Editor’s note: This post is a part of our latest series on “Welcoming Today’s Chinese Students.” We want to highlight a special group among the Chinese students: the visiting scholars. In this article, you will learn more about who they are and how to welcome them.
After having lived overseas for eleven years and coming back to the U.S., I had a deep desire to continue having connections with the international community. On our first Sunday back, to my surprise, there were 15 visiting scholars from China in my church! I was so excited to meet them and it didn’t take too long for me to realize what a unique opportunity to show them the love of Christ! This opportunity was a gift from God, because these scholars represented a special group of people that I had little or no access to during all those years overseas.
Who They Are
When speaking with visiting scholars it is sometimes evident that English is their second language. Though their English proficiency varies from person to person, it is quite impressive that they are working in the university setting using their second language. The Chinese scholars are some of the brightest and most influential people in China. They are professors in their home country, and each of them has a story of how they got to this point. Many of them grew up with simple means, at a time when Chinese families had less, and China was just coming out of the cultural revolution. They studied and worked hard to get accepted into the university and eventually became professors. When they arrive in the United States, they will often come with their child, but they have left behind a spouse, a home and a life in China. The Chinese government has sent them to come to the United States to do research, improve their English and take advantage of other opportunities here on the U.S. college campus. They are here for a very short time, generally about a year, and that is why time is of the utmost importance.
Connecting with Them Intentionally
Honestly, it’s quite easy to welcome them. It just takes intentionality. Just like anyone else moving to a new place they are hoping to make friends, have opportunities to practice their English and experience what it is like to live in the United States. They have a need for a community and this is where we can enter in and welcome them, by inviting them into our homes for meals, offering them rides, and having them over for holidays. As a mom of young children, I have found that this is a special place for me to be connected. It is so easy to have play dates with another mom and her child and share with her the love of Christ through sharing my life.
The one challenge I have found is there are so many scholars that would love to connect with Americans but my time is limited. We have been blessed with volunteers from local churches that have done just that. Our church has partnered with us to start a Bible-based English class that takes place in conjunction with the children’s program. This provides something for the children to do while the scholars participate in our English class. I love this because our whole family is a part of this night and we are building relationships that lead to opportunities for them to hear the gospel.
Many scholars have come and gone in our short time back in the states. One of these scholars, Ming, was spiritually searching during his time here. He was coming to English classes, connecting with several people in our church and was impacted deeply by believers and their love for Christ. When he returned to his home country, we didn’t know what would happen to him spiritually as he had not yet trusted Christ. However, two years later, he returned to the states to visit and shared that he had been reading the Bible after he returned to China and that he had trusted in Christ.
I often think about the many scholars we have interacted with over the last three years. They have heard the gospel, they have experienced Christian community, they have been part of our Thanksgiving outreaches and English classes, and their children have participated in programs at our church. Many of them have not decided to become a Christian, but they often express how deeply moved they are by the community of Christians that have loved on them. I wonder, how will God use this in their lives and in the lives of the students they are teaching? And what kind of eternal impact they might have?
Would you join me to welcome and love on these scholars by inviting them to your home today?
Thoughts to Ponder
What’s your experience with visiting scholars from China?
Can you imagine what would it look like to be in their shoes, moving to a foreign country with children and without knowing anyone?
What might be a few ways you can invite them into your life?