I recently had the privilege of witnessing the baptism of eight souls at my brother’s church, his daughter being one of those who were baptized. At that service, two young university students from China were also baptized. It was very moving to hear them give their testimonies, as they remarked that it was clear that God had brought them here to the United States – not simply to attend school – but so that they would meet the Lord Jesus Christ and become Christians. One made the comment that accepting Christ was not something they took lightly. It is certain they will face challenges when they return home to China with their new faith. The testimony of these two young men reminded me once again of a compelling and inspiring novel I read last year,
Safely Home by Randy Alcorn“China is my place of service. It is the battlefield where Li Quan has been dispatched as Yesu’s soldier. But this is not my home. Heaven is my home, my true country. I know that now. But it was a hard lesson to learn.”
Ben Fielding met Li Quan when they were providentially thrown together as roommates at Harvard. As a result of Ben inviting Quan to Christian ministry meetings on campus, Quan became a Christian. After graduation, Quan returned to his homeland of China to teach at the university, while Ben pursued a career as a business executive. The two friends remained in touch for a few years, but eventually they lost contact, with little regret on Ben’s part. In fact,
“The more Ben had poured himself into his career, the more he’d drifted from his faith, the more Quan became a reminder of something he’d turned from. They’d promised to pray for each other daily. Ben didn’t pray for anybody daily. Not for himself, not for his family. In fact, other than that day last year when he had those severe chest pains, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d prayed.”
Now Ben’s company needs him to go to China to do some firsthand research for their latest ad campaign. Ben’s boss asks him to contact his old roommate, whom he hasn’t seen in twenty years. And Ben has no idea what those past twenty years have held for Quan, a Christian living in Communist China. While Ben has essentially forgotten his faith and has all but lost his family due to his ambitious career goals, Quan has sacrificed much for the sake of his faith and commitment to Christ.
Upon his arrival in China, Ben’s primary concern and commitment is to his company and its business dealings in China. Although he is glad to see Quan, things are awkward between them. It becomes apparent how far apart the two friends have grown. Soon Ben begins to suspect Quan of being involved in some kind of criminal activity, and his Chinese business associate starts asking troubling questions about Quan. Before he knows it, Ben finds himself caught between his sympathies for Quan and his family and Christian friends, and the desire of Chinese government authorities to discover Christians, which they see as a threat to their society.
Ben begins to realize that the China that the outside world sees is not the same China that its people are experiencing in their daily lives. Quan tells Ben,
“Of course they are using you. They use anyone to accomplish their purposes. China wants your business. You want China’s business. Their job is to make China look attractive. Your job is to accept the picture they paint, not to question it. That way you can sell your semiconductors and computer chips. They are happy. You are happy. They get rich. You get rich. Everyone believes what he wants to.”
As Ben’s friendship with Quan is rekindled, so is his faith, which has grown cold, if not completely non-existent. Although being a Christian in the United States is relatively easy and involves no real risk, it had become an inconvenient hindrance to Ben’s goals and lifestyle choices. By contrast, Ben sees firsthand just what it means to be a Christian in China and meets Christians whose faith puts him to shame and challenges his way of thinking about God and his own faith. One man tells him, “A disciple’s desire is to glorify his Master. There are things more important than staying alive. Yesu’s followers must love him more than their own lives.”
But Ben has some personal issues that he must deal with in his journey towards genuine faith in Christ. His stay in China ends up being extended much longer than he expected, and his faith is seriously tested before he leaves. The story builds to an emotional and triumphant conclusion.
As the reader follows the dramatic account that is played out on Earth, he is also given brief scenes of the witnesses above, who watch with anticipation the events taking place below. Christ observes with his hand on the hilt of His sword, while the servants of God cry out, “How long, Oh Lord?” awaiting the day when He will avenge the blood of the martyrs and judge the enemies of His Church. (Note: This is actually the one aspect of the book that I didn’t care for; I really don’t believe our loved ones who have died are in heaven watching our lives down here and grieving over the earthly problems we are dealing with.) These are relatively minor asides throughout the main narrative, but they do become relevant towards the end of the story. I think Alcorn used them as a reminder to the reader of the “big picture,” that everything that happens here on earth has an eternal, spiritual perspective.
To me, Safely Home is a reminder that God has reserved a people for Himself “from every tribe, tongue, people and nation” (Rev. 5:9), and He has ordained a day that no man knows on which He will gather His people to Himself. II Peter 3:9 reminds us, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward [His chosen ones], not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Every day that Christ does not return is a day of grace and salvation, perhaps for just one more sinner. God is not just waiting and hoping for more to come to Him. He knows who each one is and when the last one will be secured for eternity. When all the ransomed church of God, all those whom the Father predestined before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), have come to faith and repentance in Christ, He will return in victory to judge all His and our enemies. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
From the author, Randy Alcorn:
“100% of royalties from Safely Home will go to help persecuted Christians and to spread the gospel in their countries. This book is my gift to the Lord, and to my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope readers will enjoy this story. It isn’t a downer, it’s an inspiration and encouragement. It has its light moments, and it conveys a fresh view of heaven. I pray it helps readers to find their joy in Christ and serve Him with greater joy and abandonment.”
“This last century has produced more martyrs for the sake of faith in Christ than in all the previous centuries combined – over 119 million. This century the death toll continues to rise.” – Tapestry Productions
Note: Safely Home is included on my list of fictional works I believe every Christian should read.
Related Articles and Sites
- Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com)
- Eternal Perspective Ministries – Randy Alcorn’s website (www.epm.org)
- Video of Chinese Christians receiving copies of the Bible (www.youtube.com)
- Four Responses to the Coming Persecution (jesaja662.wordpress.com)
- Marie’s Favorite Book… (chipmacgregor.typepad.com)