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“China Is Not Russia”

From the series Looking Back

Those words, “China is not Russia,” was one of the earliest insights I gained from my initial contact with the Institute for Chinese Studies at the Billy Graham Center, the predecessor to ChinaSource. I had worked for 10 years in what was then the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. That was the era of the fall of the Berlin Wall and all the great changes occurring in that region of the world.  For some the fact that China was another Communist country meant it was simply an extension of the mindset of the Soviet Union and its satellites and, therefore, the same ministry approaches would be effective there as well.  So untrue!

I was invited to be on the planning committee for a consultation to take place at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College as part of my work with the then World Evangelical Fellowship. The consultation which took place in 1994 focused on new opportunities in China and the possibilities for ministry that might be dawning there.

I did not have much knowledge of China at the time, but I believed China was going to be significant in the next season of world history.  As I look back, I did not know what I was stepping into, but now, nearly 25 years later, I realize that I stepped into a world that was to shape my life.

In the year 2000 I was asked to be the first board chairman of ChinaSource when the Institute for Chinese Studies at the Billy Graham Center merged with the Institute of Chinese Studies at the US Center for World Mission.  I remember saying to Brent Fulton, “Brent I don't know anything about China compared to the rest of you; I don't think I should be the chairman.”  His response to me was, “We have plenty of people who know a lot about China what we don't have is anyone who knows how to lead a board!”  With that I became the first chairman of the ChinaSource board. For the next six years I worked with Brent Fulton and our excellent board members to shape the ethos, brand, and the values of what has become ChinaSource today.  

During those early days we made a number of strategic decisions. The first was to begin holding one meeting a year in Asia preferably in China.  At that time this was rarely done and we recognized that our board needed to have hands-on knowledge of experiencing China to guide our decision-making. I still remember the first board meeting that occurred in Shanghai. We had been talking for years about the migration to the cities from rural China.  Nothing made that migration more real than sitting in our meeting room which was near the train station. Hour after hour we watched new immigrants getting off the train with their bags in a constant flow of movement.  

During those years we also made the decision to move the office from California to Hong Kong so that ChinaSource would have an ear closer to the activities that were happening in Asia.

During each step of the way I personally learned more about China and built a broader network of relationships.  Later that allowed me to assemble a team with Geneva Global to do a study in the early 2000s on pastoral training in China in cooperation with ChinaSource and several other organizations.  

Over the years I've continued to support ChinaSource financially even though I no longer serve on the board. The relationships built through ChinaSource continue to provide insights and connections. 

ChinaSource has been my school to learn about and gain insight on China as well as the source of a lifetime of relationships, both Chinese and international, that continue to grow and deepen with time.  

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Dwight Gibson

Dwight Gibson

Dwight Gibson is the Chief Explorer of The Exploration Group. Before management came to dominate late 20th century business strategy, opportunity expanded by exploration. Dwight guides business executives on growth expeditions in the model of the historic explorers. Prior to launching The Exploration Group in 2008, Dwight was Senior Vice President …View Full Bio

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