The few but effective visits made by Luis Palau to China have gradually led to more opportunities for the influential American evangelist to preach openly in the religiously restricted country.
Since 2000, Palau has been allowed to speak at various events in China some evangelistic and others to promote charitable activities in China. Palau was invited to Shanghai to work on a book titled "A Friendly Dialogue Between A Christian and An Atheist" an idea proposed by atheist and former spokesman for Communist China's Cabinet Zhao Qizheng in November 2005. The two-day Shanghai meetings lasted three hours each day and were videotaped by Palaus team. The highly publicized trip had also drawn much controversy.
Currently, Palau is in Beijing for the release of the long-awaited co-authored book at the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), which began on Wednesday. This is Palaus fourth visit.
According to a press statement released Wednesday by the Luis Palau Association, Palau spoke of the benefits of the somewhat "aggressive" meetings he has had.
"On each visit to China I have made new friends at all levels of society and influence, the evangelist said. I have witnessed continued change. I continue to pray these friendships and changes will lead to greater religious freedom."
Palau said he believes each trip to China is getting him closer to his life-long dream of one day holding an open-air festival in Mainland China with the governments approval.
According to Palau, "Exciting changes are coming to China as millions of Chinese come to faith in Jesus Christ. These followers of Jesus love China and believe the love of God will bring nothing but positive social and economic change to their great country."
Palaus passion for China has moved the heart of even U.S. President George W. Bush. During his last visit to Beijing in November 2005, Palau received a phone call from the White House requesting that he join President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush for a private breakfast and Christian church service in Beijing.
Bush, a devout Christian himself, has expressed the same dream as Palau. "It wasnt that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly, the president said. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty."
In his new book, "A Friendly Dialogue Between A Christian and An Atheist," Palau states: "My dream would be that every Chinese person would find peace with God through Jesus. Thats my dream. Because we all know were going to die and the interesting thing is that Jesus offers the absolute assurance of eternal life to every sinner who repents and believes in Him."
Zhao, in response, said: "I, too, have a dream. My dream is that the exchanges between religious believers and non-believers will become an important part of contemporary culture. The United States and China are both great nations. The United States is the largest developed country in the world and China is the largest developing country in the world. We should make a more active effort to promote the exchanges between the Chinese and American peoples It should include religious dialogue and dialogue between religious and non-religious people."
According to sources from the Luis Palau Association, Palau also met with Cai Wu, the new Minister of Information, during this weeks visit to China. Cai said the success of the Riverside Talks book reflects the changing attitude of the government toward religion. He also showed his interest in writing a book together with Palau and said he believes that the newly released book will promote more harmonious and friendly exchanges between leaders from the United States and China.
In a special newsletter from the Luis Palau Association on Wednesday, Luis Palaus son Kevin reported that Luis would "use this time in China to build relationships, look for more opportunities to share the Gospel, and speak at several churches."
Kevin requested prayers for Luis and the Riverside Talks so that "the clear Gospel message will help to have a powerful impact on China and the world for Christ."