Huntington, Ind.—A team of three staff members and 11 students traveled to China during the 2007 January Term for a 23-day experiential learning trip.
Dr. Luke Fetters, associate professor of ministry and missions, and Campus Pastor Bill Fisher took the group of students, along with Fisher’s sister, Wendy Fisher Grimm, a private psychotherapist from Seattle, Wash., to seven Chinese cities.
Beginning Jan. 1, Fetters, Fisher, Grimm and the 11 students – Jenaya Bonner, Sara Ellet, Bridger Fetters, Dan Fleming, Taryn Greeson, Kim Hart, Elizabeth Hecker, Sara Khachaturian, Katie Rodgers, Patrick Sauer and Luke Swartz – went to learn about Christianity in China.
The team traveled to the Chinese cities of Hong Kong, Macau, Zhouhai, Guangzhou, Fuzhou, Nanjing and Beijing. Visiting the seven cities involved a total estimate of 3,420 km (2,000 miles) in travel.
Fetters explained that he wanted the students to understand the complexity of the Christian experience in modern day China. “The general stereotype among Americans of the church in China is secret meetings, smuggling of Bibles, fear and police,” said Fetters. “But in reality there is a government-regulated legal church with 20 million members. There is also a government-recognized printing company that has printed 15 million Bibles.”
Through the trip, the students grasped the difference of the Chinese government from the U.S. government. Kim Hart, a sophomore family and children’s ministry and missions major from Monroe, Ind., said that her time spent in Asia taught her how the government in China is much different than how the group perceived it to be.
“It seems like we always picture Christians having to hide their faith in China because they’ll put be put in jail if they don’t. It’s a lot different than that, though. The three-self church does provide a place for Christians to worship, but the Communist officials control everything that goes on in the church. The theology of the three-self church is wrong. So there is a need for house churches and underground seminaries. So really, the situation in China is confusing. I’m still confused when I think about it. The whole trip I was reminded the Christians in China are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I need to be praying for them every day.”
Dan Fleming, a sophomore broadcasting major from Auburn, Ind., said that his time in Asia showed him the differences between reality and what he thought China was like. “I always thought of China with lots of soldiers, not a lot of freedom, but it’s the exact opposite. I had all my freedoms that I have here except not being able to talk about my faith.”
Both Hart and Fleming agreed that it’s hard to pick a favorite part of the trip, but their time spent in Macau teaching English in the primary schools and at the church stuck out.
“It helped me to see that teaching English can be a great way to build relationships with the local people and eventually be able to share the message of Christ with them. It also helped me to learn more about the people and their culture,” said Hart.
During their time in Macau the students were able to work the United Brethren church and missionaries who were Huntington University alumni. “It was really fun working along side them in Macau. It showed me where I could end up someday, “said Fleming.
“My hope was students would be able to see the vast above ground church and be able to worship with them as they would with people from here – and to learn about the people of Christ that lived through the communist and cultural revolution, how they suffered tremendous persecution and to learn from their faith,” said Fetters.