Worth the Price

Teachers minister to students through English classes


As the first native English speakers many of our Chinese students had ever met, my wife, Cheri, and I took on an almost-celebrity status. The Chinese people have a tremendous hunger to learn English, so everywhere we went people approached us wanting to practice their skills. We had been at the university for only a few months, and our friendships with the students were coming along faster than we anticipated.

As International Fellowship of Alliance Professional (IFAP) members, we were excited to build relationships in China through teaching English. Each day, we instructed our students about American culture, English grammar and writing styles. We lived in faculty housing and enjoyed the up-close-and-personal aspects of Chinese life.

The Call to Teach

At our C&MA church years earlier, Cheri and I learned about the need for Christian teachers in China. At the time, I was a public school teacher, and we felt that teaching in China would give us the opportunity to combine our professions with ministry. Our work began with another organization before we became part of the first group of IFAP appointees in 1987. Since then dozens of families have been appointed for overseas service to share the message of Christ.

The Chinese government representatives knew we were Christians. In fact, Christian teachers were recruited in China. Christian teachers were different from other teachers the government hired. The conservative lifestyle of American Christians was appreciated by Communist officials. In addition, American pop culture has made a strong impact on Chinese students. The school’s leaders believed that Christian teachers did the best job in helping students process these influences.

We spent time in Taiwan studying the Chinese language and culture so that we could more effectively communicate our life experiences and message of God’s love. Language proficiency not only helps to begin
relationships, but also takes them to a new level. The Chinese people valued our willingness to move out of our English comfort zone and into their language and culture. They especially liked it when we tried out our broken Chinese.

At the university, we were appreciated for our dedication to the students. The Chinese people we met couldn’t understand why we left the comforts of the United States, and they were touched when we shared our desire to help them develop their English skills. Additionally, because we were outsiders in a closely monitored city; the nationals felt safer discussing personal matters with us than they did with their neighbors, fellow students and colleagues. Our relationships grew quickly and naturally.

Angels Overhead

Chinese people have long been interested in spirituality, so our students were eager to learn about Christianity. They came to our house, and we studied the Bible together. Cheri and I helped them understand what they were reading and what it means to be a Christian. One of our students, Sharon*, met God at several turns. Each week we taught Sharon’s composition class, which included lectures, reports and journaling. As the semester progressed, many students began to share the issues of their hearts through their journals. Cheri and Sharon developed a friendship through journaling.

During this time one of Sharon’s classmates was having eye problems and needed surgery. Hoping to minister in a practical way, Cheri asked the class to go with her to visit the student at the hospital. There, Cheri sensed God’s leading to pray for the surgery.

Later the students wrote about this extraordinary experience and how they had never seen someone pray like that. Sharon wrote, “As Mrs. Mann was praying for my classmate, I could see angels over her head.”

Yes, I Believe

Days later Sharon came to our house for Bible study and began to show a growing interest in the Christian faith. Since she wasn’t confident speaking English, Sharon continued to share extensively through her journal, and her relationship with Cheri flourished.

One day Cheri asked Sharon if she believed that what she had read in the Bible is true. Sharon said she believed. Cheri asked if she understood that Jesus is the Son of God and that redemption comes through faith in Christ. Again Sharon agreed that it is true. Then Cheri asked if she was willing to pay the price of following Christ. For the first time, Sharon shared that her aunt and uncle were Christians and had been in and out of prisons for many years. She felt that the cost of faith in Christ was too high.

Later that week, Sharon showed up at our house in tears. She had just finished reading Dante’s Inferno, and the imagery and reality of hell was overwhelming to her. Fear gripped her heart and she realized that on earth, the cost of following Jesus doesn’t compare to the horror of eternal separation from God. Sharon decided to commit her life to the Lord.

Many other Chinese students have put their faith in Christ, too, as a result of God’s work through Christian teachers, His Word and the Holy Spirit. We enjoyed interacting with people in China every day throughout our classes and neighborhood.

The result is powerful when we come with a genuine desire to serve Him and professionally contribute to the needs of nationals.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Cover artwork for March 2006 March 2006

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