俄勒冈州植堂人的見證 The Story of A Church Planter

Tom Tang

我生长于中国大西北的新疆。来到美国大西北的波特兰,看似偶然,却越来越相信是神的计划。

在清华读博士的时候,不知道下一个目标是什么,越想越觉得世界上没有什么目标能满足我心,吸引我为之而活。在绝望求死的痛苦经历中,我接触到一群有着完全不一样生命的宣教士:他们凭信心到中国学语言,传福音,播撒爱和恩典的种子。这是我从未见过的,他们的生命深深的吸引住我。很快我就觉的我的人生要像他们那样活才有意义;我要像他们一样成为有信、望、爱和内在坚韧力量的人,我因此信靠基督,获得新生。

2000年毕业之际,我许愿要像宣教士那样事奉神,却请求神给我十年时间,让我在世界上闯荡一番,多些人生的经历。

神给了我一份在德国的工作,两年后被派回国开拓中国市场;一路高奏凯歌,业绩骄人。几年后跟Jessie结为夫妻,在北京的教会里同心服事。

但当公司考虑提拔我为销售总监的时候,我不知为何高兴不起来,总觉得这不适合我。我突然想起跟神所许的愿,正好十年了!牧师建议我上神学院,但我舍不得放下工作,觉得自己可以事业事奉两不误。这样纠结了近一年,直到某天夜里惊醒,仿佛听到一段经文,这是我从未有过的经验。赶忙查考圣经,找到的是路加福音9:62:耶稣说,手扶着犁向后看的,不配进神的国。心中惭愧,唯有向神投降。告诉妻子后,她大力支持,于是辞去令人羡慕的工作,于2011年秋来到波特兰西方神学院就读。

初来波特兰,绵绵阴雨勾起我患得患失的愁烦。某天雨中登山远眺山谷中的波特兰市区,不知怎么想起了申命记11:11-12, “你们要过去得为业的那地,乃是有山、有谷、雨水滋润之地;是耶和华你神所眷顾的,从岁首到年终,耶和华你神的眼目时常看顾那地。”仿佛觉得波特兰就是那片神所眷顾的土地,我便安下心来学习。

波特兰有什么好的呢?我们来之前一无所知。妻子在网上略微搜索了一下,竟然得到一条挺搞笑的介绍,说波特兰气候温润,适合生养。我们结婚多年一直没有孩子,一下子对波特兰有了些许好感,充满期待。

一年多过去了,还是没有动静。双方家长都催我们弃学回国,用辅助手段解决生儿育女的人生大事,毕竟我那时已经四十了。我们只好订了机票,收拾行李准备回国,却在登机前两周,发现妻子怀孕了。我们相信这是个神迹,要我们安心的在这边接受装备。

神学院毕业之际,本来急于回国的我们得到NAMB(北美宣教部)的邀请,希望我们成为植堂人。因为波特兰的华语人群增长很快,有几万大陆移民没有信主或去教会。

耐心求证的过程中,神又让我想起申命记11:11-12节的经文。在这时候,神再赐给我们一个女儿,坚定了我们留下来拓荒植堂的决心。

我们出人意外地在一个月左右就得到R1签证,于是搬到了目标区域比弗顿—这里有Intel最大的园区和Nike总部。二女儿满月后我们幸运地找到一间美国教会的教室开始聚会。我们的异象也渐渐清晰起来。自己的经历和所观察到的现象告诉我们,人们的生活不停忙碌,被世界牵着走,很多基督徒也不例外,人生的价值观若没有因认识耶稣而真正改变,就免不了受到这个世界的捆绑,活得很累。我们希望能帮助人们看到因信主而有全新的生命(林后5:17),并且活在基督里才得真自由(约8:31-32),于是我们为小组起名为波特兰新造的人团契。

聚会第一年,我想象的广传福音、快速发展没有发生,十人以内的查经班很不稳定,好像我使尽浑身解数,也难以突破。然而在我对自己失望的时候,神却开始动工让我见识他的大能。一次春游吸引了三十多位年轻人参加,一半来了查经班,5个人在几个月后感动受浸,令我震惊之余,大受鼓励。接下来两年里9个人受浸,都不是我意料中的,神的作为太奇妙,每个人的重生都再一次提醒我,是神自己在作工。

