Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Outsiders on the Inside: Reaching the Chinese in the United States

Rachel Elwood, support staff, with Mark and Kim, Advance Volunteers
The Call, July-September 2016

“God is doing something big with Chinese people.”

Not One Has Been LostSix years ago, Mark and Kim (last name withheld for security purposes) began attending a Chinese church. But that was just one step in their journey to reaching out to Chinese immigrants and students.

Mark and Kim served at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya with WGM from 2000 to 2007. Prior to that, they had gone on several international medical short-term trips and helped revitalize an inner-city church. When God led them to return to the United States in 2007, they were uncertain what the next step would be. They attended a CMDA (Christian Medical and Dental Associations) conference and were told by an acquaintance, “You need to work with the Chinese.”

Two years of exploring, or “floundering,” according to Mark, followed. They began attending the Chinese church, and, step by step, became involved in various ways. They have worked with the youth group, taught parenting classes, and led outreach to university students. Mark is a deacon, and Kim is on the missions committee. Doors have also opened up that have taken them to China to work with medical outreach. 

Still, it took time—almost a year—to build relationships and gain a better understanding of the community. “Because of our experience as cross-cultural workers, we were comfortable being outsiders,” Kim said. “We were prepared to listen, to learn, and to be in it for the long haul.” That willingness to stick with it earned them the respect of the community, which was further deepened when they went to China for the first time. 

Mark and Kim have learned many things during their years of involvement in the Chinese community. Here are a few of their takeaways that might be helpful to you as you reach out to internationals in your town. 
  1. Look around you. Who is lonely? Who is international? Look for opportunities to reach out to immigrants. Be aware of special holidays. Chinese New Year is a big deal for those Mark and Kim work with, but consider Eid or Cinco de Mayo. Invite people to your house or invite them to share their ethnic foods. “Most university students who come here to study will never set foot into an American home. Look for ways to reach out!” suggested Kim.
  2. Don’t worry about being an expert in the culture or about not having all the answers to every spiritual question. “It’s freeing to realize we don’t have all the answers,” Mark said. “But the Bible does have the answers we seek. We can study together to find them.”
  3. When joining a more established church or ministry, be willing to be a part of what is going on, not trying to change them to be like “us.” Kim shared that when she joined her church’s missions committee, she waited a full year before suggesting any changes. 
  4. Welcome newcomers to this country by offering practical help. “Regardless of culture, most people appreciate a genuine outreach of friendship,” said Mark. 
  5. Listen. “Everyone has a story, and theirs might be more interesting than yours,” emphasized Kim.  
Most importantly, realize that God is sovereign and will guide your steps. Mark shared that if they had gotten involved with the Chinese church earlier, during their two years of searching, it might not have worked well because of other circumstances at the church. “Sometimes God makes you flounder,” Mark said. “But it’s always for a reason.”

Mark and Kim look forward to what God has in store for their future outreach to Chinese people, both in the United States and in China. 

Act!ACT: Missions is a verb. Put love into action this month by choosing at least one of the takeaways Mark and Kim offer here. Challenge yourself to reach outside your comfort zone. Choose one of the actions from the list that isn’t easy or comfortable for you and reflect on what God teaches you through that experience. 
PrayPRAY: Pray for Mark and Kim in their ministry to Chinese people in the United States.
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