Personal details in this story have been changed.
Rachel clicked a button to advance the slide. She stood at the front of a makeshift classroom in a strip mall, eight students waiting for her to begin the day's lesson. This was her second month in China of a six-month SIM internship. The students — all studying at a local university — had come to her 12-week class to improve their English. Rachel wanted to help however she could, but she had some reasons of her own for being there.
Tasked with an assignment to teach a class to 18-24-year-olds during her internship, Rachel wanted to present something meaningful.
“I tried to get them to think about things that are genuinely important and then point them to why they’re important,” Rachel said. “I don’t think they had people to talk to about these things. It seemed like most people would just tell them what to do.”
Rachel’s 12-week class was about “Living a life of significance.” Each week they explored what it means to find fulfillment. They looked at issues such as faith, suffering and helping others. God often came up in their conversations.
“University is their first time of having freedom,” Rachel said. “They were still trying to figure out life. They thought if they scored well they will get a good job, maybe get married and be comfortable career-wise.”
One student in particular – who admitted she started coming to the sessions out of boredom – took the things from class to heart. She became one of the most engaged students, asking questions and reflecting. By the end of the class she had changed her university major and knew which direction she wanted to go in life.
Even if Rachel had come to teach, the learning curve was steep for her too. New sights, food, language, culture. A multicultural team to navigate and insights into her own cultural background as a Chinese American had all surfaced.
“It doesn’t take a lot, it was just a simple faith that God was with me,” Rachel said of her time in China. “I was going to pray and rest upon God’s grace that He would speak through me in my everyday life.”
Even so, with just six months in the country, it was hard for Rachel to gauge her impact.
“Everyone has a role to play,” Rachel said. “I was worried that in six months I couldn’t accomplish that much, but I think that humbled me. I remembered that God is doing so much more already and will do so much more after I leave. I’m glad I could play a part in these people’s lives for a short time. I think that’s what God wanted for me.”
It’s not necessarily about preaching or dramatic conversions, Rachel said.
“It’s simply living our lives openly and inviting people to be a part of it. Through this I learned what it means to be a light.”
Though her internship is over and Rachel has returned to the US, the lessons of China remain with her. Even though her world is “back to normal," her perspective is not.
“God was so faithful and equipped me when I felt weak in China,” Rachel said. “Coming back here it’s all comfortable and familiar and I feel less of an urge to pray for things because I think I have it handled. But I should have the same missional mindset all the time. Why can’t I expect the same opportunities here?
“Not everyone will go overseas but I think what I want to see in myself and my church here is this feeling that ‘I’m not overseas but I’m still God’s ambassador. The things God has given me to work with — how can I be a good steward? Not separating out the sacred and secular and praying that the opportunities to share my faith will come.”