He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents… Malachi 4:6a
ManFu’s parents are key leaders in a house church network—his father serves as a regional pastor in one of the largest cities in China, and his mother is a Bible teacher. They travel constantly, preaching and teaching at a different congregation almost every weekend. Their little pre-school daughter goes along, but it’s not a stable environment for ManFu, their teenage son, to keep up with his studies. So they enrolled him in a boarding school in his father’s home village, so he could spend weekends with his grandfather.
They pledged to telephone him every Saturday night, but for itinerant pastors in China, Saturday nights are busy, demanding times. ManFu’s parents would sometimes get so caught up with ministry that they missed their weekly call to their son—sometimes three in a row. And even then, they often cut off what he was telling them with a hurried barrage of questions which felt critical and unloving to their son. Although their questions were rooted in concern for his welfare, to ManFu each conversation felt like an interrogation, and he began to wish they would stop calling. His parents became frantic as to how they could effectively reach out to him.
Brother Samuel, an Open Doors trainer, suggested they begin by writing a letter to their son, pouring out their hopes and love and prayers for him. “Share about the struggles you have and how much you long for him to be by your side. Help him to see all that is in your heart. Kneel before the Lord and pray before you begin this letter. Don’t mention the past. Whenever your son thinks of you, he will take the letter out and read it and know his parents are praying for him.”
Accepting their mentor’s assignment, they went home to write to their first-born, hundreds of miles away. Unknown to the parents, their letter never arrived. But by the time they found out, they told Samuel, it didn’t matter anymore. Their phone conversations had been transformed week after week, as the parents focused on sharing their love and prayers for ManFu. Although the letter itself was lost, its contents had been written in their hearts—and ManFu felt their love.
When ManFu’s summer school vacation approached, Samuel advised the anxious parents to set aside special family times to do things together. “It doesn’t matter where you go – to the park or for walks – but you must take a family photograph,” he advised. “Then take one photograph and write on the back of it for your son to take back to school with him. Whenever he looks at it, he will be reminded of his parents and that you love him.”
When Samuel shared this testimony with pastors in other regions, many admitted that they also had strained relationships with their children. Confused how to resolve the guilt they were experiencing, they had simply given up—until they heard how God worked in ManFu’s family.
“It’s amazing to see parents being set free and healed from their feelings of guilt, to see them turn to God and experience His love,” Samuel said. “And this in turn blessed their children.”
RESPONSE: Today I will work on communications with family members to assure them of my love.
PRAYER: Pray for mentors like Samuel who strengthen pastors and their families in China’s unregistered church through balanced, holistic ministry.