How Serving in China Brought Me to Anabaptism – Anabaptist Perspectives Ep. 128

May 13, 2021 10:30 · 5868 words · 28 minute read

Hello everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Anabaptist Perspectives. I’m here with Daniel. We’re in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and yeah, introduce yourself and tell us a little of your background in Christianity and in missions work.

00:22 - I think my background is going to be a lot different than what you’re used to. I grew up in a family with a alcoholic father and a mother who was always working, and I mean she was kind of a workaholic, but it was because my father was an alcoholic. Anyway, we had a very dysfunctional family, and sin really ravaged our family, and Satan had his way. Growing up I was a bully. I beat up just about anybody, and I wasn’t a very kind person at all. We went to houses and robbed them.

We went to houses being built and demolished them after staying the night there illegally. When I was 13 we started throwing rocks in the road at Highway 85 - the fastest - one of the busiest highways in Atlanta, and then it graduated to big sticks and then logs until people crashed, and it was days of doing it until we got caught. Then I got a felony, and they asked me - like I had no concept of right and wrong. I had a girlfriend one time around the same age, and she went to a party, and I didn’t go to the party, and she kissed a guy.

The next day (I had a sword collection) I put a sword down my pants leg, and peg legged to his house, and sat in front of his house planning on killing him, and by the grace of God he didn’t come home. I started to see something was wrong with me. You know it took a long time, and I couldn’t read. My six-year-old daughter right now reads better than I did when I was 16. Anyway at 13 my football coach invited us to - the whole football team - to something called the Starlight Crusade, and they had free pizza and games and a big Christian artist and speakers.

I mean at the time I didn’t know who they were, but they had a speaker that basically described me, and then they talked about hell and how you don’t have a relationship with God, and I was like, I need to change. I can’t change. I don’t know how to change. I’m gonna go give my life to this Jesus. Went down there. Didn’t know what I was doing. Prayed a prayer. They took me to the side. They counseled me and basically said, hey, now you’re saved. You can’t lose it no matter what you do, so don’t worry about that.

02:39 - This is when you’re… ? How old are you? Thirteen.

02:41 - Thirteen. Okay. But thankfully they then baptized me, and I didn’t know much. I couldn’t read. My parents didn’t go to church. They told me to get a Bible, go to church, and we did go to church some, but it was very seldom. We went to a Methodist Church when I was really young for a while until they brought a homosexual in and had him speak to the young children and to make them not afraid of them or something, and it made my mom want to leave which I think was healthy to leave.

We went to some Presbyterian churches and Baptist churches and just on and off like Christmas, Easter - a few times a year. My mom had drilled into me like God wants us to only have one sexual relation with our wife and no one else, and so I had a few concepts of what God wanted, and not many. I knew I shouldn’t do drugs, and I shouldn’t be a bully. Well, I didn’t really get that concept either because then I became a bully of bullies. I went around like when I saw bullies bullying others I would bully them, so I wasn’t exactly Christ-like, but there were some concepts that I really thank God for keeping me pure sexually and from drugs, so when I turned 16, I got my license.

The first thing I wanted to do is go to church - find a church because we didn’t go to church, and I went to this church called Central Christian Church which was very different from all other churches I had experienced. They actually believed in obedience. My pastor always said so many times, if you hear me say something that doesn’t line up with the Bible, don’t believe me, and then whenever - I asked some questions for example about baptism, he would say well, go read every verse about baptism and come back, and you tell me what it means, and so it was very different.

Like I came back, and I said everything that it said, and then he was like, yeah, well, that’s baptism, and where all the other churches like throw away all these verses that are very important about that subject and most subjects, so there’s somewhat of a healthy thing, but they were still God and country. I’m not sure they completely saw the Sermon on the Mount for today, and so there’s a lot of things that helped with finding Anabaptism and that, but then I went to public supermarkets where I worked for a while, and I just told everybody about God all the time - every customer, every person - and I was probably one of those really annoying people, but lots of people came to Christ from it, and like three of the employees went to Johnson after they came to Christ - Johnson Bible College - before me because they were older than me, and I went around school with my Bible.

