The China Experience comes to America
In an important effort to raise awareness for the persecuted church in China, Open Doors has created an exhibit called “The China Experience” that will teach visitors what it is like to be a Christian in China.
1/19/09 China (ANS) American Christians, especially those in Southern California, can now tour The China Experience and learn what it is like to be a Christian in the world’s largest nation.
At the launch of the exhibit on Monday, January 12, 2009, Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, explained why the ministry has provided this hands-on way of learning about the house church Christians of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“Open Doors is committed to engaging Christians here in the United States and other parts of the world with our persecuted brothers and sisters, and one thing we can do here at Open Doors and our headquarters is to give people an experience of what its like to be in the PRC and to start that we’ve targeted the most populous nation,” he said in an interview. “So we’re giving people sort of a first hand touch of what it is like to be in the PRC here in our headquarters in Santa Ana.”
Visitors to The China Experience are first greeted with a mock-up of a house church and prison, so I asked Moeller why, if the Chinese government is now printing millions of Bibles, that Open Doors still provides Bibles and biblical materials.
“The reality is that the church in China is huge,” he replied. “They have an absolutely large and growing population of Christians. Almost anything you say about the Church in China will be true somewhere in that body of believers. So in some places, and in many places that I’ve been, the church is wide open with very little persecution. In other parts of China, mostly the remote and western and rural areas, there’s still a very intensive, systematic persecution of Christians, especially those that are engaged in evangelism or discipleship with materials.
“Now as to the question you’ve brought up about Bibles. Of course, Open Doors no longer does things like it did in 1981 when we delivered one million Bibles by sea as part of Project Pearl. The reality is that the churches in China, and their needs, have changed.
“With more and more Bibles being printed in China and with more and more materials available in Chinese Christian bookstores, the role that OD has had in terms of bringing literature in has changed dramatically. What we still continue to recognize is that there are places where materials need to be transported into China and through China that would otherwise be illegal by Chinese standards. And so Open Doors is engaged to do one thing, and one thing only: to meet the needs of the suffering church, wherever they are and whatever those needs are.”
Bordering on China is the reclusive country of North Korea, which Open Doors’ World Watch List says is “The World’s Worst Persecutor of Christians.” I asked Moeller to talk about the news that many North Koreans are fleeing into China where they are meeting up with ethnic Koreans who live there, finding Christ, and then going back to North Korea, at great risk, to share the Gospel with their own people.
“Certainly one of the most unique stories in all of church history is the way the church in China and the believers in North Korea have connected,” he said. “One of the unfortunate realities of the world we live in is that North Korea is the worst place on earth to live. It is a totalitarian regime that everyone who stands at any distance from the government or stands in opposition to government policies is persecuted ruthlessly. Labor camps are common and starvation is rampant in that country.
“That said, the worst persecution is reserved for Christians. And so in North Korea, we see an extreme amount of hardship on those that profess Jesus Christ. The believers there are really special and brave.
“One of the most remarkable stories we’ve told is that all of the people who have fled North Korea in recent years to escape the horrible conditions there, crossed frozen rivers sometimes in the dark of night, have often encountered Christians in underground churches who have taken them under their wing, helped them get established and have shared Jesus Christ with them. And here’s the remarkable point: tens of thousands of these Christians have found themselves being convicted by the Holy Spirit as ethnic North Koreans have told those they have met in China that they had left their family and loved ones back in North Korea, and so they go back, even as believers, to share their faith in Jesus Christ. And that’s happening today in North Korea.”
Open Doors USA is located in Orange County, California, which many consider to be a paradise to live in. So some wonder how the ministry is able to understand how difficult it is for the 100 million Christians who live in 60 countries where faith costs them the most.
“One of the ways we’re committed to doing here through the China Experience is just that, to break through what I call ‘The plastic OC curtain.’ To give them a first hand experience of what it feels like to be in a house church in China. So we have a house church, where people can come in, we have a house church pastor on video who comes in and speaks and leads a short worship service, we have a singer who sings a song and we have to keep our voices low because obviously the authorities might hear us, and then of course, there is also, as you mentioned before, a jail cell where we have people experience what it feels like in small, solitary confinement cell.
“So we hope that especially students from Christian schools and even businesses who would like to have an offsite meeting here to learn a little bit more about the world around them will come and tour The China Experience. This is a tremendously educational experience of what it feels like to be part of the PRC.
“In addition to that, we have numerous artifacts and pictures from our history that show the larger picture of what God is doing throughout the 60 countries that OD is working in.”
I concluded by asking Carl Moeller what did he want people to do after they’ve been to see the exhibit?
“We need people to get informed,” he said. “This information is powerful. And it changes people’s lives. Some of the comments we’ve had from people include:, ‘I never knew about that and now I will be different.’ So first of all, it is important to get informed.
“Secondly, to take action. We have numerous ways while they are here at The China Experience and also when they go home and go to on our Website (www.OpenDoorsUSA.org) for them to take action—for example to write letters of encouragement and to write advocacy letters. We have all the forms and all the emails they can send right off our website.
“But most importantly and certainly most effectively, this experience is designed to mobilize Christians in America to pray. To pray regularly, consistently and intensively for the PRC and for believers around the world because we know that wherever prayer is applied, it has tremendous and powerful effects on our persecuted brothers and sisters directly. So those are the things: to get informed, to take action and to pray.”
After talking with Moeller, I was able to meet two young ladies, Jenny (9) and Laura (8) Clay, from Anaheim, California. I asked Jenny what she thought of The China Experience.
“I really liked it because I could see how they are treated in China and all the other places where Christians are persecuted,” she said. “I now realize that they get into trouble because they are Christians, but here in America, since this is a free country, we don’t get persecuted or anything.”
I asked Jenny if touring the experience that this made her want to pray for Chinese believers.
“Yes, it does because they need our prayers,” she replied. “I have learned today that we are able to pray for them and be able to learn that we can believe in God and He will work a miracle and keep them safe if we believe in Him.”
To set up a tour of The China Experience, call 949-752-6600. For more information on Open Doors USA, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.