Chinese 101: My Story Epilogue

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.”

Chinese 101: My Story Part 5

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.

In May of 2015, my dream finally came true. After years of countless hours of listening to podcasts, conversing with shopkeepers, and leading small group Bible studies; one of the pastors finally asked me to preach at a college and career Bible fellowship, which was one of the ministries of the local, national church.

I was given a couple of weeks notice and set out to prepare myself well. It was to be, after all, my first time to preach in Chinese. I chose for my text Luke 9, in which Peter affirms Jesus as the Christ and Jesus defines the terms of following Him. I was given forty five minutes to preach, which was to be followed by small group discussion.

This Bible study, different from the one mentioned in my previous post, ran over fifty on an average Saturday evening and was steadily growing. By 2015, Anny Grace and I had been attending for over a year  and had gotten to know everyone in the group. We had prayed together, studied the Word together, and laughed together. As I became a more and more integral part of the church, the Lord finally blessed me with the opportunity to achieve my goal of the last five years.

That night I preached with virtually no hiccup in my language ability! Afterward, friends approached me to thank me for the message. I was successful! But, my success was not due to anything inherent in me. Rather, it was due to the work that the Lord had accomplished in me and used to push me to learn Mandarin to honor Him.

Walking home with Anny Grace that night, I remember her sharing with me in my excitement for reaching this milestone in my life in Longyan.

I was on top of the world and excited to see what the Lord had in store for me next. One thing that I discovered in a matter of days was that having attained my dream of preaching in Chinese, it was high time I set my sights higher.

Unfortunately, I had already heard from the pastors in the area that they would not let me preach in any Sunday morning worship services for fear of my drawing unwanted attention to them and their congregations from the local government.

Struggling with what to do next, I was reminded of a small group of missionaries whose blogs I had stumbled upon online just a year previous. They were boldly proclaiming their faith. They were planting churches. They were training men for the ministry.

I wanted to be a part.

Chinese 101: My Story Part 4

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.

I froze. Why would he ask me first, of all people? I mean, my Chinese was getting conversational, but I was nowhere near confident enough to be put on the spot like this in the middle of a Bible study.

I fidgeted in my chair as my mouth began to dry. “I didn’t know I’d have to discuss this today,” I managed to get out in Mandarin thinking my face was certainly turning red in embarrassment.

“Oh, ok,” responded the pastor with a hint of confusion. “Jiang YunTian, what do you think?”

I was relieved that the spotlight had shifted from me, but also left wondering why the pastor would ask me an open ended question like that on my first visit to this Bible study. He had spoken to me at church before and knew my level of Chinese was still quite lacking. Why would he think my Mandarin could handle the question? Didn’t he realize that I was just hoping to come in and listen to their discussion to practice listening for Bible terms? Did he not have the forethought to know how embarrassed I would feel being put on the spot like that in front of my believing friends?

I wished I could answer the question. I yearned to be able to have free discussion with Chinese believers about the Bible. But after the blow to my pride I had just experienced, it seemed like me putting myself out there and coming to a small group Bible study was a bad idea.

Myriad are the instances like this that I could use to tell about my struggle to learn Mandarin. Stories from in church and out of church. With friends and with strangers. Whether in the supermarket or at the bank, I was constantly either making embarrassing mistakes or being left to give blank stares that communicated I didn’t understand.

But, through it all, the Lord taught me much about myself and about Him. He taught me what it means to humble yourself to become like someone else. I was often faced with minor humiliation, as in the story above, as a result of wanting to adapt to Chinese life. But, that is nothing compared to what Christ endured becoming a man and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

As one can see, my first forays into national churches in China weren’t easy. There was much to struggle through, both in regards to language and culture. But the Lord was continuing to bless and getting my Mandarin skills ready to preach.