Tentmaking for Seasoned Professionals: Bob & Linda

Bob & Linda, Clinical Psychologist & Business Consultant

Bob and Linda love China and are passionate about reaching the lost. For many years, they have been active in working with foreign students and in praying for the country. Bob is a clinical psychologist and Linda has extensive experience in business. Both are seasoned professionals who have the language and ministry skills to serve others. After years of professional training and preparation, and now that their children are grown, they seized the opportunity to realize their dream of serving overseas.

We asked them about the process of relocating to China so that others might glean from their experiences.

Q: How did you go about finding work in China?

Bob: Through the introduction of GoLiveServe’s contacts as well as other friends, we made several exploration trips to interview with potential employers. I’m asthmatic so we also visited at different times of the year to see how the climate would affect my health.

At first, I decided to work as a clinical psychologist for an international hospital that served both expatriates and locals because it was an easier transition for me and the pay level allowed Linda to work part time as a business consultant and do language studies on the side with a tutor.

Q: What did you learn about the work environment in China?

Bob: My workload at the hospital was heavy and challenging from the beginning. Throughout the experience, however, I was learning ways that I could contribute to the development of counseling and training in China.

Linda: It quickly dawned on me that I needed to be disciplined with my time management in order to explore business opportunities, study the language and reach out to individuals that crossed our path.

Life in China can be quite stressful. We became more aware of the challenge of maintaining a healthy work/life balance in our lives. At times, we can be susceptible to negative thoughts. Yet, when we fix our eyes on His supremacy over all, He faithfully meets the needs of our hearts and minds. So we try to stay close to our loving Shepherd and find our comfort and direction in Him.

Q: How did you find ministry opportunities?

Bob: Through the GLS network and because of our age and ministry experience, we found opportunities to host small groups in our home for fellow believers right away. I am still often amazed by how readily friends and strangers alike open up their hearts to me when they find out about my profession.

In contrast, it was harder for us to find support for ourselves. After the initial phase of adjusting to life and work, we began to seek further direction for both our work and ministry. I saw tremendous needs, especially in the training of counselors in China.

Linda: Yes, there were many needs, and options for us to choose. My employer also soon offered me full time work in business development. So I sought guidance on how to shape my work life and rearrange my language studies as well as Bible studies with other women. We had to pray for wisdom to know what to take on and what to decline.

Q: How did you stay focused and intentional in daily life?

Bob: While juggling several visits by relatives, I re-negotiated more realistic work responsibilities at the hospital so that I could begin to teach part time as a volunteer at a local mental health center, where my passion lies for training others. To handle the increasing patient load, the hospital had to hire another full time psychologist, which gave another Christian the opportunity to interview for the job. So God gave me the opportunity to focus my energy not only on my calling, but also on building up a like-minded colleague at the hospital.

Linda: From working intentionally with separate tutors on business language and spiritual language, I was able to make rapid progress in my language studies. I also felt blessed by the women’s group that I was leading weekly.

Another way that helped our own walks was caring for other believers in similar situations. Bob used his special skills to serve other believers and encourage them in their ministry. Serving others also kept us fresh in Christ because we needed to be filled before we could pour our lives into others.

Q: What are some pitfalls for Christians serving in China and ways to navigate around them?

Bob: I noticed that excessive work pressures impact the spiritual fruitfulness of many tentmakers in the field. One of our enemy’s ways is to sidetrack us with oppressively demanding jobs. Sometimes we are like a frog sitting in a pot of boiling water. The temperature rises so gradually that we don’t even realize the danger until we have completely lost sight of His purposes for us in China.

Busyness also leads us to neglect our personal spiritual growth. As tentmakers, we should not simply survive, but thrive, at our workplaces. When we strive for work excellence as a good witness, we cannot neglect to abide in the Word and remain centered in Christ in order for our work, mentoring and service to be effective and bear lasting fruit.

Q: What have been some surprises in your journey?

Linda: God’s timing in leading me to a teaching and mentoring ministry within the first year was more quickly than we had expected.

Bob: Although the demands that I felt at work was not a surprise, I would not have chosen to go through the relentless pressures personally to become more equipped in strengthening others. With hindsight, I realize that God’s purposes do indeed work for the good of those who love Him. I observe that this challenge is especially great for young professionals trying to run a viable business.

Q: What are some lessons learned along the way?

Linda: Since we struggled with negative thoughts ourselves, we sensed the need to reach out to those with anxiety issues or bouts of depression. We are still learning about setting better boundaries all the time. When we notice early signs of burnout, we would take short retreats to get away and recharge. We highly recommend others to do the same.

Bob: God continues to teach me to follow His example of making time for solitude and prayer despite the needy multitudes. As a result, I’m experiencing greater peace and joy as I set my schedule each day.

I am learning to wait on Him to lead me to new avenues of service while remaining secure that He cares more about who I am rather than what I do for Him. How I carry myself amidst the things He has committed to me is my priority. I often think that one reason God is using me to encourage others is because of the transformation He intends to do in me.

Q: How have you grown in your journey?

Bob: During one of our personal retreats when I reflected upon our reasons for living in China, it hit home that I should turn my focus from serving expatriates to serving locals. Rather than continuing my part time job that actually demanded full time attention, we decided that it was time for me to seek other job opportunities. Not long after I started looking, I was drawn to an offer for supervising and training local counselors at a university student counseling center in another city.

Linda: Not surprisingly, my consulting jobs were taking me to the same city at the same time! So we felt a sense of peace and confirmation in moving forward. But there were still many uncertainties during the transition, including our visas, work permit and housing situation. I am prone to worry but the memory of His faithfulness to us kept me going!

Bob: The change in my job represented our desire to make time for local outreach despite a noticeable drop in our financial security. As we settled into our second home and city, we felt we were right where He wanted us to be during this season of our lives. Now I can devote more time to training local counselors and counseling tentmakers.

Linda: Yes, we are learning to navigate through tough economic times like everyone else. The Lord gave us independently the same message about His purpose in this period of uncertainty and challenge: He was using it to transform us to better reflect His image and glory, which included walking by faith and not by sight, letting go of worry about finances and future, and turning away from extra income that would take time away from serving the locals. The amazing thing is: when one of my projects ends, another would appear by God’s grace!

Bob: Both of us have experienced a deep sense of fulfillment in our journey. We sense that our work is not yet done in China so we look forward to how He will continue to lead us. We are praying for more people to catch the same vision because the harvest is truly plentiful but the workers are few.

Things to Consider

  • Those who speak Mandarin and are experienced in ministry have many opportunities to serve in China. While their options might be plentiful, they need wisdom to decide between relative goods. Sometimes they need a leap of faith to choose fruitfulness over security.
  • To serve others, even seasoned professionals cannot afford to neglect self-care and personal growth.
  • What passion has God placed on your heart that you have yet to fulfill?
  • How would you go about exploring the possibility of going, living and serving overseas?