Sea turtle or “海龟, hai gui” in Chinese sounds the same as to return from studying overseas “海归”. Every year thousands of Chinese move temporarily overseas to study, and of course every year thousands of them return home after a life changing experience of studying abroad. All of these returning students and workers have been transformed in some way by their experiences. Their study programs have challenged them to think and dialogue. They have been encouraged to be creative and to interact with the world around them. They have asked the big questions and many of them have come to faith. They have blossomed and flourished during their time abroad. Now it is time to go home. At first this seems easy. A plane flight of a few hours and then they will be back in their home – but this is not as easy as it looks. They have changed and their home has changed – they are not going to just fit back in.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 600,000 international students came to Australia to study each year, more than a quarter of them from mainland China. Australia was very close in number to the UK as the second largest supplier of international education in the OECD world, only the US had more students than Australia. When Australia’s much smaller population is considered, we have the highest percentage (22%) of international tertiary students in all OECD countries. A walk through the campus of any major university in Australia will confirm this – Mandarin is heard almost as often as English. We can be thankful for the gospel ministries on our campuses that are reaching many of these international students. The truly exciting thing about this is that many of these students would never have heard the gospel in their home country.
Sadly, experience shows that when these students return home to China, 50-80% of them will leave their faith behind. Considering the faithful discipleship invested in these students in Australia, this is a difficult fact to accept. How does this happen? It’s difficult to investigate this problem because most of the students who fall away simply drop out of communication leaving those who are trying to follow them up at a complete loss to explain what has gone wrong. However, some careful investigation by researchers reveals some of the pressures returning Chinese students face in China, pressures which slowly conflict with the Christian life and crush the faith out of the new believer. Thriving Turtles is a ministry dedicated to seeing these new Chinese Christians make successful transitions back to China, to thrive in their faith and be a blessing to China.
Thriving Turtles is a group of Australian reformed evangelical Christians who are committed to helping Chinese Christians return to China, thrive in their faith and be a blessing to China. Please see our Vision, Mission and Values statements for more information about us.
This website offers resources and encouragement for sea turtles and the people who are working with them.