Dear Praying Friends:
At a recent meeting of American China ministry leaders, several speakers called for new workers who would commit themselves to long-term service among the Chinese.
That concept was also highlighted in the most recent Bulletin of MSI Professional Services, every article in which dealt with “The Long-Term Approach.”
With most young Americans shrinking from commitments of any sort, including marriage, this plea for a willingness to invest many years in China ministry could not be more timely, or more challenging.
It Takes Time
The fact is that effective cross-cultural work takes years to develop.
It takes time to learn a language as rich, complicated, and difficult as Chinese is.
It takes time to gain even a little knowledge about the history, culture, religion, art, literature, politics, social values, psychology, and inner soul of people from this ancient civilization.
It takes time to adjust to life in a new place, with food, customs, and environment so different from ours.
It takes time to build friendships, especially since Chinese people value what we do more than what we say, and don’t commit themselves to strangers quickly.
It takes time to establish trust, to build a reputation for honesty, sincerity, and good will.
It takes time to earn the right to speak about matters of eternal significance.
It takes time to overcome well-founded prejudices against Americans and their nation’s depraved popular culture and “hegemonic” foreign policy.
It takes time for Chinese, who have virtually no concept of either a transcendent God or of original sin in their background, to gain a sense of the holiness of God and our need for Christ.
It takes time for them to become familiar with the basic storyline of the Bible and to see its relevance to their life.
It takes time for God’s Spirit to work in their hearts, creating a hunger for him, a repentant heart, and genuine faith.
Taking Time Pays Off
By God’s grace, Dori and I, as well as our associates, have seen the benefits of taking time.
In England, Randall and Connie Chan are reaping the results of more than a dozen years of faithful living and service. Likewise, in Taiwan, Jason and Kristie Truell are entering into the fruit of years of language study and theological education in Chinese, as well as faithful presence in one city and one church.
When we return to Taiwan, Dori and I stay with friends whom we have known since 1980, and visit others whom we met in 1976. Last year, I was honored to take part in the wedding of a young man with whose parents I did pre-marital counseling twenty-five years ago.
When we go to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where we used to live, we team up with Chinese friends whom we have known for two decades in ministry to the latest batch of students and scholars from China. The niece of one of them was introduced to us when she came to UVA six years ago; Dori helped her prepare for her wedding in December.
Likewise, we count ourselves blessed to have prayer partners and supporters who have been with us since we left for Asia in 1975, as well as those who have joined the team more recently.
Pray for Us
With relationships accumulating over decades, it’s hard for us to take enough time to remain faithful to old friends while serving newer ones.
For me, it’s very difficult to find the time to study, to think, and to write anything worthwhile in a number of different academic fields, especially since I am an amateur in all of them!
Correspondence with friends old and new requires thought, prayer, and time, but email seems to demand instant response.
As you know for yourself, with so many demands from so many directions, it’s not easy for any of us these days to take the time to exercise, rest, and build stronger relationships with family and old friends.
Most important of all, my prayer is that all of us would take the time to abide in Christ, the source of all life and love and light, and the one who took the time to be with us.
Yours in his eternal love,