Editor’s Note: In the last few issues we have published articles on recommended preparations for persons who have decided to return to China. Starting from this issue, we continue to publish articles of returnee’s experience, to help us appreciate in real terms the problems they might face once returned, as well as their struggles. This article is excerpted from our Returnee’s Handbook.
Background: In the beginning of 1999, the author came to the States to study for an MBA degree in General Management. He returned to China in 2004. Previously, before he left China he had worked in state owned and foreign funded import export companies. While studying in the US, he worked as a summer intern in three different companies. He became a believer in 2003, had attended two churches and joined their fellowships, served in their choirs, and attended their Sunday schools.
1. Why I return to China
The main reason for my return to China was the American economy was very bad at the time, and it was difficult to find a job. I also missed my family; I had left home for 5 years, and my father’s health was deteriorating.
My wife was still working in America; therefore, in our minds we went back and forth on the idea of returning. We talked it over many times and shared our feelings, as it would be an important decision for us to live separately. Finally, we came to the conclusion that short term separation was beneficial to our long term welfare. Both of us could not accept the reality of not finding work for a long period of time after graduation, which would not be good for our careers and family life. Because we didn’t have children yet, it was simpler to make the decision to return myself. Relatively speaking it would be easier for two adults to manage the results of this decision.
I had prayed about the move, and my church and Christian brothers and sisters also prayed for us. Yet God seemed to be silent. I did not know why He did not seem to respond, and I even worried that perhaps God did not care anymore. But now I think His silence was a form of answer, as I had not finished the work He wanted me to do.
Another concern was whether I could find a suitable fellowship or church, and live a normal spiritual life. Thank God, through a brother whom I knew, I was able to attend a home church. I felt that He paved a way for me to return.
Looking back to that period, God had been present all the time, but since I only focused on my own needs I could not hear His voice.
2. Preparation before returning
Before I returned, I spent nearly a year to thoroughly consider the direction I should take. This proved helpful for me to deal with the confusion after the return, because I was clear as to what I wanted, what I could offer, and what I liked. With a serene attitude towards change, and focusing on my preferred direction I could find a most suitable position.
At the same time, I communicated with my family and other classmates who were already working in China. With career direction already decided, I investigated many different industries and companies, and polished up my resume. The resume is a person’s image; good resumes can win opportunities for an interview. The results turned out positive, as I had received response from 75% of the resumes I sent out.
I built a network with schoolmates, classmates and friends, helping me to find out what companies were hiring. With such contacts I had some useful tips on potential job offers even before my return. This connection was helpful for a returning job seeker to find work quickly.
Timing was also important. I chose to return right after the conclusion of the Chinese New Year, as it is the time most companies hire new people to replace those who left. The annual Beijing Recruiting Exhibit of foreign owned firms is also held at that time. This is an excellent opportunity to send resumes to tens and hundreds of foreign companies within a day or two. To meet with their human resource directors or hiring department heads is much more effective than just mailing out resumes. In fact, I gained three interviews through that exhibit, from which two job offers were made.
It was also important to communicate with my family, letting them know what I thought, and they assisted me in evaluating my plan and my thinking, and made helpful suggestions. Such communication also eliminated some of their worries and concerns. With good communication, my family and I were able to walk through the job search and employment process.
3. Challenges after my return
After my return to China, my wife stayed behind alone in the States, and our church and fellowship gave her a lot of support so that I did not have to worry. Further, we kept in touch through phone calls, encouraging each other, quite effective in helping to overcome difficulties that came from living separately.
There are certainly great differences between the United States and China. One of the concerns was the environment; China is dirty, congested, and much less desirable compared to the States. After living for a few years abroad, I found myself unaccustomed to the China environment. The congested traffic or noise was a nuisance, but I quickly adapted to it. Although my mental preparation and ready adaptability are factors, the main reason was God’s guidance. At that time I insisted on daily Bible reading at a regular hour, and praying at all times, and I felt His presence as never before. I deeply appreciated the sweet taste of “giving thanks in all things, and being joyful always”. With such attitude I was not as sensitive to the changes of my surroundings, and gradually rediscovered the familiar feeling when I was living in China before.
Further, brothers and sisters of my church in the States often called to ask about my conditions; their concern was a great help and motivation for me. I exercised regularly to have a healthy body to deal with challenges at work and daily living. With such footing I did not find too large a gap between expectation and real life; I was feeling quite calm, and my job search was smooth. Adapting to a new position and new surrounding was not too difficult.
However, the challenges from work far exceeded those I faced during my job search. I worked in an automobile company that is a joint venture with foreign concerns, and its employees came from all kinds of background. The management was a combination of American style and Chinese state-owned mentality. Underneath the seemingly calm surface were all kinds of conflict and struggle. At first I was quite confused, and I had misgivings regarding some company practices that were improper. I could not change these practices; on the other hand, I did not want to carry out such practices myself. Putting me in this situation, perhaps God wanted me to learn to be humble and obedient, to learn to look up to Him and rely on Him in the face of such struggle. Gradually I learned to seek His will through Bible reading and praying, and find peace within my heart. The peaceful attitude allowed me to learn how to handle people and events, however undesirable.
Returning to China is a great challenge to spiritual growth, because one is surrounded by noises against one’s belief, such as the unbridled search for material gain, the suspicion of and departure from traditional values and morals, and the generally confused state of basic right and wrong. To lead a normal Christian life, one must read the Bible and pray, attend fellowship, take part in Sunday worship, believe in God’s presence, and submit to His guidance. All these may be difficult at first; but as long as you allow God to lead you forward, your faith will increase to face everyday challenges.
It is beneficial to build up a constructive personal network of relationships and contacts. After all, it is impossible to fully understand the rapidly changing Chinese society through your experience alone; you must try to understand this new and somewhat alien society in a short time through your relationship network. Therefore it is necessary to connect with old relations and take opportunity to build up new ones.
4. What I learned about faith
When I returned I first attended a home church and its fellowship. Later my employment took me away from a familiar city to work elsewhere, and there I participated more in a ‘Three-Self’ church.
What role did my faith play in this transition period concerning adjustment and decision? The following was what I learned:
(1) Look up to Him and trust in Him; pray in all things and seek His kingdom and His righteousness. God will provide you with everything He knows you need. Be joyful always, give thanks in everything. The peace in the kingdom of God will help you to rely on Him in times of need; it provides hope and satisfaction. In my job seeking journey I had experienced profoundly this grace.
(2) Be humble in your heart, as commanded by God. In practice this attitude helps you to adapt to new surroundings, and to be accepted by the new company and coworkers.
(3) Put your trust in God and His sovereignty, because He is with us always, and do not rely on yourself. In your work, glorify God and benefit others, and use this attitude in facing complicated situations. When I kept this principle God’s blessings were abundant; when I was boastful and self-centered, God’s just discipline also came and He let me experience setbacks and failures.
(4) Be a good listener, be humble, and be low-keyed. God will open new roads for you, let you make new friends in new surroundings, and help you deal with complicated human interaction and fierce competition in the work environment.
(5) If you keep thinking that as a returnee you are different from others, and place yourself on a pedestal high above others, you will soon find yourself isolated and lonely.
A. What kind of struggle did this Christian brother face? How did he resolve them?
B. What issues did he encounter after his return? What role did his faith played in them?
C. In his sharing what experiences have inspired you?
D. Do you have any suggestions for this brother?