• From Athens to Shenzhen

From Athens To Shenzhen, Paul’s Words Ring Out

I have never traveled from Athens to Shenzhen. However, I have traveled to China fifteen times, and most of those trips involved three weeks in Shenzhen each time. Please click on the image below to see Shenzhen’s location.

As I have written before, my job situation took me to China. Although I did not want to go, I believed God told me to go. There was one particular trip that I will never forget. Whenever I read the verses in Acts 17 included in the featured image above the title, I think of that trip. The verse is from the Apostle Paul’s speech in Athens, Greece.

English Corner

I was busy doing the assignment I was hired to do at an electronics manufacturing facility in Shenzhen. My assignment was to be a technical liaison between two American corporations and a factory in China. Out of the blue, a Human Resources officer for the factory asked me to come to the roof of the building at 6:00 pm for “English Corner.” I thought it was a meeting for the Chinese to practice their English. When I arrived on the roof, I was unprepared for what was before me. There was a red velvet table for me to sit behind as I looked at an audience of over a hundred factory laborers. There were TV cameras and audio recording equipment. The banners that were erected created an atmosphere similar to a political rally.

I tried to only talk about safe things because I didn’t know where the political lines were drawn. For example, I tried to discuss the differences in the weather in Southeast China and Texas. After all, Human Resources invited me, and I was confident I would get in trouble if I inadvertently caused a freedom movement or a labor union. But, the audience asked if I thought Americans had more freedom than them. They also asked if I thought their employer was treating them fairly.

My Poor Attempt To Split The Baby

At this point, I tried to split the baby. I told this young audience of 17 to 30-year-olds that working for a large, harsh employer was good until they gained experience. After two years, the young workers could improve their resumes and move to another company if they still didn’t like their employer. I admitted that America had more freedom, but I told them that with freedom comes responsibility. Again, I told them that with work experience, they would become more responsible and better equipped to strive for freedom.

As in the story of Solomon suggesting to split a baby in half, the righteous were unhappy with my suggestion. I’ll never forget their crestfallen faces. They continued with a question written on a poster. It asked, “What makes an ordinary life extraordinary?” I don’t remember what I told them, but I remember what I thought. It would only be a matter of time until Paul’s words from Athens were heard from the rooftops in Shenzhen. At the time, I felt that if I recited Paul, I might never see my daughter and son again. It is essential to realize that from the roof, I could see the local communist headquarters and a Buddhist Temple. Preaching Christianity was a punishable offense there.

Preaching From The Rooftops

I had already seen myself shouting at China from over the sea. I believed it was not my time or place to preach from the rooftops. Perhaps my fear clouded my judgment. Undoubtedly, the fear of not seeing my family again weighed heavy on my mind. However, as I looked across the labor camp, I felt confident that God would send others to shout His message from the rooftops. From Athens to Shenzhen, the distance is well over five thousand miles. God’s message spoken by Paul from Athens to Shenzhen will (or has) traveled almost two thousand years.

I write this to inspire someone to do what I wouldn’t or couldn’t do. I am confident it will happen so frequently that the government cannot stop it. Sadly, years after my rooftop encounter, young workers were so dismayed that they were jumping off the roofs! Now, in another part of China, the government is imprisoning people who practice a religion not approved by the Chinese Communist Party. Not only are these victims being imprisoned. They are being killed, and their organs are being harvested for financial gain!

The Stones Will Cry Out

Yes, I blog about Jesus instead of using an opportunity to praise him from a rooftop. Let me remind you what Jesus said on the first Palm Sunday. Luke 19:37-40 reads.

 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Appointed Times In History

You see, only God knows if I failed to do right when I had my chance on a rooftop in Shenzhen. Yet, Luke tells us the praise for Jesus cannot be stifled. I pray that an appointed time in history allows the message from Acts 17 to reach from Athens to Shenzhen and the rest of the world.