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Women's Sunday

Written by Doug and Liz Searles
February 1, 2005

Dear Friends,

In China, many of the new pastors are women, and during the 50 years when Christianity was prohibited, women kept the church alive by opening their homes to "family churches."

When we were first in China, John Thomas and Dick Hamm of the UCC and DOC visited us in China. Because of their visit, it became known that we are missionaries. Missionaries are prohibited in China, so we had some concern about what this would mean for our continuing work. As it turned out, though, it was a real blessing for us.

In the days after our church leaders left, we got many questions from students and colleagues about our faith and about Christianity. By law, we may always answer questions and share "cultural information". One woman, Cindy, approached me (Liz): "I hear you are a believer," she said. "Yes," I responded. "I am too," she said.

It turns out that Cindy had been in the U.S. for a six-month student exchange. During that time, she became a Christian and was baptized. When she returned to China, she converted her best friend. That friend, Phoebe, ended up going to seminary and is now a pastor at Guang Han church.

Guang Han church is a miracle church. Last November, they dedicated their huge new church--built to accommodate five times the number in their congregation now. They built on faith that they would fill the church in five years. Last Christmas Eve, the church was full for their Christmas Eve service--full of the curious, the searching, and those who wanted to see what Christians do on Christmas Eve.

It has taken a lot of courage for Cindy and Phoebe to openly practice their faith. Phoebe is a visionary leader in a growing and influential church. She is also a musician and takes part in the international choir we founded last year. Thanks to Phoebe, our ministry and outreach has grown, too. And all of this is because Cindy was reached by American Christians, and John Thomas and Dick Hamm let it be known that we are missionaries.

As you celebrate Women's Sunday, please pray for the women of China. Many endure stark poverty, spousal abuse, discrimination in jobs and education, and unemployment. There are many rich people in China now, but they are a small percentage--perhaps 3%--of the entire population of 1.5 million. Life is still quite hard for most women.

In Tibetan areas where we work, women have a strong voice in local affairs. In April, we're hoping to start a women's cooperative in Daofu County, where most families earn less than $150 per year.

When women earn more money--are economically empowered--great things happen. We find that women who earn money benefit their families in ways that may not happen when the men make more money. Men sometimes drink or gamble the money away. Women spend the money to educate their children and improve the diet and health of their families. Also, we find that women who earn money gradually are treated better by their husbands. Spousal abuse often ceases once women are earning money on their own.

Please pray for the Daofu women's cooperative and that it will get off the ground and become a pilot project for women in other counties to emulate. And pray that we'll be able to get the right patterns and sewing machines, etc. for them to use, as well.

Also, please pray for the work of Niyima Youngtso, who had a choice between teaching, a government job with some security, and working with a two-year project to help diagnose and cure people with hydatids, a disease that Tibetan get from the yak and sheep they work with. She has spent many months traveling to villages and working with people who have little--no clean water, good food, or electricity.

She feels her work is very hard, but that she has been called to serve her people. Her husband and child sometimes find it very hard that she is away from home so much. Hers is a clear call to service, and she is an example for all of our Tibetan students. Keep her and the people she serves in your prayers, won't you?

Blessings on all your ministries!

The Searles family:
Doug, Liz, Mackenzie & Mickey
Chengdu, Sichuan, China Doug and Elizabeth Searles work with the Sichuan TV and Radio University in Chengdu, China. They both serve as English teachers. Make a gift for this Mission placement

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