by Lisa Tramontana
(Editor’s note: Because it remains dangerous to do mission work in China, Jack Palmer is a pseudonym for the subject of this article. The name of his city is also intentionally not revealed.)
Although he was barely an adult, Jack Palmer knew that he wanted to be “a light in a dark world.”
In 2001, he was invited by missionary Roy Robertson to take a three-week trip to China to share the gospel with university students. The trip changed Palmer’s life, fueling a passion in his heart that has grown with each passing year.
Palmer explains his deep devotion to God by recalling how God’s word transformed the lives of the young students he met. Although they had been raised with an atheistic world view, they were open to the message of the Bible. “We are created to be with God,” Palmer said. “Even in a place like China, people still have that yearning to know why they exist and to find true contentment. Even if they are silenced, their hunger for the truth doesn’t go away. As we shared the gospel, we could see that the spirit of God was working mightily to open people’s eyes and hearts. They were like fish jumping into a boat. They wanted to be saved.”
After his mission trip, Palmer came home to Baton Rouge to serve at The Chapel on the Campus and attend seminary. In partnership with The Chapel, he began sending summer teams to China and formulated a plan for a ministry there. In 2007, he got married, and two years later, moved to China with his wife Lucy. Their work has been a struggle at times, but always a joyful one.
China has the largest non-Christian population in the world with about 456 “unreached” groups, which means that less than 2 percent of these populations trust Christ. With about 1.4 billion people (nearly a fifth of the world’s population), China is clearly a country ripe for evangelization. Even so, government restrictions on evangelistic work, coupled with the deeply ingrained shame and honor mindset of the people, have proven to be an obstacle to church growth. However, restrictions have eased somewhat and today, Christianity is believed to be growing at about 3 percent each year.
Jack and Lucy had their work cut out for them when they moved to China in 2009 and officially established their organization, CIC and the Redeemer Network. Their ministry is based in a city with a population of more than 20 million people, and CIC seeks to plant gospel-centered churches that focus on bringing spiritual, social, and cultural renewal. This has grown into a thriving work among university students and workers in the city.
Orphans and the homeless are two groups CIC helps, Palmer said. “Many of the children have medical issues from autism to Down Syndrome to cleft palates. We help care for the children on the weekends and sometimes foster them while they wait to be adopted. We also help arrange surgery for those who need it.”
Their densely populated city has a great number of homeless individuals, many with mental health conditions, Palmer said. “We physically help them by providing food, clothing, and counseling, but most important, we can offer them the hope of the gospel.”
CIC also partners with a ministry aimed at women who have been trafficked for the sex trade. After identifying those who want to return to their homes and families, CIC helps them, first by paying any government fines they might have, then by providing transportation back to their home countries and offering counseling services.
The life of a missionary is not an easy one. It requires great sacrifices and deep commitment. What is Palmer’s motivation?
“Everyone wants to be happy,” he said, “and we seek that ideal through different pursuits — career, relationships, power, money, love, and approval. At one point in my life, I was doing the same thing. Like everyone else, I wanted that feeling of being important and valued.
“But those things often take us away from God as they become the most important pursuits in our lives,” he said. “And they leave us unsatisfied. At some point, God’s grace opened my eyes and I understood that the very things that keep us from God are the things we eventually find in Him.” (1 Corinthians 1:24). He is the one reality, the only way to fill the desires in our hearts.”
The Palmers can be proud of their accomplishments in China. To date, they have witnessed hundreds of new followers of Christ. They have partnered with others to help start more than 50 new churches. And they have sent more than 250 laborers to 35 of the most unreached areas in China to engage those communities.
CIC welcomes those who want to join the ministry. “We can use counselors, teachers, doctors … anyone with special gifts,” he said. He lists three specific ways to help:
“Pray for the redemptive hope of the gospel to reach all people and for the churches to multiply. Come to China and serve short-term or long-term as a laborer for Christ. Or give to the ministry since all funding is through individual donations.”
For more information about CIC and Redeemer Network, call (225) 387-4416 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.