This story is a work of fiction, however it is based on the real life experiences of many Chinese students.

George is from a well-connected family in Beijing. He came to Australia to do a Masters in Accounting and Finance degree.

During orientation, George met some friendly students who invited him to their Christian group that met on campus. These people had something that he’d never experienced before and the more time he spent with them the more George was drawn to them. After several weeks, George understood the gospel message and responded to Jesus’ call on his life.

For the next two years, George attended the Christian group’s weekly meeting – a small group Bible study in easy English. He also went to a church near the university that many of the students attended. A few people suggested he go to a Chinese church so he visited one, but it felt very weird after the Christian group at University. Someone gave him a copy of the Chinese Bible, but even though it was his mother tongue it was so hard to read with old-fashioned language and strange terms! He told the leader the English Bible made more sense to him. The leader told him not to worry about the Chinese Bible – he could just keep reading in English.

The time came for George to return to China. Some of his friends asked him how he thought he would cope with the transition – he didn’t understand why they asked him this.

“I’m Chinese,” he thought. “I’m going home to China – how hard can it be…?”

The pastor spent time with him telling him things he needed to remember and be careful of when he went back to China.

“You are a Christian now and you shouldn’t compromise your faith for anyone or anything.”

“Make time to read your Bible and pray.”

“Find a good church that teaches the Bible faithfully – don’t have anything to do with a church that doesn’t teach the truth.”

George was touched by the care and concern that they showed.

Finally, the big day came and George arrived back in China. That first Sunday, George went out to look for a church. He walked around for a couple of hours but found nothing. He had also been given a couple of phone numbers of other returned students, but he didn’t feel comfortable calling them out of the blue.

Eventually, he called the numbers he was given and one of the returned students took him along to a Three-Self-Church. It was crowded and nobody seemed interested in welcoming a newcomer. They sang old style hymns in Chinese – but George didn’t know any of them and they were hard to follow. It wasn’t like the Australian church at all! The sermon was very simple and a bit moralistic – mostly about being a good person. It wasn’t like the careful exposition George had enjoyed in Australia and it was so weird to be doing this all in Chinese. At the end of the service everyone got up and left the building to make room for the next service. No one even said hello to him.

Another returned student took him along to a house group. It was warm and friendly, and the people obviously knew each other, but it was still very different from the church in Australia. The most unusual thing was that it was led by an older woman who obviously didn’t have much training or education. Her sermon was about eating blood and that Christians should never do this or own anything with a dragon on it. George had never heard this before and it seemed to contradict what he knew of Christian freedom… he wondered if this was one of those churches the Australians had warned him about?

George also discovered that finding a job was much harder than he thought. It seemed as though there were hundreds of people returning from overseas with masters degrees, and there weren’t that many jobs. Finally, after a couple of months, an old classmate of his father offered him a job in the accounting department of his company. His parents kept reminding him how lucky he was to have this job. During the first few weeks, he discovered that he was expected to work long hours. People joked that the Beijing work week was 5 + 2 white and black – in other words 24/7 – and it felt like it! Added to this was a 2 hour commute each way in a crowded bus through heavy pollution. George found it hard to attend any of the church functions or small groups. Even if he was free on Sunday morning he was so tired, and because he didn’t feel like he belonged he eventually stopped going.

One day he arrived home from work to find his mother with several photos of young ladies.

“Pick one,” she said.

“What for?” he said.

“I’m not getting any younger,” said his mother. “It’s so good you finished your studies… now you have a job, you can get married and I can have a grandchild like my other friends. These are all good girls that I have selected.. go ahead and pick one. I can set up a meeting for you. You know, if you hurry, we can probably pull off the wedding by August and get an auspicious day!”

George was speechless! What was his mother thinking? “Mum, I’m a Christian. I can’t marry these girls!”

“What are you talking about?” said his mother. “There’s nothing wrong with these girls. I picked them myself. You just have to get that silly foreign Christian stuff out of your head… It was OK while you were studying in Australia… It was good for you to have some nice friends… but this is China and we are Chinese so we do things the Chinese way… What about this one?” she said, pushing a picture towards him, “She’s pretty!”

The next week his boss called him into the office. “I thought with all your study overseas you’d be a really good accountant,” he said. “I notice that the last few months since you came we have been paying more tax than ever before!”

“Well,” George said, “that’s what we owe so that’s what I pay.”

“Don’t you go to the tax office and take the officials out for meals and give them gifts?” said the boss. “The tall one really likes a visit to the massage parlor.”

George was horrified!

“How can you suggest that? I’m a Christian. I don’t do things like that!” said George.

The boss looked him straight in the eye. “I don’t care what you believe, I can’t afford to keep you as my accountant if you don’t do your job properly. I can’t believe your father let you get like this – I’ll have to talk to him.”

Over the next few months, things went from bad to worse. George’s mother became insistent that he get married soon. At work, not only did the boss insist that George bribe the tax office but George discovered a whole lot of other very unethical things this company did. He tried to talk to his father – but he just got angry and told George this is how things are done in the real “Chinese” world, and that it was about time George grew up. His father told him how embarrassing it was that his son was letting down his old classmate…George should do what he was told if for no other reason than to give his father face.

George felt so alone in this. He tried to read his Bible and pray but he was tired and depressed and so stressed – the heavens seemed like brass. His Christian friends in Australia seemed so far away – even if he called them, how could they understand his life and problems here? He’d stopped going to any of the churches some time ago and he didn’t have any close friends there anyway. He felt isolated and alone. He felt like giving up. Maybe they were right? This is China, and George was Chinese – maybe he should stop fighting, forget about Jesus and the wonderful time in Australia…maybe it was all just a dream. Maybe he should wake up and just be a normal Chinese…

This story is a work of fiction, however it is based on the real life experiences of many Chinese students.