It was the first book I learned to read. They then gave me cds. I think it was Ricky Fernandez gave me all the cds of the New and Old Testament, and he said, play these and read with it, and so every night I’d go home, and I’d just go through the whole Bible, and I just assumed everybody in church all knew the Bible really well. So I’m like playing catch-up. For a whole summer I’m reading, reading and listening. Reading and listening, and then I learned to read in the summer.

I went to high school. I was on the technical track, and it’s people who aren’t going to be able to go to college, and so you just basically learned like skills like home ec, welding - whatever kind of, and I chose computer stuff like computer sciences, but they realized that I was a little more intelligent than maybe - I wasn’t. I mean I just had learned how to read that’s why I was held back in middle school and elementary school, and they put me in honors classes, so I skipped a level, but then I decided to go back because I didn’t want the hard work.

Anyway that’s kind of the slant of Christianity. Then we went to how we got to missions. The way we got to missions. I went to Johnson Bible College planning to be a preacher because God called me to the ministry. There’s two different times in my life that it was a clear call. When I was at Johnson, and I was on the preaching program, and it was the first year, and every Wednesday we had missionaries speak, and my pastor from Central Christian Church he had a sermon on Noah about making yourself available, and after he did that sermon, I always asked, God, is this what You want me to do? Is this where you want me to go? whenever a missionary preached, and so I ended up asking that a lot, and I was working at Quiznos at the time as a manager, and going to school full time, and so I was doing my homework really late at night, and then I was doing it in chapel which I wasn’t supposed to be, and I really wasn’t listening to the guy.

He was from China, and after he got done speaking I said, is this what you want me to do? Is this where you want me to go? And like He made chills all through my body, and I was like, God, I’m not going to make a decision off of emotions. I want to just know, and is this what you want me to do? This is where I’m going to go, and it kept increasing and increasing. Tears started coming to my eyes which is where it was really strange for me especially at that time, and I was like, okay, I’ll go, and the second I said, I’ll go, I knew I was supposed to go.

I knew nothing about China. Absolutely nothing. Then I found a professor who lived in China as a missionary there for 10 years. I asked him if he could teach me Chinese, and I got him to convince the school to make it the language I learned for the bachelor of arts. Anyway, that’s how we got to the mission field.

08:02 - So that brings us up a little closer to today. So you’ve had that call. You’ve went to China. So then where along in this process did you encounter the Anabaptists? Like I don’t think there’s Anabaptists in China, or I mean there’s not many of them. So you lived there for a while I’m guessing? Yeah. Ten years.

08:17 - Ten years. Wow. So, when we were there (there’s a lot of story I’m going to skip) I started working with this guy. He’s a baptist guy, and my view of the Bible and his view were so different, and God kept telling me to keep working with him. I don’t like - I’m not this pentecostal kind of guy that gets all these messages, but like every time I wanted to leave God was like, no. You’re going to stay. So we started a church, and every time he preached he basically sent me to hell because of my beliefs.

Like if you believe that baptism has any part of your salvation or if you believe that you know this and that - just so many things. And then you should be able to eat blood and not worry about it, and just some weird things, but he was so confident about his position - so confident - that it made me realize is my confidence and what I believe right? I started to second guess everything that I was taught, and I was like okay, what is right? because he’s saying all this is right, and he’s so confident, and I’m so confident.

I’m not arguing with him because I want to be united and start a church, and then we started a seminary school and started raising these pastors up, and what I was telling them, and what he was telling them was very different. A few years later we decided to start our second church plant, but I was so afraid to teach at that point because I didn’t want to teach wrong and be judged for it, so we got a group of people together - a few kind-of believers and mostly non-believers, and we just started reading the Bible, and they were so interested in the Bible.

Like I would barely teach anything, and we would just read and read. I know it sounds crazy, but their - That is great though.

