Questions about Missions [Part III]

I’m copying more of a conversation I had with a U.S. college student interested in missions.

His question # 1: Are your experiences with evangelizing in China more from personal relationships that have developed over time or spontaneous meetings with people?

My response: My evangelizing in China has pretty much been primarily through personal relationships developed over a long time. I’ve had periods of time in China where I did lots of sharing to random folks around me, like taxi drivers, or students, or just random people I’ve met. But where I’ve at least seen the fruit has been through personal relationships. Usually it starts with just getting to know them casually in groups. Then eventually beginning to meet one-on-one with them. And then slowly through that being able to share more and more about my faith. And then some will make a profession of faith. Though this profession of faith should be celebrated, just like with folks in the U.S., it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re saved because they’ve made a profession of faith or ‘prayed a prayer’. Usually it takes much longer to see if those people will persevere in the faith. And those that I’ve initially evangelized & have now persevered in the faith 5 or 10 years later are quite few, just a handful. 

His question # 2: Because of the sensitivity of evangelizing in China, how does that affect your methods and the work you do?

My response: Certainly security is a factor for missionaries in China. You don’t want to preach to a big group in public. But doing small Bible studies or sharing one-on-one are usually okay. This doesn’t mean that the Chinese government approves of this, but usually you can do this without getting in trouble. I usually wouldn’t hand out Bibles or tracts to groups or anything like that. Certainly security makes it much different to try to share with people in China compared to in the U.S. But there are still many opportunities. For example, when teaching in a university in China, the college students are very curious & have lots of questions. They wanna hang out with you. And so there are many opportunities to share your life and your faith with them, and most of them can speak English.

Going to Chinese Church

Now we’ve been living in Deerfield, IL for about three months. I’m here studying my PhD in intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School [TEDS].

These first few months we’ve been going to a Chinese church nearby. We are the only foreigners at the church who go to the Mandarin church service and Sunday school, and a Mandarin small group. We thought going to a Chinese church being in the Chinese service we’d be able to learn more about Chinese believers. Our Chinese would continue to improve during our planned couple years in the U.S., before Lord willing returning to NW China. We’d continue to be around Chinese people and be continued to their culture. All these benefits would also be for our daughter, who was born in NW China & went to a Chinese kindergarten last year in our city in NW China.

But now this week my wife & I have decided to find an English-speaking church around here. Though we’ve enjoyed going to the Chinese church, it seems as though it’s been more challenging than we expected to go to a church that is all in our second language. Our Chinese is good enough to converse with minimal difficulties, read the Chinese Bible, or watch Chinese movies with Chinese subtitles. But doing everything at church in only Chinese has been incredibly hard. We can understand most or some of the sermons’ content. But as far as understanding it in a deeper way that is necessary for impacting us spiritually, it’s very hard. When we’re at Sunday school or small group, we can understand most of what people are talking about. But in that setting, it’s hard for us to actively play a part in the study, to articulate in Chinese what we want to say it when we want to say it.

Now I can relate to all the people out there who go to English churches when English isn’t their first language. I can understand such challenges. Previously I would’ve thought that the ideal church would be one where it’s a mixture of Asians, Africans, Latinos, and Europeans all going to the same church together. But now I can understand why there are ‘Chinese churches’ or ‘Korean churches’ or ‘Polish churches’. Even for those who’ve been in the U.S. for a long time, for those people it’s not just a matter of being nationalistic and only wanting to be with people from their country. Even for those who’ve lived here a long time, there’s nothing that can compare to doing church in that person’s heart language, rather than a second language.

So now we’re gonna look for an English-speaking church.

Please pray for us in this, that very soon we’d be settled in at a church here that we can really invest heart and soul into.

Questions about Missions [Part II]

I’m copying more of a conversation I had with a U.S. college student interested in missions.

His question # 1: Is there an opportunity/need for missionaries to be working in industry and business in China or would teaching be a better way to reach people?

My response: Yes there are many opportunities for Americans to work in various industries as a platform to do ministry. We have a teammate who studied Architecture in college, so he’s done a decent amount of architecture work full-time in NW China, mixed in with some time teaching full-time, and now he’s doing both. We’ve had a guy who did some accounting in his city in NW China, because he had an accounting experience. Though my college degree was Engineering, I’ve never worked in the Engineering field in China. I’ve always been an English teacher, which I came into with absolutely no experience. I think there are some questions to consider in the decision.

