Chapter 3


Conference on the all-inclusive Christ, December, 1962, Los Angeles, CA

Turmoil in Taiwan and promise in the U.S.

DECADES PRIOR TO COMING TO THE U.S., Witness Lee passed through an experience that would be instrumental in bringing him to America.

Having received a rich deposit of scriptural knowledge in a Brethren assembly for several years, and having passed through a great personal revival in August of 1931, Brother Lee raised up the church in Chefoo with only one spiritual companion, a brother whom he had recently led to the Lord and baptized. By 1933, the two had grown to more than one hundred. Lee decided to serve the Lord full-time in August of that year and began to receive speaking invitations from Christian groups in other cities. The work he was carrying out in Northern China was full of promise.

Later that year, Lee visited Watchman Nee in Shanghai. Lee had long appreciated Nee, both as a minister and an exemplary lover and seeker of the Lord. Nevertheless, the work Lee was carrying out was separate from the work in Shanghai. That changed after Lee’s visit to Shanghai:

When I was about to leave and return to my home city in northern China, Brother Nee came to me and said, “Brother Lee, we feel it is the Lord’s mind that you move with your family to Shanghai and stay with us for the Lord’s work. Would you bring this matter to the Lord?” When I went to the Lord with this matter, I received light. The Lord showed me that in the book of Acts the current of the Lord’s work, the stream of the Holy Spirit, is one. He showed me that in the Acts there was only one line on the map, starting from Jerusalem and running to Antioch, from there to Asia, and from there to Europe. I saw that there never have been two streams but always one. I said to the Lord, “Lord, I thank You. There can never be two streams of Your work in China. If there is something done for You or by You or through You in northern China, it must first be that I go to Shanghai to be mingled together in the one stream, in order that out from there something will flow forth to northern China. Thus, there will be one stream.” On the very next day Brother Nee came to see me. I said to him, “Brother, I am clear about this matter. I must do what you suggest. From this day I am working with you in Shanghai.”

Witness Lee, A General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, Part I: The Gospels and the Acts : Living Stream Ministry

For a worker of the Lord to keep himself in the one stream meant that he had to forsake his own direction. This entailed the paying of a price. Throughout his life and ministry, Lee passed through several major junctures in which following the stream required such a turn. Of the many turning points, perhaps none was more difficult as his move to the United States.

Although Lee’s travels in 1958 had convinced him of the need to spread the Lord’s recovery to the West, he had no thought that he himself would go. After all, he was bearing the promising work in Taiwan. His commission from the Lord, he felt, was to remain in the East, first in China and then Taiwan and the Philippines.

Two crises befell Lee in the late 1950s. The first was the death of his wife, Jung-hsiang Lee, from cancer. Part of the reason for the trip to the West in 1958 was to seek treatment. By early 1959, however, the disease had become terminal, forcing Lee to withdraw from the work to care for his wife during her last days. She went to the Lord that April.

At the same time, a turmoil was developing in the churches in Taiwan, one that Lee would later describe as the most painful experience of his ministry. The turmoil was brought about by a group of gifted young co-workers gained through the campus work in Shanghai and Nanking. In mainland China, they had been under the personal perfecting of Lee and Peace Wang. After following Lee to Taiwan, they took on various positions of responsibility in the churches. Lee hoped the responsibility would provide them with opportunities for further learning and perfecting.

According to Liu Suey, a co-worker from Taiwan of the same generation as these young brothers, “They loved the Lord very much, and pursued the Lord. They really poured themselves out.” Nevertheless, according to several co-workers who had occasion to observe, pride began to take hold of these young brothers, perhaps due to their giftedness and natural eloquence. A co-worker named Chu Hsun-min later said in relation to these brothers, “A person who is not capable finds it relatively easy to submit; however, a capable person can easily become proud.” 

In time, the young co-workers chafed under the leadership of the older co-workers, adopting the attitude that they knew better how to lead in the church, the ministry, and the work. In particular, they came to resent the fact that while Lee had entrusted them with considerable responsibility, he had left certain matters, such as the church finances, solely in the hands of the senior brothers.

The young co-workers latched on to T. Austin-Sparks’ criticism of the church ground during his 1957 visit. It provided a point of contention and an alternative vision to herald. After his visit, the young brothers claimed to have seen a “glorious vision,” one that far surpassed what the older generation had seen.

The turmoil in Taiwan developed below the surface for several years. The young brothers tended not to express their concerns directly to the older co-workers, preferring to disseminate their views privately to sympathetic brothers. One of the brothers held readings of Austin-Sparks’ spiritual periodical, A Witness and a Testimony, in one of the meeting places of the church in Taipei on a regular basis. The readings were followed by discussions on what they saw as the dissatisfactory condition of the church. Gradually, the steady injection of negative speaking took a toll on the health of the church.

