Lonna’s Lines, Strange News from around the World (Issue 5, “The Problem with Pentecostals: Prosperity”)

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Most Americans know about TV preachers and that they get money from their viewers.  Many of these TV preachers are  Pentecostals, an often-emotional and loud group of “Christians” whose movement to promote Spiritual gifts, miracles, healing, and especially “speaking in tongues,” was started in Los Angeles, California at the beginning of the 20th Century.

There are many types of Pentecostals.  I have encountered several of these groups, churches, and conferences–and have mixed feelings about them.  Some Pentecostals are humble, kind, and helpful to their fellow human beings.  They believe that God is God and can do whatever miracles He desires through His Spirit.  Others are proud, entitled, promoting the “Prosperity Gospel” view that a real Christian, blessed by God, will have lots and lots of money (and probably not share it with homeless people).  They believe a good Christian gives “tithes” and “gifts” to support “the ministry.”  In conferences, they often take more than one noisy “offering” from the less affluent people there.

The problem with Prosperity Gospel adherents is that their leaders are very, very rich–and proud of it.  Many are found on T.V. shows, running entire TV broadcast businesses and publishing houses.  Some call themselves Dollar, fly in private jets (and sometimes die in them), live in huge mansions on large estates, brag about their yearly income, wear expensive clothes and hair designs, vacation in exotic places, and continue to extract money from their followers with the promise that they, too, will be rich.

Pentecostals draw more on some Old Testament examples of wealthy Jewish leaders than the New Testament teaching of Jesus and his followers, who often marked money as an evil snare and rich people as oppressors of the poor.  Wealth also led to the fall of Old Testament heroes–and the tragic end of their families and personal empires.  Job was the oldest Old Testament rich man who suffered much because of his riches.   Gideon was a hero, mentioned in the book of Judges, who saved Israel from a huge enemy army.  However, he asked for all the gold earrings (and other gold ornaments) from that army, built a giant gold statue near his hometown, got lots of wives and children, and turned Israel back to Idol worshipping.  He also lost all but one of his 70 sons, and his inheritance plunged into nothingness.

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Now for my story.  As you know from my previous issues, I taught English overseas for more than 5 years.  I went alone, with no credit card, backup plan, or help from home (I had no American family to help me).  I lived in the economies where I taught (Russia, Turkey, China).  Sometimes I was paid well; sometimes I wasn’t paid at all.  When I came back to America after this hard duty, I felt like a soldier who had suited up every day to battle language barriers, cultural differences, and dangerous surroundings.  I was attacked by men in all 3 countries (thankfully, I took Self-Defense classes, so I was not raped or killed).  I returned worn out, tired of trying to get around in Taxis driven by people who didn’t understand me, toxic air, acidic water, and nauseating food.  My Armenian/Turkish husband helped for part of my overseas journey, but he could not get a work permit, and his family was poor (better than my entire lack of family). Continue reading

Shanghai Christian Fellowship Sings Together

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Shanghai Christian Fellowship sings

Wonder where lively Christians are? Check out Shanghai, China. I visited Shanghai Christian Fellowship (also called Shanghai Community Fellowship).  I saw people from many countries, races, and cultures singing together with love and peace. To get there, I traveled 4.5 hours on a speed train, 40 minutes on a subway, and on foot. I also had to rent a hotel room and eat out. So next time you complain about going to your church down the street on a Sunday where people don’t seem to really care about Jesus or each other, watch my video. Christ rose from the dead, and Christians are happy about that!  The People’s Republic of China allow Christians to meet in this historic church, and for certain services only foreign passport holders can attend.  Next time, you’re in Shanghai, check it out!  Watch the video.  If you like travel adventure, also check out my books.

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Shanghai Christian Fellowship is a church packed with people from all backgrounds and cultures

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Spring at West Lake, Hangzhou, China

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Children and adults play in a park by West Lake

I went to West Lake in Hangzhou, China in May and saw so many colorful flowers and people.  Walk with me by the lake, on paths across stone bridges, through parks, temples, pavilions, and historic buildings with statues.  West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province.  For 2000 years it has been the source of inspiration for poets, artists, photographers, and even filmmakers.  My students told me the romantic story of the immortal White Snake who became a woman and fell in love with a mortal man.  The turtle god of the lake was jealous, so he imprisoned her under a pagoda.  However, the man still loved the White Snake Woman, and they were eventually reunited and had a son.  This story has been made into television series and films.  Emperors from many Chinese Dynasties visited West Lake and inscribed its famous “Ten Scenes” with poetic names like “Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds,” “Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon, and “Orioles Singing in the Willows.”  As far back as the 14th Century, Europeans visited West Lake, including Italian explorer Marco Polo, who wrote that Hangzhou “is the most splendid heavenly city in the world.”  Spring and romance are here in China!

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Easter in China

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES People of many countries, colors, and cultures celebrated Easter together at Hangzhou International Christian Fellowship in eastern China on April 5, 2015.  The church was packed, and many people stood or sat at the sides and sang joyfully together to celebrate that God loved the whole world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for sins of everyone and then rise again with a promise of eternal life.  The Nigerian pastor spoke about Christ’s resurrection and message of love, hope, and unity.   Continue reading