None of us had heard of the coronavirus at Christmas. Now we hear of it daily in the news. Thousands have died, and no one knows what will happen as it continues to spread. But we do know we can't believe the Chinese government regarding how it started or the number of infected and dead. The doctor who blew the whistle, Li Wenliang—who is reportedly a Christian—and seven other scientists were arrested and forced to sign documents stating they were wrong. He died a few weeks later from the virus.
In February, I began getting calls about the story behind the story—that people in China are turning to the church and there have been unverified healings. It's a story few other media outlets know about or care to report. For American media like us, it was not easy to cover. Yet we were able to do podcasts with three sources and are beginning to piece together what is happening. I urge you to visit coronavirus.charismamag.com to read our articles and listen to the podcast interviews about this topic.
In February, I got a call from Pastor Frank Amedia, whose Chinese friends told him the numbers of infected and dead were far greater than reported. Frank was told the virus started, not in a marketplace from exotic animals, but from a high-level laboratory that had been established by the French and Chinese government as a response to the SARS virus to develop vaccines. Only time will tell how the virus really started.
Frank put me in touch with a Chinese pastor living in the U.S. who had contact with many people in China. To protect his identity, I did not use my recorded interview with him, but it gave credence to what Frank said. I contacted missionary Dennis Balcombe too, who has ministered in China for 50 years and was on Charisma's May 1994 cover. My only visit to mainland China was with Dennis in the 1990s when I was arrested for smuggling Bibles (and released after a few hours due to his intervention). I knew Dennis to be one of the most knowledgeable Americans about what was going on in China.
Dennis wrote an opinion piece for Charisma News saying that, for the church, this has been a blessing in disguise. Citywide prayer meetings are uniting denominations, and he says people are even getting healed through prayer and becoming Christians.
"Many Christians and local churches are using this as an opportunity to help many in the panicking society," Dennis wrote. "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."
In addition, his Revival Christian Church (RCC) provides free small bottles of disinfectant alcohol, which are in short stock in the stores. Through this, they share the gospel with the people in China. Many have accepted Christ in their services.
While both Frank and Dennis got their information from others in China, I was able to interview a young Christian woman from my hometown who was teaching English in Wuhan and was quarantined by the government until the U.S. Embassy was able to fly her home with other Americans who were stuck there. Alexandra Rodriguez told me how afraid she was and how she was praying to get out. Yet she sees a spiritual significance in what happened.
"This could be the rumblings of something bigger," she told me. "I believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways. I've seen His hand in all of this. It could be a prophecy coming true."
Dennis says the Chinese word for "crisis" is comprised of two characters—the first means "danger" and the second means "opportunity." Despite the coronavirus' threat, the church has an opportunity through prayer and supernatural gifts to bring healing to the sick.
As of now, there is 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 faith that God will show mercy and allow this virus to be contained.
I urge you to subscribe to my daily "Strang Report" newsletter by going to charismamag.com and clicking "Subscribe" at the bottom of the page. You can also visit coronavirus.charismamag.com to read all three of our exclusive reports.
Stephen Strang is the founder of Charisma and CEO of Charisma Media. He is author of the best-selling book Trump Aftershock (FrontLine/Charisma House). Follow him on Twitter (@sstrang), Facebook (stephenestrang) or Instagram (stephenestrang).
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