The senior co-workers had shielded Lee while he cared for his wife, but after she went to the Lord, they met with him to discuss the intensifying turmoil. Lee called a meeting with all the co-workers and reaffirmed his position on the ground of the church. Separately, in a meeting with senior co-workers, he conveyed his feeling that the young brothers should step down. Some of the senior brothers, however, advocated for the young co-workers to be given another chance. Lee complied with their feeling and took no further action.

That year, Lee conducted a life-study training on the Gospel of John. In a message on John 2, Lee applied the scripture, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” to the situation in Taiwan: “I know…that among this audience, there are a few who are opposing and trying to destroy this work. I have to tell you today that if this work is of the Lord and you destroy it, the Lord will raise it up again in resurrection; if this work is not of the Lord, it should be destroyed.” After the meeting, the dissenting brothers secretly expressed their conviction that “Brother Lee is finished, and the brothers surrounding him will [soon] be in the coffin.”

Given his large family and the burden he was bearing in the work, the brothers in Taiwan encouraged Brother Lee to remarry. In February of 1960, he married a full-time serving sister, Pao-ye Lee. In the months that followed, Lee’s travels increased, both to the Philippines and to the United States. The rebellion in Taiwan, brought about by brothers he had personally raised up and cared for, left a deep wound, one that would open him to a previously unthinkable prospect: moving to the United States.

David Dong reviews the turmoil in Taiwan.

Felisa Sun considers the significance of the move to the West.

David Dong recalls Brother Lee's time in Seattle in 1962.

David Dong reviews the turmoil in Taiwan.

Felisa Sun considers the significance of the move to the West.

David Dong recalls Brother Lee's time in Seattle in 1962.

Following the flow to remain in the U.S.

Brother Lee visited the United States three times, first in 1958 and again in 1960. On his third trip, at the end of 1961, he took up residence in Seattle, Washington, to help his son with a business endeavor. In Seattle, Lee came into contact with three young brothers who had come to the city for graduate school and work. Initially, the brothers met with an Open Brethren assembly called Northgate Chapel. After learning of Lee’s arrival, they began to meet with him on the Lord’s day. The brothers recalled those meetings as sweet and intimate times of fellowship. Eventually, the brothers took the ground in Seattle on November 11, 1962.

During his months in Seattle, Lee observed encouraging developments taking place in California. In May, the church in Los Angeles had been established, and in July, Lee had occasion to visit them. Farther north, a third local church in California was added in Sacramento, having spread from the church in San Francisco.

During that summer of 1962, Lee’s burden for the work in the United States grew stronger. After returning to Seattle from his visits to California, he felt the Lord leading him to remain in the U.S. permanently. Plans were in place to leave the country for a conference in the Philippines scheduled for November 1. The plane tickets had been purchased and the saints there were expecting him. But as November drew near, Lee prayed frequently with the young brothers in Seattle. Inwardly, he felt the Lord’s hand constraining him to stay. Outwardly he felt the Lord keeping him from leaving. He later testified, “The Lord closed the door on whatever way I tried to leave. I had prepared everything for my return to the Far East, but the Lord did everything to frustrate me.”

Eventually, Lee came to the conclusion that there was nothing to do but yield to the Lord’s will:

One day after much struggling, I was too clear that I had to submit myself to the Lord. I could not do anything against His sovereign will. I had to give up my struggling. At the same time, I told the Lord, “Lord, I submit. I forget about the Far East regardless of what kind of responsibility I have there, how big that work is there—I just forget about that. I have to go on with You.”

Witness Lee, The Living that Fulfills God's Eternal Purpose : Living Stream Ministry

In the months after his struggle, Lee was reminded of his experience decades earlier in mainland China, when the Lord showed him the vision of the one stream in the book of Acts. In a message given in Los Angeles in 1964 he said,

It is quite clear to me that in these days the flowing of the divine stream is toward the Western world. This flowing to the West is something of the fellowship of the Body of Christ. It started from the throne of the exalted Lamb and has been flowing through all generations to this present time. It has been flowing through many regions and nations, and now it has turned to the Western world…I had no intention of coming to the United States, but the flowing of the Holy Spirit carried me here. I could not help it. Furthermore, my intention was that I would soon return to the Far East. But the flowing is still westward, and I could not return. My direction was eastward, but the flowing of the Spirit was westward. All I can do is simply be carried along by this flow. How wonderful to be in this stream! Oh, here is the life, here is the fellowship, here is the testimony, and here is the work of God!

Witness Lee, The Divine Stream : Living Stream Ministry

On October 31, Brother Lee sent a cable to the responsible brothers in Manila, apologizing that he would be unable to join the conference in the Philippines. He also informed the co-workers in Taiwan of his decision to remain in the U.S. On November 3, a group of brothers meeting together in Samuel Chang’s home in Los Angeles were astounded to receive a phone call from Lee, telling them that he would remain permanently in the U.S. and that he intended to reside in L.A. 

