This morning as I sat down for my morning reading session (check suggested sites for a partial list), I came across two more articles full of misinformation about Christianity in China. One took the experiences of a foreign Mormon in China as representative of what happens to Chinese Christians (Mormonism is not recognized by the gov’t, so it faces more restrictions).
So today I thought I would share with you some of the activities I have taken part in without any problems from the gov’t, and give a few examples of how they can cause trouble for the foreigners involved.
Note: These restrictions DO NOT apply to Chinese Christians
During my first year in China I had a student approach me asking to pray for her mother who was ill. She said that she wanted me to pray because I was a Christian, and she didn’t know how. I offered instead that we pray together for her mother, which was a great comfort to the student. A few months passed and she started attending church regularly.
I’ve heard many foreigners talk about getting into trouble with their schools for holding prayer meetings, which are completely different. By taking a leadership role in the students conversion instead of a passive role the schools get very concerned (some ignore it because they want foreign teachers).
If you pray with one or two students privately when they ask for you to do so, it will almost never be an issue with the school or gov’t.
Share the Gospel
When I taught in universities I always taught Christmas and Easter lessons. Sharing both the secular and Christian versions of the holidays. By presenting the information as a kind of cultural lesson I am following Chinese law (which prohibits foreigners proselytizing, it’s in every work contract).
The difference between “Jesus is the son of God,” and “Christians believe Jesus is the son of God,” is a very small one, but has kept me out of trouble in the schools. Many of the deans were even grateful for these lessons that they understand are an important part of western culture. My wife was even asked to do an introduction to the Bible lecture series (which was optional for the students).
On the other hand I’ve known foreigners who simply read from the Bible for entire classes, and present everything as fact. These actions are generally reported by students who are trying to join the Party, or by the ones who get bored listening to the foreign teacher read.
These aggressive tactics are often ineffective, and are a sure way to lose your visa.
This was one of my proudest moments in China.
Two of the students from my school were baptized at a local church. They had been attending services for almost 6 months before they were baptized, and continued worshiping in that congregation for the remainder of their college years. It was something that they discussed with the preacher, and I supported them in, but I did not push them to take this step.
The following year a “missionary” came to town for one week and convinced another eager student to be baptized in his hotel bathtub. This happened to be a student who was overwhelmed by the “awesomeness” of foreigners. Since this baptism occurred outside of a community of Christians, he had little support afterwards, and did not continue in the faith. After I heard what happened I talked with him and found that he had little understanding of what Christianity was.
Another student had been in the same hotel, but had refused to be baptized, since the foreigners could not answer her questions about why they supported the war in Iraq, but railed against abortion. I talked with this student over a number of months and tried to help her better understand what Christians believe.
After I moved to Chengdu months passed without hearing from her until I received this email:
Tom,We haven’t contacted for a long time. How are you? Lana told me that you are going to married this summer holiday. Congratulations.I want to tell you something, I know you will be suprised and contradictory. I am one of your sisters now. I am honest and I really feel so lucky to know this world.-Joy
Tomorrow we will be looking at Mission in China at the turn of the Century