Worth the Risk in China
In 2015, Jerry An received a curious message. “I think I know who you are.”
The message included a link to an account on the popular Chinese social media platform, WeChat, and it used many of the same tools and applications for sharing Gods Word that Jerry presents to Chinese-speaking leaders. Jerry serves as ReFrame's Chinese ministry leader.
The sender was mistaken, but the account was clearly the work of a Christian who was also gifted with technical skills and who was forward-thinking about the role of apps and social media in the Chinese church. Jerry’s curiosity was piqued.
Jerry learned that the account was run by Wang, an IT professional living in China. Before the end of their first conversation, Jerry knew that he wanted Wang to partner with ReFrame.
But this partnership would come at a cost.
Because Wang was located in China, all of ReFrame’s WeChat accounts would have to be registered under his name. This meant the Chinese government could hold Wang accountable if they found out what he was doing.
“Wang was aware of the risk, but he saw it as necessary,” Jerry said.
As part of ReFrame’s team, Wang began developing new WeChat accounts and a website to support them. The accounts provided audio Bible messages and devotional resources to Chinese users despite the government restrictions placed on most Christian content.
By mid 2021, more than 200,000 people were reading and responding to the gospel messages through the channels that Wang built.
In 2018,Wang received the heartbreaking news that he had been diagnosed with a rare bone-marrow disease. Soon his entire immune system began to break down. And in the summer of 2021, Wang passed away.
Even as Wang battled this disease, he never gave up trying to share his gifts with God’s kingdom.
“My symptoms have made it hard to work over the past year,” he wrote in a message to Jerry. “I should have done more despite those things. I’m ashamed with my shortcomings.”
In the same week that Wang passed away, the Chinese government also shut down the largest WeChat account he managed, leaving 200,000 people without their regular flow of Bible passages, reflections, and audio guides.
Just a few weeks later, the government also shut down ReFrame’s devotional page, which had an additional 40 thousand followers.
Although losing Wang has been devastating, ReFrame’s Chinese ministry team is moving forward with sharing the gospel.
“Brother Wang gave five years of his life to this ministry, and by doing so he transformed how we work and set us up as a new media ministry,” said Jerry. “The whole team is indebted to him.”
In the short term, Jerry plans to focus heavily on publishing books for Chinese Christian leaders and seekers. Still, he and his team are constantly monitoring the Chinese government’s next moves as they seek to continue using the accounts that haven’t been shut down and build new web tools.
“We see new media as the future of the church in China,” Jerry added. “New media has no boundaries and offers us important ways of reaching out.”