On his way south from Seattle to L.A., Lee visited the brothers and sisters in Sacramento. He later testified that in Sacramento he sensed an undeniable tide of the Spirit, which was a confirmation to him “that the decision the Lord gave me was right.” From Sacramento, he flew to L.A. on November 30.

Upon settling in L.A., Lee began to meet with the local brothers for morning watch at 6:30 A.M. After breakfast, the brothers who had full-time jobs, including Samuel Chang and Jim Reetzke, left for work, while two brothers, John Ingalls and Paul Ma, remained to pray with Brother Lee from 8:30 a.m. through noon. These three brothers prayed every morning for twenty-one days from the beginning of December. They prayed for the Lord’s move in the United States, that He would spread His recovery, and that he would bring in the right persons who would be useful to Him.

Brother Lee testified further that “in my whole life of serving the Lord, those prayers were answered more definitely than at any other time. We quickly saw the Lord fulfilling those prayers.” Lee came to view these twenty-one days of prayer as the true beginning of the work of the Lord’s recovery in the United States.

Witness Lee opened to the brothers in L.A. his burden to hold a conference at the end of December. The saints invited believers from around the country. They sent letters and cables and made telephone calls, and people came. The conference was held at the Chang residence, which overflowed with 60 or 70 people filling the living room and sitting on the staircase. The house was just big enough to accommodate them. Three years prior, When Samuel and Lygia Chang moved to L.A., their son, Daniel, and daughter-in-law, Anna, knew they would need a bigger home. They rented the house on 23rd Street that would serve as the church’s first meeting place and as the venue for the conference for $90/month.

The topic of the conference was the all-inclusive Christ. A majority of the messages focused on Deuteronomy 8:7-9, with a detailed exposition of the significance of each of the riches of the good land—wheat, barley, figs, pomegranates, olive trees, milk and honey, stones, iron, and copper.

This conference with Brother Lee has been described as the beginning of a new move of the Lord in this country and, to those of us who attended, it was certainly a milestone in our Christian life. Never before had the light of revelation in the Old Testament been so intense and the Bible opened up in such a way that was so living, fresh, and nourishing. Brother Lee spoke of the time in the early 1800s when John Nelson Darby joined with the brothers in Dublin, Ireland, as a release of a torrent of light…This aptly describes our experience as Witness Lee spoke these messages.

Jim Reetzke

The contents of these messages, later published by Living Stream Ministry in the book, The All-inclusive Christ, came forth through decades of studying the Bible and experience, as well as through Lee’s consideration of the type of the good land during his months in Seattle. Lee later testified, however, that the particular burden behind these messages came forth through the twenty-one days of prayer with the brothers in L.A.

Throughout the conference, the brothers and sisters sang and enjoyed three and a half hymns written by Witness Lee based on his burden to publish more hymns on the high truths in English: “We Praise Thee, Lord, for Thy Great Plan,” “Oh, what a Life! Oh, what a Peace!” “Oh, what a Might! Oh, what a Strength!” and the first two stanzas and the chorus of “The Triune God Has Now Become Our All.”

A brother who was present during the conference later remarked, “It’s very hard to describe those meetings. They were exceedingly high and the light in regard to the Old Testament was very bright…We saw the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.” 

“As soon as I opened my mouth to give a message,” Lee later testified, “my spirit was released because the work began with prayer and the spirit. Although the number of saints was not large, the meetings were very living and full of the Spirit, and the speaking was also fresh.”

In attendance were a number of American brothers and sisters who had not previously been in contact with the Lord’s recovery. Even as the conference was being conducted, several new people joined the meetings and were captured by the ministry on the all-inclusive Christ. One such brother who had been searching for years for a place to meet, testified that immediately after entering the Chang home, he “knew this was the place.”

Jim Reetzke recalls Brother Lee's move to L.A. and the conference on the all-inclusive Christ.

Helen Chen shares about the speaking in the conference and the effect it had on her.

David Dong remembers traveling from Seattle to L.A. for the conference.

Conference schedule.

Conference map for 23rd Street.

Top, left to right: Thomas Lo, Witness Lee, Tammy Chee, Tony Chee
Bottom, Left to right: George Niu, David Dong, Benjamin Leung

Jim Reetzke recalls the conference on the all-inclusive Christ.

Helen Chen shares about the speaking in the conference and the effect it had on her.

David Dong remembers traveling from Seattle to L.A. for the conference.

Conference schedule.

Conference map for 23rd Street.

A new beginning in the West

The twenty-one days of prayer and the conference that followed were a landmark in the Lord's recovery in the U.S. and in the spiritual lives of those who attended. Almost immediately after the conference, the church in L.A. began to grow and Lee began to receive invitations to minister around the country. The impact of the all-inclusive Christ conference was, to Lee, clear confirmation that it was indeed the Lord who had led him to remain in the United States, and that it was there, at that time, that the stream was flowing.