The below article is a part of a series of articles that were written and posted in the fall of 2017 as we were starting deputation. Since there are so many new followers and subscribers of this blog since that time, I thought I would re-post the series and fill them in on how I learned Chinese.
“Austin?” read the cryptic text.
“Yes, who is this?” I replied. Feeling uneasy as I was unaccustomed to people sending me text messages in English and even more uneasy that they would know my English name.
Though fairly certain that it was one of the missionaries I’d recently emailed, I wasn’t sure. A few minutes later, I received a reply confirming my hopes. Mark had received my email and wanted to call me to discuss my experience in China.
The questions that I had been asking myself over the last year began flooding back into my mind.
“How do they do it?”
“Where did they get their training and know-how?”
“How are they able to preach and plant churches in China full-time?”
The phone rang.
Answering it, I spent the next hour or so having a conversation that would literally change the course of my life.
We had our agendas. I was pushing for Mark to let me and my wife come to Dalian for a season to see the work he had going there and learn from him. If I could just see him and his church in action for a time, maybe I could replicate it in the churches in Longyan. If I could just glean some experience, I could figure out how to start a church of my own in the Longyan area.
Mark, however, was pushing for something else.
“So what you want to do,” said Mark, “is move to Alpharetta, Georgia and study at the Our Generation Training Center, which is a ministry of Vision Baptist Church, my sending church.”
Stunned, I pushed back. “Well, my wife doesn’t speak English and we really have no plans of going back to the States for a few years. What we’re after is just being able to come up to Dalian and see your church to see what we can replicate here.”
“Well, what are you wanting to do long term?”
“Eventually I want to preach, share the gospel, and plant churches.”
“How do you plan to do that?” He was certainly stern, but not rude. “As it stands now, you being an English teacher takes much of your time away from ministry, right?”
“It does,” I admitted. He had a point. Not only did my job take up much of my time, it also conflicted with many services and Bible studies held by the church.
“Well, consider this,” continued Mark, “You could spend the next twenty years in China without the training I’m suggesting, which would mean that you would need to keep your job that takes around twenty hours of your time each week. Or, you could come to the Our Generation Training Center for a few years, and upon completion return to China with support and training to spend all of your time as a full-time missionary.”
There was no arguing with that logic. My job was in fact becoming a greater and greater burden upon the ministry that I was wanting to do in China. Within minutes I was sold.
After concluding the conversation, I hung up, looked at Anny Grace, and said, “We’re moving to America.”