On my computer and in my heart I found a strange juxtaposition of reports. As I got the first official news items from the General Conference Session in Atlanta, which talked about ending violence and discrimination toward women while also stating firmly that we will not discuss the ordination of women, I received word from my friend Rebekah Liu of her ordination in China.
Ordained on May 22, 2010, Rebekah leads with a strong background in ministry, as well as impressive goals for future ministry. Further, she continues an active ministry while completing a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (specialized in the Book of Revelation) at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Michigan.
Converted at 17 in her home province of Sichuan in Southwest China, baptized at 18, Rebekah began before her baptism to visit the countryside house churches with her mother, who had started the church in Sichuan in 1988. After finishing high school, Rebekah chose to work for the church; at 19 she began preaching and doing other pastoral work in the house churches. For four years she and her mother and brother worked as lay volunteers, often in difficult circumstances. Her mother was forced by the situation there to become the church leader and to personally finance the church.
In 1993 Rebekah went to the Philippines to earn a B.Th., returning to China in 1996, by which time the church had grown enough to give her family members a small salary. She preached, did pastoral visitation with her mother in Sichuan and with her husband in Shanghai, and mainly did lay leadership training around the Shanghai area and some also in Sichuan.
Feeling the need of further education, and seeing doors open for her to come to Andrews University, Rebekah began her doctoral studies in 2000, now and then receiving a small monthly stipend from her local church in Chengdu, Sichuan, which she has supplemented with earned scholarships. Her unswerving, ambitious goal is to create a portable seminary in China, taking advanced training to pastors who cannot leave their churches to attend a seminary in the Philippines or Michigan, or even a Three-Self Patriotic Movement seminary in China.
Whenever she flies home during a break, Rebekah does some lay training. And last year during a vacation, after two weeks with her husband and young son, she and her brother visited Tibet and spent time with the family of two Buddhist monks (one a physician) who had been baptized as Adventists in 1999 but needed grounding in the faith. They studied the Bible with them each evening and assessed the possibilities and need for mission work there. Friends who had given Rebekah a little money to help with food or travel expenses learned that she used it instead to provide tuition for one of these men to study Han Chinese in order to communicate better with church leaders.
The church in Sichuan Province now has 10,000 members (in a total population of 100 million, China’s largest province), with 400 churches and other meeting places and four pastors (three of them women).
When the provincial church decided to ordain Rebekah, they perceived that her ministry would not be limited to Sichuan but would belong to all of China. Therefore they invited four pastors, coming in from the four corners of China, to officiate. One, a patriarch of the Adventist Church in China, is one of the most respected pastors in the country. Another, by Rebekah’s request, is a woman, this being the first time in the Adventist Church in China that a woman pastor co-officiated in ordaining another woman minister.
Throughout the whole service, tears kept on running down from my eyes. A deep sense of unworthiness and gratitude overwhelmed me. I felt I was not worthy to be ordained into the gospel ministry and to be a coworker of the Lord in a special sense, yet He called me to do the work together with Him.
After the ordination, there was an afternoon service for praise in song. Seven lady pastors were present and were asked by the congregation to go onstage and sing a song entitled, "Lord, I Want To Ask You: Why Do You Love Me So Much!" For years already Rebekah Liu has been pouring God's love out to the people of China and Tibet and bringing them to Him. Surely He will continue to bless her ministry, and all of China will recognize her having been set apart by the church and by God for gospel ministry, whether the rest of the world church does or not.