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“I Always Knew He Was There”

Discovering Faith Across Cultures

While walking along Canton Road in Kowloon one day back in the mid-90s, I ran into some friends. They introduced me to their companion—a lovely young American woman who would one day become my wife.  I was immediately attracted to Beth for lots of reasons, but one reason stood out—I watched her interact with Chinese people. This drew me to her.

I had been in Hong Kong for a little over a year by that time. I sometimes found the many enigmas and nuances of Chinese culture and language quite daunting. Eventually Beth became not only my wife, but my teacher as well. She showed me how to love people better.

My wife’s parents arrived in Taiwan by boat in 1955. For over 35 years they served alongside Chinese brothers and sisters—planting churches, making disciples, and loving people. They loved their life and ministry. Their daughter, my wife, was born and raised in Taiwan, arriving in China in 1989. She lived for many years in Shanghai, Xian, Beijing, and Hong Kong.

So while I was new to Hong Kong, she was born into this rich culture and knew how to navigate relationships not only with warmth and sincerity, but with skill and knowledge. It wasn’t her language skills alone that connected her with Chinese friends and strangers, it was the way she carried herself, the way she responded to people, the way she spoke, the way she listened and responded. Her tones were spot-on, but so was her countenance and spirit.

Shortly after we married, we hosted a party for new university students from China who had come to Hong Kong to study. At that party, Zhang Er Xiao made a beeline for Beth and me. He asked us if we were Christians. He said he had never met a Christian before. He had lots of questions.

Beth and I then invited him and his roommate to our home where we shared a meal and our story. Right then and there, in our apartment, he and his roommate made the decision to follow Jesus. Something he said that evening has stayed with me for the past 25 years. He stated, “I always knew he was there. I just didn’t know his name.” We were honored to witness this new brother’s discovery.

Beth’s example equipped me to help Er Xiao. He became a friend and leader as he learned to engage with people of different backgrounds in our faith community. We were a picture of the body of Christ, united in him but beautifully different in our cultural identity. So rewarding!

Many of us have had similar encounters as we bridge cultures. I’ve been blessed to have people in my life like Beth and Er Xiao. Hopefully I’ve learned a thing or two from them and can be a source of encouragement to others. How about you?  Are you both a learner and teacher? May we all grow in our skills with a winsome spirit that draws people to Christ.

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Image credit: Ryan Chan via UnSplash.
Scott Harris

Scott Harris

Dr. Scott Harris is the Vice President of Church and Global Engagement with Mission Increase. Mission Increase provides no-cost coaching to faith-based non-profits for their flourishing. Scott’s specific role is to help non-profits and churches around the globe work better together to disciple God’s people to reach all peoples. Born …View Full Bio

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