An Unusual Partnership
Adventists receive an education and witness to others.
By Chek Yat and Sally Lam-Phoon
Private secular education has seen a boom in China within the past decade. But schools that teach the Bible in their curriculum face a number of challenges. The registration process for Christian schools is highly complex, and is handled by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TPSM), which monitors all religious activity in China.
Differing opinions about how to educate Chinese young people have led to a number of disagreements, some of which have caught the attention of the media.
Adventist education has always been a priority for our church members. Given the situation in China, our church members began operating home schools for their members’ children in the northeast region of the country for the past 10 years. When this proved no longer viable, our members prayed for insight as to how they could still offer an Adventist education for their young people.
In 2008 church leaders developed a close relationship with the principal of a vocational school in one city. As they shared their vision for providing Adventist education for their youth, this leader offered to collaborate with the church to accommodate their needs.
“We were elated about this new possibility and decided to give it a try,” said Enn Chun Wong.* “Anything is better than nothing.”
This vocational school offers such majors as auto mechanics, tailoring, nutrition, catering, tourism, computerized accounting, computer science, hydroelectronics, welding, and hairdressing. It requires that all students choose one major. However, our group of Adventist students had to choose two majors to ensure that all the male and female students could be kept together, and thereby cut down on the negative influence other students could have on them. Furthermore, arranging for the group to complete all their vocational subjects in the morning gave them extra time for Bible classes in the church later in the afternoon.
The first group of 40 students stayed at the church, where assigned teachers helped them with their spiritual instruction. Their program started with morning worship and prayer at 4:30 a.m. After breakfast a school bus transported them to the vocational school for classes. Teachers from the church accompanied the group to school to help them bridge the gap between their secular classes and their religious education. In the afternoon they were brought back to the church for Bible classes.
“We reminded them constantly of the witness they needed to bear for Jesus Christ at school. Their behavior testifies to others about the power of Christianity,” said one of the teachers.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
The group soon gained a reputation of being model students, excelling in academics and being well disciplined in their social skills. Students in the other classes often gave their teachers problems, being rowdy and undisciplined, sleeping during their lessons, and refusing to do their lessons.
The principal remarked, “Our school surely needs more exemplary students like the Adventists; we want more of them so that they can influence the rest of the students.”
When the school year ended in 2008, the school encouraged the church to recruit a second batch of 40 students, making a total of 80. This created a welcome problem—church facilities were too limited to accommodate 80 students. But when the school learned about their dilemma, the principal offered the church use of an abandoned school building. By the middle of April 2009, renovations to this building had been completed, with beds, water, and electricity.
Since this building, used as a dormitory, is some distance from the vocational school, the school consented to provide shuttle bus service for this group of 80 students on a daily basis.
Adventist parents are now eager to send their children to this vocational school as they observe the changes among those who have been under this experimental program. After a year of training, these young people have achieved independence of thought and purpose. They do their own laundry, cook, and clean, and serve others by sharing the Bible with them. Many have been appointed as cell group leaders in the church where they worship.
Parents are amazed at the changes they see when their children return home for the summer. One parent remarked, “My son has changed and matured so much. Since coming home, he has been such a blessing in being so caring and helpful, taking the initiative to help me with the housework. It must be what he was taught in school!”
While it appears that this creative way of offering Adventist education is working and that Adventist parents are willingly enrolling their children in this school, the question about what happens beyond the two-year vocational training remains. What else can be done for these students to provide them with a more complete tertiary education, particularly one that prepares them to serve the masses in China through a vocation, as well as prepare a people for God’s eternal kingdom?
Your prayers are solicited as local leaders continue to dialogue and come up with more innovative approaches to nurture our young people in China through a strong foundation of Adventist education.
*Not his real name.
Chek Yat Phoon is director of education, and his wife, Sally Lam-Phoon, is director of children’s, family, and women’s ministries for the Northern Asia-Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.