Note: The following three articles reveal what Charisma discovered in the early stages of the coronavirus, when news was first beginning to spread about a virus in China.
Missionary to China: How Christians Are Responding to Dangerous COVID-19
By Dennis Balcombe
At the time of this writing, this coronavirus, now classified as COVID-19, has officially resulted in over 60,000 proven infections with more than 1,300 deaths. The true numbers are without a doubt much more, as many have died at home and no report was made to the authorities, and the numbers will probably exponentially increase before it is brought under control.
In Hong Kong, while there have been 50 proven infections with only one death to date, the whole city is on lockdown and probably over 99% are wearing face masks in public places including church meetings. The borders to China have been effectively closed and everyone coming from China, including HK citizens, must be quarantined for two weeks; all schools have been canceled; and all civil servants and many in other professions such as those working with banks work from home.
There has been panic buying and illegal price increases of face masks, which are in short supply, and other items such as toilet paper, sanitary items and even rice. These are not in short supply, but fake news and false rumors resulted in panic buying.
But for the church, this has been a blessing in disguise, and a great opportunity to pray and spread the gospel. There have been many citywide prayer meetings in which Christians from all groups and different denominations gather to pray and worship, thus resulting in more unity. Prayer meetings in most churches are much better attended than previously.
Many Christians and local churches are using this as an opportunity to help many in the panicking society, and to share Christ with others. Several weeks ago, when face masks were in short supply in Wuhan, many Christians were on the street freely distributing them to the people with a gospel message and prayers for the people.
Revival Christian Church has a ministry to provide free-of-charge small bottles of disinfectant alcohol, which are in short stock in the stores, and through this, share the gospel with the people in our district.
While many other churches canceled their services last Sunday, RCC had services as normal. But the temperature of everyone was checked at the door, and the whole congregation wore face masks. The attendance was actually higher than normal as many from churches that had closed the meetings came. There was a record of over 1,900 who watched on Facebook live. When the altar call was given, in both services, dozens came forward to rededicate their lives to the Lord, to accept Christ and receive healing.
This is an exact repeat of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in 2003, which killed 774 worldwide and 299 in Hong Kong. At that time SARS resulted in a massive economic depression to the Hong Kong economy, property and stock market crash, massive unemployment, yet revival in the church. Due to the fear of possible death resulting from infection by the virus, many came to church and became Christians. It is possible this will be repeated in this COVID-19 epidemic.
SARS began in China but spread to Hong Kong through a massive cover-up on the part of the Chinese authorities. History has repeated itself, and one of the headlines in our local newspapers is "Coronavirus: hundreds in China sign petition for free speech."
These hundreds are leading intellectuals and academics, many in the medical profession, and they are taking a great risk to their careers and personal freedom by openly signing petitions calling for free speech. Their petition was to the National People's Congress, which listed five demands, including one to protect people's rights to freedom of expression.
Tsinghua University sociologist Guo Yuhua said, "If the warnings were heard much earlier, this outbreak wouldn't have got to the state of no return." (From South China Morning Post's Feb. 12 article "Coronavirus: Li Wenliang's death prompts academics to challenge Beijing on freedom of speech.")
This relates to the death of Li Wenliang, the doctor who was reprimanded by the police for trying to warn people about the virus outbreak last December. Within a few hours of his death there were nearly 2 million entries on the Chinese social media Weibo calling for freedom of speech and tens of thousands expressed their views that the government owes Dr. Li an apology. All of these millions of comments were quickly censored and removed. But the fact remains that in both SARS and COVID-19, some Chinese authorities have put social stability over the welfare and health of the people.
In this case, many officials in Wuhan and other parts of Hubei Province who mishandled the crisis have been dismissed from their posts. While nobody can be sure of the future, we can pray that this devastating epidemic will result in more freedoms to the people, including the freedom to share the gospel message.
Only time will tell if this will happen, but we know now the churches in Wuhan and Hong Kong and possibly other places are rising up to meet the challenge through God's Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. We have testimonies of Christians in Wuhan who were affected with the virus receiving healing through prayer. Even more exciting, we have heard that many previously lukewarm believers have renewed their lives and devotion to the Lord.
Unbelieving Chinese will see the lack of fear, and joy, peace and confidence in the lives of believers. Coupled with practical gospel outreach programs—such as providing free face masks and disinfectant alcohol to the people—many will come to know the Lord.
We are all quoting and standing on the promise of Psalms 91:5-6: "You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day; nor of the pestilence that pursues in darkness, nor of the destruction that strikes at noonday."
Chinese language, which looks difficult and complicated, is shorter and more concise in use than many European languages. This is in part due to the use of idioms, which are four to eight characters (Chinese words) that will describe a complicated situation or philosophy that might take a few sentences or paragraphs to describe in European languages such as English.
One of these is 天災人禍 , which can be translated "Natural disaster, human calamity." This covers all major problems in the world. For example, genocide, wars, evil governments and so on would be "human calamity." Earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes are usually classified as natural disasters. However, the two are often related.
