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.
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 : )