If you have ever helped recruit, mobilize, or place workers in China, you know how long it takes. From the time you make that first contact with someone who is interested in going to China until they land in China often takes years. Or maybe you remember what your own journey was like when you first moved to China. From the time you started the process until you were in the air and on your way to the Middle Kingdom, it was very likely a long and sometimes rocky journey that lasted several years.
The process of screening, psychological assessment, pre-field training, and fund raising is long. Add to that the matching of gifting, vision, role, and location and it becomes obvious that it is not going to happen overnight. Having worked in placement for several years I know! I’ve had candidates’ files in my computer for years and their passport pictures on the wall as my colleagues and I prayed for each one to get a step closer to orientation and arrival.
Knowing all this, I have found myself during the past few years being a bit annoying to some people as I continue telling them: “You have to keep recruiting for China!” And they reply, “that door has closed; it’s time for something else now.”
It almost makes me want to scream in frustration. Yes, I do think the golden window of the past 30 years or so when China was open to foreigners will probably not continue in the same way in the years ahead. That season was a special gift from the Lord. However, seeing how long it takes to recruit and get a worker on the ground in China, I think that we are very wrong to stop recruiting for the Middle Kingdom. China is still a country with many who need Christ. Though the opportunities may be fewer and different, please don’t stop considering China!
Who Should We Recruit?
I used to have a newspaper front page with the letters FAT in big, bold letters hung over my desk in my office. It was a gift from a summer team who heard my voice ringing in their ears when I told them to be FAT—Flexible, Adaptable, Teachable. Those words were ingrained in me by George Verwer when I went on my first summer mission trip back in the 1980s. Be FAT!
Today, more than ever, we need FAT people for China. China has never been a straight-forward place—we all have many stories of when our plans didn’t work out and we ended up doing something completely different instead. Or the time when the landlord suddenly knocked on the door and said he needed the apartment back and you must move by Saturday. Remember TIC—This Is China.
As we move toward a new season for workers in China, we need to look for people who are flexible and adaptable and ready to learn. People who are willing to go through the whole process and yet might never get to do what they “are called to” in China. Yet willing to do what God does provide.
People using their professions in China is nothing new. When China opened the door for foreigners in the 1980s after a long break, the first people they invited were professionals—English teachers and medical doctors. Over the years the door opened for many in other occupations and in NGO work. Today, as we look at this new era—an era when we can’t rely on those familiar roles—being prepared to work in a profession that China is interested in is of great importance. The question is: what is China looking for. I have been told by several Chinese friends from the mainland that there are growing needs in nursing homes and mental health care. And, of course, English teachers and specialists in most fields continue to be welcome.
Today in the world of missions we talk about marketplace workers and tentmakers. Marketplace workers are those who use their work as a place where they will be light to those in darkness. Tentmakers are those who partly live on support and partly work for a living. We are also seeing these approaches among Chinese workers who are going out cross-culturally to serve God.
There is another category which we should not forget: language students. Any time invested in learning the language is never wasted. I have heard many people say over the years that when they moved on from being a language student to working, that being a language student was the best entry visa. It provided a valid reason to study, learn, and spend time with people.
What Can Be Done While Waiting?
Waiting can be very frustrating especially when the opening of China’s door may continue to be uncertain for the foreseeable future. We need to encourage one another, spurring each other on to use this time of waiting to prepare so that when the door is open workers will be ready to go!
If you are in your home country hoping to work with Chinese people or any of the ethnic minorities in China, here are some things to do while waiting:
- Spend time on language and culture awareness.
- Find a language teacher and study the language.
- Connect and learn from former workers either where you live or virtually.
- Get to know Chinese or other ethnic minority people where you live.
- Build your support network, both prayer and financial.
- Grow in your knowledge of the Bible and spiritual disciplines.
- Prepare yourself emotionally and spiritually for living overseas.
And most of all—pray for China in just such a time as this!
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.