It’s an all too familiar story: a brave evangelist travels through China, sharing Christ wherever the Spirit leads him. Harassment, mistreatment and arrest do not stop him from sharing the Gospel. However, we often do not hear about his lonely wife or his children who are practically growing up without a father. Over the years, Open Doors has invested a great deal in Christian marriages in China by offering a marriage course that house church networks could easily duplicate and sustain on their own.
“Many children of Christian evangelists resented the Christian faith”, says brother Enlai*, a Christian who together with his wife Fang taught the marriage course for years. “The Christians considered their sacrifice as spiritual. Our training has a strong biblical foundation and cites many Scripture passages. This increased the acceptance of ‘Blessed Family’ by church leaders. Many, if not most, Chinese churches didn’t consider marriage training a priority, or even a need, to the church.”
The marriage course has been taught to several thousand Christians. Many churches started to offer the course to their own members. “Marriage is the closest relationship we have on the earth”, says Enlai. “It is an expression of the love of God. In the journey of marriage, we are forced to face ourselves truly. If I say I love God but I keep on having poor relationship with my wife, I wonder whether I can truly live out the faith, or I am just a hypocrite. Marriages were restored through our trainings and those healthier marriages helped brothers to serve better. They could genuinely take up the responsibility of heading the family, and serving the church. Without a healthy marriage, it was hard for co-workers to serve in a sustainable manner.”
“My life and relationship with my wife were totally turned around as a result of attending Open Doors’ Marriage Enrichment course”, says one lay church leader. “When I look back, I can see that I was totally ignorant about what marriage is all about. No one had taught me anything about it. I used to hurt my wife so much whenever I ignored her and didn’t care for her. I just did not know how to speak to my wife. Growing up, I had never heard my father say anything to my mother except when he scolded and quarreled with her.”
Following their own experience from the marriage course, this house church leader decided to help other couples in his house church network. “We formed a family ministry team to promote this project and often conducted one-day seminars for couples. Once we had as many as 80 couples attend. During the one-day seminar, we would select and teach one lesson from the full course. By God’s grace, even through just one day of teaching, we have begun to see restored and renewed marriage relationships. We asked some of the couples to share how the course helped them draw closer to each other and to God. A number of husbands have demonstrated sudden changes by doing things they have never done before, such as helping with housework and caring for the children. The positive result from the marriage courses is spreading in our churches.”