NEW WINDSOR — Finding churches that reach out to help those less fortunate was what most impressed the Chinese pastor on his first visit to the United States.
"In China, the church only does the religion -- services, prayer meetings and Bible studies," said the Rev. Yin Jinzeng, 81, pastor of the Chinese Christian Church in Beijing. "(In the U.S.), churches do many other things to help the poor and the homeless."
Yin -- ordained as a Brethren minister following his graduation from Hua Bei (North China) Seminary in 1938 -- stayed at the New Windsor Service Center last week as part of his tour of Christian churchesin the U.S.
The 46-year-old center, the only Brethren-run conference and disaster-relief distribution center in the country, sponsoredYin in Carroll to show him the variety of programs the church runs in cooperation with other denominations.
"(The center) was a logical place to show him our ecumenical services," said D. Miller Davis, director of center operations. "We wanted him to be exposed to as manypastors as possible during his visit."
Yin said he hoped to take the spirit of community service back to China. Although, in principle, the Chinese government cares for all the citizens' needs, some still need financial support, he said.
"So many people work and volunteer here, and I will tell that to my church members," he said. "As Jesus tells us, we should help each other and love one another."
Yinnoted that while the various U.S. Protestant denominations cooperatewith one another, historically, China's have not.
In early Chinese Christianity, the various denominations tried to discredit one another to steal members from other congregations, he said.
Currently,there are five officially recognized religions in China
-- Buddhism,Catholicism, Islam, Taoism and Protestantism.
"Before, there weremany denominations (of Protestants) and they did not cooperate well with one another," he said.
Although raised in a Christian family -- his father, Yin Han Zhang, was the first Brethren elder in China -- Yin said he himself did not accept Christ's teachings until 1933 when an evangelist spoke at the Brethren church.
"I didn't have the faith, only the knowledge of Christianity," he
Hearing the evangelist's speech inspired him to enter the North China seminary the following year, Yin said.
When the Chinese Communists discouraged religion in the late 1950s, the government sent Yin to be a laboreron a farm, planting rice and trimming trees.
"The Red Guard closed the churches and said we were sellers of opium," he said. "In the country, they would see you as a bad man and had no use for you."
China was in turmoil during its Cultural Revolution in the late '60s, Yinsaid.
The Red Guard, comprised mostly of middle school students, violated the churches and destroyed the offering boxes, crosses and religious articles, he said.
"There was no law, no rule," Yin said."These were young boys and young girls who did not understand."
After the revolution, but before President Nixon's visit to China in February 1972, government officials approached Yin and other religiousleaders about starting a church for foreigners.
Though reluctant because of the earlier religious persecution, church leaders eventually agreed to serve the non-denominational congregation because they felt providing foreigners with services would help diplomatic relations.
Services were held in Chinese since most pastors did not speak fluent English, Yin said.
English translations of hymns and scriptural selections were typed out for the congregation, and no sermon was preached during the 45-minute service, he said.
Through this church, Yin met many Americans with whom he was able to renew friendships on this trip, including the first family. Yin had served as the Bushes' pastor and baptized their daughter while the president served ashead of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing in the '70s.
Yin, along with three other Protestant Chinese ministers, visited the White House on Feb. 19.
"It was very nice," he said. "I am very happy that I could see them again in America."