In the Footsteps of Matteo Ricci
I have just returned from my 30th trip to China in the last 12 years. This was my first trip back to China in the last four years since Covid broke out and shut down all travel around the
world. Let me introduce you to one of my new friends. The picture on the left is of the statue of the Italian missionary Mateo Ricci which stands in Beijing, China. Mateo Ricci is buried in a special government cemetery there. Chris and I actually got to visit this cemetery about nine years ago, and were able to take a picture of what the Chinese government says about Mateo Ricci (image on the right).
The inscription reads, “Mateo Ricci, an Italian missionary, came to China in 1582 and besides preaching, he also introduced Western sciences on astronomy, calendar, geography, and mathematics to Chinese people. He was buried here in 1611 which occurred after his death in 1610.”
Mateo Ricci was instrumental in the way in which he adopted science as sort of an entry point to communicate a Christian worldview and then later on to make known the gospel itself to people. In many ways, he was very effective in a time when it was hard to get any kind of entry point going in China.
Ricci’s most famous contribution was the clock, which he presented to the Emperor of China at the time, showing a mechanized scientific way to measure time. If you go to the city of Tianjin today, there’s a big clock monument there in honor of Mateo Ricci introducing the mechanics of a clock into China.
Before Ricci, many other missionaries went into China and they worked outside of the government and outside of its institutions. They slowly began to set up hospitals which became the entry point, both in China and in many parts of Africa, for presenting a Christian worldview toward the body, the value of human life, the treatment of diseases, using a scientific approach, and eventually, making known the love of God through caring for the sick and the needy. Most of the hospitals in China in the 17th and 18th centuries were started by missionaries.
What does all this have to do with us today and our recent trip to China? Well, over the last number of years, we have helped many of the Chinese believers learn the value of human life according to the Bible, the need to reject abortion as a shedding of innocent blood, experiencing God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ and loving their neighbors through medical institutions which have enabled pregnancy help clinics to be built. They have opened three pregnancy help clinics in hospitals inside China, and these hospitals have now rescued almost 1,500 infants over the last few years by helping their mothers choose life.
This has gotten the attention of some very significant leaders now in China who want to know how they could spread this approach to other hospitals. I was invited to come and meet with some significant university scholars and some medical researchers to explain to them what a pregnancy help medical clinic is, how it is set up and how it works effectively. Also I helped them narrow down what is needed to do that and what difference it makes to have doctors that use the handheld ultrasound in these offices while volunteers can spend time with the mother and talk to her about her choice and giving her a hope and a future.
This is quite a change in our strategies from years before when we just went in quietly and worked at a very low level. Now we are entering a new phase in which we want to work with these universities and these hospitals to set up more clinics in China. We are going to use the science of the humanity of the unborn child to promote the gospel of life as well.
The ultrasound comes into play here in a drastic manner. We are going to be training people how to work and serve in these hospitals to come alongside these mothers and rescue their babies, one mom at a time. We are going to adopt some of the philosophy of Mateo Ricci which is, in certain secular contexts, lead with science but let the gospel shine through in all that you say and do.
That’s our new effort going forward in China. Thanks for your ongoing support and effort in spreading the word. Let’s pray that a new season and new opportunities continue to open up for us in the Land of the Red Dragon. Thanks.