Chinese factory is laborer's mission field
EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 4-11 with the theme of "His heart, His hands, His voice -- I am Southern Baptist missions" from Acts 1:8. Each year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists' 5,000 international missionaries' initiatives in sharing the Gospel. This year's offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.
DONGGUAN, China (BP) -- Everything about Fa Hsing* is quiet. His voice. His countenance. His strength. A man of few words, his actions speak for him.
He puts in no less than 12 hours a day, six days a week on the factory floor in Dongguan, China. It's physically and emotionally draining work, yet he perseveres so he can accomplish his real task -- sharing Christ with fellow workers.
Hsing is a "tentmaker." He lives and works among the people God called him to serve.
"The idea is to work inside the factory and witness by example and lifestyle," Hsing quietly explains.
Southern Baptist workers believe that by reaching the factories with the Gospel, an entire generation of migrant workers will take the message back to their remote villages.
Sharing the Gospel "cold turkey" in this factory environment doesn't always work. Most have never even heard the name of Jesus. Sometimes, it's better to slowly introduce the Gospel. Hsing does this by gaining trust and respect through experiencing the same daily challenges.
Life in a factory is not easy. The pay is low, around $175 or less a month, and the hours are long. It's easy to get lost in the crowd when there are hundreds with identical backgrounds: born in a village, badly educated, poor. Most workers live on the factory grounds in dormitories, often 12 to a room.
The tentmaker explains that new workers who don't make a close friend will pack up and move on to another factory. He tries to make friends with the new workers, but admits that what ultimately keeps them from going back to their villages is pride. They want to change their fate and strike their fortune.
Most believe the quickest route is to trust no one and make money fast. The assembly line pays by the piece; working faster during busy times means a bigger paycheck.
This is when it's hardest for Hsing's ministry. Everyone, including the tentmaker, is so busy, there's no time for anything but work and sleep. Often the only time to squeeze in Bible study groups is during a 45-minute lunch break.
Hsing savors "slow season" when he has time to visit and share -- a chance to get to know people outside of work. Gaining the trust and respect of fellow workers is a slow process. The tentmaker contends that sharing the Gospel here is not about a time schedule but about breaking barriers to hearts -- one at a time. When this happens, Hsing is certain the Gospel will make it back to the villages via the factory floor.
*Name changed. Susie Rain is an International Mission Board writer/editor living in Southeast Asia.