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Lighting the Future: A Candle in the Dark

Individual Life Stories from Chinese Christian Families

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).

Faith vs. Social Norms

As a Christian mother living in China with three children, I often experienced the indescribable, unbearable conflict of having to decide between adhering to the communist social norms or staying true to my Christian faith. The memories of those struggles and frustrations during each decision-making process are still vivid, but upon reflection, it has become apparent to me that making the right choices in challenging circumstances contributed to my spiritual growth and has strengthened my faith.

Faith’s Price in China

Certain decisions, such as whether to have or keep a second child in a society which for many years enforced a one-child policy (mandating abortion at any stage of pregnancy for mothers conceiving their second child) and choosing to educate our child in the Christian worldview, posed significant challenges. It is not an exaggeration to say that being a genuine follower of Christ in communist China exacts an extraordinarily high price on individuals and families. 

Southeast Asia: A Missionary Transition

In 2022, responding to a divine calling, our family relocated to a destination in Southeast Asia, commencing full-time missionary service at a Christian school. This school, with a rich history dating back to the mid-twentieth century, stands as a steadfast institution of Christian education. Presently, a dedicated team works towards advancing God’s kingdom in the Asia-Pacific region, emphasizing Christ-centered education, particularly for the children of Christian missionaries and ministers.

School Evolution: A Global Christian Impact

Over its rich history, the institution has nurtured numerous students, who have gone out into various parts of the world. Among the alumni, many are actively involved in mission fields, extending the impact of its mission across the globe.

As the world has changed, the prevalence of those countries raising up and sending missionaries has begun to shift from West to East. The school experienced a notable change in students’ nationalities, welcoming Korean students from the late 1970s, who significantly enriched the campus and community.

Chinese Students: A Shift in Christian Education

However, it wasn’t until 2015 that Chinese students joined the school. This occurred when the first group of Christian homeschooling students came from China after completing their elementary or middle school education. The pioneering parents had dedicated significant effort to nurturing their children in a homeschooling Christian environment in China. Around this time though, there arose a need to explore a well-established platform outside of China to fill the gap in comprehensive Christian education. Additionally, parents recognized the importance of a physical school environment for their children’s emotional growth.

Despite these burgeoning opportunities, many Chinese Christian families continued to homeschool their children. This choice stemmed from the still-viable option of teaching students using Christian homeschool curricula within the borders of China.

Government Opposition and Christian Response

However, in 2018, the Chinese government released the policy document Regulation on Religions Management and began to systematically target Christian education and what were considered to be Western educational influences within Chinese society. This strategic approach by the government, marked by hostile oppression, triggered a significant exodus of Christian families from the country. The school, in particular, witnessed a notable surge in its Chinese student population, which increased from only two students in 2016 to approximately 75 now.

Supporting Chinese Christian Families

In my role at the Chinese Affairs Office at this Christian school, I have had the opportunity to assist Chinese families facing challenging circumstances. Over the last year alone, I have encountered more than 250 families describing their desperate situations and seeking opportunities for their children to receive Christian education.

The Chinese governmental crackdown on the ability of Christian parents to educate their children freely has prompted a substantial and urgent need for alternatives among Chinese families.

Having obtained permission from some families, whose stories resonate with thousands and even millions who are fleeing from China, I am honored to share these children’s narratives. 

These families are driven by an unwavering commitment to offer their children Christian education, regardless of the difficult challenges they face. Through the anonymization of their real names, I hope that that their stories will serve as a source of encouragement for those who are deeply invested in advancing God’s kingdom in the vast landscape of China. It is crucial to protect their identities as they navigate these challenging journeys.

Courageous Stories of Faith: Joyce and Tom

Joyce and Tom hail from a city near Shanghai, where their parents established a mission organization even before the siblings were born. Their upbringing was immersed in the mission fields that served as their playground throughout their entire lives. Influenced profoundly by their parents, both siblings harbored dreams of becoming ministers of God. Joyce aspired to be a church translator, while Tom felt a calling to become a pastor.

Given the demands of their parents’ developing missions, Joyce and Tom’s parents chose to enroll them in the local public school, which provided nine years of free government directed education. This decision was driven by the time-consuming nature of their mission work. In the initial years, both siblings did well in the school, with Joyce earning recognition as one of the top students in her grade.

