ONE BELT ONE ROAD: HIGHWAY FOR MISSIONS?

In 2013, President Xi Jinping announced China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) plan to connect Asia and Europe with a 21st Century Silk Road by land and sea (One Road) to create an expansive Silk Road Economic Belt (One Belt) involving 65 countries and 4.4 billion people.  Instead of inviting foreign investment into China, she now seeks to influence global trade by investing outwards.

FIRST STOP ON THE NEW SILK ROAD: KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet state, became independent in 1991. It is separated from Xinjiang by the Tianshan Mountain. Like other Central Asian countries, 80% of her 5-6 million population is Muslim. 10-15 years ago, she was enamored with China’s successful transition from planned economy to market economy. She welcomed Chinese people and Chinese businesses. But such favor has been squandered away over time.

A SOBERING ANECDOTE

A few years ago, a Kyrgyz Christian entrepreneur started a cattle farm in his father’s home village, creating many jobs for the villagers. He also sponsors soccer teams for the village youth, gives out free coal to old people in the winter, and quickly became a respected benefactor of the community. His farm raised cattle for meat exports and milk for the domestic market. When there was a surplus of milk, he wanted to build a plant to produce powdered milk for the vast Chinese market. After China’s 2008 milk scandal, it would be easy to find Chinese investors. Moreover, the project would benefit the village. He went to China and returned with a business plan.

OF TRADE & MISSIONS -- THEN & NOW

Since the time of the Apostle Paul, trade routes have always been highways for missions, taking missionaries from the Old World to the New, and from the West to the East. 

Church of the West: World Changers With Mixed Reviews

Before the U.S. emerged as the pre-eminent superpower after WWII, Europe had been dominating the world for 500 years. Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, England and France were the major powers that explored, traded, and colonized many parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas.

During those 500 years, missions and trade were associated with colonial expansion, resulting in criticism from historians and anthropologists.

LESSONS FROM 1ST MILLENNIUM TRADING CENTER

Trading Centers: Hubs for Outreach

During the first millennium, the spread of Christianity by the Church of the East started from major trading centers that were cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural communities. With the coexistence and confluence of languages, ideas and religions, people were more open- minded, less tied to any set of traditions or beliefs. 

Along the ancient Silk Road, everyone needed a socially understandable identity to not only travel but settle down. As now so then, merchants could go anywhere and be welcomed. Furthermore, trade funded their travels.

NEW SILK ROAD -- BOON OR BANE?

China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) vision promises to revive the Ancient Silk Road with a vast network of trade routes linking China with Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, serving as a conduit for diplomacy and economic expansion.

To what extent and how quickly OBOR will achieve its objectives is unknown. Regardless, this Titanic of the Chinese Dream has sailed. The July 2016 Economist devoted three pages to discuss its geopolitical and economic significance.

OBOR POTENTIALS FOR 10/40 WINDOW MISSIONS

As we review how trade and missions reached the ancient world, we need to discern how God may work in our time as China’s One Belt One Road initiative impacts the countries and peoples in this vast region of the world that is the heart of the 10/40 Window. In the June 2016 issue of Great Commission Bi-monthly, Dr. Kim Kwong Chan outlined the OBOR missiological implications.

MEL & JANE - CALLED AMIDST CAREERS ABROAD

Spring of 2011, first year out of college, Jane was sent by her company to China on a 3-month rotation. Within a few weeks, she had led her language tutor and her masseuse to Christ. They brought their friends and cousins to cook dinner and study the Bible together at Jane’s apartment every Thursday night. Some of the women were young professionals like Jane. In time, many more of them came to faith.

ED & ZOE - WAKE UP CALL TO THE ORIGINAL PLAN

Ed grew up wanting to be a missionary. Through childhood comic books and guest speakers at conferences, he saw missions as heroic adventures in exotic places. One retreat speaker was engaged in sports missions and shared the Gospel around the world as a basketball player. That too seemed cool. Becoming a missionary had been for Ed a serious career plan since middle school.