For example, many believe the wasteful use of natural resources with little or no regard for environmental factors might lead to global warming, which results in the melting of glaciers and the flooding of and eventual destruction of some islands, increased serious devastation from hurricanes and so forth.
The Chinese characters for "crisis" are 危機, pronounced wei-ji. The first character means danger, and the second is opportunity. Through the danger to life itself from the COVID-19 virus, the church has an opportunity through prayer and gifts of healing to bring healing to the sick. Many will see that Christians will be protected from the virus, and those infected will be healed. The gospel will be preached! And we pray this will all result in more freedoms in China whereby the whole nation can eventually be evangelized, and Christ will return (Matt. 24:14).
Dennis Balcombe is a missionary and pastor in China, as well as founder of Revival Chinese Ministries International. He moved to Hong Kong in 1969 and founded Revival Christian Church eight months later. He's the author of China's Opening Door: Incredible Stories of the Holy Spirit at Work in One of the Greatest Revivals in Christianity.
Reports of Supernatural Healing, Revivals in Midst of Coronavirus Outbreak
By Stephen Strang
Whenever you turn on the news, you're bound to hear something about the coronavirus right now. Some say it's not as big a deal as it's made out to be, while others are sounding the alarm that it's even worse than is being reported. But what the media isn't telling you is how the coronavirus is affecting the church—and how God is moving in mighty ways even through the outbreak.
As dangerous as this virus is, it's no match for the power of the Holy Spirit. Recently, I interviewed Dennis Balcombe, a missionary to China for the past 40 years. He shared some incredible insights into what God is doing through His people, including the sick coming for healing and people running to churches for hope.
I also recently had an eye-opening interview with Pastor Frank Amedia, whose ministry, POTUS Shield, has a close alliance with the Christian community in China. Amedia's sources, whom he believes are reliable, can confirm Bolcombe's report. Amedia has been on my Strang Report podcast many times, offering prophetic and spiritual insight into our culture. This time, he sheds light on what God is doing in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
"We've had reports of Christians being healed of this virus by the power of God and the healing of God," he says. "My sources tell me the same thing, whenever there is this kind of a problem—like there was with SARS."
Amedia says the coronavirus is the third plague to hit China in the span of this generation. He points out that when the people can't rely on their government, they look for help elsewhere—and that's when the church has the opportunity to shine brightly with the gospel.
"We're being told that people are coming in swarms to churches, house churches, that there's gospel and evangelism going out in the streets, person to person, that there's supernatural healing."
In our interview, Amedia also shared some other shocking things about the coronavirus that the media isn't reporting. As of right now, the virus has reportedly killed more than 1,700 people and infected over 71,000. But Amedia doesn't believe those numbers are true. According to Amedia's sources, the numbers of deaths and infections are much higher than media outlets are portraying. In fact, he says the number of deaths is allegedly in the tens of thousands.
"What we're hearing is that while this was being kept suppressed by the government of China, people were dying in Wuhan, which is the capital of the Hubei province in the central area of the industrial area of China," Amedia says.
"... We are told that people were dying before it was even admitted. The hospitals didn't know what to do with them. They told them to return home, to stay in their homes, and they were dying. And most of the widespread stories we're getting is that many of them were cremated quickly—some cremated and not even identified for their families, who are still looking for people. They just didn't deal with it appropriately."
Neither is the virus restricted to Wuhan, as some may report, Amedia says. Instead, it's spread to the four corners of China, and there are actually quarantines in many areas. Amedia says this isn't just something his Christian sources are telling him, but also his industrial sources such as businessmen.
The doctor who discovered the virus, who Amedia says was a Christian, brought his concerns about the coronavirus to the attention of the government in late December. In response, the government arrested him and seven other scientists and forced them to sign documents stating that they were wrong. That doctor has since died from the virus.
Now, though, Amedia says there is record of over 2 million Chinese signatures that were requesting transparency, truth and free speech in China.
But where did this virus even come from? Amedia says it did not come from a marketplace as was previously thought. Instead, he believes it came from a P4 laboratory, which was located about 20 miles from the marketplace that was originally believed to be the starting point for the virus.
"These are high-level, bio-safety, viral laboratories," he says. "... This laboratory was established in a joint venture between the French government starting back in 2004 as a response to the SARS [virus] so that the Chinese government would have a research lab for humanitarian purposes and to develop vaccines."
But the French backed out of that joint venture a few years ago when they found out the Chinese had taken and replicated this laboratory, Amedia says, using it for privately owned businesses. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is speaking out about this, though some label his words a conspiracy theory. According to Amedia, the Chinese ambassador is not denying that it could have come out of this lab, which surprised the White House.
Will the public ever know what really caused the coronavirus? Will the full truth ever come out? We might never know, but God can still continue to move powerfully through this horrible situation. That's why Christians around the world must keep praying for this virus to be contained and eliminated. But we must also pray that in response to this frightening epidemic, people will keep flocking to Jesus Christ and create a revival in China.
Will you join me in prayer? Be sure to listen to my full interview with Amedia to hear the many more details he shares about this coronavirus.
