The hometown of Cai Shangen is Yanbian, Jilin province. With the entry of South Korean preachers into the Manchuria region after the beginning of the Chinese Reform, Cai and his family were converted to Christianity. There is an immigration policy in South Korea that any individual, who can prove that he/she has family ties to either North or South Korea, may very easily apply for South Korean nationality. Cai's parents who have been granted citizenship in South Korea are now living in that country. Cai, however, remains a Chinese national and does not like South Korea apart from doing short-term jobs there. In his opinion, being in South Korea as a man from Yanbian, he is not welcomed, even discriminated against. That perhaps has to do with his low qualifications and low performance at work, but on the other hand, he thinks the South Korean employers are lazy and bossy.
At present, Cai is a dedicated Christian living with his wife in a low-rent house in Xiping, Henan province. In both life and work, Cai is honest. Before overseas shopping services were supervised, he specialized in shopping services from South Korea and the products were authentic.
Because he has working experiences in South Korea and speaks the language, there were people who tried to persuade him to go work overseas, which means sending young, rural Chinese laborers to work in South Korea. They are however usually assigned to remote farms or electronics factories with very poor working conditions. Although Cai could earn 200,000 RMB annually, he persistently declined the opportunity believing it is a scheme to harm people.
While working in South Korea, he went to one of the most well-known, Charismatic churches in Seoul, a church which grew very fast. In the church, everyone was refined and courteous, but Cai believed it was superficial because apart from having a passionately outlook, nobody talked about practical issues in life. After returning to China, he has never contacted that church.
Because of his Korean ethnicity and work experiences in South Korea, a house church in Xiping came to appreciate him and started offering him lots of opportunities to preach sermons. He gradually became the actual person in charge of the church thanks to his friendly nature. He has warm hands and is not in it for the money.
In this way, the church has started to develop step by step although it has never been a large one. In communication with his co-workers, he emphasizes that he is an evangelical Christian, someone who can bring the message, but not a pastor nor a preacher, not a professional. He says that he understands the Bible in this way, namely love God and love man. One should preach and be passionate, not to build church systems, neither join the Three-self nor the house church. His co-workers support him unconditionally.
Cai is the boldest, self-nominated, evangelical preacher I have met. Currently in China, many churches emphasise the importance of uniting main-stream and orthodoxy. Some denominations only recognize the theology of their own as the proof of being orthodox. However, there are many Christians such as Cai who do not emphasise much about orthodoxy and compliance but rather care a great deal about the personal relationships among believers. Though not being painstakingly anti-intellectualism neither do they put much emphasis on refinement and intelligence. He likes to build a simple relationship with people regardless of how intelligent they are.
Cai's church, being an evangelical one, is perhaps similar to a typical American conservative, evangelical church. Cai is not dumb but rather conservative and a stickler for tradition. Being a simple man and preacher, he has never sought personal gain for himself and others internally in the church and is recognized as a moral model and example of loving the Lord. However, there are times when he is forced to be involved in social campaigns. For instance, in 2017, they saw in WeChat moments that some churches urged everyone to proclaim pro-life in the streets on Children's Day (June 1st every year) and gave pressure to the public. They simply believed that as a Christian to have an abortion is murder. So, they held an exhibition in their community to display the forming of a fetus.
As an evangelist, he is not equipped with social skills and experienced in public affairs, but does everything out of a clear Christian conscience that is only guided by others whose ideas he can agree with and then act on accordingly.
During the last national election in America, he saw that the comments about the event on WeChat moments were many and believed Trump was the better candidate. He says that Trump is a white Christian, a man and preserves Christian values whereas Hilary is a woman, and a woman cannot be the head. Besides she endorses homosexuality.
During this year, the staff of the Street Administration Office of his community have visited his church to demand and discuss how to install a fire control unit. He totally agrees that in a public place there will be a potential safety hazard without it. The Street Administration Office offered the unit to the church for free. Since then the Office has made no other requirements and has kept a good personal relationship with Cai.
When I asked him about how his church might develop, he indicated that hopefully it would be a small church where everyone can enjoy closer relations, However now the number is continuously increasing and it is hard for the believers to communicate more often. I said it is good to have more people because the church is increasingly renewed and more regular. However, Cai was not concerned with this and still insisted that he expects a small church so that believers may enjoy a closer relation. I believe what he said is trustworthy.
- Translated by Charlie Li