Her voice trembling, the mother of two children who was also a Chinese Christian physician with a passion to be a missionary, looked me in the eye as she shared,
Right now I am not just a single person. I need to raise my children . . . I need . . . to support their education.
My original plan was to serve full time as a missionary after my children finish university study, when they won’t need our financial support. . . . If there isn’t [finance currently available], I guess I cannot [serve now] because I have the obligation to raise my children.
Aside from children-related issues, Chinese missionary marriages need support as well. Ministry demands add stress to couples. Chinese missionaries want to serve the Lord among people who haven't heard the good news. However, they have to find a way of caring for their spouses and children. Sometimes the tension between meeting the needs of unreached people and the practical needs of the missionary’s family causes great strain. Thinking through an approach to dealing with these hardships may facilitate the forward progress of the Chinese missionary sending movement.
I recently conducted field research with Chinese missionaries and potential Chinese missionaries exploring issues related to family and social obligations. During focus group discussion among potential Chinese missionaries, family-related concerns were identified as being one of the most important factors in the decision-making process related to long-term missionary participation. Materialistic values prevailing in modern China sometimes negatively impact a Chinese Christian’s desire to be a long-term missionary. In some cases, potential missionaries sensed the disapproval of the surrounding society on their prospective work. Potential missionaries were concerned about how their vocational choices might impact their families.
Schooling for children is an example of one issue that needs to be thought through. When my wife and I came to China, we had already been involved in homeschooling for a number of years. However for Chinese missionaries, not every family feels comfortable with home-schooling. Furthermore, entry into a Chinese university as a young adult currently necessitates maintaining some ongoing connection to the Chinese educational system while growing up. Chinese missionaries currently serving resolve these difficulties in a number of ways. Finding one way or another to manage the needs of children is a key priority for Chinese missionaries.
Some workers hope mission-sending organizational development, as it progresses in China, may assist with difficulties. Notwithstanding, much will depend on an individual missionary’s ability to navigate a variety of particular challenges his or her family will face. The supporting church might take an understanding and supportive role of individual missionary choices for the meeting of family needs. You can read more about how family issues impact Chinese missionary service in my extended article, “The Impact of Family Issues on Chinese Missionaries: Thinking through an Approach to Spouse and Children Needs.”
Image credit: children by keso s via Flickr.
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