International Students in China: Who will reach this vast and strategic yet invisible group? – Part 5

Church outside of China

Finally, how can the global church outside of China be part of this ISM vision in China? First and foremost, brothers and sisters could commit to praying for this.

Experienced ISM workers could be sent to China to support international churches or to come alongside local Chinese fellowships and campus ministries. Networking could be established between healthy national ISMs, pioneering ISMs outside of China, international churches within China, global sending organizations, and the nascent Chinese ISM movement.

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Notre-Dame and Sri Lanka

A French nun stood in front of the burning Cathedral and said that it was only a building; the church of God is people. In Sri Lanka a few days later over two hundred of those people died. As words came from politicians that Notre-Dame must be restored, millionaires rushed forward with offers of large sums of money. No millionaires rushed forward to support the suffering families of Sri Lankans or to rebuild their churches. From Sri Lanka there were only pictures of coffins being carried to graves and even the number of the dead was uncertain. The Western press had pictures and stories of tourists who had died, but the Sri Lanka Christians remained anonymous. Notre-Dame survived the fire. No lives were lost. Sentiment was high that this symbol of France, the testament to a nation’s lost faith, must be a continuing part of Paris life. In Sri Lanka perpetrators were pursued, security chiefs resigned, churches were closed and tourists warned away. Paris resumed normal life and the causes of the accident were sought. The Sri Lanka victims are still dead.

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The ‘Red Lines’ of the Kingdom

In Acts we find a story of The Jewish diaspora, in which Jews, allowed to legally hold to their faith, were nonetheless subject to the vagaries of Empire. The Jews were scattered through the Mediterranean world, particularly the eastern end, and like all diaspora peoples, they gathered together for mutual support and protection. They formed insular communities so that their religious and cultural lives could be built up. Whilst there was trade (and other) engagements with the wider, imperial community, this was limited. Integration was not part of their agenda.

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International Students in China: Who will reach this vast and strategic yet invisible group? – Part 3

Leadership and ministry potential

A surprising number of Christian students come to China with church leadership experience. While some are confused or lukewarm in faith, others are eager to be equipped for ministry and are incredibly responsive to capable, intentional and loving ministry training. A Pakistani Christian student wrote, “Just need more prayers so I could work more for Christ and become a source of light for others.” Is this an opportunity to strengthen churches and train people for ministry?

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ISM in Reverse in China?

Things are going backwards? Not at all! More and more international students are flocking to China – 489,200 in 2017.[1] (Contrast the decline in the US[2] and the UK.[3])

So what is “ISM in reverse?”

We know of “ministry to international students.” But what if international students themselves were the ones sharing with their fellow students, many from unreached cultures? This is “ISM in reverse” – international students doing this ministry to reach the nations.

Meet “Sam,” an American international student in China. He’s doing a two-year master’s in international business under a full Chinese government scholarship at a top-ranked university.

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International Students in China—an Opportunity? – Part 2

My Pakistani friend asked, “May I visit your church?” I welcomed him along. He listened to a Bible talk in English, read the Urdu text on my iPhone, and asked me questions in Chinese.

In my first article I described the numbers and diversity of the international students in China.[1] Here I’ll outline some of the challenges and opportunities of ministering to them, some unique to this context.

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International Students in China—an Unreached Diaspora? – Part 1

“Jyrgal” from Kyrgyzstan and I sat on our couch talking about why he was studying in China, the beauty of the Kyrgyz mountains—and the claims of Jesus. I could do this with no Kyrgyz visa, no extra language, and no flight to Bishkek—he came to me.

My friend “Lalit” from Indian Kashmir and I are reading a gospel together. “Tesfay” matured in his faith while in China and returned to a persecuted church in Eritrea. Portuguese-speaking students from Mozambique, Angola, and Brazil meet together to study the Bible. These are some of the almost half a million international students in China, arriving from every corner of the globe.

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noodles

Three young missionaries – part 2

The three young missionaries met again in their favourite noodle bar.

The Young American: It was great to hear about the growth of the church in China this morning. If the church keeps growing at the current rate, we in the US of A are going to have to look out for our status as the largest Christian nation. Who would have thought it?

The Singaporean: Well you know the saying. God must love the Chinese, he made so many of us. And now he is bringing us into his kingdom. You had better start learning Mandarin for heaven. And at least with so many Chinese cooks there we will get everlasting noodles for eternity.

The Englishman: Doesn’t the growth of the church in China now get us back to the question we had yesterday? After all, the recent growth is not the first time Christianity has had a presence and influence in China. I was reading a book recently that argued cogently for St Thomas having got to China as well as India[1]. Certainly the Syrian Christians got there during the Tang Dynasty and their message seems to have been accepted. The Great Church of the East once spread across China and into other East Asian countries, but nothing survives from that work today. Do we have any guarantee that the church in China today will continue to grow?

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Trade and the Transmission of Faith

What can history teach us about the relationship between trade and the transmission of faith? Quite a lot it would seem. The answers to two further questions will help unpack some key lessons for missional business in 21st Asia.

Q 1: How did Islam arrive in East Asia? Answer: Muslim Traders.

Exactly how Islam came to East Asian communities is not known but scholars agree that a “direct relationship between trade and the spread of Islam is undeniable.” The maritime history of the Indian Ocean suggests that there were Muslim sailors working on ships plying the trade routes around the archipelago as early as the eighth century. As trade increased and connections with ports and peoples were strengthened, so the Muslim presence grew. In their book, Spice Journeys: Taste and Trade in the Islamic World, de Guise and Sutarwala write that “Islam and hospitality go together like coffee and cardamon. Islam and trade have also been inextricably bound since the time of the Prophet Muhammad.” Islam spread to the region, not to begin with by the intentional efforts of Islamic missionaries, but through merchants.

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