Work & Career

Being salt and light to influence society

Many Christians in China today are seeking to be salt and light in their communities and in society. But what does that look like? In the translated article below, originally posted on the mainland site Christian Times, the author summarizes a talk given by a pastor in Henan Province on the topic of being salt and light.

Continue reading “Work & Career”

Friendship and Christmas

Do they know it’s Christmas ?

It’s lunchtime on Christmas Day, we’re sitting around our dining room table about to tuck into the turkey, ham, stuffing and cranberry sauce – the traditional Christmas dinner. Sitting around the table is my husband, my mum and dad, Alison and Andrew (a boyfriend and girlfriend from China), Tim* from Vietnam and not forgetting Archie the dog who is under the table, sitting expectantly, hoping that something might fall off for him! Alison, Andrew and Tim have never been in the UK on Christmas Day before. In fact, they have never celebrated Christmas before. They know very little of what Christmas is about or of who Jesus is.

How can we welcome internationals ?

It’s been well-noted how advances in technology have “shrunk” our world. Long gone are the days when international travel meant taking a months-long trip by boat. In the 21st century you can be transported from the bustling streets of Manhattan to a rural outpost in China in less than 24 hours.The United States has been known as the “melting pot of the world. “In the 19th century and early 20th century, this term mainly referred to the influx of European immigrants. Today, however, it alludes to a vast diversity of nationalities traveling to and settling in North America for varying lengths of time.

The hook and the cook: a portrait of a mainland Chinese student in the UK

Xiao Mei visited a local British church nearby where she joined a Global Café for the possibility of meeting new friends and learning to speak English. The relaxed atmosphere encouraged her to return, and the friendly church people invited her to learn more about the faith sustaining them. Over the next few months, Xiao Mei made many friends and really enjoyed the worship services. She became a Christian at a gospel event, but she admitted that she was mainly attracted by the genuine love and care of the Christians she met at church and only had a superficial understanding of their faith. Lack of ability and confidence to openly express her thoughts in English due to the language barrier made it difficult for her to engage in conversations about deeper spiritual issues.

Chinese students need to make more Aussie friends!

Chinese international students face many barriers when it comes to making Australian friends, according to an international education expert, who said it is a big mistake to underestimate the benefits of social integration.

Australia is overtaking the UK for international students

Official student figures for 2018 from the UN’s education agency, Unesco, will not be published until after the end of this year. But the UCL researchers are “certain” that Australia is on the verge of moving ahead of the UK in overseas students and this “may have already happened”. Australia has been marketing itself as an English-speaking country with high-performing universities, with an attractive climate and a welcoming culture for overseas students. This year’s Best Student Cities rankings put Melbourne and Sydney in the top 10.

Thriving Turtles Training – Cross-Cultural Training for Intercultural Discipleship

Currently most courses in cross-cultural ministry are only offered during semester times when the campus workers are busy with ministry. Thriving Turtles Training is a new initiative to equip front-line gospel workers with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective cross-cultural gospel ministers. Thriving Turtles Training offers short modular courses at the end of the summer holidays each year. Next courses 28 January – 8th February 2019.

See this short promotional video

Returnees and the Church in China

Returnees Committing to Church in China: I wonder what excites us most about the prospect of brothers and sisters returning to China:

  • How wonderful to have this godly man heading up a hospital, refusing underhanded deals with pharmaceutical companies.
  • How strategic to have this winsome sister working as a university lecturer; just think about the kind of impact she could have on a whole generation of students!

Yes, such inspiring thoughts spur us on in serving our Chinese friends from overseas and yet how individualistic is this perspective? Indeed, perhaps we do stress the importance of church but to what extent is this merely pragmatic? Without a supportive church community, how else will our friends stand firm in such a challenging context? No, this is something far more significant for church is right at the heart of God’s eternal plan. (Ephesians 3:10)

Is the Church a leisure club or a mission training school?

Two years ago a fellow pastor from China came to America for further theological study. He sadly admitted ‘If I’m honest, I am afraid and reluctant to receive hai-gui (those returning to China). They constantly extol the good points of the churches overseas and say that those churches are hugely superior to churches in China. Many of these self-confessed Christian believers have never offered themselves for baptism, or, if they have, what does their confession of faith really add up to? How can true confession and profession of faith really exist, without real commitment? In China, coming to faith in Christ means acceptance of costly commitment!

What is Christianity in China Really Like?

The goal of understanding what China is really like must be tempered. Or at least approached in a way that allows for ambiguity and recognizes the enigma of the subject. Toward that goal and in that spirit, here are five things helpful to understand about the church landscape in China.

