Within a Chinese University in Beijing lies the grave of Matteo Ricci and many other Jesuit missionaries to China. We followed a guide to a small garden enclosure. The first enclosure contained the graves of Matteo Ricci, Adam Von Schall and Ferdinand Verbiest. During the Cultural Revolution, their graves were destroyed and only by the quick intervention did they remain intact.
Next to Matteo Ricci’s grave enclosure was a garden filled with around 65 graves. These Jesuit missionaries came to China and gave their lives for God’s work. Interestingly, all the missionaries came with skill sets that they used to help the local Chinese government. Some were clock makers, cartographers, musicians, mathematicians. They did not merely come to preach the Gospel but found ways to enrich the lives of the Chinese through various skills. Thus, you will only find missionaries that have held positions in the government. Increasingly, these missionaries provide an example for modern day missionaries to China.
With the rise of Communism in the 1950s and the strengthening of governmental crackdown of house churches and even official government sanctioned churches, Matteo Ricci’s brand of ministry may be the way forward. It could be entering China officially to bless the people in China through business or teaching.
These Jesuit missionaries also show that an entire life dedicated to missions can truly impact a nation. Just like them, we need to adapt to their culture readily and not bring a colonialist mindset. Western ideas are not always better. We may have a thing or two to learn from the Chinese culture about loyalty, honour, bravery, filial piety and living in a community. We could also discover lessons how the Chinese churches have survived and thrived through years of hardship. We could also discover that Jesus will build his church no matter how dire the circumstance.