Cooperative Efforts Make China Mission Possible

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Cooperative Efforts Make China Mission Possible


When I left the Knoxville airport this past July 4, I was a man with a mission — literally — that would take me from Tennessee to Nanjing, China, for a month.

Through the cooperation of Vol–unteers for China, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Monte Vista Baptist Church in Maryville, Tenn., and the Amity Foundation in Nanjing, I was privileged to participate in Amity’s Summer English Program (SEP).

Amity also provides services similar to those provided by the Red Cross.  It offers help in times of disasters, storms, and such, and promotes social programs such as the SEP.  Nanjing is also home to the Amity Printing Co., the largest Bible-printing center in China.  The company has printed 121 million Bibles in 90 languages and exported them to more than 70 countries.

Amity’s SEP is an extensive effort to bring people from around the world to China to spend 2-4 weeks (or longer) teaching conversational English to Chinese English teachers.  All Chinese students begin learning English in grade four.  So Chinese English teachers are quite proficient in spelling, grammar, and writing English but have few chances to “practice” speaking the language.

For most of the Nationals we encountered,  we were the first “Americans” they had ever seen.

The SEP is an important step in building a teacher’s confidence in conversational English.

As part of my church’s ongoing mission emphasis, this opportunity provided me a way to share some of the many things with which God has blessed me.  TVA gave me a place to work, learn skills, and gain abilities that could be used for new opportunities of service.

After I arrived in Shanghai, I traveled to Nanjing, location of Amity headquarters, where 23 other volunteers from around the world and I spent six days of orientation to China and learning about SEP.  We learned about Chinese culture, social mores, and the like.

Overt evangelism was discouraged; however, we COULD answer ANY questions we might be asked. Fol–lowing orientation, I, along with Don and Karen Barnes (college professors from Virginia), traveled to XuYi (shoo-yee), a “small town in the countryside” (population  600,000).  Our teaching site was the 1,500-student XuYi #2 Middle School.

The SEP hosted 75 teachers of English — three classes of 25 each.  Don, Karen, and I each taught all three classes every morning, with a special two-hour session each afternoon.  When asked why I would leave family in the United States to spend one month in China with them, well, that was the opportunity to share “my story,”  which was my testimony of the blessings and responsibilities God has given me.

Our liaison arranged special activities for us on the weekends.  Saturdays were for trips to museums and historic spots such as a Ming Dynasty mausoleum, several national parks, and the N4A (New 4th Army) museum.

Our Chinese people were so kind and gracious — they couldn’t do enough for us.  For most of the Nationals we encountered,  we were the first “Americans” they had ever seen.  There were many  photo ops with us.  The young people who were brave enough would come to “speak English” with us.

The school staff, including the headmaster  (principal) hosted several dinners for us.  So much food!  And the presentation was “an art form” — I ate vegetables I know not of!

On my flight back home from Shanghai, a young , 17-year-old fellow sat next to me.  He (Eddie) told me he was coming to America to finish high school, attend a university here, then return to China, where he hoped to be instrumental in making some much-needed changes.

Eddie also asked why I had been in China, and I shared my story with him.  He said, “I want to be a Christian and give my life to God, but I don’t speak good-enough English.”

“That’s okay,” I said.  “Guess what  — God knows Chinese!”

What  wonderful gifts — the trip of a lifetime and knowing Eddie has some great things in store for his life.

Gene Benson retired in 1999 as an Information Systems Manager & Specialist in Knoxville after 23 years with TVA.