Homeward Bound: A Christian’s Return to China

(photo: the ChinaSource team)
By Rex ChenJune 14th, 2024

About 12 years ago, I had just graduated from high school in China and was about to go to the United States for college. Most people might find it hard to understand, but I was very reluctant to leave China at that time and even considered giving up studying in the United States. This was because my sister, who is 18 years younger than me, had just been born.

Growing up in a broken family, I had severely lacked parental companionship, which made me even more eager to nurture and accompany my half-sister as she grew up. Additionally, I was faced with leaving my closest relatives—my grandparents who had raised me since childhood. They were elderly but had not yet come to faith. As the only Christian in my family at the time, I was very worried that if I went to study in the United States, there would be no one to continue sharing the gospel with them, leading to eternal regret.

Thus, in August of the same year, with an extremely anxious and reluctant heart, I left home and embarked on my journey to study in the United States alone.

Today, 12 years later, I have achieved academic success in the United States. I had thought that I would finally be able to reunite with my family back in China, but things did not go as planned. My grandparents had passed away in the previous years, and my sister had also moved overseas with her parents. However, despite the deteriorating domestic situation and the fact that I had no relatives left in China, I still resolutely decided to return to China. Why is that?

The root cause lies in my faith. I deeply understand that the current domestic environment is quite unfavorable, leading many people to “run” to Western countries in pursuit of a better life. However, I believe that Christians should uphold a different value system from the secular world, prioritizing God’s kingdom over self-interest (Matthew 6:2–33).

Recently, many Christians around me have chosen to run abroad for various reasons. Some say, “I don’t want my children to grow up in an environment like China.” Others say, “There is a lack of good church life and freedom of speech in China, making life too oppressive.” And some say, “It’s hard to make money in China now.” Although these reasons seem valid, they share a common trait: they do not prioritize the needs of God’s kingdom. Often, such people are in the majority.

Regardless of the current situation and what we have to face, I believe that a Christian’s primary responsibility is their duty as a Christian and their responsibility in God’s kingdom. In other words, we should first examine whether our actions align with God’s will and values and whether they benefit God’s kingdom, rather than merely considering what benefits our earthly life. The cost of being a Christian is high, including spiritual responsibilities in God’s kingdom. As stated in Matthew 10:37–39: “Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me… Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

In recent years, what has disappointed me the most is that many students from mainland China choose not to return after graduating from seminaries. Given the worsening situation in China, the expulsion of many missionaries, the dismantling of many churches, and the urgent need for more ministers to return to serve, I thought most of them would return to China. However, the reality is quite the opposite; at least 80% of seminary graduates from mainland China choose to stay in the United States.

Some are confused about their calling, so they want to find a job after graduation, believing it’s easier than starting over in China. They often say, “Let’s see how God leads and what opportunities open up.” Without delving into theological topics of God’s sovereignty and human free will, this attitude is actually a “go with the flow” mindset. As Christians, shouldn’t we strive to pursue?

Others have a clear goal: to stay in the United States by any means, under the pretext that “the United States also has needs.” Among them are those who came to study on church donations from China, having sworn to return before leaving, appearing to be mature, spiritual, and authoritative “pastors.” Why do I use quotes here? Because I believe such people are unworthy of the title; they are merely selfish, hypocritical, and cowardly, while pretending to be mentors. Do seminary graduates truly not know the needs in China, or do they think China doesn’t need them? Or are they pretending to be ignorant under lofty pretenses for selfish purposes?

When I saw the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, many Jews living in Western countries bought expensive tickets to return home to fight for their country. In the Russia-Ukraine war, a Ukrainian soldier guarding a bridge blew up the bridge at the cost of his own life to prevent Russian forces from crossing. If these people can make such great sacrifices for their earthly countries, then as Christians with eternal life and God’s promises, shouldn’t we be even more courageous and loyal for God’s kingdom? How can we call ourselves soldiers of the Lord?

In conclusion, many unbelievers run to the free world, which, from a spiritual perspective, I think is beneficial. Because in these places there is religious freedom, allowing those who run to have more opportunities to encounter the gospel. Most of the people who stay in China either cannot run or do not want to, which is the majority’s situation. Thus, domestic missionaries and pastors can serve these people more effectively. This way, people can be dispersed to be served by churches in the free world, while the few domestic pastors can serve those who need it most.

However, I hope to see more Christians stay in China to meet the needs, as the population is vast, the fields are broad, and the need is urgent.

Three months ago, I returned to China, and upon returning, I found the situation more urgent and desperate than I imagined. From a spiritual perspective, China is like a dried-up pond, and I hope more people will come to serve in China, as it urgently needs your help. I am waiting for your arrival here.

Rex Chen is an independent evangelist in Mainland China, who is a graduate from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and The Master’s University. He is also a professional equity & forex trader.

Originally from Webpage "ChinaSource"

CCD edited and reprinted with permission

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