Joe, Business Consultant
I first heard about tentmaking at Urbana 2003 when I was wondering how I could glorify God as a business major in college. After attending a workshop on the unique opportunities that Christian business people have, I was convinced that God was calling me to “business as missions”. Reaching different levels of society, influencing institutional change and meeting people’s physical and spiritual needs through sharing the gospel in a business setting were all exciting to me, but I wasn’t sure how to make it happen.
Starting with Language Studies
As an American born Chinese, I have had a burden for China and could see potential for business people to serve there. I felt confident about going, but I was unfamiliar with the culture and not fluent in Mandarin. So I thought about first investing in language study for a year.
Although my parents are Christians, my plan to study in China was a big point of contention for us. They worried about my ability to adjust to life in China and find a job later. I too was concerned about funding the trip and giving up on the American Dream that my parents had for me, their only child. As confirmation, I decided to pray for their full support before leaving.
Following Him Wholeheartedly
My final year in college was probably the year with the most growth for me. Although I was active in campus ministry and leadership, and considered myself solid in the faith, God showed me areas where I was not wholly following Him. As I “cleaned house”, consecrating my walk before Him, delighting in His Word daily, and trusting Him in prayer over the course of the year, my parents came around to support my plan, even as God provided for all my financial needs. I knew then that this is God’s will for me. Waiting upon Him in all areas of my life, from relationships to school work to post-graduation plans, have helped me to walk by faith and trust in God’s faithfulness and perfect timing.
Traveling with Others on the Same Journey
While I was preparing for China, I found many organizations that send and support English teachers but few that were involved in tentmaking. It was a God-appointed opportunity that led me to meet some GoLiveServe associates who were sharing on my campus. They provided me with career guidance and an invaluable connection to seasoned, like-minded Christian professionals who were already working in China.
GLS pastored and supported me during my first year in China, so I could stay focused on God’s purpose for me. I was able to reach out to other students on campus and start a small group Bible study. The harvest was truly plentiful. I saw students coming to faith and was challenged by their fresh zeal for Christ.
While language studies provided many ministry opportunities, the transition from the campus to the marketplace proved to be a lot more challenging. After finishing one year of language studies, I faced many uncertainties. With an expiring visa, depleting funds, no school, no immediate job prospects, and nowhere to live, I began to question my calling to business in China.
But soon, I met two brothers looking for an extra roommate and found a private language school to extend my student visa, which gave me time to continue my job search. Finding a job in the declining global economy was rough for a young grad, but after a personal retreat and a GLS retreat, I sensed God’s call for me to stay in China. My parents also agreed to give me until June to find a job.
Searching for the Right Job
Job hunting was tougher than I had expected because I was too green for middle management, overqualified for entry level positions, and too expensive as a foreign hire. During this humbling time of waiting upon God, I learned that His name is above big name companies; there is no miracle too hard for the One who calls me.
In His perfect time in June, I found a job at a business consulting firm that is expanding in China. I was one of the first hires at their new branch, which gave me many opportunities to learn and shape the direction of the office. Soon I went from having no job to working ten hours a day!
Transitioning to Working Life
Without much training, I was thrown into a project from the first day. I had to play catch up, show my competency, and win the team’s confidence despite my imperfect language skills. I wanted to prove my worth to my boss, but when I made a conscious effort not to make work my idol, I realized that God honors those who honor Him first. I finished my first project in half the time as another team. The favor that I enjoyed with my boss reminded me that God was paving the way for me all along.
At work, I get to interact with both local and foreign business professionals and diplomats, serving as a bridge between China and other parts of the world. Although I am the youngest on the team, the managing director put me in highly visible roles which give me influence over projects and people. While I have the opportunity to be a light at the office, I also feel overwhelmed by the increasing responsibilities and pressures of being in the spotlight. I need a lot of wisdom to handle office politics and older subordinates.
Living Intentionally for Him
Now that I am a working professional, I have the platform to reach and serve more people. Ironically, my work and busyness often get in the way. Have I become so consumed with my career that I am becoming lukewarm and ineffective? This question led to a powerful time of soul-searching and prayer. That following week, God gave me more opportunities to share than all of the past three months! I continue to learn more about the power of prayer.
I am also learning more about finding my self-worth in Him. At work, I’m not a foreigner to my colleagues and clients because I don’t have blond hair and blue eyes. But I am not a local either because I don’t speak the language fluently. So I wrestle with my identity and inadequacies. While others have different expectations of what I should be, I am trying to remember my true identity in the kingdom and striving to live intentionally for Him.
Two and a half years in China have taught me the importance of growing my inner life and having friends from the GLS network to hold me accountable. So I don’t lose perspective in following my calling, I have started a spiritual formation small group with those who also feel called to the marketplace. We study, share and pray together. The road ahead is too long and hard to go it alone. That is why we are also referring friends to join this network for guidance, community and accountability.
Things to Consider
- Language ability is crucial for long term viability and ministry effectiveness so the willingness to learn or improve is a must even if your work schedule allows for only a couple of hours a week.
- Searching your heart and knowing your objectives for both career and ministry will help you to stay on track towards fulfilling your dream in China.
- Taking notes from the stories of others who have gone before you will help you to prepare for your journey. How has Joe’s story spoken to you?