Wesley Graduate Returns to China to Serve Her Native People

Jun 4

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Monday, June 4, 2012 8:24 AM  RssIcon

Wesley Graduate Returns to China to Serve Her Native People

Li Li, a 2012 Wesley graduate, now serves as vice president of ZhongNan Theological Seminary in China. Li arrived at Wesley in March 2010 and is the first person to graduate from an initiative by Wesley to develop Chinese professors to teach in China.

Li received her Bachelor’s degree from Yan Jing Theological Seminary in Beijing in 1993, and went on to receive a Master’s degree in history from Beijing University in 2002. She serves as pastor of HuBei Church and has been vice president of the ZhongNan Theological Seminary since 2007.

 “From childhood I have followed the faith of my parents. Even though there was persecution on religion which made us afraid to express our faith openly, my family never stopped living a faithful life,” said Li.  “My mother always led us in prayer and singing hymns daily, but reading the Bible was a different matter. She would only bring out the treasured jewel box, kept in a safe, on special occasions and in an environment where she felt very safe.”

“When my questions about God stumped my mother, she would tell me that I could ask a pastor. But I asked her in return, “What is a pastor?” She told me that there used to be seminaries. Again, I had to ask her what a seminary is. “How can one study there? Who can study there?” She patiently answered my endless questions and I remember telling her enthusiastically that I would attend a seminary one day. She sighed and told me that there were no seminaries any longer and that we would have to be patient and wait upon the Lord to see if one day, after I grew up, God would open the door again,” Li said.

Li said the most difficult part of attending a seminary in the U.S. was to adjust to a different educational system and to teachings that are very dependent on American views and experiences. She wants to celebrate what she has learned as a student at Wesley. “I knew how to teach theology in China, but now I know much more. I also learned administration here,” said Li.

Located on the banks of the Yangtze River, ZhongNan Theological Seminary originated in 1985 in the Wuchang district of Wuhan city. ZhongNan offers a four-year program of theological studies whose main goals include training church pastoral workers who are alive in their thinking and have a deep-seated love for their motherland, are upright in their morals and ethics, pure in their faith, have a high level of cultural knowledge and scholarship about the Christian faith, uphold the Chinese Protestant church's principles of independence and managing its own affairs, and who are equal to the demands of doing Christian work. Students experience holistic development in the five areas of spirituality, ethics, wisdom, physical well-being and community spirit. Program content is divided into religious and humanities courses and at present, the seminary employs twelve full time religious education teachers and twelve humanities teachers. Lecturers and professors from Wuhan University and Hua Zhong Normal University also teach classes at ZhongNan.

Churches are growing very rapidly in China and it is difficult to prepare pastors quickly enough to serve the growing numbers of faithful. Li was very excited to see that Wesley offers a part-time student option, because in China, all students must attend seminary full-time. She said that enrollment would increase by 100% if a part-time student option were made available in China. “The challenge is that students don’t have cars,” Li said. “It is difficult for students to attend classes.”  

Wesley is making an important difference in China and in the lives of many Chinese people. There are only sixteen seminaries to serve 1.3 billion people in China, but the prospects for the future of the church there are bright.
 

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