Testimonies of Christian Teacher

In this section Tom shares his experiences of living and working in China.

Arriving in China

When I first arrived in China it wasn't quite what I had expected. I didn't see any one wearing a pointy straw hat and there was a lot more wealth than I had imagined. My students laughed at my big mobile phone and showed me the flashy phones that they used. But I learnt in time that wealth in China is very unevenly spread. When years later I visited the homes of some of my students I was surprised at the simplicity that they grew up in.

For the first four weeks I shared a flat with three other guys from Britain and a Chinese guy who was our host. One of the guys, Simon, would be working at the same university as me. The other two guys, Anthony and Oscar, were university students themselves and were here on a short-term summer team. Anthony and Oscar had only been in China for six weeks and I was impressed at how much Chinese they had both learned. It really inspired me that it was possible to make big jumps in learning the language in a short time.

For the first two weeks Simon and I received two hours of Chinese study each day. This was followed by a two week cultural orientation course. We looked at Chinese culture, particularly learning about the concept of “guanxi” which is a little like the western concept of I'll rub your back, you rub mine. Everyone on the team had done a short course in teaching English as a foreign language in their home contry. But we also received some additional training particularly about teaching Chinese students and had the opportunity to prepare and present some classes.

Teaching in China

I was teaching first grade students and they have compulsory military training before starting classes so the university allowed me to teach in a private school for a few weeks to earn a little extra money. I found the jump from teaching one hour lessons, as I had on my course, to three hour lessons to be quite a big one. Teaching can be tiring and when you first start becoming skilled at lesson preparation takes a while.

However the initial shock of teaching private classes made it easier when I finally started at the university where lessons were only 90 minutes long. The style that I learned to teach was fairly interactive. The aim is to get the students thinking and speaking in English as much as possible. There are lots of interactive activities and games. Most of my students had never met this style of teaching before and found it a lot of fun. It did take them a while to adjust to the style and understand that interaction was expected of them.

Sharing the gospel

Sharing the gospel is generally pretty low key in China. I was careful not to force this issue on any of my students and instead choose to allow them to see my life and make their own judgement. I invited the students to my appartment on a couple of evenings each week to practice their English. We talked about all sorts of topics: life in the Britain, life in China, cultural differences, food, sport. Inevitably as God is a big part of my life this came up in conversation.

At Christmas I delivered a lesson about the Christmas story. The class really enjoyed it and one group had a lot more questions when they came to visit me that week. "Thank you for telling us the story of Christmas" they said "But we heard Jesus died and you didn't tell use about that. Could you tell us more?"

I was amazed! I had never been asked such a question back home in the UK. Most people I know try and avoid conversation about religion. But here in China they are hungry for truth and such questions are not uncommon. I showed them a film of the life of Jesus and a few weeks later we started to study the bible together as a group.

One evening two of the girls came in very excited. They told me that on the same night they had both had dreams about Jesus. God continued to work in their lives and two of the group became Christians and one decided firmly not to become a Christian. I was pleased with both outcomes as I learned that it is only my responsibility to share the truth. I felt so privileged to be used by God in this way.

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