A response to "Have We Failed Returnee Christians?"
Last week we posted the first part of an article about returnee Christians who fall away from the church that was originally published on the blog The Gift of the Magi. The article discusses how Chinese living abroad come to Christianity but struggle to remain in the church after they return to China. Part one focused more on the overseas church, while part two looks closely at the church in mainland China. This week we post part two of the article with Chinese readers’ comments from the original blog.
The number of Chinese Christians continues to grow, both inside and outside of China. As large numbers of Chinese move and travel abroad, particularly to the West, many encounter Christianity for the first time. Many of these Chinese come to faith while abroad. After living abroad, Chinese Christians often have trouble transitioning into church life once they return to China. Their experience of the overseas church is often dramatically different from their experiences in Chinese churches. Brother Sang Shang, a returnee himself, highlights the difficulties returnee Christians face when they return to China.
According to the Institute of International Education, there were 328,547 students from China in colleges and universities throughout the United States in 2016. This includes those enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and “optional practical training” programs. But it’s not just higher education institutions where Chinese students are found; increasing numbers are now enrolled in high schools. The Institute of International Education reported that in 2013, there were more than 23,000 Chinese students enrolled in secondary schools in the US.
A reader responds to the 2016 autumn issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, "A Call to Partnership in Chinese Returnee Ministry" with encouragement and a reminder of God's love and grace.
The conflicts and challenges facing returnees as they arrive back in their homeland can be enormous. Culture shock, family matters, work situations, and church issues all contrive to make it unlikely that Chinese Christians returning home will maintain a relationship with Christ if they try to go it alone. The importance of preparation for their return is evident.
The guest editor's point of view.
Items requiring your intercession.
Committing to a church in China can be difficult for returnees. In this article the author gives some reasons why and then goes on to provide suggestions as to how churches overseas as well as churches in China can help returnees overcome these difficulties. Finally, he identifies attitudes that, if embraced by returnees, will help them to commit to a church once they are back in their homeland.
Many returnees have difficulty getting involved in a church once they return to China. The author looks at how agencies, churches, and individuals working together can help returnees become part of a church body. She also explores the benefits of working together internationally and concludes with the importance of partnerships and reasons they can be difficult.
Large numbers of Chinese students who have studied abroad are returning to their homeland. For those who have come to know Christ while overseas, many easily become lost to the church and Christ upon their return. While there are a variety of reasons for this, churches and organizations both overseas and in China need to cooperate to prevent this. The author gives some concrete suggestions of how this can be done.
After following the 18-month journey of Xiao Mei as she studied in the UK, the author examines the importance of providing familiar cultural settings for Chinese students. Reducing the “cultural distance” allows students to experience Christ and become his disciples in a way that is not usually possible in an all English language and cultural setting.
Helpful books, websites, and downloads.
Some forty years ago in Saint Louis, a group of Baptist churches combined their cooking skills and gifts of hospitality to host a weekly lunch for international students studying at Washington University of Saint Louis. This week the first Tuesday Lunch for Internationals of the 2016-2017 academic year took place, continuing a ministry that has welcomed students and scholars from around the world, providing them with a hot meal, and in some cases with their first opportunity to sit down and talk with a Christian.
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a summit of local (Minnesota) Chinese-student-ministry leaders to discuss ways to help new Chinese believers prepare for returning to China.
The number of Chinese students studying in the US has increased drastically in recent years. Where are they all studying?
If you live near a major university, chances are you will meet a student or researcher from China. In the 2013-14 academic year there were 274,439 students from China studying in the US at the university level. That is 31% of all international students studying in the US. This year there are 600 freshman at the University of Illinois—nearly one out of every ten new freshmen. No wonder they have started Mandarin broadcasts of their football games!
Is returning to China always the correct thing to do? What can the returnee expect once back home? Job issues, financial pressures and for the Christian, expressing faith, are all matters that must be dealt with.
How does it feel to return to China after studying in the West and beginning a new job? As a Christian, how does one manage in a job where others have differing values? Where does one find answers and support?
Help for those returning home to China
Reverse culture shock, conferences addressing international student reentry and research are discussed. Many resources, with a focus on material for Christian returnees, are suggested.
Items that require your intercession
The author considers the impact of history and the role that worldview plays in the lives of returnees. She then discusses from a practical point of view the issues facing returnees and the needed responses. She concludes with lessons learned by returnees.
One topic sure to bring up lots of entries on a Google search, some 47 million Chinese entries, has to do with "haigui" (sea turtles). This term, haigui, in current Chinese slang refers to overseas returnees, especially to the thousands of Chinese students who completed studies overseas, gained practical work experience, and have now returned home. How many of these haigui are returning as Christians? What kind of impact wil they after spending time in the West? Are there ways we can support them?
Editor's Note: This editorial originally appeared in "Returnees to China" (CS Quarterly, 2011 Winter).
Many who return to China do not get deeply involved with a church but instead are greatly influenced by their surrounding secular culture. How can we equip them not only to survive as believers, but to be life-long, fruitful church leaders?
With increasing numbers of Chinese students coming to West, how can the church be prepared to reach them with the gospel?
To help Christians be better prepared to return to their home countries, true partnerships are needed.