Receiving the recent ChinaSource Quarterly made me feel like a little girl at Christmas. The hour was late, and I was already in bed when I saw it in my inbox. I quickly put away my phone and told myself: tomorrow morning!
But I couldn’t wait. I soon found myself, still in bed, reading the Quarterly or, more accurately, gulping it down as if I were starving. And in a sense, I was. Having worked in member care for quite a few years and especially during the last couple of years trying to support, empower, and provide care for Chinese workers, I have often felt empty handed. I found myself referring to something in English or something translated from English written by a Westerner. While creating awareness for the need of member care for Chinese missionaries, I have struggled to find solid, culturally correct resources. This Quarterly is truly a gift with so much to discover, so much more than a wrapping and big ribbon.
The title alone of the editorial made me want to shout “Yes! Yes! Yes!” from the roof tops. “Member care is part of the mission!” Yes, that is exactly what it is.
Too often have I found myself in a room with visionary leaders talking budget and strategy, but despite their great vision, they fail to see the need for member care and don’t even try to understand what it is all about.
Ruth C. Chang and Brent Fulton highlight the importance of member care in a very clear way in this Quarterly through the different articles. To pick only one or two to comment on is a hard task. Each one of them is a little nugget in itself.
“Eating bitterness” (chi ku) is the key phrase which kept coming up over again. It is core in Chinese culture and the reason why the topic of member care is such a challenge and also so important to address. In her article “Rest? Is It Permitted?,” Peng Xioahui writes, “‘Eating bitterness’ tends to become a measure of a Christian’s dedication to God and the church.” Peng, from her Chinese context, shares many of her observations on the topic of rest. She captured the root of the question: Is it actually permitted to rest when we are serving the Lord full time? I remember hearing a Chinese brother give a very good and biblical teaching on the topic of Sabbath and rest. Afterwards I thanked him and complemented him. I also asked the question burning on my tongue: “So, what does Sabbath look like for you?” As I heard myself say the words, I realized my mistake. It created a very bu hao yisi (ill at ease) atmosphere as he answered with an uncomfortable laugh, “Sabbath is important, but as a pastor I have no time to practice it.” Sadly, his answer was not a surprise to me. I had heard it before.
The question of whether rest is permitted is a very real one. Peng Xiaohui writes that rest might seem to be a foreign language to a Chinese. I echo this. I have been told to my face by Chinese leaders and missionaries that it is a Western concept. I have even been told, “Member care is good for you Westerners because you have the need for it, while we Chinese don’t have the same need for it.” Inside I was screaming: You do so! But I knew better than to say anything. I read with sadness Dennis Ahern’s example of a wife and mother who shares with him about how much her husband, a pastor, works. “The children see him go and seem to understand most of the time that he is serving Jesus, but the Jesus he serves has made me a lonely wife.” This broke my heart, because I sit with wives who are saying the same thing. And with children missing their daddy.
Finally, words can barely express the joy I feel when I see Serving Together: Caring for Chinese Missionaries. This is a manual many of us have been waiting for, for a very long time. What makes this handbook so special is of course that it is written by Chinese member care specialists and practitioners with long experience. It is written by Chinese workers for Chinese workers. A big thank you to Ruth and Linghuei and others for your hard work to get this to us and for your love and care for Chinese missionaries. Anyone working with Chinese workers needs to get a copy.
To summarize my response to this Quarterly in one sentence: The authors give very accurate background and profound insight to Chinese missionaries and their complex relationship to member care.
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