Tentmaking for Beginners: Jeff

Jeff, from College Student to Working Adult

Jeff was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Hong Kong. Then his folks moved to California, where he finished high school. While his older sister felt a calling to serve in China and pursued a career there, Jeff liked California. He never imagined that he too would end up working in China, loving it, and serving in a local church. How did it all happen?

College Life

China seemed to find its way into Jeff’s life. First it was a summer job after his freshman year. He created a website for an orphanage and assisted in its grand opening in China that made it to the front page of the China Daily.

Sophomore year in college, Jeff’s father asked if he wanted to study abroad in Beijing for a semester. Jeff welcomed the challenge to be more independent, and took up the offer.

It was hard to be away from his college friends, but he soon made new ones from all over the world – students and young professionals who knew that proficiency in Chinese would be an asset to their careers. Although Chinese was his worst subject growing up, Jeff found his studies a lot more interesting now. So was student life. He and his friends traveled the Silk Road during the holidays and had a grand time.

The summer before he went home, Jeff worked as an unpaid research intern for a local firm, analyzing market prospects for launching a web portal to promote credit card usage. The job gave him opportunity to use Chinese in a working environment.

In his junior year back in the U.S., Jeff heard about internships with the U.S. Embassy. Summer internships were highly competitive; Jeff applied for a fall internship instead and got in. It would mean graduating later as he would have spent two semesters overseas. But he didn’t mind because it bought him time to consider what do next.

At the Embassy, the officer in charge involved him in different projects and some high level events. He was also given the opportunity to develop a new format and distribution system for their electronic newsletter. Jeff was very grateful for a mentor, who looked out for him. During those four months, he felt quite at home in China. He grew and learned a lot, and was building a good resume.

Working Life

Back in the U.S., Jeff found a job a month after graduation. He negotiated for an August start date so he could do a 6-week Study Abroad Program in Shanghai. The program focused on China’s international relations and economics, and some of his friends were going too. But it was summer 2008. Not long afterward, the U.S. economy took a nosedive, and his position was eliminated while Jeff was still in Shanghai. A friend, whom Jeff met while interning in Beijing, alerted him to a posting in Shanghai. This friend works for a market entry consulting firm, which is looking for an analyst in their Shanghai office. They wanted someone who was bilingual.

Because Jeff had advanced reading and speaking proficiency in Mandarin, had good recommendations, and he was right there in Shanghai for the interview, he got the job. The job paid “local plus” rates, i.e. a little more than a local hire. That translates to about USD1000+ a month, enough for a young guy to live in Shanghai.

With his modest salary, Jeff rented a room from a friend of a friend, who was on staff with the International Fellowship. His landlord soon became his friend and spiritual mentor. Jeff joined a weekly English Bible study and led worship for the small group. He also met a group of guys on the basketball court. They were young working adults, who came to China from the U.S. and Europe. They were also joined by a graduate student, a Chinese national. Over time, Jeff found an interesting community of friends to hang out with – some believers, some not.

Life with Purpose

He enjoyed his new life in China, but was still without real direction in his life. Some of his Christian friends are “associates” of GoLiveServe. They aren’t just Christians who happen to be working in China. They felt God wanted them in China. GLS found jobs for some of them. Others found their own jobs in China, and then sought out the network for spiritual mentorship, accountability and support. Jeff liked these people. They encouraged him to join the network for pastoral care, personal growth and professional support. But Jeff didn’t feel he belonged, because he wasn’t intentional like they were.

But God had plans to bless Jeff. The fall of his second year in Shanghai, he attended a couple of Christian conferences that challenged him to live intentionally for God. He saw that even while he was casually responding to opportunities that came his way, God was putting China in his life.

Jeff cannot say that God has called him to serve in China the way his sister can, but it is no coincidence that he has ended up in China. His bilingual background, study abroad experiences, and internships all helped to make him marketable when jobs for young grads were hard to find.

God also provided great community for him – friends, mentors, and an international fellowship where he could grow spiritually and serve. The only thing is: He was living in an expatriate bubble. He had Chinese friends from work and basketball, but he wasn’t reaching out to them. Not until the Lord spoke to him about intentional living. Why would God bring him all the way to China if it weren’t for him to know and serve the people around him?

Just as these thoughts coursed through his mind, Jeff was invited by a friend to a house church. It was a fellowship of about twenty local people in their 20s and 30s. Most were young believers. He visited a few times and liked the local brothers and sisters he met there. The sermons could last an hour or two. Surprisingly, Jeff didn’t mind. One Sunday, the sermon moved him so much he wept during Holy Communion. Presently, he was invited to help with worship, an opportunity he gladly accepted. Being able to worship and serve with a local community became a source of blessing for Jeff. He still has his expat Christian friends, but this local Body in Christ gave Jeff’s China experience new meaning and energy.

Life of Possibility

Now, he could see himself join a network like GLS. He is still exploring his calling, but he is intentional. He wants to know God’s will for his life. He sees himself working for at least another two to three years in China, growing professionally and spiritually. He is more intentional reaching out to his supervisor, a fellow American. They had gone rock climbing together, and hang out now and then. Jeff is praying for his boss and his Chinese colleagues, that God would use him in their lives as with his newfound family in the little house church.

Jeff is glad for the network of like-minded young professionals he now belongs to. His small group meets for weekly accountability, sharing and praying about each other’s work life, walk with God, and those they are reaching out to. Once a month, all the people in the network pray for China and any special needs among them. Twice a year, they gather for retreats, meeting fellow associates from other cities.

Jeff feels he is challenged to grow more abroad than remaining in the U.S. China is where he should be for now. Praise God for the stepping stones along the way that has made all this possible.


  • If you are a college student, have you taken advantage of some opportunities (short term projects, study abroad programs, internships) that may help you to explore whether China is your calling?
  • If you are a young working adult in search of meaning to your life and career, what are some opportunities focused on missions or China (prayer meetings, conferences, seminars, retreats, vision trips for working people) that you will explore to give direction and purpose to your life?
  • What steps can you take to grow in love and knowledge of God, and to know His heart for the world?