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.
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.
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 : )
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.
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.