Overcoming Challenges: Language and Integration

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the government implemented lockdown policies, forcing millions of students, including Joyce and Tom, to have online courses at home. This meant their parents now had firsthand access to the themes, content, and teaching methods implemented by the school. The revelation of what and how their children were being taught left Joyce and Tom’s parents deeply concerned. They felt the looming and very real threat posed by the teaching their children were exposed to. It was possible that they would lose their children to ideologies that ran counter to their Christian beliefs. Potentially, by allowing secularized knowledge to infiltrate their children’s minds and souls, Joyce and Tom might even abandon God’s kingdom. 

Faced with this realization, the parents decided to withdraw Joyce and Tom from the public education system and enroll them in Christian education. Around the same time, Joyce’s father, a prominent church leader, received notice that he was forbidden to leave China. Determined to ensure that Joyce and Tom could freely receive a Christian education, the family made the difficult decision for the mother to take the two children out of China.

The entire process was incredibly tough and filled with uncertainty. Our family had to be separated, and there were so many elements beyond our control. We had to completely rely on the sovereignty of God for everything—from applying for passports for the children, establishing contact with a trustworthy Christian school, to navigating the complexities of visa applications amidst the current international relationship turbulence, the mother shared.

Upon my first meeting with Joyce and Tom, they had already settled in a house not far from our school. When I greeted them in English, they responded with understandable nervousness. This reaction is quite common among Chinese students. Our school, being based on the American educational system, requires all enrolled students to pass a two-part English test. During our initial meeting, Joyce and Tom were very quiet. They politely attempted to answer my questions, and from their shy and reserved faces, I could see their struggles in finding English words. After spending some time connecting with them, I eventually got the chance to hear their heartfelt voices.

Future Dreams: Commitment to God’s Work

Joyce expressed her profound sadness and heartbreak upon leaving her country, her school, and her father. However, she acknowledged that this sacrifice was a necessary step for both her and her brother to receive Christian education. During our conversation, both Joyce and Tom shared their anxiety about whether they would be able to improve their English proficiency within less than nine months (after which they would sit and hope to pass the official entrance test). As they sensed my understanding of their situation, they opened up further about their dreams and future plans.

Tom expressed his desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor and a church leader, recognizing that this was not only his dream but also an expectation from his family. Despite his worries about being accepted by the Christian school I work for, he affirmed his commitment to putting forth every effort with God’s help.

Joyce shared her appreciation for the warmth and love she felt here. Expressing her desire to emulate those who share love with others, she outlined her dreams. “First, I want to pass the entrance test to become a student here. Then, I aspire to be useful in God’s ministries,” she said, reflecting her eagerness to contribute positively to the community.

After five months of receiving English tutoring outside of our school, Joyce and Tom have successfully been admitted as part-time students within the school. The institution is generously providing them a conducive living and studying environment. In addition to English Language Learning (ELL), this opportunity allows them to engage in various subjects, including music, physical education, and spiritual challenge groups.

The acceptance and support from the school reflect God’s mercy and show an understanding of the struggles faced by Chinese Christian families. His care, love, and assistance are evident through the dedicated efforts of his servants working with each family. It brings me great joy to be a part of this journey with these families. Through their incredible stories, I can clearly envision a bright future for mission work in China, facilitated by these resilient children. Despite being pushed out of their home country momentarily, God is lighting up the darkness by providing education based on a biblical worldview.

Jeremiah: Struggle and Hope

Sharing the stories of Chinese Christian families seeking proper biblical education is not just about narrating individual struggles; it’s about awakening the world to God’s mercy and his transformative power. Each family’s journey may be unique, but the collective narrative serves as a testimony to the broader story that God is writing. The experiences of families like Joyce and Tom, who left their home for Christian education, differ from the challenges faced by individuals like Jeremiah, who is in this foreign country by himself.

Jeremiah is separated from his family because his father is currently in jail, and his mother is closely monitored under stringent security policies back home. I will share more about Jeremiah and others’ testimonies in my next post.

Resilience and Faith

Collectively, these diverse stories underline the various trials that Chinese Christian families endure in their pursuit of faith-based education. Each story is a thread in the larger tapestry of God’s overarching narrative, demonstrating his redemptive work in the lives of his people despite the differing paths and challenges they may face.

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Image credit: ChinaSource Team.
Helen Wu

Helen Wu

Helen Wu came to Christ at the age of 22 and immediately began serving in the church. In 1999, she and a Scandinavian missionary established the Christian Cultural Center in a border area of China, where she and her husband have lived for most of the time. As young artists …View Full Bio

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