Chinese Church Voices

God’s Way Is Higher than Our Way

The Journey of a Christian Family in China's Educational System

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.

Giving Li Nuo a Christian Foundation

About 30 years ago, I moved from my hometown to a big city for work. Through an introduction by an American friend, I met my spouse. We married, and soon our son Li Nuo (a pseudonym) was born in this bustling city.

I have been working at a Christian organization for a long time, while my spouse has dedicated himself to full-time parenting, caring for Li Nuo until he started kindergarten. When Li Nuo began school, my husband pursued theological studies, establishing a church in our home upon obtaining his degree. This marked the beginning of our profound journey in cultivating a family-oriented church community.

Li Nuo completed his early education in the city of his birth. We cherish having guided him through his formative years, instilling in him biblical truths. From the age of two, he attended Sunday school and learned from spiritual books for children, including bilingual Bibles and storybooks. In his first elementary school year, we read the entire adult Bible together. He is passionate about reciting Scripture, sharing stories and prayers with friends, and maintains a daily prayer routine. His devotion is profound for someone so young, and for this, we continuously give thanks to God.

Why the Hometown Matters for Chinese Education

China’s college entrance examination system requires that students take the exam in their registered hometown, a rule complicated by regional variations in educational materials and standards. These differences can be baffling for those not living locally. Therefore, it is generally advantageous for students to relocate to their registered domicile for middle school (if they are not already there) to align with local educational standards, ensuring better preparation for these crucial exams. If students do not move until high school, they may struggle to keep up with the local curriculum and pace. Furthermore, they might face challenges adapting to the local dialect. For instance, having spent your life speaking Mandarin, you could find it difficult to understand instructors who teach in the local dialect. This language barrier would be your challenge to overcome, not the teachers’.

In our case, Li Nuo’s registration links him to his father’s northeastern hometown. The prospect of sending him there is fraught with difficulties: I cannot secure comparable employment there, and my husband’s pastoral commitments anchor us to our current city. Furthermore, it is unthinkable to send Li Nuo to a place that, though technically “home,” is entirely foreign to him.

Seeking God’s Guidance through Tough Choices

Ours is just one story among millions in China facing similar challenges. Due to the rigorous demands of the college entrance exams and pervasive competitive pressures in education, many Christian families here opt to send their children to unregistered Christian schools, subsequently pursuing higher education abroad, in places like the United States, the Philippines, or Thailand.

Li Nuo, however, is among the few who remain within the Chinese educational system, compelled more by financial necessity than choice. Our limited resources have steered our decisions, leading us to transfer his registration to H City to better prepare him for the exams.

When we made this decision, it was made out of necessity. Lots of brothers and sisters were concerned about our decision, and we shared those concerns too. It is because the phenomenon of educational involution in China—characterized by fierce competition and inefficiency—can be overwhelming. Parents, desperate not to let their children fall behind, enroll them in numerous tutoring programs from a young age. As a result, students face a heavy learning burden and significant pressure, especially since the schools in H City are nationally known for their strict militaristic management and intensive drilling methods. Choosing such schools can be particularly harsh for children of Christian families.

Yet, having endured these trials, we’ve tasted not just the bitterness and the sour but also the unexpected sweetness, which I will share more about in the second part of my article. These experiences have tested us mentally, spiritually, and physically, but they have also strengthened our faith in God’s guidance and providence.

We believe, with heartfelt conviction, that our decision to send Li Nuo to middle school in H City was divinely guided, and that his life is being shaped by a higher hand.

God Prepares a Way for Li Nuo

Many years ago, because of my work, I became friends with three drivers—D, G, and C. They are all incredibly warm-hearted, honest, and kind. Sometimes during our rides, we would chat about our children’s schooling. They mentioned that H City has many excellent schools, making it more suitable to send children there rather than back to our hometown. Both D and G’s daughters attended schools in H City. Although I had never been to H City, nor knew anyone there, let alone had any backdoors to leverage, the enthusiastic D and G helped introduce Li Nuo to a reputable private middle school there. When C learned that Li Nuo was going to study in H City, he even offered to register his residency at his brother’s home, who had settled there after buying a property. I am especially thankful to God for this immense grace. Without God’s preparation, settling in H City would have been very challenging—the local policies require one to purchase or rent a property long-term for residency registration.