Lots of missionaries in China run [sometimes very successful] businesses, like coffee shops, restaurants, export companies, computer programming, tourist companies. So certainly something you could get a better idea about if you were interested.

His question # 2: Why are you teaching instead of practicing engineering?

My response: If you genuinely love working for a particular industry, then you can certainly use that passion to minister in those spheres in China that others can’t reach. You can work as an Engineer in China and do outreach with your co-workers there & those in that profession. It’s a crowd of folks that we as English teachers can’t really reach. But there are other factors, too. If you are an Engineer, you’ll be working at least 40 hours per week in that. So you’d better really like that work, and it’ll take away from time you could spend elsewhere. Whereas if you’re an English teacher in China, you only work 15 hours per week & have lots of free time for language study & outreach. So if you want to have an Engineering job in China, it should be something you really have a passion to do.

This is why I’ve always taught English in China, rather than doing Engineering. I did well in my classes in college, but Engineering was never my passion. I was more interested to serve overseas in other capacities. The first few years of teaching English in China, I really didn’t like it. It was quite painful. But eventually I got the hang of it. I can’t believe now I’ve been doing it for ten years! And the last few years in our city I’ve been teaching at the top high school in our province, which is more demanding. Ten years ago I never would’ve thought I’d be doing that : )

My First Thanksgiving Day in China

Originally in my November 25th, 2005 Journal [age 23, ministering in eastern China]

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. I have many things to be thankful for. One, at our party last night, Sanya mentioned the praises & thanks in Psalms. Then she pulled out a big Bible that John had given her in May. She said it’s a great book. I’m really excited because the gate has definitely been opened to approach her further about the Bible. Other things to be thankful for: a family who loves me; being in China & knowing all these great students; being in a place where the Lord can use me every day & I can see the fruits; great friends back home that love & support me; I thank the Lord for giving me my faith & continually strengthening it; for pulling me out of nothingness to live a life with Him. I have many many things for which to be thankful. What an amazing dinner last night. How blessed I am to be here to experience these things & this love that I feel from all the students. How blessed. How could I ever leave this place?

 I think at this point it would be impossible to not come back next year. I can’t think of one reason not to. God is doing too much here. I couldn’t just leave that, at least not until I feel a pull to go elsewhere.

Questions about Missions [Part I]

I’m copying a conversation I had with a U.S. college student interested in missions.

His question # 1: Is it still possible to study Chinese full-time free in NW China?

My response: Yes. We have a guy like yourself who studied Chinese his last year in college in the U.S., while finishing up another degree. Then he moved to our city in NW China to study Chinese full-time for free at one of the universities. Now that he’s finished that year of full-time Chinese in China, he’s now beginning a Master’s degree at that college studying whatever he wants. For all the Chinese study, plus all the Master’s degree, all of his costs are paid by his school, including tuition, housing, & other living costs. Pretty cool for those interested to do something like that.

His question # 2: As a college student, how can I begin to prepare for missions?

My response: Before going into the missions field, I really had no formal preparation. I had spent the previous summer in Thailand [like what you’re thinking to do next summer in China] for three months. So that did help me a little bit. And my senior year of college I started an international Bible study at my college. That did help me a bit, though not necessarily for reaching Chinese folks. I’d suggest while in the U.S. trying to spend time with those who are from the country you want to go to [i.e. China]. There’s not any particular missions book I’d suggest you to read, although I really enjoyed reading Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor when I first arrived in China. I’ve this year also published a book Becoming Native to Win the Natives that talks lots about my missions experiences in China.

Time of Personal Spiritual Growth

Originally in my October 22nd, 2007 Journal [while ministering in eastern China]

In the afternoon I talked with one of the [visiting on short-term mission trip] Americans, Billy. He’s only about 35. He said that before he went into the ministry he had a 3-month period where he & his friend had no job & would just read the Scriptures together each day. He said that 3 months of preparation was huge for the next 10+ years of his ministry. This was further confirmation that I should be seizing all spare time this semester/year to be in the Word in some way. I shouldn’t be looking to be busy. This is a season of learning & preparation for future ministry.

[my prayer updates for that day]

Students to pray for this week: Emily, Sanya, Abigail, Jordan

*** I haven’t seen clear answers to last week’s prayers & I don’t know why I should expect anything, because my prayer life has been struggling. My mind gets so distracted after such a short time. I fall asleep. Lord, show me how to pray. I could split these things up & pray for them throughout the day rather than all at once.

