Teacher in China
Some years ago,
Joe L and five other students from his college went to China on an exchange program. Since
Joe had a degree in physical science, he was assigned to teach at a college of physical
culture on the outskirts of Beijing while he studied Mandarin.
Things began smoothly enough for the six
Americans, but before long some of them were returning to the United States. The rigors
of living in China were too much to handle. One couldn't tolerate the restrictions of his
personal freedom. Another was expelled for immorality. And a couple of others were
dismissed for bad behavior. By the middle of the year, Joe was the only American left.
About this time three Chinese students
approached him to find out what made him so different. "You're not like the others.
Why is that?"
What an opening! Joe was tempted to stop
what he was doing and answer their question right then. Knowing they would be more relaxed in a home setting, he invited them to come to his dorm
room that night. That night, not only did the three show up, but several others came with
them to find out what made Joe tick. Joe began to explain how Jesus made all the
difference in his life.
Over the course of several weeks, Joe led three
of these students to faith in Christ and began discipling them. These young believers
exhibited strong evidence of new life in Christ. But at the end of the school year, Joe's
contract was ended and he had to leave China.
He was extremely concerned about what would become
of these new disciples. Would the government let him return? He figured there was little
hope of that. His extra-curricular activities hadn't gone completely unnoticed. Hardly had
he returned to the U.S. when a letter arrived asking if he would return for the next
school year. Clearly, the authorities felt his integrity and his excellence in work made
his Christian influence worth the risk. When Joe stepped off the plane that fall, Chao,
one of three he had discipled, was waiting for him. With a huge grin he introduced Joe to
two new friends. One of them Chao had led to the Lord while Joe was gone.
Later that evening, when they were alone, Chao
asked Joe, "Do you have any materials? I want to teach Deng." And this was only
the beginning of Joe's second year!
During his second year, school administrators
asked Joe to teach a course on American holidays. They explained that a group of 60
Chinese exchange students were going to America, and their professors thought they should
know something about American culture.
"There's no way I can talk about American
holidays without discussing Christianity," Joe responded. "I can't explain
Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving without mentioning Jesus or God."
"That's all right," they answered.
"Whatever it takes."
When the class began, not only the 60 students
who planned to go to America showed up. With them were another 60 interested people,
including some of the university staff!
Joe still lives in China, has since married a
Chinese Christian, and plans to spend the rest of his life there. Not too much later, he
was asked to help set up a program to recruit additional English teachers for
China--" people just like you!"
[from Don Hamilton's "Tentmakers
Speak," (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1987),pp 4-6.]
in the Middle East
Roy, a mechanical engineer and ex-president of a
large IVCF chapter in a southern university, was excited when he landed a job with a world
class firm in an Arab city. Although a young graduate, he did his work so well, the firm
even sent him to troubleshoot in India, where an off-shore oil well platform was listing.
On his first short paid leave in the U.S., he
recruited several graduates from his university, including chemical engineer Carol, whom
he married. She was promptly hired by the same firm. The couple, with two generous
salaries, quickly saved enough to finance a year of Arabic studies in a second country,
and to have the first of their four children. Then they began their long-term ministry in
a third Middle East country.
In Roy's freshman year, God had used Urbana to
give him a burden for Muslims. Since most Islamic countries do not allow missionaries, but
hire foreign technical experts, Roy majored in engineering. It would prove to be as
appropriate for earning a living and witnessing in our 20th century Arab world as the
Apostle Paul's making of tents had been in first century Arabia.
In their host country, Roy worked for a local
factory, learning much about how to do business in the Arab world. He tried to make his
daily work pleasing to Jesus Christ, and had opportunities to speak about him.
Carol did not seek a position, but cared for her
family and befriended her neighbors. At first it was not easy, although Carol is an
outgoing person. But then she helped adjust their sewing machines and they taught her how
to make their typical long dresses.
The real breakthrough came when her second child
was born. The women felt solicitous for this young American mother whose own mother was so
far away. After that she could go to the open air market with the women, keeping every
hair of her head covered with a big scarf, just like the women.
Carol wrote later that they barely made it to
the hospital in time for the slightly premature birth of their fourth child. For days
afterward, Muslim women visitors streamed into the house. She had a little gift for each.
The birth made it easy for Carol to turn each conversation to Jesus Christ.
But Roy's Arab employers never seemed happy with
him. (It is how they exert control.) The bosses often lied to each other and Roy would be
caught in the middle. At one point, when Carol and the children were ill and Roy had been
injured in an accident, they were so discouraged that they asked for thirty days vacation
leave in the U.S.
They did not tell the bosses that they wanted to
reconsider whether God really intended for them to remain in such a difficult situation.
But the bosses were alarmed. They said, "If you are away for 30 days, the whole
factory will come to a stop! " This is how Roy discovered how much his work was
appreciated after all.
Before the couple left, one Muslim boss came
privately to ask Roy for books about Jesus! Tentmakers can bring only a few
religious books into this country, and giving them out can result in prison or expulsion.
Roy suspected the boss might be trying to entrap him. But he gave him an Arabic New
Testament and a children's Bible story.
It turned out that the man was sincere, having
been made hungry for the gospel by short-wave Christian radio and then by the way this
couple lived out their faith in spite of illness and problems. (Our testimony is usually
strongest in a context of suffering because anyone can do right when all goes well. The
question is how do we act when everything goes wrong?)
The boss's newly expressed interest in the
gospel was a factor in the couple's decision to return a breakthrough of sorts.
Now several years later, in the same country,
Roy has his own small business along with several tentmaker colleagues. It provides for
their support and serves as a ministry context for their church planting.