China Trip: Part 1
by Phil Martin
This is the first installment of a three part series that gives a full review of our survey trip in China.
During the second half of March we traveled through 6 cities in China. In all we boarded 6 flights and 5 trains, hailed dozens of taxis, crammed into several subways, walked nearly 100 miles, and hopped onto 1 bus. After processing our time for the past few weeks, takeaways fell into three categories. The trip was clarifying, motivating, and sobering. This post looks at the ways the trip was clarifying, answering many vital questions about our future plans.
Our plans haven’t changed too much as there weren’t any shocking revelations. Nothing altered our perspective of China or church planting. Our long term goal is still church planting in Northeast China. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have questions answered. There were several important areas that we now have a much clearer vision for.
Project China Team Dynamics:
Our network of church planting missionaries currently has 4 families on the field and 7 raising support. Within the next 12 months, 4 of the 7 families currently stateside will move somewhere in China. As the team on the field doubles in size, the opportunities for partnership and support grow exponentially. Those interactions won’t happen magically. During our few days in China, we had the opportunity to have serious discussions about the future of the network. Sara and I feel that we now have a much clearer ideas of the function of our team in China. The biggest change is that we will be in closer partnerships with the Chinese pastors on our team than we had envisioned.
First 18 Months Plan:
A major question that we didn’t have a good answer for before our trip was where would we have community in the first few months. The closer partnership with our Chinese pastors has solved that problem. We’ll be attending an existing church on Sundays while we start bible studies during the week. There won’t be any gap in community as we transition from the U.S. to China to a new church plant.
One of the major questions we needed answered was is my Chinese language proficiency high enough for us to be on our own. Could I navigate everyday conversations, make connections with realtors, taxi drivers, students and others? If not, our first few months would be nearly impossible. Thankfully, the accent difference was less of a barrier than I thought, and things went rather smoothly. When we move to China, we will be going directly to the place we hope to start a church.
The last part of our first 18 months plan that has gotten clearer is our language school options. As we visited universities and private language schools, we compared pros and cons of every path. We plan to get a visa through a private school and supplement it with college student tutors.
Not a small part of the motivation for this trip was to get better cost of living information. Most of the information we find online proved to be unreliable. Of the cities we visited the cost of living varied dramatically. For the city we are planning to make home, prices were comparatively low. Based on the information we gathered, our target budget is sufficient for starting out. At the same time we have no fear that we are raising too much. The cost of living is significantly higher than the last time in lived in China. The GPD per capita in China has essentially doubled since I first visited the country 8 years ago.
The primary goal for our trip was to select a target city to move to, and hopefully even a particular section of the city. Those prayers were answered as we have settled on Changchun as our new home. The way in which our time was clarifying is that we were able to compare Changchun to 4 other cities. We like the relatively small size, (about the size of Boston) and low cost of living. Additionally, we were encouraged that even though it was a smaller city, modern amenities abounded. Most comforting was the discovery that a western medical clinic with American doctors is opening this summer.
We have much more to share about our time in China and details about Changchun. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!