Chinese Students Choosing Christianity

PHOTO Chinese Christian convert gets baptized.

"Kitty" encountered Christianity at several junctures of her life in Eastern China -- first through a wayward aunt, then through a reformed cousin, and finally via a high school classmate who was quiet about her faith.

But a lack of in-depth knowledge about the religion paired with an education based in Marxist principles, which shuns religion, led Kitty to discount Christianity while she lived in China.

"In school they would not say, 'There is no God,'" said Kitty, a University of Texas graduate who asked that her Chinese name not be used. "They would just say, 'You should believe in science. You should believe in anything you can see.' So we only believed in something we could see or something we could hear. And surely we cannot see God."

Cut to February 2011: Members of the Austin Chinese Campus Christian Fellowship sing an up-beat Christian hymn in a classroom on the University of Texas campus. Kitty is in the second row. Her body thrums with devotion as she sings, "You opened my eyes to your wonders anew. You captured my heart with this love. Because nothing on Earth is as beautiful as you, Jesus!"

In May 2009, Kitty, an international student from China was baptized at the Austin Chinese Church, officially converting to Christianity. Since then, she has enjoyed homemade chow mien, a shared language, and group prayers with her ACCCF brothers and sisters at fellowship meetings every Friday night.

Chinese Students Studying in the U.S. Surge

In the 2009-10 academic year, the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. spiked by 30 percent, to nearly 128,000 students, according to the International Institute of Education.

Madeline Hsu, director of the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas, said that China's recent economic boom has allowed a larger population of students the ability to seek an education in the U.S.

"A lot of schools in the U.S. are more than happy to have these international students. For one thing, they pay more in tuition," Hsu said.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students contribute nearly $20 billion a year to the U.S. economy.

Converting to Christianity

As the volume of Chinese students pouring into the U.S. increases, several ministries have also seen a rise in the number of Chinese students attending their services.

Evangelizing organizations such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, China Outreach Ministries, Bridges International, International Students Inc., The Navigators and Campus Crusade for Christ International all have ministries that reach out to international students.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has international student ministries on more than 60 college campuses. According to Brian Hart, associate director of communications, 45 percent of all international students in all of the InterVarsity International Student Ministries came from China -- up from 40 percent the year before.

Likewise, China Outreach Ministries, which works solely with Chinese scholars and graduate students, has seen an increase in the number of students attending their services on 50 college campuses. According to Ken Wagner, director of Campus Ministries, last year 322 Chinese scholars professed to becoming a Christian on the campuses where China Outreach works, up from 189 in 2005.

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