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    ‘China ’97… at the Crossroads’ targets China’s future leaders

    An extraordinary plan to help train many of the future leaders of China in evangelism, discipleship, and the Christian walk will be held this summer during a week-long conference in San Diego.

    Called “China ’97… at the Crossroads,” this historic gathering that will take place June 20-27, has been designed especially for mainland Chinese students, scholars, professors and professionals currently in the United States. It is being sponsored by International Students, Inc., of Colorado Springs, as well as Horizon Christian Fellowship of San Diego, where the conference will take place.

    ISI, whose mission is “to share Christ’s love with international students and to equip them for effective service in cooperation with the local church and others,” is also partnering with more than 20 Christian organizations for this remarkable gathering.

    “I believe partnership is the key to effective ministry today,” said Tom Phillips, ISI’s president and CEO. “There is more work to do for the Kingdom than one organization can handle, and I am greatly encouraged by the over 20 Christian organizations partnering with us in ‘China ’97…at the Crossroads.'”

    International student ministries around the U.S. are personally inviting their own student contacts to attend this conference. Chinese Christian leaders have blessed us with their advice and support. This exponentially raises the potential impact of this conference.”

    “This is a staggering faith venture for ISI, but we believe that God has prepared us ‘for such a time as this,'” said Phillips. “We believe this opportunity to consider Christianity and receive ministry training will bless the Chinese who come, and their country, for a generation to come. I believe that China is at the crossroads. This will be our opportunity in June, 1997, to impact the future leaders and executives of China.”

    The revisions of Hong Kong to Chinese control just days after the end of the conference is just one of the ways in which China is “at the crossroads.” Many Chinese on both sides of the border, as well as those currently in the United States, wonder what will be the impact of this important change. Many Christians see it as an opportunity for greater access into China. Reaching the Chinese leaders that are in our country right now is another key way to reach this great nation for Christ.

    Phillips, who was once director of counseling and follow-up for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, added, “The program for ‘China ’97…at the Crossroads’ has been designed with the Chinese students and scholars in mind, and will be presented mostly in Mandarin Chinese. I believe it will ‘scratch where they itch’ spiritually. What these future leaders receive at China ’97…at the Crossroads will make a lasting impression on their lives and ministries.”

    “China is an ancient nation with a rich cultural legacy,” he added. “Today, it is home to one-fifth of the world’s population. But to most westerners it remains largely a mystery. To those who are native to China, at least one aspect of our American culture is also a mystery – our faith in Christ. Chinese students who come to the United States to study are curious about true faith and how it has impacted America. Moreover, they are curious about how Christianity might impact their own nation.”

    Christian families in the San Diego area are being recruited to serve as host families to the 400 Chinese students and scholars who will attend China ’97. This will offer a unique ministry opportunity for those families who serve the Chinese in this way. “Relationships forged during those few days could form the basis for life-long friendships, and a life-long platform for sharing Christ,” Phillips declared.

    “China ’97…at the Crossroads” will give the students an opportunity to meet and begin to network to facilitate future united ministry in China. The workshop and plenary sessions will be divided into six different subject areas in which the speakers will:

    • Present the evidences for God and Christianity.
    • Explain the basic beliefs of Christianity.
    • Equip both the new and the more mature believers with the habits and the knowledge necessary to grow closer to the Lord.
    • Give conference attendees a chance to discuss the implications of Christianity and to help them think of how Christianity is relevant to China.
    • Address personal and family concerns.
    • Clearly and relevantly teach books of the Bible.

     

    The speakers who will present these issues are distinguished leaders in their fields who have a clear understanding of the importance of these issues in the lives of Chinese students and for the future of the Chinese nation. They include:

    • Dr. David Aikman, former journalist for Time magazine, focusing in the areas of China and Russia.
    • Dr. Thomas Wang, president of the Great Commission Center.
    • Rev. Edwin Su, editor of Overseas Campus magazine.
    • Dr. Tsu-Kung Chuang, senior pastor of the Chinese Bible Church of Greater Boston.
    • Dr. Bing-cheng Feng, pediatrician, Medical College of Wisconsin.
    • Dr. John Tse, radiopharmacy and Bionucleanics, University of Alberta.
    • Dr. Charlotte T.C Tan, professor of pediatrics, Cornell University Medical Center.

     

    Much of the planning for the conference has been done by Dean Halverson, “China ’97…at the Crossroads'” program director. He says that in the early stages, he needed help to understand his audience. He began by calling others who minister regularly among Chinese people and talking with them about their experiences and observations. As Halverson listened, he began to compile and categorize this information. George Barna, respected Christian pollster and observer/interpreter of societal trends, took this initial information and fashioned it into a survey that was sent, via ISI staff and others, to Chinese students around the U.S. Through the survey, Halverson hoped to learn what kind of a conference the students would attend, and what they wanted to hear about once they got there.

    Somewhat to Halverson’s surprise, he found that the Chinese students are interested in asking spiritual and ethical questions. High on the list of “hot” topics were: “Evidence for God’s Existence,” “Who is Jesus Christ?” “Comparison Among the World Religions,” “Is the Bible the Word of God?” etc. The survey helped Dean to see what speakers and topics he must pursue to achieve his goal of relevance.

    All along the way, though, Dean Halverson has checked and cross-checked his information. During the summer of 1996, ISI staff arranged discussion groups of mainland Chinese students – Christian or not – who offered further feedback on how they would design the conference and their reactions to the proposed conference schedule. From their input, he made further modifications to the program.

    He says that “China ’97…at the Crossroads” will not be simply a program created by Americans for the Chinese, but a program designed specifically with the needs and priorities of Chinese students at the forefront.

    There is still a need for area host families for the conference attendees. Interested Christians can contact Joe McGrath, one of ISI’s San Diego area staff, at (619) 583-9760 for more information about serving as a host family. In addition, many volunteers will be needed throughout the conference week to assist with the details of the conference. Those interested in serving in this way can contact Tammy Moody, volunteer coordinator, at (408) 438-5667.

    Tom Phillips, concluded by appealing for Christians around America to pray for and help recruit and sponsor students to attend this conference. Further information can be obtained from: International Students, Inc., PO Box C, Colorado Springs, CO 80901. Phone: 1-(800) ISITEAM and FAX: (719) 576-5363.

    Dan Wooding is an award-winning British journalist now based in Southern California. He is also the founder and director of ASSIST.

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