The Church in China – An Introduction

A common misunderstanding by many Chinese today is that Christianity only came to China very recently. In actual fact the first documented arrival of the Christian faith to China is during the Tang dynasty in 635AD. This article is intended to be a brief introduction to the church in China for Chinese who have become Christians while overseas and want to understand something about the church in China before returning there. The article is available in English and Chinese.

One in a Billion Video – Shepherd

Andrew is a pastor in a House Church in China. In this video he shares about his life and ministry and what it’s like to be a pastor in China.

The Church in China today – online course

“The church in China? Isn’t Christianity illegal there?” Maybe this has been your reaction to hearing about the church in China or maybe you’ve heard others react this way. As with many things in China, the answer is ‘yes and no’ but the part that is an absolute ‘yes’ is that Christianity in China is growing. Whether you’re simply interested in China or looking to serve there, this course will provide you with excellent foundational knowledge on the church in China today. The lectures are conducted by Dr. Brent Fulton, author of China’s Urban Christians: A Light That Cannot Be Hidden.

Thriving Turtles Training – Cross-cultural Training for Intercultural Discipleship

Currently most courses in cross-cultural ministry are only offered during semester times when the campus workers are busy with ministry. Thriving Turtles Training is a new initiative to equip front-line gospel workers with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective cross-cultural gospel ministers. Thriving Turtles Training offers short modular courses at the end of the summer holidays each year. The next course is 28 January – 8th February 2019.

Connecting Returnees With Churches

What does it take for returnees to thrive – Part 3

If isolation is a key underlying problem, then helping students to make connections that will develop into nurturing and supportive relationships in China is a critical need and the best place to find nourishing spiritual relationships should be in a church or fellowship. What can be done to connect returnees to churches and fellowships and help them to settle? In this third and final part In this third part we will focus on how to help returnees settle in a church or fellowship where they can serve and be supported in their daily Christian walk.

Returnee Preparation Checklist

What do we need to do to prepare a Chinese Christian to return to China?
We have created this check list which suggests some helpful things that could be done.

Returnee Stories

Real life stories can be encouraging and challenging. This webpage has several video and audio recordings of Chinese returnees talking about their experiences of returning to China.

Thriving Turtles Training: Cross-Cultural Training for Intercultural Discipleship

Currently most courses in cross-cultural ministry are only offered during semester times when the campus workers are busy with ministry. Thriving Turtles Training is a new initiative to equip front-line gospel workers with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective cross-cultural gospel ministers. Thriving Turtles Training offers short modular courses at the end of the summer holidays each year. Next courses 28 January – 8th February 2019.

Global Prayer Movement for East Asians on the Move !

85 million East Asians are living, studying, working outside of their home country. Because people are often more open to the gospel when they are in a new land, we anticipate enormous spiritual breakthrough as a result of this prayer movement! We pray not just for individuals, but for individuals who will be equipped as a mobile, global mission force: bringing the gospel back to their homelands or to other under- evangelized communities! A global prayer movement is being organized for 25 days from 3rd September. To take part click the link on the page below to send an email and ask to be added to the list. You will receive a prayer point each day from 3rd Sep to 3rd Oct. This page also contains some other helpful prayer information.

Appreciation for Ministry Received

I am an international student from China studying in Sydney, and became a Christian about two years ago. It’s so encouraging to read about international students/returnees who became Christians overseas. I feel like I am seeing myself in those stories. Click the link to read more of this personal testimony.


Singleness, Marriage and Family

Marriage In The Middle Kingdom

Marriage, like so much else in China, has undergone profound changes in recent years. In the past, tradition, social expectations and poverty all tended to oblige couples to stick together, whatever the reality of their relationship. Marriages were generally contracted at a young age, married children usually lived with parents, and divorce was rare. Today, in a much more mobile society, grown?up children may live far from their parents, and opportunities for multiple relationships are much greater. Living together before marriage has become commonplace, at least in cities. Divorce has reached levels similar to that in Western countries. Abortion is widespread, particularly where the one?child policy is enforced. At the same time, parents put huge pressure on young people to get married and produce a child. All this presents great challenges to those returning to China who have become Christian believers overseas, particularly since the expectation would be that they marry soon after returning. This article is intended to help those working with Chinese students overseas to understand more about the situation of marriage in China, and to encourage them to address this subject with pre?returnees, so that they may be better prepared for the challenges they will encounter.