We smoothly settled Li Nuo into the school and his dormitory and met a local pastor and his wife. They picked us up from the school and took us to their church meeting point. Thank God! I never imagined that this church would become our home in H City for the years to come. Whenever Li Nuo had a break, he would stay at this meeting point, and when I visited him, I stayed there as well.

Adjusting to Boarding School

From the initial preparations for studying in H City to sending our child to school, it took only two months. Yet, God prepared everything we needed: the school, residency registration, a home in H City, as well as warm-hearted parents, classmates, and loving and kind teachers.

Li Nuo’s homeroom teacher in the first year of middle school was a very young man. In the first class, he told the students that he had a brother their age and he would treat them as if they were his own siblings—a promise he truly fulfilled.

The boarding school was quite strict in many respects. For instance, students were permitted only one phone call per week, a rule that deeply saddened me. As the students advanced into their senior years, the school further restricted communication by disconnecting the landline. This isolation from regular family contact was particularly distressing, as it severed the comforting link between us during a critical phase of their education. However, we respected the school’s policies.

Thriving as a Christian at a Secular School

Beyond the approved extracurricular books, Bibles were not permitted on campus. Li Nuo managed to bring scripture cards, which he used to quietly read and reflect on God’s words at school. Each year, when he joined a new class, the school staff would survey the students about their religious beliefs. Li Nuo was consistently the only one in his class to stand up and declare himself a Christian. His faith was well known among his classmates and teachers, leading a few close classmates to often seek his insights on faith-related questions, such as why God sent the ten plagues on Egypt, the significance of Jesus wearing a purple robe before the crucifixion, and the differences between Christianity and Islam. Remarkably, a classmate from Li Nuo’s first year of middle school, who had re-joined him in the first year of high school, grew interested in Christianity. Last winter break, this classmate asked Li Nuo to bring him a Bible.

During the years of studying in H City, Li Nuo excelled in all aspects and was loved, recognized, and affirmed by all the teachers who taught him. His exemplary behavior and academic excellence set him apart, making him a role model that many classmates admired and sought to emulate. I learned that even some classmates asked him in private, “Why are you so nice? You are just not like other students.”

In Li Nuo’s high school years, his homeroom teacher once called and questioned us about why Li Nuo, despite his outstanding achievements, chose not to join the Communist Youth League, a common expectation for high-performing students in China. We truly appreciated the teacher’s concern for Li Nuo, yet we informed the teacher that our son had been a believer since childhood and was not considering joining it.

Gratitude for God’s Blessings

Isaiah 55:8–9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Our whole family is especially grateful and thankful for God’s guidance, preparation, care, protection, and blessings! We also thank all the teachers for their hard work, and the parents and classmates for their enthusiastic help.

We believe that Li Nuo is blessed by God because of his steadfast faith. He lived up to everyone’s expectations and was admitted to one of the best high schools in H City, that is also considered one of the best in the country, with outstanding results. Soon will be the time for the college entrance examination in China, and the journey of studying in H City will come to an end.

May the loving and faithful God continue to look after Li Nuo, protect him, and enable him to enter his dream university, Peking University. All glory to our God! May Li Nuo continue to be a light, using his life to impact and benefit those around him.

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Image credit: Seele An via UnSplash.

Ruth Huang

Ruth Huang was born and raised in China. She found Jesus and embraced Christianity thirty years ago. Together with her husband, they lead a house church in a major city in China. Ruth describes herself as merely an ordinary mother, yet she epitomizes millions of Chinese mothers today. She hopes …View Full Bio

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