Many ministries begin when God places an idea, a burning passion, into one individual who allows that spark to be fanned into a flame far greater than him or herself. In the early 1900’s two strangers, Gustav Burklin and Lina Pfeifferling - each from Germany, committed to serve God as missionaries in China with the Alliance China Mission (Allianz Mission Barmen), formerly a German branch of the China Inland Mission, now Overseas Missionary Fellowship. While there they met, married, ministered together, and became the parents of three children. Their middle child, Werner, is the individual in whom God placed the spark that decades later would become China Partner.
Werner Burklin was raised in China and accepted Christ there as a teen. God’s blessing on the missionary activity of his parents, their peers, and their predecessors since 1800 led to the presence of approximately 700,000 Christians there by 1949. However that year, following the establishment of China’s communist government, Werner, his family, and all foreign missionaries were forced to leave and return to ‘home’.
In the late 1970’s, when China’s doors were reopened to foreigners, Werner was an established evangelist and executive with Youth for Christ and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. However, despite his positions, he had a desire to return to China to see what could be done to help the church there and so in 1981 he returned. As he set out Werner was quickly detained by the still suspicious Chinese authorities. After answering several questions regarding his plans and history honestly and presenting his old identity card, Werner was welcomed home and given a special permit to visit every town and village he desired to.
Werner’s desire was to serve the Church in China as they fulfilled the Great Commission,
a desire which serves as China Partner’s mission and guiding light today. During that first trip, and numerous others in the following year, he learned that training current and future Chinese Christian leaders with ministry insights and methods was then the most important ministry that could be done in China. As he directed Billy Graham’s two international conferences for itinerant evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983 and 1986, the idea for Training Seminars was born.
The spark was beginning to be fanned into flame, but Werner not only had to convince government officials that his only goal was to help China, he had to do the same with the Christian leaders. After years of faithfully meeting with government and Christian leaders during numerous trips to China, a mutual trust and confidence was established. In 1988 an invitation was given for Werner to lead an international teaching team in providing Training
the following year.
Werner Burklin Ministries was founded in 1989; however, due to the Tiananmen Square incident which occurred that summer, the initial Training Seminar had to be postponed. Two years later, and ten since Werner’s first trip back to China, another invitation had been extended and the first Training Seminar was held at the seminary in the city of Nanjing with great appreciation from all who attended. The second followed a year later in Guangzhou and over fifty more have been held since, each noted in the Interactive Map of Training History
During these initial Training Seminars, the teaching teams learned that quality Christian literature was greatly needed by those being trained. As a result, another dimension of ministry was added: Providing
Christian literature to Chinese leaders, churches, and ministry training centers. Over the years Chinese pastors began requesting assistance with various building projects and, in line with the ministry’s mission, a strategy for Building
new training locations and churches with the Chinese through partnership and financial assistance was developed. Additionally, as God grew the ministry in China, it became apparent that one of the key responsibilities and strategies for the ministry needed to be continually Learning
about China’s culture and policies, the Chinese Church, and how to partner with God’s work there, and helping others to do so as well.
In 1999, the ministry’s name was changed to China Partner, Inc. to better convey the idea of a partnership with the Chinese Church in training, providing, learning, and building, as the Chinese fulfill the Great Commission. Two years later Werner stepped down as president (though he remains active in the ministry) and the board appointed his oldest son, Erik Burklin as President. With this move, the addition of other staff members over the years, and further opportunities to serve the Church in China the spark God placed in a boy from Jiangxi has been fanned into flame which can be attributed to God alone.