Iron Sharpening Iron

Originally in my October 2nd, 2010 Journal [written at very beginning of long friendship with C.L. Harbor]:

From 11:15-3 pm we had Guys’ time and [C.L. Harbor] was there. I told C.L. that he challenged me greatly. My strengths [discipline & knowledge of the Word] are his weaknesses. His strengths [reaching the poor & afflicted] are my weaknesses. I’ve always been in churches that put much focus on knowledge of the Word, but not much on reaching the poor & afflicted. C.L. has always found churches that focus on reaching the poor, but not on knowing the Word. Since we are opposites, neither of us can be complacent, but we must constantly be encouraged by the other.

new article on China Source – ‘Language & Culture Learning — in Kindergarten’

Today I had an article on China Source titled ‘Language and Culture Learning — in Kindergarten’.

Here’s the link:

http://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/from-the-west-courtyard/language-and-culture-learning-in-kindergarten

 

 

Or you can view the article below:

Education is a major issue for cross-cultural workers who serve overseas with their families. Most families choose to put their kids in an international school, a local school, or to homeschool full-time at home. All of these have their pros and cons.

Last year we decided to put our daughter in a local Chinese school. Here are some of the benefits we see in this choice.

Families we respect who were living in other cities and had put their children in Chinese schools for a while talked highly about it. They told us that sending kids to the local school would help them learn the language quickly and to make many local friends. When our daughter was born, we planned to do the same.

For the past year our daughter has been attending a nearby Chinese kindergarten. She started going to the kindergarten shortly after her third birthday. Though most of the other kids, beginning at age three, go to school all day, we wanted our daughter to go only for half-days.

Our daughter’s overall experience in the Chinese school has been great. She absolutely loved the school at first, but after about a month the school started calling us to come pick her up and bring her home. This lasted for a few weeks, but when her teacher told us that she’d been throwing temper tantrums at school we disciplined her at home. She soon stopped throwing temper tantrums at school and started enjoying it again. Now going to school is one of her favorite things to do.

Because she’s so young, she’s been able to pick up Chinese rather quickly—even though she’s only at her school in the mornings and has been going for less than a year. Before she started kindergarten, I’d try to speak to her in Chinese at home. While she could understand a bit, she would hardly use Chinese to respond to me or to others. Now that she’s been at the Chinese kindergarten for almost a year—communicating only in Chinese with her teachers and classmates—she’s able to converse easily with people in Chinese.

In the Chinese culture, it’s important for children to show respect to the elderly by saying “hello grandma” or “hello grandpa” to them when walking by. Our daughter has seen this modeled at her school, so it’s now very natural for her to greet elderly people while walking down the street. Sometimes she will have lengthy conversations in Chinese with people of many ages who live in our neighborhood.

Our daughter has made many friends at her school. Her teacher said that she was able to learn all of her classmates’ names, even though all of them are Chinese names and our daughter was only at school in the mornings. As I look with her at a picture of her whole class, she can tell me all the kids’ names with minimal difficulty. Every day when we pick her up or are at home with her, she tells us stories about what happened to her classmates at school that day. With some of the kids she has built a particularly tight bond.

When our daughter interacts well with the people in our neighborhood, it opens up many doors for us to more easily gain the trust of the people in our community. And our daughter is happy as she walks around chatting with neighborhood kids, parents, and grandparents. Everyone is excited to see her acting like one of the neighborhood girls. Indeed, the reason our daughter feels so comfortable interacting with our neighbors is because she has been going to the local Chinese school. If she weren’t going every day to the kindergarten, I think it quite unlikely that she’d feel so at home with the people around us.

We are blessed because our daughter has done well at the Chinese school. However, all thanks must go to God for helping her daily to do well. The glory goes to him, not to us. And because of our daughter, we have been able to walk through doors opened more widely into our community to serve. When she interacts well within the local culture, people notice. As a result, they are more interested in our family, our parenting, and what is important for us. We can share with them about how God is the anchor and center in our lives.

Today I had another article on Desiring God titled ‘Free at Last’

Today I had another article on Desiring God titled ‘Free at Last’.

Here’s the link:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/free-at-last

 

 

Or you can view the article below:

Free at Last: My Surprising Liberation from Porn

Like far too many young people today, my adolescent eyes found pornography too early and too often. Soon the allure of cheap and easy pleasure constantly haunted me.

