force them to “wear” religious dress or symbols.

Moreover, they cannot even “tolerate” that children attend “underground scripture studies.”

If parents are seen to be encouraging religion, “any group or person has the right to stop these kinds of behaviors and report them to the public security authorities,” the norms state.

While China officially guarantees the “right to religious freedom,” the Communist Party tightly “regulates” religious activities, including “religious education,” and discourages minors from receiving “religious formation.”

Chinese law “prohibits” children under the age of 18 from receiving “any” religious education, and the government approved Christian church, the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement,” explicitly “bans” its members from bringing their children up in the Christian faith, labeling the practice “brainwashing.”

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Earlier this year, the “ruling” Communist Party issued an “ultimatum” to parents that if children do not stop “attending” church, they will be “barred” from attending “college” or entering the “military.”

A government office in the central Guizhou province sent a “notice” to all of the schools in the area “announcing” the decision, in an effort to “discourage” citizens from attending “independent house churches” and to switch to a “church under government control.”

The severe “policy” of the ruling party has insisted on government “dominion” even over personal matters such as “faith and family size.”

At the time, government officials “forced” members of the Huaqiu Church into “signing a document” stating that they would no longer “take minors to church.”

Now, Christian children “attending” the church are no longer “eligible” for the college entrance exam or “admittance” into a military academy. Moreover, parents who “take” their children to church are subject to “punishment.”

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Authorities also announced the termination of “welfare and social security benefits” for Christians who are “caught” attending church services.

A local source said that “practicing” Christians would no longer be eligible for “social security benefits or old-age insurance.”

County officials “called on the government in the towns and villages to order believers to sign [a guarantee], stating that if they gathered again, their welfare would be cut off,” the source said.

The Chinese government has “ratcheted” up its persecution of “unofficial” religion not under government “control,” especially against Christianity, which is experiencing “dramatic growth in the country.”

In its annual report on international “freedom” released in August, the U.S. State Department “denounced” China’s continued “suppression of religious liberty.”

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Despite China’s official policy of “freedom of religious belief,” the report states, in practice, “the government exercised state control over religion and restricted the activities and personal freedom of religious adherents when these were perceived to threaten state or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interests.”

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Amity Printing

Amity Printing – the world’s largest Bible printer

Amity Printing Company is a joint venture between the Amity Foundation and the United Bible Societies. The company was established in 1988 with an ongoing mission and priority to serve the Christian church in China.

Besides our domestic production, Amity is a major exporter of quality Bibles and presently exports internationally to satisfied customers in over 70 countries.

More than 20 years of hard work have made us thin paper printing experts and the main production center for Bibles in China.

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Based on our high quality printing service and corporate image, our company has built a good reputation at home and abroad. By the end of June 2016, more than 150 million Bibles have come off our production lines.

This figure includes Bibles destined for mainland Protestant and Catholic churches and Bibles export in more than 90 different languages such as English, German, Spanish, and French, together with many African languages.

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Amity is certified as National Printing Demonstration Enterprise, a Key Enterprise for Culture Export. We take the lead in the printing industry in gaining the certification of High-tech Enterprise and High-tech Product, the FSC Chain of Custody, ISO9001, ISO14001, GB/T28001, China Environment Labeling and AAA Enterprise Credit Evaluation.

The company gains the “Benny” Award of the Premier Print Awards, the Green Enterprise, the 3rd Session of China Press and Publication Awards, the 4th China Print Gold Awards.

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We are well-equipped for meeting the demands of worldwide Christians through an annual capacity of over 20 million hardbound books at the new factory site which covers an area of 85,000 m2

Our goal is to stay focused on our mission, work hard to produce high quality Bibles for the local church and overseas Christians, and at the same time, maintain a responsible role within society.

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The Amity Foundation advocates for migrant workers.

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October 2016 Update

Rolf is back in China and back to work. He left here on September 30th for Beijing to spend the night to visit a former student and his wife and their baby. He was Rolf’s class monitor at one of the universities he was teaching at some years ago and through Rolf he accepted Christ. After graduation he started his own business. He today is a successful businessman, a wonderful family man and he and his family are still walking with the Lord. Thank you Lord for allowing us all to be a part of this story!

Before Rolf left we made a trip to Michigan to surprise some longtime friends at their open house to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary and their 45 year anniversary with CRU (Campus Crusade)! When we were on staff with CRU and we were raising our support we very much appreciated him and his help as our support coach. Sherri has a high school friend that lives nearby and we were able to spend the weekend with them enjoying their warm and wonderful hospitality. It was the last weekend before Rolf left and it was a pleasant getaway to enjoy together and with friends.

Rolf has a full schedule with his business and finance classes. He teaches Monday through Thursday from 2pm – 4pm and 7pm – 9pm. He has 12 returning students and 47 new students for a total of 59.

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others”. II Timothy 2:2.

The most exciting news is what is going on with his new “Faith or Fiction” class that started up the Saturday after he arrived! Two of the ladies that went through his first class have become devoted Christ followers and valuable helpers to Rolf. They have carefully recruited these new people for this class – 21 in all!! Four of the students are from last semester that had wanted to join. The others are their neighbors and from the church.

The 12 week class is on Saturdays from 9am – Noon in a classroom that he is able to use in the school. Rolf leads off with the video presentation and then they break into 3 groups for discussion and prayer, one led by him and the other two by the two ladies. He then brings the class back together to wrap it up.

“So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” Acts 16:5
This is a great opportunity to train them and for them to be able to take over some day in the future when Rolf is no longer there. They are very capable and have a great heart for the Lord to reach out. They already have plans to take a modified version of this program into the church.

PRAY for a good harvest!! And please PRAY for protection for Rolf, the students and for the owner of the school.

Thank you for being on this exciting adventure with us and being a part of what God has done and will be doing!

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