A couple of months ago, a few of us with a heart for the urban poor got together and started to pray for the many uneducated migrant workers and for those affected by drugs, crime, prostitution, domestic violence and broken family relationships.
As in so many areas of the vast country of China, our neighbourhood is dotted with such communities. How often had we walked through these areas without giving a second thought to what actually goes on in the lives of the children, youth, families and elderly people who call it home? Now, as Father started to speak to us individually about them and as we started to pray together as a group, we began to have a deep sense of His immense love and grace for them.
One day, ‘G', another team member, felt the Lord leading him into one of these nearby communities. Sensing that God wanted him to turn down a particular back alleyway, ‘G' found himself in front of a vacant shop with a ‘for rent' sign. After chatting with the landlord, ‘G' felt a peace about being at that place. We met and talked about the possibility of opening a community centre where those living and working in the area could access help with education and health information, and simply have a place they could ‘hang out'.
After praying together, we felt a peace to go ahead and seek to secure the rental for the property. Though the landlord was initially enthusiastic about our interest and expressed his support at the idea of a community centre (not a common phenomenon in this country!), a few days later he said he could not rent it to us. But a meeting with the community leader a few days later saw the tables turn, and we were told we could rent it after all!
So after a coat of paint, a good dusting, and some donated furniture to fit it out, the community centre was opened and we began with English classes for the school-aged children. Just a few weeks into the project, we have already had great responses from parents, many of whom tell us that there has never been help like this before in their community. One mother was so touched that she has offered us her rental property to use for free! With the help of the locals we hope to start other community programs soon, such as a play time for toddlers, homework help, an English corner for young people, and health information talks.
A couple of our team members went out walking one day in the area around the community centre to see how the Lord would lead them in connecting with the neighbours. They soon met ‘Y', a man who had grown up in the area and was eager to chat to them. The topic of miracles and healing came up, with ‘Y' saying that such things just don't happen today.
When he spotted one of his neighbours, a Christian, returning home, ‘Y' invited her over to join the conversation. As they talked, someone in the group had a word of knowledge that this neighbour had back problems. She immediately confirmed this, so everyone decided to head to her home to pray for her. Soon they discovered that one her legs was shorter than the other by a few centimetres. As they laid hands on her and prayed, the shorter leg grew to equal the length of the other leg right in front of their eyes. Everyone was amazed, particularly ‘Y'!
It turned out that this neighbour had been sharing the gospel with ‘Y' for many years without response. Yet now, confronted with a miracle that was undeniably God, he ecstatically and repeatedly said, "God is real! God is real!" He asked for prayer for his own painful leg and soon felt the pain go. Soon after he prayed together with them to receive Jesus.
This opportunity has opened up relationships into the community in a way we had never previously imagined! Since then, ‘K' has been able to meet ‘Y's wife and son, and share the gospel in their home with one of their friends also present to hear. The lady whose leg was healed has gone out and shared her testimony with other believers living in the area. Even just the other day, an elderly lady whom none of us had met before said she was the neighbour's friend and was just on her way to a prayer meeting. She took out her prayer list for that day with our community centre listed, and said they have been praying for us! All glory to God, who is the One paving the way before us!
We long not only to see individuals' circumstances in this community changed for the better, but for them to experience such a transformation through encountering Jesus that their entire community cannot help but be affected and transformed too. Is this too hard for our sovereign, all-powerful, Heavenly Father? The truth is that, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; ALL things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27)!