Signs of autumn are appearing here in the Midwest—cooler mornings, leaves beginning to change, and an influx of Mandarin-speaking grad students walking through our neighborhood. Living within walking distance of a major university provides the opportunity each new academic year to meet and get to know international students from around the world. A great number of those students are from mainland China.
This scenario is duplicated across the globe as international students begin their studies in universities outside their home countries.
It’s easy to focus on the immediate when considering how to reach these students with the gospel of Jesus Christ. How do we meet the students? What will help them as they settle into their new lives overseas? How can we present the gospel so that they will understand and want to know more about Jesus? If there are students interested in attending church, can we provide rides and encourage church members to welcome them? We focus on the nuts and bolts of welcoming new students as they arrive.
What we might miss is considering the long-range needs of those students. Should we be considering, even at the beginning of reaching out to Chinese students, what we can do to prepare them for returning to China as new believers in Jesus Christ? Do we even know what they will be facing when they return?
Debbie Philip has written a book, Heading Home with Jesus, to help us think through and consider how to prepare Chinese students who come to faith overseas to continue following Christ when they return home to China.
In the introduction, Philip states why she wrote the book:
It is no longer unusual to hear of mainland Chinese international students saying they have become Christians, or even have been baptized, abroad. But what do such apparent statements of faith mean? Have they really understood the gospel? And if they have, what changes in their lives reflect that understanding? In what ways do they think and act differently since they found Christ? . . .
My intent in this book is to answer these questions. The more we understand where people are coming from (mentally and emotionally as well as geographically) and what they are returning to, the more effectively we can relate to them while they are in our churches. (p. xi)
To accomplish her goal, Philip offers five things in her book:
- A picture, or diagram—to aid understanding of what happens when someone professes faith in one culture and then returns home to a different culture;
- Information—about the mainland Chinese context and its effect on students arriving from and returning to China;
- Seven stories—of individual returnees;
- Explanation—of ideas in the diagram and what needs to change if someone is to continue following Christ back home.
- Suggestions—on how to help people prepare to return. (p. xiii)
We might be at the beginning of reaching new students this autumn, but a good beginning should include a clear idea of what we hope to see—Chinese believers who have trusted Christ overseas growing and serving in church communities back home when they return. This book will help us think through what is needed to get there.
Image credit: Foundry Co from Pixabay
Narci Herr and her husband, Glenn, lived for just over 30 years in Hong Kong. They were first involved in working with the church in Hong Kong and then for the last 20 years of their time in Asia they served workers living in China. During that time Glenn traveled extensively throughout China and Narci... View Full Bio
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