St. Charles missionaries facing difficulties in China

  • Sherri and Rolf Ronstadt have spent about eight months each year for the past 20 years in China spreading the word of Christianity through the Bible as part of the International Ambassadors for Christ ministry.

    Sherri and Rolf Ronstadt have spent about eight months each year for the past 20 years in China spreading the word of Christianity through the Bible as part of the International Ambassadors for Christ ministry. COURTESY OF ROLF RONSTADT

Posted6/27/2018 2:13 PM

While politicians in Washington, D.C., wring their hands over what a trade war with China would mean in the U.S., Rolf and Sherri Ronstadt of St. Charles experience a different level of stress regarding the Communist country.

As part of the International Ambassadors for Christ ministry, a 501(c)(3) organization they founded, the Ronstadts have been spreading the word of Christianity through the Bible in China for nearly 20 years, spending about eight months in the country each year.


It hasn't been an easy task, as persecution of Christians in the country has been well documented and an ongoing concern -- and getting worse.

Missionaries are not allowed in China, so Rolf said he enters as a professor teaching business, finance and English to adult students in a business school. But privately, he and his wife teach Bible-based studies and create citywide Christianity movements.

"In the past 18 months, the situation for Christians in China has dramatically worsened," Rolf said. "Persecution is rampant and has sharply increased since President Xi Jinping came to power."

Christians and churches are currently undergoing "a fiery trial" that is more fierce than anything experienced in China since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, Rolf added.

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"It is so dire that most believers around the world simply wouldn't believe it if we told them," he said.

Xi Jinping, seeking to have the country's laws amended so he can remain in power, has often spoken out against "illegal religion" making its way into the country.

That raised a red flag for the country's Christians, Rolf said. "Persecution has markedly worsened, and hundreds of house church pastors have vanished over the past few years."

The country now levies fines up to $30,000 against what it views as "illegal religion," Rolf said. The illegal activities would include prayer meetings or Bible studies, while those who travel to other countries and are found to have attended Christian events could be arrested and fined up to $50,000.

As such, the Ronstadts mostly work with small groups of as few as four or five students.

"Even small meetings like this carry risk of detection and police action, so great is the control being exerted," Rolf said.


But the Ronstadts are determined to stick with it, even though they know it is dangerous. They don't particularly like asking people to help the cause, but they know support is needed. They recently indicated they were selling their townhouse in St. Charles to move into an apartment to cut their costs.

Anyone interested in supporting the Ronstadts' mission can send donations to International Ambassadors for Christ, P.O. Box 545, St. Charles, IL 60174-0545, or through their blog at "China -- In His Image."

Gallery comes full circle:

It was 1984 when Janet Smith-Peterson introduced the Southwest Trading Co. as a small gallery in St. Charles.

It's no wonder she views it as "a beautiful full circle" in again opening a gallery in the Tri-Cities, this time as The Sundance Gallery in the Berry House Shops at 227 S. Third St. in Geneva.

The Berry House has enjoyed a revitalization of sorts the past few months with various new shops opening, and Smith-Peterson is relying on her gallery of jewelry, arts, crafts and other items to lure even more people into the indoor shopping site.

She'll host her grand opening weekend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 30, with a Native American dance demonstration from 1 to 2 p.m. by the Francisco family.

It continues Sunday, July 1, with the gallery open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and demonstrations from clay artist Mary Holat, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa tribe.

Jank keeps strumming:

Scott Corbin is still looking for a new location in St. Charles for his Jank Guitar Store after leaving his Main Street location because of some problems with the building.

But he's been plenty busy in the meantime, establishing music lessons on the Jank Guitar Store Online and also opening a location in St. Malo on the coastline of northwestern France.

The Jank Guitar Store has grown to serve more than 3,000 students, of which one in three are French, Corbin said.

As if that activity isn't enough, Corbin had time to again designate what he's called the Tri-Cities Jank Ambassador, a student who will spend a year making music and representing the Jank guitar method.

Madeline Schuster of Batavia, a fashion designer in addition to being a musician, earned that honor this year.

"In the next six months Madeline will be rolling out some exciting collaborations and opportunities that will allow her to reach millions of people with her designs as the Tri-Cities Jank Ambassador," Corbin said.

Many tastes in one:

Based on how often this column mentions various restaurant openings and closings, and what is really good at some of these places, readers would be inclined to think I've been to nearly every single eatery in the area.

That's not true, of course. But here's a trick of the trade, one might say. We do go to events that feature a lot of restaurants in one place, like the Foodie Fest at the St. Charles History Museum last weekend, or the Flavor Fare at the Festival of the Vine in Geneva, or any other event in which many local restaurants have samplings of their wares.

In that way, you can say "yes" when someone asks if you have "tried" a certain place.

With the Foodie Fest, I can now say I've tried Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Filling Station Pub & Grill, Puebla Modern Mexican, The Finery & Blacksmith Bar, Riverside Pizza & Pub and desserts from Nothing Bundt Cakes, Colonial Café & Ice Cream and DRM European Café & Delicatessen.

That's right. I did not leave this event hungry.

No more flowers:

Batavians who know a good deal on flowers when they see it, may be flocking to Batavia Floral in Bloom Friday, June 29.

That's the last day of business for the flower shop, which closes its doors after about 50 years of serving the area from locations on Morton Street, Batavia Avenue and the current 319 Main St. spot.

Three different owners have operated the shop during its time in Batavia.

In addition to flowers being sold at low prices during the closeout, much of the equipment inside the business is also being sold.

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