Distance and Duty

This article begins with the expectations and pressures that are unique to the “one-child policy” Chinese student. A quote that summarises their experience well: “Our generation of only-children is very self-conscious. For historical reasons, we must shoulder all of our parents’ goals and their ever- bigger dreams…we don’t have our independent future, but rather, re-walk the path our parents didn’t finish; we live for it and struggle for it.” The implication is not only that one who is seeking to share life and the gospel with such students needs to think carefully about how they share in a way that speaks into this felt need but also as the student becomes a Christian, to continually talk through how to live for Christ in a way that will also address honouring their parents. The article then goes on to describe explicitly the different ‘types’ of Chinese international students and what their felt needs are. The article then advises those who will befriend Chinese international students to disciple in a way that helps returnees to be willing to engage with family expectations in a Christ-centred loving way, whatever that might look like for the individual.

See page 7 of

The Preeminence of Love in Chinese Families

Two thousand years ago, China was involved in a debate about love that later became known as “The Dispute between Confucianism and Mohism.” Mohism[1] advocates “universal love”: everyone should love others equally. This is similar to the Christian concept of “love your neighbor” or “love your neighbor as yourself.” However, Mencius was strongly against Mohist’s idea and considered it outrageous. He labeled it as having “no respect for monarch or father; worse than beasts.” In modern China, due to the decline of traditional Confucian values and its hierarchal relationships, traditional ethical order and family upbringing have been abandoned and destroyed. The new era in China is seen as lacking love, ethics, and upbringing. While the original hierarchy and relationships have collapsed, a new order affecting relationships has not been established. However, as more and more Chinese have accepted Christianity, many so-called Chinese Christians are starting to think and practice the principles of Christianity. In this way, love-based authority is beginning to replace authority-based love and is starting to rebuild and revive relationships within the family.

One in a Billion Mother – video

From the moment Mary sensed she was pregnant with her third child she knew she had received a gift. But the niggling question of how it would affect their life, beyond the initial issues of if they would be fined – whether they could get him or her registered as a resident in the city they lived in, whether her husband would be able to keep his job in civil service, whether the child would be able to go to a local school, or be entitled to any government benefits – these were things she knew she’d eventually have to face. Her doctor, her colleagues, even her parents were telling her to give up the child – that she would be helping her two elder kids to have every opportunity. Life in the big city was expensive, three children were going to be more of a financial challenge to raise as it was, let alone if they were not going to be able to keep their source of family income. But this child was a gift. A life God made. In His image. And maybe these people – her doctor, her colleagues, her parents – didn’t know it. But that’s because they didn’t know this God themselves. She would keep this child, so that they would know God. Because that is what her country would need.

The Truth About Singleness – Study Guide

This UK resource has been designed as a do-it-yourself seminar to help Christian women learn what the Bible teaches about singleness and to discuss it together. The two sessions are designed for both single and married women because married people need to have a biblical view on singleness, just as single people need to have a biblical view on marriage. As one family in Christ we should learn about each others’ situations and think how to encourage each other. This resource is available in English and Chinese.

Leftover Women in China

The issue of unmarried females, often stigmatised as “sheng nu” or leftover women, has long been a topic of concern in a society that prioritises marriage and motherhood for women. This video looks at the personal impact of pressure to marry. The video went viral with Chinese communities around the world,

BBC Article
Original Youtube link

Shanghai Marriage Market

Shanghai’s Marriage Market, where elderly residents gather in the hopes of setting up their children or grandchildren with “suitable” spouses by advertising their qualities and then matchmaking – often behind the young peoples’ backs – is back in the spotlight thanks to a project by Yingguang Guo. This video shows something of the pressure on young people to marry according to their parents wishes

Sign Up for our Prayer Letter

Click the link below to go to the signup page for our prayer and news letters.  You will be sent an email with a link to confirm your signup.


Going home is not what I thought it would be

The unique challenges faced by returnees

Why is it so hard for returnees to continue in their faith after returning home to China? I suggest that the chief cause is a conflict of cultural values that has developed because they responded to the gospel and were discipled in a Western cultural context and are unable to adapt their faith to the cultural context of China. This article by Thriving Turtles was published last year in the Mission Round Table journal.

Coming home: Chinese students who become Christians in America face challenges when they return to China—even within the church!

Jiang’s journey is typical for new Chinese converts who return to the mainland. While the recent influx of Chinese international students has created a myriad of opportunities for American churches and college ministries to evangelize the Chinese, many students are unprepared for what’s waiting for them back home: family pressures, grueling work schedules, and a radically different church culture. Ministries working with returnees found that after two years, about 80 percent of students who profess faith while in America no longer attend church.

Preparing to Return Home: Reaching Asia’s Diaspora – Video

This short video gives a good summary of issues faced by returnees and some things we can do about it.

