By Jacob Franklin
A few weeks ago, collegiate leaders including student church pastors, missions pastors, campus mobilizers, and state and national collegiate directors joined me in China for a little over a week. The purpose of the trip was to introduce and cast vision for their involvement in reaching the 30+ million university students of China. The vision: to plant healthy reproducing churches that are focused on reaching the students of China.
Landing in the evening, after most of them had been flying for 13+ hours, we took a quick (about an hour) metro ride from the airport to our hotel. After resting for a few hours we boarded a high speed train and headed towards one of China’s largest university cities, boasting a population of 10 million and more than 1 million students.
Our hosts for the week, a married couple, a single woman, and local church partners, arranged a busy week for us, showing us the many different phases of university city work. On our first night we participated in an English corner at a local coffee shop. We were able to interact with the nearly 100 students who gather there each week to practice English. Some of these students were high school aged or younger, accompanied by their parents, though most were university students from across the city.
Sitting with my good friend Mike, we were easily able to strike up a conversation with 4 students. We began with the normal things - where we are from, what we do for a living, do we like Chinese food, etc. The conversations began to go deeper as we talked about things that matter to the heart - our dreams, our hopes, and our purpose in life. At this point, the disinterested couple decided to call it a night.
We were joined by an overachieving high school student who wanted to take the conversation back to the surface. In order to allow Mike to stay deep, I pulled our new friend to the side and Mike continued to share the message of Hope with this young couple. Before we knew it the coffee shop was closing, and our conversation came to an end. Such is the frustration that we often find on the mission field - the enemy seeks to snuff out opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those around us. However, thanks to technology, we exchanged WeChat information and promised to meet our new friends later in the week.
The next day, our group joined local church partners and were sent out in smaller teams to a few of the 80+ campuses in this university city. Our task for the day was to walk on the campus, pray, walk, pray more, and engage students in conversation. Our goal was to find students of peace - those who were receptive to us and to the message we had come to share (Luke 10).
On team met many students on the campus they visited. They gathered with students in a garden area in the middle of campus where they sang songs and shared the Hope that is found in Christ. New friendships were made, WeChat information shared, and then students hurried off to class. The team left campus rejoicing in the opportunities that God had given them to connect with students that day. That evening, jet-lagged yet excited, many in the group took part in a Bible study led by one of the foreign teachers.
The days that followed were even busier. Some of the group were able to attend a local house church, where security was tight, others taught in classes where they could meet more students, while others attended another English corner. The goal? Meet students that we could connect with outside of these activities. The reason? Speak truth and hope into their lives, compelling them to put their faith, their hope, and their future in Christ.
Later in the week Mike, our friend Paul, and I met with that young couple from the first night at the coffee shop. They suggested a lunch spot on campus, a western cafe, where we would be free from distractions. They had questions from our previous conversation and we were excited to answer them. After our food arrived, Paul grabbed a napkin and began illustrating different parts of the Creation2Christ story (http://vimeo.com/104119967). As the conversation continued, this young couple asked many questions. An hour later, as class time was approaching, the young man says he believes what we are saying is true, but that he needs to know more before he can commit to follow Jesus, a typical statement heard in China’s university cities. We share with him that a decision to follow Christ is a decision of faith. We pray for them, that God would reveal Himself to them as they continue to seek after Him.
Halfway through the trip, during a dinner of boiling meat, vegetables and donkey meatballs, our friends from the states ask me to share the vision that God has given me for reaching China’s university cities. I share with them that the needs are great, and more than 30 million are lost, most without the opportunity to even hear the Gospel. I share with them it won’t be enough to send a team for Christmas, for the summer, or even for a semester, but that God’s people have to be willing to make sacrifices and go all in. The church will need to give their time, their resources, and their people. I tell them that my prayer is that it will start with them. That God would use each of them in their areas of influence to lead the church to engage the lost students of China.
During the next few days, our group continued to pour into the lives of the students we had met. Two of the ladies navigated the metro to a nondescript bus stop where they rode on a bus for more than an hour to the outskirts of the city just to meet and spend time with students. Others went to classes where they played silly games, spoke simple English, and allowed students to ask questions. My last interaction with students was in one of these classes.
Paul, Keith, and I were the guest speakers in an English conversation class. The first 45 minutes we played games to show them that learning English can be fun. After the break, we asked students to write 10 questions that they wanted to ask the foreigners. The first of these questions were what one would expect, “How did we like China?”, “Did we like the food?”, “What were our families like?”, etc. Then the question we had prayed for arrived. One of the students said “Chinese people like stories. Tell us a story about heroes.” Paul looked at me and said “go for it”. For the next 15 minutes I told them the story of my life. I shared how when I was a young child I was very sick, how my grandmother prayed for me, and how God had healed me. I shared with them about a car accident I was in while in college and how again, God had saved me. From there, I told them who our God is and what Jesus has done for us and that they too can know the greatest hero that I know, the most High God.
A few hours later we were on a train and beginning the journey home. Each person shared how their time in this university city had made an impact in their life. They had heard the stories of how Chinese students are receptive to the Gospel, but now they had seen it with their own eyes and wanted to be a part of God’s plan for reaching the university cities of China.
To learn more about how you can be a part of reaching the university cities of China, visit our website:-http://bitly.com/universitycitiesmap.
Jacob Franklin serves as the student strategist for the East Asia Affinity, imb. His passion is the mentoring and discipling of students, those sent out from the states and those he has been called to in East Asia. You can follow him on twitter at @jacobdfranklin.