Exclusive: American Eyewitness Says Coronavirus Could Be 'Rumblings of Something Bigger'
By Stephen Strang
Alexandra Rodriguez knows firsthand the horror of the coronavirus in Wuhan. A Christian American teaching English in Wuhan, China, was quarantined in Wuhan until the U.S. government was able to fly her and other Americans home. In her first media interview since she came home, she described to me on my podcast how she felt as she waited and prayed to get out. She also believes the problem is worse than the Chinese government is admitting.
In the past week, I interviewed Chinese missionary Dennis Balcombe, also an American, who described to me how Christians are responding to the dangerous virus now known as COVID-19. He shared incredible insights into what God is doing through His people, including the sick coming for healing and people turning to churches for hope.
Then Pastor Frank Amedia, who has connections to Chinese Christians he believes are reliable, says that there have also been healings and confirmed that people are swarming to churches at the same time that the number of deaths are in the tens of thousands—much higher than the 2,100 or so that the Chinese government says have died.
Both Balcomb and Amedia reported what they heard from their Chinese sources via telephone and the internet. But Alexanda Rodriguez was there. So when I learned from a friend who knew her through his church, Faith Assembly in Orlando, Florida, I tracked her down. She gave me one of the most incredible interviews I've ever had—an exclusive for my Strang Report podcast and Charisma News.
I wanted to know from someone who was there and was quarantined, and I wondered what she thought this coronavirus means in a spiritual sense. She told me the disease could be the rumblings of something bigger—perhaps even prophecy coming true.
"My hope and prayer is that everything smooths out and that eventually they get it contained," Alexandra told me. "But it could be the rumblings of something bigger. I believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways. And I've seen His hand in all of this. It could be prophecy coming true. It could just be one of those things in the world that happens and then we move on. My prayer, again, is that it all settles down."
Back in September, when Alexandra got the opportunity to go to Wuhan to tutor students in English, she was excited about it. But what was supposed to be a 10-month stay was cut short to six months when the city was quarantined because of the coronavirus. She was stuck in the city for several weeks until the U.S. government got her home. Some of her colleagues, though, are still stuck in Wuhan.
As of Thursday evening, Feb. 20, the official death count for the coronavirus in China is 2,118, according to the New York Times. But Alexandra says that from her understanding of the Chinese government and the way things are run in China, she "100% [believes] the numbers are probably far higher than what they are reporting to the world."
She tells me that when she first heard about the coronavirus in late December, the Chinese media presented it as if it were nothing more than a new strain of the flu and encouraged people to wash their hands.
"They treated it in the media there as if it wasn't an emergency," she says. "So I had heard about it. And it was right about that time that some colleagues of mine and I went off for winter holiday. So we left the country to visit Thailand for 10 days. We came back two days before they shut down the city."
When Alexandra and her friends returned to Wuhan from Thailand on Jan. 21, she says the city was like a ghost town. No one was entering or leaving the city, and the few people they did see were always wearing masks. It was a bit frightening to find out a few days later that no one was allowed to travel unless it was essential.
Alexandra says she and her colleagues purchased provisions to last for a couple weeks and then shut themselves up in their homes. It was a frightening battle to get out of the city, she says. She received a news story that reported the American embassy was offering passage out of China for American citizens. But when she called the embassy to say she wanted to leave, she found out the report was fake news. The U.S. hadn't confirmed a plane yet. At this point, she began panicking.
Finally, through connections in the U.S., Alexandra was able to email the embassy and let them know that if and when a charter plane became available to leave Wuhan, she wanted to be on it. She was placed on a waiting list.
"I sent the email and it was just silence," she says. "I waited and I waited. I waited about three days, and I was talking to my colleagues back and forth. We were all trying to get out."
When Alexandra's friend received a call from the embassy saying they had a spot for her, she was able to secure one for Alexandra, too.
"I'm really grateful that I was able to get on the flight because I know there were some people who are trying to get out who didn't make that first flight," she says.
After stopping in Alaska to refuel, Alexandra's plane landed in Ontario, where the passengers were quarantined in a military base in case they showed signs of symptoms. She says they arrived in early February.
She remembers many rumors that were circulating about the virus starting from a pinpointed market that sold exotic meats. But she isn't convinced those rumors were true.
"Now there's speculation that it might have been around for a lot longer," she says. "And it was a lot of hush-hush. They didn't want mass panic. China was desperately trying to keep it under wraps, although more and more people were presenting with symptoms."
So what does this mean for Christians in China and specifically in Wuhan? Alexandra says most churches aren't meeting anymore, since people are staying in their homes. In fact, public meetings of any kind are outlawed right now because of the quarantine—and religious meetings were the first to be shut down.
As of now, there's no telling how this outbreak will affect China's future. But Alexandra is praying this virus would come to a swift end. I hope you'll join her in that prayer. While this coronavirus could certainly be a sign of something bigger, let's agree in prayer that God will show mercy and allow this virus to be contained.
I think you'll want to listen to my full interview with Alexandra and get her full, exclusive story on what's going on in China. Click here to listen.
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