In the past few years, due partly to its proximity to the Pacific coast, our school, Bellevue Christian, has been flooded with applications from Chinese students. That’s true of many west coast schools, especially those that are only a quick flight home. As the west coast schools fill up, many Chinese families are considering schools in the “flyover” states. Most Chinese families know Seattle, LA, Chicago, and New York but have no idea of the wonderful cities and towns in the heartland.
Why the Chinese Choose Christian Schools in the US
If you were to remove the equivalent of the US and Canadian populations (385 million) from China, nearly a billion people would still be left. Shanghai has several million more people than Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon combined. This size population necessitates large, and growing, middle and upper classes. As a result, the number of Chinese students seeking a North American education grows every year.
My wife and I spent three weeks in China last summer, presenting seminars for educational agencies, meeting families, and speaking at an all-China student leadership conference. We found a great hunger for North American education, and, interestingly, Christian education in particular. When we asked students who Jesus was, we were surprised to find they had no clue.
Though foreigners can’t legally proselytize, we could present a PowerPoint presentation explaining what a Christian school does. This was considered business, not missionary work. We briefly explained Catholicism and various Protestant denominations. We shared the core of the gospel, including Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and highlights from the Sermon on the Mount. At the end of the presentation an agent said, “This is great. We’ve never heard this stuff before.”
Although many Chinese people can’t explain what a Christian is, they like the nurture Christian schools provide. One father told us, “We don’t really understand God, but we like Christian values and we want our children to learn those values and bring them back to China.”
While our main goal at Bellevue Christian School is to serve Christian families, we make an exception for Chinese students. Therefore, it is important that a Chinese family “meets Jesus” when they inquire about our school. That first contact may have eternal consequences. As an Ethiopian pastor once told me, “The Bible has sixty-six books and you are the sixty-seventh. That is the first one people read.”
Starting an International Program
During our six years of running a formal international program, we have learned a few things other schools may find helpful.
Stefan Ulstein teaches English and ELL at Bellevue Christian High School and can be contacted via Skype (stefan.ulstein), Wechat (stefanulstein), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or phone (425-454-4028 ext. 118) for more information about how you can welcome international students into your school.