Dear (Home-Bound) Friends and Family,
There have been many changes in the world around us since I last wrote back in January. Although COVID-19 (aka, the CCP Virus, after China's Communist Party) had already appeared at that point, it still seemed confined to central China. Now nearly every nation on earth has been dramatically affected, if not by the actual virus, then by loss of jobs and freedoms, coupled with loneliness and fear. We have been praying daily as a family that God would have mercy on us, our nations, and our leaders, as well as the remaining unreached peoples of the world. None of us "deserve" this mercy, for we are sinners one and all, but may God delight by grace to remove this virus quickly so that the Gospel might continue to be proclaimed freely among all the remaining unreached peoples of the world!
Safe Trip in a Brewing Storm
On my journey to Malaysia (via Philadelphia, Newark, and Hong Kong) in late January, I did not encounter any problems at all. The large Chinese church conference that I attended there was also unaffected by the virus, although many people wore masks and many (1,500+) attendees from central China were not able to come. Recently, we were informed that out of the 3,500 of us who did gather, not one case of the coronavirus was ever reported, even months later. Praise God for that!
Persecution (and Pandemics) Will Change You
One of the most helpful quotes from the conference back in January was by pastor Tim Keller, who made the following observation:
"Persecution will either make you a better Christian or a worse Christian, depending on how you receive it. But it will not leave you the same."
This is also true of our current circumstances. The "pandemic" will either draw us closer to Christ, or will reveal that we are not as close to Him as we ought to be, depending on how we respond to the waves crashing down around us. “Staying the same" doesn't seem to be an option. In this difficult season, may the Father make us more like Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit! No matter what, our hope is in the One who is Sovereign over all things. "Persecution will either make you a better Christian or a worse Christian, depending on how you receive it. But it will not leave you the same." This principle is true of our current circumstances. The "pandemic" (and its aftermath) will either draw us closer to Christ, or will reveal that we are not as close to Him as we ought to be. Much depends on how we respond to the waves crashing down around us. “Staying the same" doesn't seem to be an option. May the Father sanctify us in this difficult season; to make us more like Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit!
Everyone is Banned from China (For Now)
On Chinese New Year (Jan 25), I flew over the North Pole (Newark to Hong Kong) and then right down through the heart of China! It brought me joy to see so many places (from the air) that I have visited previously in person, before being banned (what’s the opposite of "quarantined"?) from China for 5 years back in 2018. We even flew directly over the now infamous city of Wuhan! Unfortunately, nearly all China outreach is now on hold due to the travel restrictions in place because of the virus. China has banned all new entries by foreigners as of March 28. By God's grace, our long-term Latino missionaries in China were already home for a scheduled furlough when the outbreak began. Please pray that they can return home to China as scheduled! Pray also for the countless seeds planted through the years, that this would be a season of harvest and "that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored"! (2 Thes. 3:1)
Pastor Wang Yi Alive (but Still in Shackles)
Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to 9 years in prison in December, 2019. Up until now there was no visual evidence of his personal well-being, but a picture has just surfaced. I hope this will put a face to the name, and encourage us to continue interceding. Please pray for Wang Yi according to his own wishes, as seen in a family newsletter published before his arrest:
"If God is willing to put [me] in prison for a prolonged sabbatical, we will also receive it as abundant grace…If [I am] imprisoned, [I] will entrust everything to the Lord and start [my] personal prison ministry. If [I am] free, [I] will be even bolder in preaching and ask God to transform [me] into a preacher that will “turn the world upside down”. We want to place ourselves in the middle of the lasting conflict between the gospel and the Chinese culture, and personally witness the spiritual warfare between Christ and Pharaoh. We pray that the Lord will, according to His own will, propel and send us forward continuously and steadily until the day of the Lord’s victory." - Pastor Wang Yi and family (November 27, 2018)
Prison Doors are Closed in Peru
I was finally able to return to the mountain prison in late February, but this time with my family. I preached to many of the same inmates, as well as in a completely new ward, while my wife was asked to minister in the "ladies” section. Unfortunately, just two weeks later, Peru completely "locked-down" under martial law, and gatherings of any kind have been forbidden until further notice. We had originally planned to return before Easter and again around Mother's Day, but at this point there is no way of knowing when those (prison) doors will open for us again. Please pray for the prisoners, who are now even more isolated than usual, and that the believers among them would continue to faithfully proclaim the Word!
Paddle to Tibet?
As I have shared before, we are making plans to "blaze a trail" from the Peruvian Andes to the Tibetan Plateau. However,at this point in time, as airline travel is cancelled left and right, we might literally have to "row a boat" there instead! And it would be worth all the effort, if that were truly the only way! Jokes aside, we are still in the process of training future pioneer missionaries to reach parts of Tibet that are completely inaccessible to 99.9% of us. During the month of February (back in the good ole days when driving and flying was not illegal in Peru) I was able to teach on missions in numerous mountain districts, from the shores of Lake Titicaca in the south to the glacier-clad peaks of Ancash in the north, encouraging the churches and raising awareness of the need for the Gospel in western China and Tibet. Please join us in praying that God would continue to call Peruvians to join in the harvest, and to provide for all of their needs in His perfect timing!
The West Family
How to give:
Online - https://give.iphc.org/project/china-nw-missionary-support
Check - Make payable to: WMMD / PO Box 12609 / OKC, OK 73157 (Memo: #21313P)
Stay in touch:
Here are some helpful (free!) resources, arranged by topic:
Coronavirus Chaos w Dr. Heidi Abraham
How to Pastor a Congregation With No Internet
The Church Must Be A Refuge in the Midst of Fear
Advice from South Korean Pastors who have "Been There"
6 Reasons Why (One Particular Church) Is Not Streaming Worship
Deep Dive into How the Early Church Dealt with Plagues and Pandemics
How Pandemic Isolation is Like Missionary Life
Hudson Taylor himself wrote this book 150+ years ago
Some things are hard for a missionary's family to understand
Some say "a plane ticket doesn't make a missionary", however...