Posts in Heidi Ifland
9 Tips for Being Other-Centered in Conversation and Friendship with Chinese

I would like to share some tips for more sensitive, comfortable conversation and deepening friendship with China internationals. These tips are the combined fruit of my own (sometimes painful and embarrassing) continued trial and error, shared wisdom, and especially advice from my Chinese friends.* To give some context, my experience has been mostly with PhD students and visiting scholars from China, as well as with university students and their families in China. These tips may not all apply to undergrad students or immigrants.

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How to Welcome Internationals into Your Small Group – Training for Internationals

Many internationals have never heard of a “small group,” and even if they might be interested in joining, they need an introduction to what it is and what to expect. They need to know what they are signing up for, and often need extra help connecting with a group. Here are some simple materials I created to introduce the idea to internationals here in Seattle. (Note: There is a separate training for small group facilitators whose groups will welcome internationals. This portion is for internationals.)

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Why We Need Internationals in Our Small Groups

You may have read how Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, called a guy he was discipling and said, “Come over quick, my wife and I are having a fight!” Trotman understood that beyond Bible study, we must also live life together as we follow Jesus; true teaching is not simply transferring information, but knowing and being known. In most American churches, small groups are one of the major ways that peer discipleship and fellowship happen. We experience Jesus revealed in each other as we know joys and sorrows, eat together, serve, laugh, and learn. We begin to truly know others, and allow ourselves to be known. For international seekers or new believers who plan to return to their home countries, being wholeheartedly welcomed into small groups can be very powerful, even if only for a short time. Let me explain this reasoning using China as an example.

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Discovering the Joy: Serving the City with Chinese Scholars

“Volunteering created this opportunity for me. I realized that these are real, ordinary people. Some people are homeless because they suffer from addictions or mental illness. Others have lost their homes because they don’t have a job. They are not like the remarks that people make about the homeless in the newspaper or on websites, or that my friends make all the time. Maybe some of them had caused a crime before, but isn’t my prejudice another crime of the heart?” Robert, a visiting professor from China at the University of Washington, wrote the above after volunteering for the first time, serving a meal to people at the Recovery Café in Seattle. Visiting scholars like Robert are professors and researchers from top Chinese universities, visiting the United States for one year with a program sponsored by the Chinese government. I minister to Chinese internationals and our goal is to love, serve, and ultimately equip scholars for return to China, sharing the gospel with them. I have found that one of the best ways to serve scholars is to invite them to serve others with me here in Seattle.

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