Dear Praying Friends:
“At present, hundreds of thousands of students from China … seek higher education in the United States … These people represent China’s ‘best and brightest,’ who would not be in the West unless they were smart, well-connected, and ambitious.
“Many will return to China to exercise positions of great influence in their society; the rest will retain links with their homeland while living abroad.
“Even if they don’t go back for many years, they are in constant contact with their family and friends at home, and often either make short visits or have their parents stay with them for as long as a year. In other words, they form a bridge to China even while living overseas.
“For a variety of reasons, the presence of these students and scholars represents the most important arena for outreach to Chinese worldwide.
“Aside from prayer, reaching these people with the whole counsel of God is perhaps the most strategic thing we can do in spreading the gospel.” (Reaching Chinese Worldwide, 53-54)
Since 1989, when Dori and I moved to Charlottesville, we have tried to make friends with students and scholars from China, in the hope of introducing them to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Like thousands of other Christians in the United States, we have employed a number of methods, some of which I discuss in the book Reaching Chinese Worldwide, from which the above quotation was taken. Some of these include:
- Long-term relationships
Without a doubt, building lasting relationships is the core principle in serving these people effectively. It takes time for most of them to understand the Christian faith enough to make a solid and lasting commitment.
Unless we show consistent care and concern over a period of years, we will not be able to live a Christ-like life in their presence long enough to gain their trust. Nor will we have time to expose them to a full-orbed view of the truth that saves.
All too often, quickie “decisions for Christ,” or “prayers to receive Christ,” result in shallow “conversions” that fail to effect changed lives.
We have seen this over and over for more than two dozen years, and are convinced that fast-track or high-pressure approaches frequently produce only statistics that feed the ego of the local Christians, not real fruit.
2. Helpful tools and avenues
A. In the course of developing genuine friendships, we should invite our Chinese
guests into our home; especially during holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas,
Easter, and longer vacations.
B. From the beginning, we can use some of the Christian literature in Chinese that has been prepared for these well-educated, intelligent folks. Call Ambassadors for Christ (800-624-3504) for information about the dozens of booklets and books that have proved highly effective, including Song of a Wanderer. These can be read at leisure and repeatedly, without any need to respond, though of course you may ask what your friend thinks.
C. You may, without offense, invite your Chinese friends to church once, just to give them a cultural experience. Be careful about putting too much pressure on a busy student, however. Let the response be your guide.
D. Chinese-English Bibles enable the Chinese reader to compare the text in both languages and provide a way to converse about spiritual things even if you don’t read Chinese.
E. One-on-one or small group Bible studies have been greatly used by God. International Students, Inc., (ISI) has developed materials and a method that seems to work well.
F. We have also found that Chinese-language fellowships and Bible studies furnish both a welcoming community and a place to learn, as long as Christians do not try to rush the process with premature professions of faith or baptisms. The Mandarin Sunday school class at our church now sees more than twenty attendees each week.
In addition, we have served as advisors to the student-led English-language Chinese Christian Fellowship (CCF) at UVA since 1993. Our CI Partner Kevin Sawyer has taken my place and is doing a great job. Dori helps with advice and hospitality, as does Kevin’s wife Sarah. CCF has always been a tight-knit, loving community that welcomes newcomers and enfolds them into a group that includes several “generations” of students.
For example, both former and current members showed up when one of the former presidents of CCF got married a few weeks ago:
We covet your prayers that God would work again this year to bring Chinese students to himself, and we urge you to join in this exciting ministry.
In particular, please ask God to bring new people, especially men, to the first CCF large group meeting of the year next Friday, September 5, and to lead them into regular attendance on Fridays and to the mid-week men’s and women’s Bible studies.
P.S. Tax-deductible contributions to China Institute may be sent to PO Box 7312, Charlottesville, VA 22906, or made through our web site, http://www.reachingchineseworldwide.org.