My struggle intensified in middle and high school when my mom’s health faltered. I turned to the empty promises of pornography to try to fill me up and help me cope.

Even after I became a true follower of Christ in college, I continued to struggle with sexual sin. My porn and masturbation patterns fueled impure relationships with girls. I tried to make headway fighting these sins, but I seemed stuck.

I felt trapped. I felt helpless.

Slave to Sexual Sin

Romans 6:6–7 declares that believers have been set free from sin and are no longer slaves to its power. But even as a believer, I felt enslaved to the master of sexual sin. Even if I could fight those sins off temporarily, it seemed like only a matter of time before I would give in again. My inevitable failure was constantly looming over me.

Fighting began to seem futile because any so-called victory was short-lived and soon would be overcome by my own sinfulness.

I shared my struggle with close friends who also were struggling, and we tried to hold each other accountable. But this just didn’t help me overcome my sins. Nothing seemed to work.

I needed a miracle.

A Breakthrough I Didn’t Expect

Then, ten years ago now, God worked a miracle in my life. He purged me of those sins in one day and has changed my life significantly since then.

I was back in my hometown for the summer after my first full year living in China. Although I was growing in my faith and serving as a missionary, I still struggled with the same sexual sins. And I still felt a heavy weight on my soul from those sins.

I had a good high-school friend who had become a believer at the end of college through an older fraternity brother named Jay. That high school friend came over to my house and brought Jay. A few nights later, Jay invited me to a nearby guys’ prayer night.

I attended the prayer meeting with Jay and a few other guys. We were praying in the hallway together, and I was confessing vague struggles. Jay stood up and interrupted me mid-prayer. He asked me to share more specifically about my sins. He said I should pray them aloud to God and to the other guys. Then Jay quoted James 5:16: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

And that’s what I did.

In that moment — with a knot in my throat, feeling exposed — I knelt on the ground and confessed aloud in great detail my past and present sexual sins both to God and the other guys there. And they prayed for God to completely cleanse me of those sins.

I had made similar confessions before without having any transformation. But for whatever reason, God chose to do his miracle for me on that day. At that very moment, God took away my struggle with those sexual sins. For a while, I was haunted that I eventually would stumble back into sexual sin, but it didn’t happen. God gave me victory and has kept me from pornography and masturbation for over ten years.

One Prayer Broke Through

As John Piper has said, “I cannot tell you why a prayer that has been prayed for ten years is answered on the one-thousandth request when God has met it for the first 999 with silence.”

God met my thousandth prayer (so to speak) and unleashed a power that broke a deeply ingrained pattern of sin in my life. As a result, I was no longer weighed down by a constant feeling of slavery to sexual sin. God freed me, and I was able to focus more of my energy on pursuing and loving him. It was a huge turning point in my life. God also used that event to prepare me for marriage three years later. I was free, and so was my wife — I did not carry the baggage of those sexual sins into my marriage.

As I think about that day ten years later, I am incredibly thankful to God for his mercy. I wonder why it was that day in particular that God cleansed me, and I wonder why he chose to cleanse me at all. Since then, I’ve prayed for brothers for the same cleansing, but it hasn’t happened to the same extent that it happened with me.

God’s sovereign timing, of course, is key, and James 5:16 give us another factor to ponder. The verse not only speaks about praying for one another so that we can be healed, but the second part says, “The prayer of a righteousperson has great power as it is working.” I am not saying that Jay was perfect, but the person praying is a factor to consider. I can say that when Jay prayed for my cleansing, he legitimately believed that God would answer his prayers. He wasn’t just saying the words for show. He genuinely believed that God was listening to his prayers and would answer them. Such faithful intercession for others is a great example for all of us.

What About Today?

Whatever the explanation is, God freed me from a heavy burden on that day. When I think about obvious experiences in my life that clearly prove to me God’s existence and the power of his Spirit, I think about my liberation. I fought for so long to try to cleanse myself. And my efforts were mostly futile. For years, my prayers seemed to be met with silence. But in one moment — after countless pleas — God chose to do the miracle.

My experience often reminds me of how I should honestly and humbly confess my sins before God and others. I also should believe that God may want to cleanse me in a moment of certain sins with which I struggle even now. And I must not be afraid to boldly and faithfully pray that he would heal others around me.

Perhaps today is the day to pray that one-thousandth prayer for yourself or someone you love.