On a busy thoroughfare in the Guangxi province of China, six Americans meandered amongst the natives while the local mafia followed close behind.
Last summer, Allie Wilcox ’02 led a group from Westmont that traveled to China. Michael Curtis ’02, Sara Rundle ’01, Aimee Tang ’03 and chemistry Professor Pamela Holt joined her to reach a people who can’t legally proclaim Jesus Christ outside of registered churches.
Wilcox, who majors in English and helps lead the senior high school youth group at Ocean Hills Covenant Church, has long been interested in summer missions. A presentation during Westmont’s Missions Emphasis week caught her attention. “I attended the meeting on China and I thought, ‘China. I know nothing about it. I have to go!” Wilcox explained.
Wilcox was selected as the group’s leader and charged with uniting the team before departure. In preparation, they held weekly meetings, covering everything from the basics of the Mandarin language to obtaining a passport.
The departure date arrived quickly. Less than a week out of school, Wilcox boarded a plane and left the country for the first time in her life. “I was quite nervous; after all it is a 12-hour flight. But I remember looking out of the tiny window to see below me. I was completely overtaken by the beautiful scenery,” Wilcox said.
The group connected with Greg Crawford of Commit Ministries once it landed in Hong Kong. He served as their tour guide for the journey.
The goal of the trip was to create relationships with fellow Christians as well as to witness to non-Christians. Wilcox and her team were able to meet with several pastors and spend time with some members of their congregations. These pastors make the equivalent of 100 U.S. dollars a year, and risk their lives to build a congregation.
When Wilcox and the team met with pastors, they were often followed and watched by the local mafia. This underground group is employed by the government and can be violent. Their main concern is preventing the illegal growth of home churches.
The team was able to reach three of the 52 cultural minorities in China: the Yao, Miao, and Dong. The government approves “cultural parks”where minority groups display their cultures, presenting dances, music, and food. Wilcox and the team focused on these events for most of their outreach.
The group handed out small tracts written in Chinese characters and bracelets that symbolized the life of Christ. The only way they could legally justify their evangelism was by describing the tracts and bracelets as “gifts.” The greatest response came from the youth. “These people don’t have literature to read, so it was incredible to watch them stop what they were doing and read through something so important,” said Wilcox.
One team member was bold enough to give a soldier a tract at one of the cultural parks. This same soldier chased them as they left, screaming as she approached them. “I thought we were about to get kicked out of the country,” Wilcox said. She was frantic to catch the group and get more tracts for her friends. They were surprised and handed her plenty more. She took the tracts, boarded a bus full of soldiers, and began passing out the gospel. “Only God does that,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox has kept in touch with those she met in the Guangxi Province and hopes to return this summer. She gained a new perspective on faith and looks back on the trip as a life-changing experience. “As Americans, we are so blessed,” she reflected. “It’s time to share our gifts and Christ’s love with the rest of the world.”