10:01 - Their take on the Bible was - Yeah. That’s just wonderful though. I mean I’m guessing that was very refreshing? Yeah.

10:08 - Almost like disentangling it from some of these squabbles, disagreements, etc.

10:12 - One of the nights there’s maybe eight or nine Chinese with me, and we started a habit of reading a whole book through in one sitting. So it was Thursday nights, and we read Luke all the way through, and when we got done it was like close to one o’clock, and we started at six, and I was kind of worn out, and I thought everybody else was, but they were so passionate about that. They were like let’s read Matthew now, and I’m like, I don’t know about that, and then whenever we read the book of Philippians they were pointing out stuff that I had neglected.

Like there’s a phrase that’s — in the Chinese. It’s a little different than the English. It’s, no matter what, in all things don’t complain or argue, and they took it so serious. At the beginning of the church was like anybody who’s complaining and arguing - at least at first. It changed a little later - but it was so refreshing. It was like there’s no disunity when there’s no complaining and arguing. There’s stuff that I’ve read my whole life, but I didn’t take it as serious.

Like they were seeing this is God’s Word. They haven’t been raised around it. They haven’t seen it, and they don’t want to put it down, and they want to do everything it says, and so their faith really challenged my faith, and plus I was looking at the Bible in a new way. Like what if I’m wrong about all this stuff? Yeah, and then there’s this guy - David Pawson who just died recently - an english guy who has a book called Kingdoms and Conflict and Once Saved Always Saved? but he has all these sermons online that are translated into Chinese, and they would tell the basics of a book, and so we’d started watching those before we read the book.

He got fired just about from every church he ever worked at because whenever he found the truth, he would live it, and he would teach it, but his story really affected me, and I hated it that they didn’t adopt the head covering, but then in his commentary on I Corinthians that came out in 2016 he had a realization because in there it says we should be at least in prayer and when we go to church. Anyway, he was a man who sought the truth, and he really influenced us, and then one day the church ladies came up - well, two of them - and said, should we be wearing head coverings? after we read I Corinthians, and I was like, well, in school I was taught it was something about prostitution, and I just went through all these theories that were in school, and I just saw them as fact, so I just kind of said, no, and then I got home and like the very next day my wife comes to me and said, should I be wearing a head covering? and she wasn’t even a part of the study.

She was at home with the kids, and I was like, this is weird. Like let me read it, and I read it, and I read it again because I had just told the Chinese ladies, oh, it’s just the hair. The hair is the covering or it’s you know these different things, and then I’m like, this doesn’t make any sense. What I told them makes no sense when you read it all the way through, yeah, and I was like, you know what? You need to pray about it, and if you decide to wear a head covering, I’ll support you, and I knew that it would kind of possibly you know make weird relationships between all the other Christians we work with, so the next day she came out, and I don’t remember what it was on her head, but she had something on her head, and I was like, okay, we’re doing this, and then way later I asked her like, why are you wearing a head covering? And I hope I can get this right, but she’s like, I was reading it, and I realized I really want to honor my husband, and I was like, man, that’s like really cool.

I didn’t know exactly what moved her to do that, and I was like, okay, I’m for it, and then I started to tell people about head coverings, but I was the only one that we knew that wore head coverings, and so it was like are we some cult? We’re like reading the Bible as it means what it says, and we’re doing the things that it says to do, and then so we started researching, and I don’t know if it was the first thing I saw, but it was one of them. The Just War Debate with Dean Taylor, and then when he said what if the Bible actually means what it says? or whatever the quote is.

They just did such a good job. Like I felt like non-resistance 100 percent was the way to go after I watched it. I rewound it and saw all the books that David had wrote, so I bought all his books. Started watching Followers of the War and Kingdom Fellowship, and it was so refreshing. It was like okay, these are people that have come to the same conclusion, but I didn’t know it was like 500 year history. I was just like, okay, there’s people that exist that believe this way.