人多起来,面临的挑战也更大,需要有人一起来服事,但多数时候还是我和太太做事,难免有孤单、苦累、沮丧,加上居留身份不确定,教养孩子的压力增大,开始变得忧虑重重,常常软弱。神不断的借着一些牧者、营会、和关心我们的人鼓励我们,显出他不离不弃的爱和恩典;也给我们绿卡申请先被拒后反转获批的经历,坚定我们留下来长期服事的心。

我和太太渐渐明白:建教会不是三五年就能完成的一个项目,必须是生命改变的人一起活在基督里;而生命的改变和成长不是快得了的事,尤其对于无神论和中国文化背景的移民来说是很难的,我们必须明白他们所面对的现实挣扎,也自己经历了这样的挣扎却因主耶稣得了福音的好处,才能真正关心他们多过关注人数的增长,才会切实在主耶稣的爱里陪伴他们度过各种难关,把一个个的人带到主的恩典里得安息,以至渐渐在爱里彼此连接成为教会。很多预设的植堂策略和方法都不甚奏效,重要的是我们自己在基督里活出新造的人的美好生命,顺着圣灵栽培主耶稣的门徒,在神的话语里扎扎实实建造门徒。

三年了,仍然让相当多的环境压力来操练我们的信心,让我们越发知道不信靠神,我们什么也做不了。感谢神渐渐让我们看到一些可以栽培的门徒苗子,也有一些乐于服事的肢体能替我们分担。

我们夫妻当初只有两人来到波特兰,现在成了四口之家;刚开始植堂,只有五六人的小组,现在有了五六十人的主日敬拜,神从未停止作工,更不吝啬恩典。他是使无变有,起死回生的神!(罗马书4:17)他也是让我们生养众多、遍布全地的神!(创1:27-28),他要成就他自己命定的事,建立他自己的教会!

我要与神同行,他还有更多奇妙的带领和祝福要赐给我们呢!你愿意加入吗?

你可以通过祷告、短宣、资助甚至委身来加入神在俄勒冈建立第一间国语浸信会的事工!

联系方式:Tom Tang, 5755 SW Erickson Avenue, Beaverton, OR, 97005; PH:5033950088

I grew up in Xinjiang in northwest China.  It seemed like an accident we came to Portland, the northwestern of United States, but more and more I believe that it is God’s plan.

When I was pursuing my Ph. D. degree at Tsinghua University, I did not know what my next goal was. The more I thought, the more I felt that there was no goal in the world that would satisfy my heart and attract me to live for it. In the painful experience of hopelessness even to death, I came across a group of missionaries who lived completely different lives: They came to China to learn the language, spread the gospel, and sow the seeds of love and grace. This was something I had never seen before, and I was deeply attracted to their lives. I soon realized that my life should be as meaningful as they were. I wanted to be like them: a person with faith, hope, love, and inner strength.  Therefore, I put my trust in Christ and was born again.

When I graduated in 2000, I wished to serve God as a missionary, but I asked Him to give me ten years to explore the world and to gain different experiences in my life.  God gave me a job in Germany.  Two years later I was sent back to China to develop the Chinese market. I got impressive result all the way.  Several years later, I married Jessie and we served together in the church in Beijing.

But when the company considered promoting me as their Sales Director, I did not know why I was not happy. I just felt that this was not for me. I suddenly remembered my agreement with God.  It was exactly 10 years ago!  My pastor advised me to go to the seminary, but I was reluctant to let go of my job and I felt that I could handle both together.   I struggled with this for nearly a year, until one day I was awakened, as if I heard a passage from the scripture, this was something I had never experienced before. Searching the Scriptures in a hurry and I found Luke 9:62:  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  I was so ashamed in my heart, I only had to surrender to God. After I shared with my wife, she strongly supported me and I resigned from my job that many people envied.  And we came to  Western Theological Seminary in Portland in the fall of 2011.

When I first came to Portland, the incessant rain challenged my faith and calling.  One day I climbed up the hill in the rain, overlooking the city of Portland.  I did not know how, but Deuteronomy 11:11-12 came to my mind. “But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”  It seemed like Portland was the land that God cares for, and I quickly settled down to study.

What’s good about Portland? We did not know anything before we came. My wife searched the web, and got a very funny introduction, saying that Portland had a warm climate and was suitable for birth. We had been married for many years but without children.  We had a little bit of good feeling towards Portland and were full of expectations.

