Lin Ling of the Federation of People with Disabilities was reluctant to meet leaders of the Luzhou Christian Church.
But Peter Shen, who serves as China consultant for the ELCA, knew that Lin wanted to improve services to children with cerebral palsy — and that the Luzhou Christian Church’s 24-year-old early childhood program stood ready to help.
When Lin met Liao Xiao Qin, a pastor of Luzhou Christian Church, and heard her vision for serving the community, Lin was excited about the possibilities for collaboration.
An ELCA grant to the 15,000 member Luzhou Christian Church — one of the biggest church bodies in the province of Sichuan and a companion Lutheran church to the ELCA — supported special training for two teachers from Grace Nursery School.
In September 2009, young children with cerebral palsy began to attend class, joining other pupils for art and music.
Four church, social service and government leaders from Sichuan province shared the story to a rapt audience during an ELCA Global Mission Event. They were proud to tell listeners how Christianity in China has exploded since 1979, when the government began to allow religious expression.
Pastor Liao’s church is one of 60,000 churches and meeting points registered with the China Christian Council and the Three Self Patriotic Church, an umbrella of Protestant churches formed after denominational structures were abolished. Today these post-denominational churches are overflowing with worshipers and launching vibrant ministries.
“Jesus came not to be served but to serve,” says Pastor Liao. Through her congregation’s health clinic, the nursery school and the new cerebral palsy program, “not only our members, but all of the community, have seen us witness to the Lord,” she says.