I try to help them to think about the relationship between their identity of a Christian and their daily life
What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it all about going to church and reading the Bible? For many Christians in Macau, this is as deep as their faith goes.
Macau is a small special administrative region of China composed of a peninsula and two islands which have been joined by reclaimed land.
Built on this land is a major source of income for Macau: casinos. In fact gambling and tourism – and the other activities that come with these – are the mainstays of the economy.
What’s it like to be a Christian in a place with a reputation for being a ‘city of sin’? We talked to Karen, who became the only fulltime IFES staff there a year ago.
‘Christianity in Macau is not related to daily life. A Christian is someone who reads the bible, prays and goes to church on Sunday – that’s it. Students need to think about living biblically. I try to help them to think about the relationship between their identity of a Christian and their daily life.’
‘There are many temptations in society, where the main focus is on money, fame or success in your career. So I encourage students to try not to think they have to earn lots of money, but instead to realise there are social problems in the society that even the government doesn’t care so much about.
Despite the group being small, Karen is keen that the students take the lead. The weekly meetings are all led by the students, while Karen helps as they plan.
Friday bible studies have really challenged how the students think about their walk with God. ‘Sometimes students think they’re not good enough: “I don’t read the bible every day, I don’t pray every day so I’m not a good Christian and God doesn’t love me.” I try to help them discover in the bible what God wants them to understand about the Christian life.
‘We just finished a study of Abraham. At the beginning the students said things like “Wow he was so bad, how could he tell people that his wife was his sister?!” After we finished the study we had a time of reflection, we prayed together, and they understood that Abraham was weak and he tried to use his own methods to achieve what God said he would do. But in the end when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, he waited for God to show him the way. Students are starting to understand that when they face a problem, they can ask God and trust him.’
Karen is finding that her role involves much more than helping students to lead group activities. Her office has become a place for students to drop in when they are troubled and need counsel, when they want to pray with someone, or just to read, play the piano and hang out.
‘I am thankful that I have close relationship with students, that they see me as a friend. Pray for me as I communicate with students and encourage them to have a close relationship with God. Pray too that they will take time to reflect on their lives, to think about God’s mission in their lives.’
Thank you for praying for students in Macau. I hope you too can find time this week to reflect on your life and what God is doing in and through you.