ChinaSource wrote recently, stressing the importance of reaching with the Gospel the many Chinese students and scholars who are studying outside of China. ChinaSource listed several reasons why such Gospel work is so strategic.
- More students travel from China to study abroad than from any other country. "Every year, several hundred thousand Chinese people leave China to study overseas, and several hundred thousand Chinese who have studied overseas return to China. These numbers have been steadily increasing over these last few years, with 662,100 people going abroad to study and 519,400 returning home to China in the year 2018. Although the issue has recently become a contested one for some of them in the USA, the numbers are still high.”
- An increasing number of these Chinese students return to China after studying abroad. “The proportion of students who return to China each year is increasing, with a return rate in recent years of around 80%… An increasing number of Chinese students are actively choosing to return to China as they believe they have better career prospects in China due to China’s economic development and growing global influence.”
- Because of their educational qualifications, these students, on returning to China have a high possibility of becoming men and women of influence in the years to come. This factor is increased because “there is growing diversity in the places to where they are returning. Increasing proportions of returnees are going (not just to Beijing and Shanghai but) to ‘new first-tier' cities such as Hangzhou and Chengdu, as well as second-tier and smaller cities. These future leaders are thus able to have a widespread impact on China as they return to positions of influence all across China, especially In the key cities that impact and shape the wider culture.”
- This Gospel opportunity, that of reaching Chinese students outside of China, is made more important by the recent clampdown on foreign Christians who have been working in China. Over the last few years, a considerable number of teachers and other foreign workers have been forced to leave China, temporarily or permanently, either through visa restrictions or because of Covid-19.
A distant memory comes to mind. In 1985 I went into China for the second time and was able to visit a Christian doctor working in a hospital in Changsha. Those were early days, quite soon after the Cultural Revolution. This brother was so happy to see foreign Christians that he took out his gramophone (this was 1985!) and played the “Hallelujah Chorus” loudly. I was struck by the reaction of his wife. She was frightened and told him to turn it down in case they got into trouble - they lived within the hospital campus. The next time I met her was in the UK at a Chinese Christian gathering. She was following the Lord without fear or restriction. For many, that is a very real factor. The time outside China is an incredibly important time to reach them with the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Pray for all of those Chinese students, scholars and others who are studying outside of China at this time.
- Pray for organisations that specifically work in this area, seeking to reach as many Chinese studying overseas as possible.
- Pray for the significant time when the students and scholars return home to China, that they would find local Christian groups and churches, and not give way to fear but continue to follow the Lord.
- Pray that the Lord would lead you to Chinese students studying overseas.