More than a year later, nothing happened. Parents from both sides urged us to abandon our studies to return home and seek medical help to solve the big issue of life of having children. After all, I was already forty. We had booked our air tickets and packed our luggage to return home. However, two weeks before departure, we discovered that my wife was pregnant. We believed that this was a miracle so that we could settle down and to be equipped here.

Upon graduation from the seminary, we were eager to return home, but were approached by NAMB (North American Mission Board) if we would consider serving as church planters.  The Chinese population of Portland had grown rapidly, tens of thousands of immigrants from the Mainland have not believed in Jesus, nor attending any church.  In the process of patiently seeking God’s guidance, He reminded me of Deuteronomy 11:11-12. At this time, God gave us another daughter and  it strengthened our determination to stay and plant church.

Surprisingly, we got our R1 visa in only a month.  We moved to our target area, Beaverton – where Intel’s largest campus, as well as Nike’s headquarters are located.  One month after my second daughter was born, we were fortunate to find a classroom in an Anglo church and we began our gathering. Our vision had gradually become clearer.  From our own experiences and observation, we find that people’s lives are constantly busy and are dragged by the world. Many Christians are no exception. If the values ​​of life were not truly changed by knowing Jesus, they will inevitably be affected by this world, in bondage, living a life that is exhausting. We hope to help people see new life through faith (2 Corinthians 5:17) and they will be truly free to live in Christ (John 8:31-32), therefore we named the team as Portland New Creation Fellowship.

In the first year of the gathering, the spreading of the gospel and rapid development that I wished for did not happen. The Bible study with less than 10 people was very unstable. It seemed that no matter how I tried, there was no breakthrough.  However, when I was disappointed with myself, God began to work to let me see his power. A spring picnic attracted more than 30 young people, and half of them came to the Bible study. Five people were moved to be baptized a few months later. I was shocked and was greatly encouraged. In the next two years, nine more people were baptized.  It was a development I did not expect. God’s work was so amazing.  The rebirth of everyone reminds me once again that it is God who is working.

When we have more people, we face greater challenges. We needed people to serve together. However, it was just me and my wife who serve most of the time.  Inevitably, we felt lonely, bitter, and frustrated.  Coupled with the uncertainty of our permanent residence status, and the increase pressure of raising children, we sometimes become worried and weak. Yet, God constantly encourages us through some pastors, conferences, and people who care about us. He shows his abiding love and grace. He also granted us the green card, which was rejected once before.  It strengthened our conviction to stay put and serve.

My wife and I gradually understand that building a church is not a project that can be completed in three to five years. It must be changed lives living together in Christ; and the change and growth of life is not a matter that could be hurried.  It is especially difficult for immigrant from an atheistic and Chinese cultural background. We must understand the actual struggles they face, and while we have experienced such struggles, but blessed by the gospel than we can really care for them, more than caring about the increase in number, then we can accompany them through all sorts of difficulties in the love of Jesus and bring them one by one to rest in the Lord’s grace, and then gradually connect them with one another in love to become a church. Many of the preset church planting strategies and methods did not work for us. The important thing is that we live the good lives of the newly created people in Christ and follow the Holy Spirit to cultivate the disciples of the Lord Jesus and build them up in the Word of God.

It has been several years now, but we still face a lot pressure around us that we must exercise our faith.  It let us know more and more that if we do not believe in God, we can do nothing. We thank God that gradually we see some seedlings who will grow up as disciples, and some members who are willing to serve and share our workload.

As I reflected upon my journey, there were only two of us when we first arrived in Portland. Now we have become a family of four. When we started to plant a church, it was only a group of five to six people. Now there are fifty or sixty people worshipping on the Lord’s day. God has never stopped working.  He does not withhold His grace. He is the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. (Romans 4:17) He is also the God who says: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. “ (Gen 1:27-28) He will accomplish his ordained things and establish His own church!

I will walk with God. He has more wonderful guidance and blessings to give us! Are you willing to join us?

You can join God in the ministry of the starting up of the first Mandarin Baptist Church in Oregon through prayers, short term mission trips, offering, or even personal participation!

Contact information: Tom Tang, 5755 SW Erickson Avenue, Beaverton, OR. 97005; Phone: 503-395-0088

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