Eventually get chased off from China from the police, and our pastors we trained for the second church plant and the first church plant were arrested and beat, and they just got arrested again recently a few days ago, and they were looking for me two of the times, and then all the missionaries in the city - not all of them - many of the missionaries in the city asked us to leave because if they get us, they’ll probably link us to all them, and so we left that city not planning on going back at the time.

We didn’t really know. Well, okay, so what’s the timeline at this point that you got I guess “kicked out” of China? When did that happen? A year ago.

15:10 - Oh, wow. So this is a pretty recent journey for you still? Yeah.

15:14 - Like all these things. So like even finding those teachings. David Bercot. Dean Taylor. All of that was - And yours.

15:21 - And oh, and ours. Okay. Oh, that’s neat. Yeah, yours helped me realize it wasn’t just this little cult somewhere. It’s like, okay, this is all over the place.

15:29 - That’s wild, so just I mean a little bit of bunny trail. So you’re basically sitting in China finding these things, and you’re like - I don’t know - googling stuff, and you find our videos which is kind of wild because we watch the analytics, and we get hits from all over the world, and we have some from China, so that could have been you. Anyway, that’s kind of wild, and how long ago was that process? It was a long process in China. A few years in China.

There’s a lot more to the story that’s very interesting, but I don’t know what to go into.

15:58 - That’s fine, but like this is a fairly new - I mean kind of a new process for you in some ways? Yeah, our faith has been for the most part Anabaptist faith. We understand the two kingdoms from David Pawson. Yeah, but probably more in depth in it for the last three years, and then especially the last year.

16:21 - So you know in the story. So you’re up to the point where you’ve had to leave China, so obviously here we are in the States. You’ve joined an Anabaptist fellowship here in America at least for now until maybe you go back or whatever your plans may be. Tell us about that process. Was that a hard adjustment to I don’t know I guess a new culture? Yeah, with all the dynamics going on there. Walk us through. What was that like? Well, one of the first experiences.

I went to a coffee shop, and Chinese dress a lot more modest than Americans, and I kind of forgot about that, and then I got to this coffee shop, and I’m reading one of David Bercot’s books. I think it was the Heretics book, and I think it was the second time I was reading it. Like I realized I couldn’t look up. Like I had learned to train my eyes before I went into China, but then when I went to China I didn’t really need to like bounce my eyes all the time when I was out in public and not look, and so I got home.

I was like, this is weird. I can’t go to Starbucks and read a book because like there’s so much immodest dressing. Anyway we went to churches in the area, and we went to one Bible study. There’s like probably three or four Bible studies of one church, but one was about Galatians five, and this was I think a calvinist church. We didn’t choose. It was just like family wanted us to go to church with them, and they were talking about Galatians 5 and about circumcision, and he’s like, well, what’s the circumcision of today that will cut you off from Christ? And he said, let me start.

Baptism. If you get baptized, and you think it’ll make you closer to Christ, you’re cut off from Christ, and then the next guy said something else, and the next guy said, it’s like if I look at less pornography to please God, I’ll be cut off from Christ, and the next guy mentioned the same thing, and eventually I was like. Can we read all the way through like where it lists? And I said, can we stop for a minute, and we read Galatians 5:16 through 22, and it lists all these sins, and it says if you live this sort of life, you’ll not inherit the Kingdom of God, and I was like, I’m so confused.

I was kind of angry, and then we had another Bible study where we were talking about the Sermon on the Mount. After they said one thing, they would make an exception, and then they’d make so many exceptions that it was like well turn another cheek really doesn’t mean anything, and then they talked about not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing, and then right after everybody talked about all their giving everywhere, and I was like, I’m so confused about all this, and then so we started to look for Mennonite churches.

We’re like we have to find these churches. My wife would look them up, and she found one in Tennessee, so we went to it, and - Really? I’m from Tennessee, so I’m curious which part? Somewhere near Knoxville, so it’s - No kidding! Okay, that’s really close to where we live.

19:14 - So we went in. It was the only one we could find online. We went in, and all the ladies have jewelry.

