In August of 2012, a team from Adams Thermal first met the leadership of Gan En Tang Church, a Christian congregation located in southern Henan Province in the People's Republic of China. The church is 600 kilometers away from Adams Thermals' office in Hangzhou and is situated within the most populous region of China, an area with more than 1 million residents. Despite being the most populous county in China, more than 90% of the people live in rural villages under poor conditions due to extreme poverty. Agriculture is the primary economic driver and most families live off less than 800 yuan per month or $4.50 per day. Approximately 12% of the local population is Christian.
As in many developing areas, local churches serve as community centers and meet many of the needs of the local population. Leaders of the Gan En Tang Church described their success and recent growth to the Adams Thermal team during their visit. But the church also faced huge challenges as their building was quickly deteriorating and the foundation was actually sinking. In addition, their numbers had grown to the point of over-crowding (up to 1,000 attendees), and many families were sending only 1 or 2 family members to services in order help alleviate the problem. Lastly, there was no facilities for children, so younger families were not being served.
Despite their lack of resources and their daily struggles to meet even basic needs, the leadership of Gan En Tang Church shared their vision with the team from Adams Thermal - to build a new facility next door to the one that was crumbling. Although many who attend Gan En Tang cannot read or write, the leadership had gone to great lengths to explain to their congregation the dire situation before ultimately taking a vote regarding a solution. The congregation decided to build their new church with their own hands and with resources that would become available as they were able to afford them. Trusting that their work was divinely appointed and honoring to God, church leaders along with their over-flowing congregation members prayed in faith and believed that the project would happen somehow.
In light of Adams Thermal Foundation's mission to 'alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable' and based upon our 'Christ-Centered' vision and values, the decision was made to financially support the congregation at Gan En Tang Church and the construction of their new building. The congregation officially broke ground in early 2013 and currently, the building structure is completed. The congregation is actually meeting for worship services on the first floor of the new building while the finishing work is being completed. We look forward to the day when the project will be completed and the people of Henan Province can be served with love in the name of Jesus Christ.
Outnumbered? Overwhelmed? Isolated? These are just a few of the challenges faced by pastors who are called to reach the un-reached.
While the age of the itinerant minister or 'circuit rider' has long since passed in the United States, the model is well suited for remote areas of China. Pockets of growth in Christianity are well-know in places like the Zhejiang and Henan provinces. In Wenzhou, a city known as the 'Chinese Jerusalem', about one million Christians represent approximately 11% of the population. Then there are far-away places in China where nobody has ever heard the message of the Gospel . . . ever.
By area, China is only slightly smaller than the United States with 3.7 million miles of widely varied terrain - including mountains, forests, deserts and even sub-tropical areas. In the distant lands far away from any Christian influence, pastors travel long distances and spend many hours working to establish fellowship and unity among a disparate and often illiterate base of new believers. With only a heart of caring, the spoken word and a hand of service, these committed clergy strive to live a life of Christian witness in the eyes of unreached people groups.
Adams Thermal Foundation (ATF), by virtue of it's mission to address all forms of human poverty - including spiritual poverty, has endeavored to support these hard-working messengers of Christ through various forms of financial support. Among them is Pastor Sun in Sichuan province, the only ordained pastor in an area with a population of more than 890,000 people. She serves 7 different churches or gathering points spread out amongst 21 towns.
Pastor Yang from Hubei province was able to move to the area served by Pastor Sun thanks to support provided by ATF. He currently serves alongside her in a remote, but densely populated area. Pastor Hu in Hubei province was provided a motorcycle to serve a new congregation in an area previously blocked from any Christian influence whatsoever. Pastor Li in Yunnan province was helped with his delapidated home so that he could focus on ministry. And Zheng Li in Sichuan province was helped with a life-changing surgery so that she could continue her studies in Bible school.
Adams Thermal Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to stand with these faithful servants in deliverying the greatest story ever told to those who may have never had the opportunity to hear.