Chapter 6


Dallas, Texas, 1960s

Traveling Far and Wide

IMMEDIATELY AFTER the winter conference on the all-inclusive Christ in December, 1962, doors began to open for Witness Lee to minister to Christian congregations, first in Southern California and then around the country. Through the spread of the ministry publications, Watchman Nee was becoming widely known and respected in Christian circles. News began to spread by word of mouth that one of Nee’s co-workers was ministering in the United States, leading to a flurry of invitations. Consequently for Brother Lee, the 1960s were years of intensive travel. 

In 1963, 1964, and 1965, Brother Lee made roughly twenty-nine trips and visited at least thirty-five churches, congregations, and free groups throughout the United States. He visited groups in San Diego, Chula Vista, and Big Bear, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Blackfoot, Idaho; Eugene, Salem, Portland, and North Bend, Oregon; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tyler, Odessa, Plainview, Dallas, Grand Prairie, and Waco, Texas; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; Seattle, Washington; Miami and Orlando, Florida; Washington D.C.; Columbia, South Carolina; and High Point, North Carolina, among others. He also made several lengthy visits to the church in New York City. He was often accompanied by Samuel Chang, who drove him from place to place in his personal automobile. 

In his travels, Lee had a particular burden to minister on the experience of Christ as life, the tripartite nature of man, and the need to exercise the human spirit to experience Christ. He also ministered on the church, the Body of Christ, as God’s goal. Given the strong Christian tradition in the United States, it was not uncommon for him to meet resistance, particularly when his speaking on the human spirit and the church clashed with traditional views held by members of the audience. Still, he was faithful to speak.

He recounted an example of this from a visit to an independent Bible church in Las Vegas in 1964:

While I was there, I spoke on man’s heart and spirit. I said that God created man with a heart to love Him and a spirit to receive Him. I said that man can receive God by means of his spirit and that he can love God with his heart. During my visit I stayed in the home of one of the leaders of the congregation. I found out that the wife of that brother was very bothered about my speaking concerning the difference between the heart and the spirit. To her realization the two were the same. She felt that I had gone too far in differentiating between the heart and the spirit. The next morning she served us breakfast. As she was coming with the eggs, I said, “Sister, give me an egg.” As she gave me an egg, I said again, “Sister, give me an egg.” At this, she said, “Brother Lee, here it is. I said, “I surely would love to have an egg.” As I said this, I kept my hands off the egg. At first, she did not understand what I was demonstrating. Then I said, “Sister, I would like to show you the difference between receiving and loving. You cannot receive the egg with your heart, and you cannot love the egg with your hands. To love the egg, you must use your heart, but to receive the egg, you must use your hands. God created us with a heart so that we can love Him. But just as I cannot receive the egg without hands, I cannot receive God without a receiving organ. This is why God created a spirit within man as well as a heart.” After this brief explanation the sister received a complete understanding and was very happy.

– Witness Lee, The Central Line of the Divine Revelation : Living Stream Ministry

Gerald Chan discusses Brother Lee's commission to bring the truth to Americans.

Brother Lee in Sacramento, 1963

Al Bloch remembers Brother Lee's manner as compared to the other ministers and ministries of the day.

Jim Coleman remembers an example of Brother Lee standing up for the truth.

Gerald Chan discusses Brother Lee's commission to bring the truth to Americans.

Brother Lee in Sacramento, 1963

Al Bloch remembers Brother Lee's manner as compared to the other ministers and ministries of the day.

Jim Coleman remembers an example of Brother Lee standing up for the truth.

Welcome and Not Welcome

Witness Lee visited large congregations with hundreds of people and small groups with fewer than ten. On one occasion, he traveled hundreds of miles out of his way to visit a few Catholic nuns who had reached out to him. No group was too small or too humble to be visited.

Lee did not travel in luxury. He and Samuel Chang often stayed in the homes of believers they visited or at inexpensive motels. On one occasion, Lee and a young brother in his twenties were staying in the home of a couple who put them together in one room with a single bed. Brother Lee, at sixty years old, gave the bed to the younger brother. Lee slept on the floor.

Throughout his travels, Brother Lee dropped vestiges of his culture to blend in with the Americans he visited. James Barber recalled Brother Lee's flexibility while traveling:

Somehow we ended up consuming a lot of bologna sandwiches, cokes, and potato chips…Brother Lee just fit right in, like that was the best menu you could have offered him. I never got the impression that he lifted himself up among us. He spoke with such depth that we were hungry to get everything he had, but also he could sit down and just talk with you in a human way. When we finished, you never felt like you were someone little and he was someone big. I felt like he had a feast to present, but was willing and flexible to go along with anything.

– James Barber

While visiting a group of young believers in Plainview, Texas, Lee was served breakfast that included bacon. Brother Lee was known to avoid pork, at least according to Barber,  young brother he was traveling with. Barber remarked, “Brother Lee, you’re going to have bacon? I’ve never seen you eat bacon.” To which Witness Lee quipped, “I have to be broken.”

Still, although Brother Lee was flexible enough to fit into any situation, this was 1960s America. Lee and the brothers suffered opposition in a number of the places they visited, and even were followed on some occasions by hecklers. Some groups turned away from him en masse, particularly when he broached the topic of the church. At times, he faced racial prejudice and suspicion:

In one place after another I stayed in the homes of Americans, and they would introduce me to other people who invited me for fellowship. Rumors soon came from a certain denomination: “Lee is Chinese. He teaches Oriental philosophy, which is different from the Christian teachings in America. Don’t listen to him.” Later, they even spread the rumor that I was secretly a Communist. One day four or five years later, the FBI sent two men neatly dressed in suits to interview me at my home. They said, “Don’t worry, it’s nothing much; we’re only here to see you.” Then they said, “Someone is saying that you are a Communist. But before we came, we spoke to American and Chinese Christians, and they testified that you are a respectable preacher and that there is no problem with you. Out of duty, however, we must come to see you and your family. We know that there is no problem with you.” My youngest daughter even received a phone call from the FBI, inquiring whether I had joined the Communist Party and was working with them.

– Witness Lee, Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1981, vol. 2 : Living Stream Ministry

Prejudice notwithstanding, Lee’s travel bore fruit. Together with the spread of Watchman Nee’s ministry and the sweeping Spirit, seeking believers were brought into the Lord’s recovery. John Ingalls later wrote, “Wherever he went, the Christians told him that if he had come three years earlier they would have had no heart for his word, but that the Lord had done something in them which caused them to be open to his message.”

In almost every state Lee visited, at least some came into the Lord’s recovery. Some moved to Los Angeles to participate in the church life there. Others left their denominations, began to meet in small groups in their cities, and attended conferences and trainings in L.A.

The Lord was raising up a testimony of His recovery in the United States. Between 1963 and 1964, one of the strongest and most encouraging examples of this work would be seen in the state of Texas.