19:20 - Interesting. This one lady had really short hair, and we sit down in a Bible study (not very many people) and then right after (and my wife’s the only one with head covering and modest dress and no jewelry) Wow.

19:35 - She stood up and said, I’m the elder here, and I was like - I looked at her. I was like, is this a Mennonite church? I was so confused. And then the next one we found was online. A Brethren in Christ Church, and their whole first sermon we listened to before we were going to go see them was all about homosexuality, and then at first I thought, well, they’re just saying like you know don’t be afraid to witness and to help people from that kingdom and into here just like any other sin that we need to - Jesus will give us the power to crush Satan and sin, but then by the end of it, I realized they were condoning it and welcoming it.

Like to stay in that sin, and so we started getting really depressed. It was like is there anything really out here? Where is this? And then we called around and Matthew and the Followers of the Way. They kind of didn’t want to talk on the phone, but I didn’t feel like typing out our whole story, and then finally he called, and we started talking, and he’s like, and we had already planned on coming to Kingdom Fellowship. We came up to Kingdom Fellowship, and we were very nervous, and my wife had nothing that looked like anybody’s dress that we saw from the films on Kingdom Fellowship Weekend, and her head covering was nothing like any of the head coverings, so we were like, how do we do this? Do we try to sew these clothes? And we’re willing to submit.

We were reading Scripture and Polycarp and saying like submit to your elders like you submit to Christ, and I’m thinking like, we can’t submit to any of the elders of any of the churches we’ve been to. Like it just won’t work. We won’t be able to do that. We want to live for Christ, so we have to find somewhere. So we’re willing to submit in every way. Marvin Dolly. I guess you all might know him. People around here know him, but I called Kingdom Fellowship, and he was the one that answered, and I was like, what do we do? Like I don’t even own a pair of khakis, and my wife doesn’t look like the normal dress up there.

Anabaptist dress, and she wears modest dress - long dress. You know modest clothing, and he’s like, just come. It’s actually all kinds of people up here, and we got there, and the first thing he said was, you need to meet Patrick. Because I was nervous. He saw I was like so nervous.

21:40 - Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah, we’ve interviewed Patrick, but no we should link that because Patrick’s story is just phenomenal, but anyway yeah. Keep going.

21:46 - And I saw this tattooed guy in jeans and untucked shirt, and I was like, okay, if they’re handling Patrick up here, they can - not that Patrick’s bad - he’s great, great guy, but it was just like, okay, someone that looks like that. They’re okay with that. They would be okay with us. So it calmed our nerves, and then Patrick was really awesome with us, and then the next day he was sending us around to everybody wanting us to tell our story, and was very nervous, but then I met some people from our church which was just close by.

We were planning on going to Followers of the Way to try to maybe join over there because we didn’t know that there were so many other things, and the price out in Boston. Like we were living in a camper you know and traveling around in a camper, and we’re like how can we make it work up there? So we met some people from a church nearby, and they let me speak one Sunday, and then I don’t know if they thought we were serious. Like we’re coming back, but we went home.

Basically told everybody we’re moving, and then we moved up this way, and for us it wasn’t hard at all to accept the brotherhood agreement and stuff like that because we know what we’re submitting to. You know it’s like, okay, I had read the King Jesus Claims His Church, and like all through that, it was a really hard read, but I read it really slow and meticulously, and I realized like the individual - me being so individualistic. I don’t know the word, and not of a holistic thought.

Like I saw myself as an individual kind of embassy. Like a loner. I didn’t want to be that, and I wanted to be a part of something. Our old thought processes were all broke down. I was like let’s find somewhere and just do whatever they say. We met one brother who’s a great guy, but my wife said, hey, we’re going to Hagerstown to see Kent Hawbaker. Is there anything fun to do down there while we’re down there? And this brother of ours I guess doesn’t believe in fun.

He was like, fun, and I was like, oh, but we were ready to like okay if people don’t have fun, we just won’t have fun, but then later when we joined the church that it’s okay to have fun.

24:02 - But it was like some of that process of you know kind of learning to navigate all of these new things I guess.

