By Robert Menzies –
Recently I was once again reminded of the strong foundation of Christian faith in our region. I, along with several friends, traveled to visit a Lisu family and worship together with the church that meets in their village. I heard that this dedicated Christian couple had received the Pentecostal experience and, although they were persecuted and ostracized because of this, they have remained firm in their Pentecostal convictions. So, I wanted to meet them and learn about their church’s history.
It was Saturday afternoon when we arrived in their village. There I stayed in the home of this wonderful family.
Brother H explained that prior to 1949 two British missionaries, Pastor Gao and Pastor Wang, had ministered in that general area among the Lisu and established a church. A church building was built. These men were not Pentecostals, but the gospel was preached and the church established. The communists took over the church after 1949, but in the 1980s the building was given back to the believers.
Brother H and his older sister attended a house church meeting in their village in 1974. Brother H was fourteen years old at the time. This was during the Cultural Revolution, so no churches were officially open. Nevertheless, Christians who had heard the gospel from the British missionaries traveled to the village and shared in a house church meeting. During this meeting Brother H and his sister committed their lives to Christ.
Brother H continued to meet with the Christians in the village and eventually became a leader in the church. He served as the treasurer of the church for many years.
In 1992 a Chinese American pastor, Pastor Lai, traveled to Kunming and conducted a series of meetings at the TSPM Bible school located there. These meetings birthed a significant revival that swept through many churches in Yunnan Province. Church leaders from many of the minority groups that populate Yunnan attended these meetings. Many were baptized in the Spirit, spoke in tongues, received great encouragement, saw people delivered from demonic influence, and took the Pentecostal message back to their home villages. As a result, Pentecostal revival spread to many Miao, Lisu, Yi, and other churches.
One of the Lisu believers in Brother H’s area, Brother Y, attended these meetings in Kunming. He was deeply impacted and brought the Pentecostal message and experience to this village in 1993. At this time Brother H and many others were baptized in the Spirit with the NT evidence of speaking in tongues. Brother Y and other Pentecostals ministered in the area of Wu Ding county, with the result that between 1993 and 1995 over 40 village churches were led into Pentecost.
The TSPM church leaders, clearly pressured by the government, opposed this Pentecostal revival. After Brother H was baptized in the Spirit, he began to face opposition from TSPM church leaders. Eventually, in 1999 he, his family, and 19 other families (over 30 believers) left the village TSPM church and established an independent Pentecostal house church.
Some notable Pentecostal house church leaders visited their area and brought encouragement during this time. For example, in 1994 Zhang Rong Liang, the “Uncle” of the Fangcheng Church (a large, Pentecostal house church network) visited and conducted meetings in the area.
Beginning in 1993 and running into the first decade of the 21st century many other Pentecostal believers in the neighboring villages left their TSPM churches and established their own Pentecostal house churches due to opposition. Now, there are over 40 Pentecostal churches in this county that network together. Brother H estimated that this Pentecostal network of churches, which includes Lisu, Miao, Yi, Dai, and Han churches, now includes over 200 churches when one also considers those churches outside of this particular county.