Crossing the Street, Crossing Cultures

Do you ever consider the varied cultures that surround you each day without leaving the country you live in? Maybe they’re represented by the different people on your busy train to work, or those who live down the road or those you meet at the school gate. Perhaps it’s the world of food offered by restaurants or specialist stores on the high street. Christ sent his disciples out saying, ‘you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the Earth.’ (Acts 1:8). For many of us there are people from the ends of the Earth on our doorstep. This provides us with a remarkable opportunity to engage across cultures by simply crossing the street. The challenge is not so much how will we meet with people from far-off lands; but when we do meet them, how we will make the most of our encounters for the gospel.This latest edition of the OMF Billions magazine focusses on returnees and has some interesting articles about things going on around the world to help Japanese, Thai and Chinese returnees.

New Cross-Cultural Ministry Training during the summer break

Currently, most courses in cross-cultural ministry are only offered during semester times when campus workers are busy with ministry.  The Summer Institute is a new initiative of Thriving Turtles to equip front-line gospel workers with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective cross-cultural gospel ministers.  The Summer Institute offers short modular courses at the end of the summer holidays each year.  These courses build on each other, and the training can extend over several years.  Our facilitators have extensive experience in cross-cultural ministry.  The courses are provided as eLearning through our online Moodle classroom, and are highly interactive with forums, chats and video conferencing.  This platform allows us to offer this training at a very affordable cost. With an investment of 10 hours over a 2 week period each year, and no need to travel away from home, you can equip yourself to be a more effective cross-cultural minister of the gospel.

29th Jan – 15th Feb 2018 – Trial courses for free

For more information see the website via this link

Infographic Video:

Security and Communication in China

Big Brother is Watching

In recent months, news articles have pointed out developments in censorship and communication in China, and I have been asked many times for advice on how to communicate with Chinese people, both here in Australia and in China. There is no easy answer to these questions, but let me try and lay out some of the known facts and then consider what options are available.

Continue reading “Security and Communication in China”

What does it take for returnees to thrive – Part 2

What does it take for returnees to thrive?

In part one of this series we considered the importance of discipling Chinese students as Chinese believers who are prepared to live in a Chinese context (contextualized discipleship).  In this second part we consider the need for pre-return training to prepare returnees for the issues they will face on returning home.  Experience has shown that there are four key topics that need to be addressed:

  • Relating to family.
  • Facing work and career issues.
  • Understanding and relating to the church in China.
  • Reverse culture shock and transition

Read Part 2 of the Pre-Return Training article here:

Returnee Handbook Review

Returnee Handbook: On the Road of Homebound Journey by Overseas Campus Magazines. This is a very detailed resource with lots of information and questions. You can choose sections of the material to work through in a conversation with an individual student or with a small group of students. Some sections could be given to students to work on by themselves. These materials are available in both English and Chinese. For more information see:

TT Pre-Return Seminars

The Thriving Turtles team is able to provide China specific pre-return seminars. If you have a group of 5 or more potential returnees and you would like to host a seminar or retreat for them please contact us. For further information see

Prayer Letters

Prayer is an important part of any ministry and this is very true for Thriving Turtles.  We are planning a bi-monthly “newsletter” and a weekly “prayer moments.” We will be sending you another email in the next day or so with information about how you can sign up for these letters.  If you are interested, you need to opt in to each of these letters – we won’t automatically sign you up.  More information will be coming in the next email or you can sign up directly from our website.

Discipling Chinese to thrive in China

In our last letter we looked at the first of three characteristics of a successful returnee: they have been discipled as a Chinese Christian to live in a Chinese context. In this newsletter we have some suggested resources.

What is Discipleship?
This 12 minute video clip by Tony Payne of Matthias Media is a very helpful summary of Christian discipleship.

Why Contextualise?
What is the importance of considering culture and contextualisation when doing ministry with Chinese? In this podcast Australian Sam Chan and American Jackson Wu discuss contextualisation and how it works out in Chinese ministry.  Note: this podcast talks about some complex issues so you may want to listen to it a few times in order to understand.

Chinese Christians and Chinese Culture
What are some of the issues that Christians face in Chinese culture? This article highlights some of the issues Chinese students and returnees face.

Cultural challenges facing new Christians

Wish Lanterns: Young lives in New China
This book follows the lives of six young Chinese people born in the 80s and 90s. Their stories are a window into what makes this generation tick. This is not a Christian book but it is helpful for understanding the culture and context of Chinese international students here in Australia.

Ash, A. (2016). Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China. Picador (can be purchased on Amazon).

Thriving Turtles – Our Values

In the last two letters we have shared our vision and mission statements.  Below are our values, that is the way we seek to work together as a team as we seek to glorify God by completing the task he has given us.

  • Faith in God – We depend on God to provide all our ministry needs through prayer.
  • Biblical – We are centred in the Bible.
  • Innovation – We value creativity and “out of the box thinking”.
  • Love and humility – We practice love and humility in our team and with other ministries, as we forge a new way forward.