A student from China became a Christian just before coming to study at a college in Ohio. This student, who we will call Jared in order to protect his family, connected with InterVarsity’s fellowship for international students on this campus through Chris, InterVarsity’s student leader.
Jared and Chris became close friends with two other Christian students in the Music Certificate program.This past summer these three friends accompanied Jared in a Chamber Music Tour to China. Chris explained how it all came together.
I found out not long after meeting Jared that the faith in Christ he discovered in his native China was uncontainable. You could not have an interaction with him and be unaffected by Christ’s life exuding from him. He possessed a kind of pure and vibrant faith you typically see in more mature believers. It was surprising for me to discover that he had only been a Christian for several months and that his beliefs were not shared by his family members back home.
As the first believer among his relatives, Jared had a longing to reach his family with the gospel in a creative and authentic way. As Jared’s friendship deepened with the three of us, God revealed to him that bringing this particular group of friends from America, united in faith and art, could powerfully express to his relatives the reality of faith in Christ.
When he proposed the idea of performing in China to the three of us, we were excited by the opportunity. But none of us had ever done anything like this or had even heard of anyone doing anything quite like this before. Little did we know that Jared was laboring with God in prayer about our mission. As a result, pieces of the puzzle began falling into place.
All the Pieces Fell Into Place
The dean from Jared’s alma mater in China invited us to perform, agreeing to advertise our concert and provide a venue for it free of charge. A relative who was a university professor in southeast China also offered to host a concert at her institution. We realized that Jared’s idea was possible after all.
Our next obstacle was financial. How could four grad students afford to travel to China and live there for three weeks? We witnessed another miracle through the financial aid of an arts advocacy organization affiliated with our School of Music.
Members of the local Christian community also provided significant funding and essential prayer support. It was humbling to see Christians from so many churches in our city selflessly contribute to Jared's vision. I have never experienced the body of Christ coming together in such a loving and sacrificial way to champion a cause for God's Kingdom. In the end we had more than the amount needed to make the trip a reality.
The final challenge was the trip itself. How could four students coming from very different backgrounds fare together in a high stress environment abroad? How would the audiences receive our performances?
Better than Imagined
Our time in China offered more to us than we could have imagined. We gave two formal performances of our musical program, World Potpourri: A Collage Recital. We featured nationalistic music of various classical composers as well as works with biblical texts or themes as a way to reflect our ensemble’s ethnic diversity and highlight the Source that drew us together.
Many important people attended our concerts, such as deans and professors of music, from both China and America. We received many positive comments about our performances, as well as too many flower bouquets to count.
More than 1,000 people attended our humble recital in Jared’s hometown. The local news broadcast portions of our performance and an interview with Jared on TV. We accepted countless requests for pictures and even autographs!
We also experienced a true insider’s view of Chinese society. We had the chance to eat dinner in Chinese homes, have meaningful conversation with family members and friends, interact with a local artist on the Great Wall, and hike across waterfall-strewn mountains and through remote villages.
A Contribution to a Local Fellowship
At one hotel our cleaning lady spotted a Chinese Bible we were carrying. She revealed that she also was a worshipper of Jesus and shared how her whole village turned from idols to serve the living God in 1990 through the work of a Chinese missionary. Her village was in the process of building a church but lacked funds to install windows and doors. We were able to bless these precious believers with a financial gift for their building and pray with her for their spiritual needs.
I think she blessed us much more than we blessed her. Listening to our Chinese sister’s stories of how Jesus transformed her life and the lives of those in her community, and sing worship songs to God in Mandarin, brought us to tears. We learned that God is at work in bigger ways than we can perceive in the lives of those we often forget.
The Fruit of the Gospel
The fruit of the gospel is spreading at an explosive rate in China, but we observed that many impediments such as social structures, cultural attitudes, and spiritual strongholds are still preventing the Good News of Jesus to do what it was fully intended to do there. We continue to pray for Jared and his witness, Jared’s parents, and the vitality of the community of believers in villages like those of our cleaning lady.
Since we’ve returned from China, I think we are still in a state of awe over how all four of our lives came together so beautifully at just the right place and time to partake on this adventure. Making music to the Lord in a distant land brought new, fresh perspectives to our individual lives as Christian musicians, as well as a deeper appreciation for cross-cultural friendships in Jesus.