They are passionate missionaries. They are fiery revivalists. They are the devoted parents of five lively young children.
Meet Grant and Jean Handley who have just arrived in Jeffreys Bay after years of serving the underground church in China and a year as students at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) in Redding, California.
Watch this family of seven who are brimming with big “God plans” and are on the lookout for mission-hearted revivalists to join them!
By the time they got married in 1999 the Handleys were committed to embarking on a mission-centered lifestyle. They were just not sure where they would go. Jean, who was raised in a very strong Christian family says she really got “sold out” on mission after they went on a 3 week recce visit to China in 2002 together with their 10 months old daughter, Catherine.
“Mission is the greatest adventure for any Christian,” says Jean. “Just think of all those territories out there that still have to hear the name of the Lord. It seems wrong that there are places on earth where there are so many churches and others where there is nothing. So both Grant and I are very passionate about that and have just had to juggle with family: how do you do both — and deal with the different seasons of life?” says Jean.
“That’s the challenge. But it’s not impossible,” responds Grant who became a Christian in matric after an encounter with a teacher who boldly challenged his then Mormon faith, shortly before he was due to embark on two years of Mormon mission.
Grant says that access to mission focused Christian schools in Jeffreys Bay was a factor in their current move to the Eastern Cape town near Port Elizabeth, with their five young children, because: “We feel God has got us on a Kingdom mission assignment as a family.”
During the Handley’s life-changing China recce trip back in 2002 Grant was deeply moved by a conversation he had with a young woman student who had never heard of Jesus.”I remember the feeling of meeting somebody for the first time who had never heard of Jesus — and I thought, well, I want to give my life to working with people like that.”
Early in their marriage Grant and Jean led a township church plant in their hometown, East London, for several years. The challenging cross cultural experience at a time when Grant was also working as a business consultant prepared them for the season from 2006 to 2012 which was focused on three mission stints in central China. They had two children at the start of this season and five — including toddler twins — by the end.
In their first year-long stretch, Grant taught English at a university (his official job), while they both poured themselves into teaching, discipling and “parenting” eight young, emerging underground church leaders who lived with them. They taught the young leaders English and discipled them. Jean also gave them keyboard and worship instruction. The couple were assisting a friend of Jean’s in China.
Back in East London after their first full year on mission God made a way for Grant to earn enough money in 3 months through business consulting for them to return to China to learn Chinese while studying at university. With two young children and a baby, no salary and a small rented apartment it was a challenging season. A year and a half later they returned to East London where the twins were born. But when the twins were 4 and a half months old they were back in China where Grant once again taught at the university and they worked with the underground church.
The Handley’s last term of over 2 years in China was a key time in which relationships with underground churches deepened and Grant got to see their former spiritual sons running projects out in the field. They say it was a privilege to relate with the brave and zealous underground church leaders who all experienced a measure of persecution and came out of a revival culture that shared similarities with the culture at Bethel Church, California but yet was quite different.
Chinese revival culture
“The Chinese revival culture doesn’t have a polished, TV look. It just happens because God showed up. People come with many healing testimonies and nobody questions healing or needs to be convinced that it happens today as is the case in the west,” says Grant.
The Chinese underground church exels in evangelism and is reportedly the fastest growing church in the world with about 160 million believers at present.
Grant says church leaders have no status in Chinese society. There is not a culture of tithing and pastors typically have menial jobs to help cover basic expenses.
Jean says she and Grant believe that their five children are significant in God’s purposes for them in China where a one child policy is enforced.
“We planned our pregnancies and four was the maximum number of children we decided upon before I became pregnant with twins.I felt God say ‘Jean this is what I want for you’ and that thing when Mary said ‘I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said’. I had been praying for God to increase our boundaries and He gave me what I felt I couldn’t manage in my own strength because he wanted to glorify Himself through our lives and he wanted us to have to rely on Him,” she says.
She says people with twins are envied in China because they are largely exempt from the one child per family regulation. A boy and girl twin combination is the most envied of all and is considered extremely blessed. “I felt it was God’s favour on us and a prophetic sign to the Chinese people,” she says.
Grant says he feels the large family and twins were also a sign of God’s provision because people asked them how they managed to provide for the big family “and we just say we have a rich Dad!”
Modeling marriage and family
He also believes God is calling his family to model God’s intention for marriage and family to Chinese people.
“Sadly family has been lost a lot in China because moms go back to work straight after their babies are born and grandmothers bring up the kids. And fathers are not hands-on with their kids, but are stuck in careers and often live in a different city to their children,” says Jean.
“We would go to the park and people would watch us and I felt God was doing something through that. Just to see a family having fun in park there was amazing because they don’t have any siblings.”
During the Handley’s time in China Grant started listening to a CD teaching called “Supernatural Power of a Renewed Mind” by Bethel Church leader Bill Johnson.
“I began to experience inner revival and felt this fresh wind blowing off the dust of disillusionment I had been feeling about the Holy Sprit and speaking in tongues and healing — with nobody getting healed, prophetic words that never seemed to come through and no evidence of a real difference between people who were filled with the Holy Spirit and those that were not filled. I became inspired with a conviction that the supernatural was not just for the super anointed few but was for everyone and for the marketplace. I sensed God wanted to do stuff around me and that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is foundational to the reason that Jesus came. John the Baptist says that Jesus is the one who takes away the sins of the world, which is one of the central reasons He came, but he also says in all four Gospels that Jesus is the one who baptises in the Holy Spirit and in fire.”
Grant says he read more of Bill Johnson’s writings and during their last term in China he attended a conference in Hong Kong where Johnson was a speaker. He felt more and more revived and hungry to step more fully into his calling. During this time Jean also caught the fire of personal revival. Against all financial and logistical odds God miraculously enabled the family to travel to California and for Grant and Jean to enrol in BSSM in August 2012, just eight weeks after they returned to South Africa after completing their time in China.
He says it felt as if God was “filling us up after the pressure and harshness of China”. He says the family gained a fresh understanding and experience of joy and freedom in God. “The whole family got into soaking times together in which we would just come into God’s presence. We still do that. Another big topic that impacted us was the culture of honour. Bethel also taught us to be ready in God to step into something much bigger that we think we are. We learnt to think big!”
In 2013 during his time at BSSM, Grant went on a mission trip to a different part of China with a Bethel team.
Tangible presence of God
And in June 2014, one of Grant’s former Chinese students who had read a Bill Johnson book that was translated in Chinese asked him to come and “take what God is doing at Bethel and release it in China” During this mission trip in a country area they experienced three non-stop days of God’s tangible presence.
He says there is a hunger in the Chinese church for what God is doing at Bethel and other churches — the “freedom and joy experience and the revelation that everything that is in Heaven — which is all good — has to come to earth”.
“And that [this revelation] is all true, yet in China God has done something that is so beautiful out of the suffering and persecution and martyrs. And I wish they [the Chinese] could come over to the west and teach us on praying and evangelising.”
“It is why we need each other,” comments Jean.
In Jeffreys Bay where they arrived a week ago, Grant and Jean have linked up with a group that is part of Victory for All, that concentrates on community development in townships. Their role will be to help build the spiritual side of the work. They are also teaching at the Global Leadership Academy school which has a strong mission focus.
Grant says they want to partner with other revivalists in the area. They have a vision for establishing a revival culture school that will be South African in style and will be affordable and will raise leaders to be all that God wants them to be. They also plan to launch an All Nations Mission project as a vehicle to get newly trained and equipped revivalists onto the mission field. In July this year they will undertake a revival culture mission trip to China. They still have place for about 1 or 2 revivalists to join them. If you think that is for you, you can contact Grant at 081 860 3222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.