Imagine standing in an orchard of 13 million apple trees filled with fruit, but only a few workers standing by to help.
Mill Creek’s China team will face a similar situation in Shenzhen, China this fall. Dustin and Niki, with their two sons, Jonas and new arrival Silas, will partner with Peter and Kim and their sons, Jack and Hudson, as well as Meghan to minister in the young city of over 13 million people.
When the group leaves on Sept. 26, Dustin & Niki, who have been stateside for three months, will be returning to continue their work with unregistered churches in Shenzhen. They’ll also be helping their teammates acclimate to the field.
During the first month of getting settled, the team will connect with other missionaries in the Pearl River area, then get to work learning the language. The teammates will be learning Mandarin during the next two years with a tutor. Peter has had Chinese before and hopes to be fluent enough to start formulating a business platform to reach young professionals in the city during his second year there.
“The business model is the ministry,” he said.
It’s a perfect marriage of connecting with people on a daily basis and sharing Christ in a relatable context, according to Peter. Over time, he’s developed a network of business contacts. In fact, he said his contacts in China are almost too many — he needs to narrow them down. He’s anxious to begin sorting through the options.
Shenzhen provides a unique opportunity for business ministry as it was a Chinese experiment in free capitalism in the early 80s, Dustin said. Because of this, ministry is less risky and the population of mostly young businessmen and businesswomen (the average age of its citizens is under 30 years old) is more open to the Gospel. Peter said that since relationships are so important in Chinese culture, the upheaval the young professionals experience when moving to Shenzhen makes them more receptive to the gospel message.
The Chinese in Shenzhen have no community outside of the workplace. They work 60-80 hours a week to provide for family back home, and hopefully for themselves. Thus, the goal of Mill Creek’s team is to reach them where they’re at and model for them what Christ looks like in daily life.
“And you can’t just do that on Sundays or once a week,” said Peter.
One church our missionaries have been working with meets inside a pizza shop. Dubbed “The Pizza Church,” it was started by two sisters. Although just seven or eight women attend, there are perks to the location.
“Fortunately, this is one of the only places you can get really good pizza in China,” said Dustin.
The Pizza Church is a result of two years of informal research Dustin did to find a way to reproduce churches quickly. Using a “really basic, bare-bones” structure, churches can be started in a variety of settings, including businesses. Dustin already has connections with companies where he’s been teaching English for the past couple years.
These simple churches are similar to Mill Creek’s LifeGroups, where fellowship includes worship (singing with a CD or a cappella — they like karaoke), Bible study with rotating leaders, and group prayer.
By laying the groundwork now, this model could be used in other parts of China, or even worldwide. There are 500 language groups in China. However, 300 still have no contact with the Gospel. Because the city of Shenzhen attracts college graduates from all over China, all 57 language groups recognized by the government are represented in the city, and those graduates are connected with even more of the 300 unreached groups.
A commissioning service for the team will be held Sunday morning, September 11, at the Gleason campus.
by Karen Petterson