24:07 - I mean I see potential faults and all of it in the fundamental, but I also see that there’s a history here of people following Christ and His Kingdom. There’s people that are born Anabaptist, but until they adopt the hermeneutic, until they actually believe it for themselves and obey it and really follow Christ and not just culture, and I think a lot - most of the churches nowadays hopefully are finding that. Like they’re not just driving certain color cars or whatever just because their church says to, but because they see the reason for it.

They actually see the principles of Christ in it, and they do it for that reason. I’m kind of a grafted-in Anabaptist by the way we take Scripture very literal, and we do bless those who persecute us, and when someone hits us on the right cheek, we turn and give them another cheek to hit. Any kind of persecution we show love. Anyway, it’s a blessing to be an Anabaptist, and I’m not ashamed of it.

25:12 - This next question transitions like right into that then. You know these changes, the new process, some of the different challenges and things coming to the Anabaptists. How do you approach it when you’re discussing now what you believe - Anabaptism - with your friends, family, etc. that maybe don’t believe that way? You know how do you bridge that gap? In II John 9 it says, whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.

So doctrine is teaching - who doesn’t abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the teaching of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine - these teachings - do not receive him into your house nor greet him for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. So there’s lots of verses like this one where it emphasizes the teachings of Christ, and there’s lots of churches that I’ve come from and lots of them that do emphasize Christ’s teachings all through the gospels, but lots of them throw all of His teachings until after His death and resurrection out.

So all the parables, all the Sermon on the Mounts, sermon on the plains, and so I just go back, and say as Kingdom Christians we actually believe all the teachings of Jesus, and it wasn’t some law that was made raised higher to show us that we can’t do it, but if we die with Christ and raise with Him and have the Holy Spirit we can do it, and the yoke is actually light, and Christ’s yoke is light because we’re yoked with other brothers. It’s not this individual thing, and I don’t want to leave out Finny and the Followers of the Way.

I know I mentioned them earlier, but one of the biggest things for us moving up here was when he talked about he found a people group that in a lot of these churches they have like almost zero percent of people looking at pornography and like in the high 90 percents of people retaining the faith. Not all the Anabaptist churches, but a lot of them, and when I heard that and compared to the statistics of a lot of evangelical and protestant churches and most every other church, I was like, I want all my kids to be in the faith, and there’s no way we shouldn’t move up somewhere and find one of these churches.

We wanted like a brotherhood who actually believed the same thing not like people who said, well, you shouldn’t do this, but if you do, it’s okay all the time. Like it doesn’t really matter. You’re saved anyway, but salvation is a process that says we’re saved, we’re being saved, and we will be saved throughout the whole Bible, and we’re being salvaged and saved and being made His image bearers for Christ and for the Kingdom so that we can be good representation, good ambassadors and brides and children of Christ for the King.

When I talk to them I basically mention those things is that we are trying to follow all of Christ’s teachings and not minimizing any of them. It’s actually not as hard as I thought it was going to be relating to people. I said my dad was an alcoholic and my mom was a workaholic. They have grown so much. My dad has been sober for 20 plus years, and he’s in the ministry to help recover alcoholics. Although my mom was for a long time of her life working a lot, she was a big reason I came to Christ in the first place, and I held on to that purity value that she gave me, and both of them right now are amazing parents, and I pray that both of them come up here and adopt the Kingdom Christianity, and we’re talking about it all the time with them, but they’ve come a long way.

My brother as well. He is no longer on drugs - one of them - and he’s reading his Bible, and he’s talking about moving up here for sure. I mean he’s pretty sure he’s going to move up here because he sees like, hey, people are at - it’s not just by word. Christianity is not just by thought or by word. It’s by thought, word and action, and this is one place where our faith actually gets put into practice and not just by thought and word. I did mention them as in the past.

I didn’t clarify that this was not how it is now, so I just want to make that clear.

29:40 - Well, thanks so much for taking the time to share your story. That’s wow, yeah, that’s powerful stuff. .