Young Pastor Remembers Wenzhou Elder

A picture of Elder Zheng Datong, shot in May, 2023
A picture of Elder Zheng Datong, shot in May, 2023 (photo: Ruth Wang)
By Li ShiguangJune 4th, 2024

On May 19, Elder Zheng Datong, who coined the phrase "Wenzhou, China's Jerusalem" and was imprisoned for his faith three times, passed away in Wenzhou at the age of 84.

A young pastor surnamed Zhou, who lived in a city in East China, shared three impressive stories of receiving guidance and help from Elder Zheng Datong during his twenty-plus years of ministry.

Elder Zheng Datong once served at the Puxieshi Church in Lucheng District, Wenzhou, with a deep enthusiasm for church history and literature ministry. Holding a doctor of ministry degree, he was a poet and a painter. Since the 1980s, he has published books including Revelation Illustrated and The Path of Blessing: A Poetic Life in Christ in Singapore and Hong Kong.

In 1998, Elder Zheng took Zhou to attend a church worker training session in Anji, Huzhou, Zhejiang, asking him to give a sermon during the gathering. Upon hearing this, Zhou was very frightened, facing so many staff workers and pastors, as he was just starting to learn how to preach. Elder Zheng told him not to be afraid, promising to support him as much as possible.

Inspired during the meeting, Zhou intended to preach a sermon titled "Serving with Power," which he had never been involved in. Elder Zheng told him, "I once wrote an outline for a sermon on this theme. I'll find it for you and just preach boldly." After Zhou delivered the sermon, Elder Zheng told him, "You preached very well. The Holy Spirit enlightened you to give this sermon in such a meeting, so you will become a powerful witness of God in the future." From then on, encouraged and affirmed by Elder Zheng, Zhou began to serve actively in the church.

In 2002, the church where Brother Zhou was serving encountered problems. He prayed for more than six months, asking God to prepare a church where he could commit and serve. One day, Elder Zheng called Zhou to lead a Bible study in a youth fellowship, but he had not engaged in this ministry before. He recalled, "In the second half of 2002, I started leading Bible studies in this youth fellowship and have continued until now. We've studied the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of John, the Book of Romans, and Genesis, and now we're studying 1 and 2 Samuel. I can't say I've brought much to the fellowship, but through teaching and studying the Bible, my life and ministry have been completely transformed. Since Elder Zheng gave this opportunity to me, I have been serving in this fellowship till now."

On another occasion, Zhou preached about how to make life choices. He shared that when a person makes major decisions in life, his conscience should be clear. Sitting in the audience, Zheng later pointed out that he did not cite the Bible to support his argument. He suggested that Zhou change to give sermons based on Bible verses.

In conclusion, Zhou said, "I find that among the church workers we are familiar with, it is very difficult to find a few people with whom we can have deep conversations about theological issues, biblical challenges, and the problems we encounter in our ministry. Elder Zheng was an outstanding person in this regard, but now God has taken him away. I have lost a good teacher, a good pastor, a cross-generational friend, and an elder who once cared for my family like a father."

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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