Category Archives: Missions

Chinese Students Bold in Evangelism

Originally in my March 12th, 2007 Journal [my 2nd year teaching at a univ. in eastern China]

This afternoon, a few students came over. We prayed together & gave them Bibles & then they headed out to the Education College [another university across the city]. They returned two hours later & again we met & prayed. They shared stories about the people they had talked to & given Bibles to. Good stuff.

Praying about Life after College Graduation

Originally in my February 2nd, 2004 Journal [my junior year of college]

Thursday night I went to Bible study, & I was able to stray Mike off the beaten path & ask him some questions about free will. He had very good answers. He said that God naturally made us to follow our emotions & mind, leading us to our decisions, making it our will. On the other hand, God has still predestined the saved souls. He plants the seed in their heart that makes them come to Jesus (Holy Spirit, if you will). He doesn’t choose everyone to receive this movement towards Jesus. So, our day to day decisions are our own. We can follow a path that is not God’s will. We are not the deciding factor for others’ salvation. Out of our love & excitement for Jesus we should spread the gospel. That is still our calling.

From all this I have had a major re-evaluation of what I want to do with my life. A life of service to Jesus is a life I could never regret. It begins now. Each decision I make should be targeted towards glorifying God. I’ve been researching some summer missions options. Spending my summer doing missions would be worse professionally than interning in Philly, but do I really want to spend my life doing engineering? The decision begins now. I pray for God to open & close doors in a way that his will for me may be fulfilled.

A New Review of my Book

Yesterday there was a review of my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives in the Journal of Global Christianity, which is published by the organization Training Leaders International.

Here’s the link:

The book review was graciously written by Jackson Wu.


Or you can read the book review pasted below:

For new missionaries, Tabor Laughlin’s Becoming Native to Win the Natives is a must read. His book has the rare combination of being practical, relevant and readable. Although a short text (just under 70 pages), Laughlin’s work is packed with counsel that only comes from years of experience.

Section One addresses issues related to one’s perspective and heart. In the second part, Laughlin talks about matters that every missionary faces. These include language learning, assimilating into the local culture, one’s appearance in the local community, and managing family life. Finally, he ties it all together in a concise conclusion.

Laughlin’s book is practical without becoming overly pragmatic. He specifically addresses the daily tasks that make up the missionary life. He equips and encourages readers with realistic expectations. Laughlin gives no space to idealism or abstraction. Instead, one finds advice that is immediately actionable. His stories draw from personal experience and so demonstrate what it might look like to “become native.”

Having served many years in China, Laughlin is able to offer counsel that is relevant to missionaries in every context. By contrast, other authors settle for mere principles in order to reach a maximum audience. Laughlin concludes his chapters with multiple questions that guide readers in application. These questions stimulate personal reflection and will direct missionaries as they consider the practical steps they need to take in order to flourish in their ministry. I envision many veteran missionaries also using Laughlin’s book to train, encourage, and mobilize newer workers.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is its readability. Given its short length, the book is a quick read. Laughlin writes in simple prose. He does not include a lot of technical terms and concepts that would otherwise confuse readers unfamiliar with missiological jargon. His tone is conversational and his message is clear.

Some might complain about the book’s brevity. I, for one, tend to steer away from such short works. Laughlin certainly could have said much more. However, he has spent much of a decade training newcomers to the mission field. As a result, his aim is simple: to write a brief text that people will actually read amid the stress of transition, language learning, and culture shock. In fact, readers will find more substance in this resource than is often found in much larger works.

I heartily recommend Laughlin’s book for anyone who wants to become native to win the natives.

Trip to Xinjiang

Originally in my January 14th, 2010 Journal [on scout trip to Xinjiang Province]

In Urumqi, there are missionaries learning Chinese & focusing on the Han. And there’s others who learn Uyghur & focus on the Uyghur. I question this approach, to totally separate the ministry into two groups. Those focusing on the Han can’t speak Uyghur & those focusing on Uyghur can’t speak Chinese. It seems that, if what some missionaries say is right in saying the Han will be used to best reach the Uyghur & the Chinese pastor’s testimony in Kashgar can attest to that fact, missions organizations would be better to combine the ministries in Urumqi, training workers to speak both Chinese & Uyghur & to be able to actively work with the Han in order to reach the Uyghur. It would be critical that these people speak both languages fluently. Separating the ministry into two distinct parts has way too many limitations.

Lord Changing Hearts in Chinese University

Originally in my January 6th, 2008 Journal [ministering in university in E. China]

There has been a confession of faith! Apparently, two days ago Edward (also from class 3) told Jairy that he became a believer. Yesterday he told Eric. This all followed his 6 hour conversation about the Lord with their lexicology teacher Andrew (a Chinese professor). What a huge blessing Andrew has been! So a guy student has given a confession of faith at the school. We’ll see what happens next. Needs lots of prayer. Also I met with Jordan. He said he feels God pulling him towards Him. He said he just needs more time. I said there are many examples in the Bible where people immediately believe & are transformed (like Paul). I said I know many people who say they’ll wait until they have a family to do the “Christian thing”. Obviously this attitude is wrong. I said “What if they die tomorrow?” They’d go to Hell because they’d have no faith. That got him thinking a lot. He needs immediate prayer. May he be hugely convicted of his lostness. I feel like he’s close, but we can’t relax until he’s turned to the Lord! I also met with Newmoon & she took Pilgrim’s Progress from me to read for the break. May the Lord convict her in a huge way through Bunyan or the Word or some other source. Great things happening with that class of students!

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.

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.