Mission: Possible 2008
Yi of little faith
By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ
The little boy with the homemade wooden scooter bounced down the hill. Suddenly he was airborne. When his front wheel returned to the earth, the impact snapped the axel. Disgusted, he picked up his scooter and motioned for us to follow.
We walked into the Yi (pronounced “yee”) village, past inquisitive stares. Who were these two Americans invading this mountainous village? Why were they here?
The boy took us into his home, where his father sat by a smoky fire, smoking a cigarette. My companion spoke to him in Chinese. Soon he was sharing the Gospel with the man, whose name was Lu. I could not understand what was being said, but I knew Lu was getting it. He listened intently to my friend.
They talked, I prayed.
Finally, my friend turned to me and – wide-eyed and almost incredulous – said: “He believes!”
The man accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, as the resurrected Son of God who came to die for his sins. Our hearts did a happy dance. We prayed with Lu as he asked Jesus to come into his heart.
Hudson Taylor spent 51 years in China in the latter half of the 19th century. He founded the China Inland Mission. He took the Gospel to every province of China and to Tibet long before the Chinese annexed it. Taylor once said that doing ministry in Tibet was like robbing a tigress of her cubs.
It has not changed.
Eileen Fraser Crossman, the daughter of pioneer missionary James Fraser, wrote in her father’s biography, Mountain Rain: “The prince of this world does not easily cede his territory to the people of God. The mountains had been the stronghold of Satan for countless centuries. They were not to be lightly invaded.”
We know this to be true. The victory we celebrated with Lu was short-lived.
Less than two months after our visit, my friend returned to the Yi village. Lu was not happy to see him again. My friend recalled:
“Upon arrival, Lu's son is playing cards with friends. Lu himself is working on a new house and seems to ignore us. For a while we wonder why, until finally I ask how things are going. He states that he doesn't want anything to do with Christianity any more. After we left, the village threatened to kill him or kick him out if he continued to believe in Christ. I tried to convince him that it's perfectly legal to believe in Christ in China as an individual, but he insists it doesn't matter because of the village.
“We left with sad hearts, but a strong understanding of the meaning of 'rocky soil' in Matthew 13:20-21. Being faithful we have sown seed, but we now know this is a place that still requires hard ground work before we see lasting fruit.”
“We’re going to have to be sensitive, (but) not scared, about how we approach evangelism,” my friend explained. “Though this current situation is disappointing, our work is not in vain. I hope you look forward to more tilling and breaking of the ground.”
Before the ground is broken, it must be prepared. This will be accomplished through prayer. James Fraser said, “I believe it will only be known on the Last Day how much has been accomplished in missionary work by the prayers of earnest believers at home.” We covet the intercession of our prayer warriors. This will soften the soil.
The village where our would-be brother in Christ lives is small with residents from three people groups: Naxi, Hui Muslim, and Yi.
- Naxi believe heavily in an organized animistic religion that worships spirits believed to be living in every part of the natural world. This Dongba religion is based on the claim that man and nature are half-brothers.
- Hui Muslims moved to this village from a nearby Tibetan city because of persecution. They are quite active in their religion, but have shown an interest in everything we've shared there about the Kingdom.
- Yi are probably one of the poorest nationalities in China. They live without much, if any, income. Yi are looked down upon by most other nationalities as “luohou” (backwards). They are animists who live in the high mountains of southwest China.
There are more than 8.25 million Yi in China – of which there are only an estimated 150,000 Christians.
“You need to look at a topographical map to understand the terrain of southwest China and why God chose to send a mountaineer there,” Eileen Fraser Crossman wrote about her father in Mountain Rain.
She might also have been writing about members of Climbing For Christ. We go where others will not or cannot. Often this takes us into the enemy’s territory. Places where the soil is rocky. Mountain villages where hearts are hardened.
We go because the Lord sends us. We go because the victory was won on a cross on a hill, and we are blessed to deliver that Good News to other hills. We go to sow among rocks and thorns and in soil that will produce a great harvest. It has been said the missionary’s job is to water with diligence. We are working for eternity.
This story originally appeared in The Climbing Way (Volume 10, Summer 2008). Editor's note: It was later learned that village leaders and neighbors of the man who accepted Christ threatened him until he disavowed following Jesus. It is our hope that he still holds Jesus close to his heart. Please pray for this man, and others facing similar danger.