UPDATE: To see how this shook down, you can read here: https://vermont2china.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/christian-missionaries-part-2/
In catching up with a friend yesterday, I learned about some Americans (a young married couple) that she is tutoring in Chinese. She spoke in glowing terms about these folks and how she wanted me to meet them. She talked about their 2 children, how they are here just because they want to learn Chinese and about China, how they only thing they are doing is studying Chinese and they plan to live here for a while – at least 3 years. They are such good friends and so nice, she told me, and she wants me to meet them.
And the whole time she was talking and showing me pictures of them I was thinking one thing, “Christian Missionaries.”
I’ve met plenty of Americans moonlighting as English teachers, personal organizers, students, etc while they are here in China (and in Thailand and Russia) to “bring God’s word” to the Chinese (Russians, Thais) and, in general, I don’t have a problem with evangelizing. In fact, I have always admired and even envied folks who hold their own beliefs as singular truth with such certainty. I am usually sufficiently tentative in my own conclusions and perspectives to really take them to the street. But this is the first time that I am experiencing the work of such folks from the other side and it just doesn’t feel right.
My friend doesn’t know what these folks are really about. It just seems so sneaky and dishonest- she is their mark and she thinks she is just their friend. How much of the work of converting her is done under the guise of bringing her into their family? It’s not that I have a problem with my friend being educated about and offered the opportunity to practice Christianity. It’s more that I think that she should be able to choose whether or not that is of interest to her. There should be full disclosure.
Of course, this is all speculation. The folks might not be up to anything but learning Chinese. If I get a chance to meet them I will ask. Either way, I feel that I should suggest to my friend that she be careful in becoming so emotionally attached to these people until she finds out what they are about.