In past months, we have glanced at some of the ways Christians around the world can reach Chinese with the Gospel. We have noted the paramount priority of prayer, as well as the roles of the Internet and radio; believers from Taiwan; and good Christian literature.Now let us consider the potential of befriending Chinese living overseas.
A worldwide diaspora
For centuries, Chinese have left their motherland to seek a better life overseas. Beginning with South East Asia, they have scattered to East Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, and North America. You can find them not only in the huge Chinatowns of large cities, but in small towns all across the globe. Among them are shopkeepers, cooks and busboys, but also graduate students, professors, and professional people at the highest levels of their field. At present, hundreds of thousands of students from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong seek higher education in the United States alone.
An unprecedented opportunity
They represent a vast field that is often ripe for harvest. Uprooted from their native land, struggling to adjust to a new culture, curious about their host country, and freed from restraining influences, they prove quite open to the Gospel when properly approached. They are especially touched by sincere expressions of love, making hospitality and friendship towards them particularly effective if done from a genuine concern to help the newcomer.
A powerful combination
Over the past few decades, the potency – even necessity – of teamwork has been repeatedly proved. Individual host families – perhaps more accurately called ‘friendship partners” - can link up with the local church to extend a warm welcome. With the use of materials provided by organizations like International Students Incorporated (ISI) and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), they gain insights into cross-cultural sharing of the love of God. Since most non-Chinese can’t speak Mandarin, their ability to express Christian truths is limited. The careful use of literature in Chinese can overcome the language barrier. Scriptures, books, and booklets of exceptional quality can be obtained from OMF International, Ambassadors for Christ, and Christian Communications Limited (see our Web site for addresses). Some Chinese like to attend Christian meetings in English, but most really enjoy getting together with their countrymen in a Chinese-language setting. That’s why it’s so important to join hands with a local Chinese church. Most university towns and all big cities have at least a Chinese Bible study, if not one or more active churches. By working with them, we can create a web of care and concern that helps to replace the supportive communities that have been left behind in Asia. In fact, more than one person from China has observed that he found more love here than he ever knew back home.
Since coming to Charlottesville in 1989, Dori and I have enjoyed the privilege of befriending Chinese. We led a Bible study in Mandarin for a dozen years, before two families from Taiwan families started one. Now we just try to encourage their efforts. For those who want to attend an English-language gathering, we offer International Christian Fellowship on Sunday mornings at our church. Dori studies the Bible with two Chinese wives each week, and I meet with one of the men. We also cooperate with the church’s ministry to internationals. More than ten years ago, a member of the Mandarin Bible study group started Chinese Christian Fellowship (CCF) for English-speaking students of Chinese origin at the University of Virginia. I serve as advisor and occasional speaker for this group, and Dori mentors one of the girls, who is from Shanghai. Since 2004, I have helped to train keen Chinese Christians by teaching extension courses for China Evangelical Seminary/ North American Campus in cities around the continent. This month, I shall offer a course on Systematic Theology in New Haven, Connecticut.
All our Partners work hard to reach this receptive population, including Randall and Connie Chan in Cambridge, England. For over ten years, they have presented the Gospel to scholars from China and their families in a variety of creative ways. Dori and I shall be visiting them in May. I’ll be giving at least one talk to seekers from China during that time. How we thank God for your participation in this strategic outreach! Indeed, some observers believe that, apart from prayer, befriending Chinese living overseas is the most effective way of reaching Chinese worldwide. “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).