Jonathan De Beer

What I Wish I knew Before I Went to the Mission Field

Jonathan De Beer | 27 April 2020 | 5 min read

A year into our marriage, my wife and I had the opportunity to go to China to serve the Lord there. I will never forget the day we arrived. We had left a sunny, 30°C Johannesburg and arrived in their winter where the temperature in the town we were going to was -16°C. When we arrived at the apartment we were going to be staying in for the first few months, a plumber was there trying to sort out pipes that were frozen. There was a moment when I thought, “Oh no! We have made a huge mistake!” We were thrust into a context completely out of our comfort zones, but those three years ended up being a truly amazing kingdom adventure.

Being in a country where many people had never heard of Jesus was a humbling experience. I realised through different conversations and interactions with people that I knew what I believed, but not exactly why I believed it. I had studied theology for four years, majoring in missions, but was ill-equipped to answer some of the questions and objections I faced.

Part of what we did in China was to run an English corner once a week. This was to help the local community to practice speaking English. We would often have about 100 people crammed into a coffee shop all wanting to speak English with a foreigner. Every week there would be a topic and then some questions to help stimulate the conversation. This was a great opportunity to build relationships and many times the conversation turned towards God.

People were very interested to hear about our beliefs and some conversations became very deep. I remember one night in particular having a conversation with a lady who had lived in New York for 10 years but had come back to look after her ailing parents. She said she was an atheist and had all these challenges and objections against Christianity that I had no clue how to answer. If I had known a little apologetics and had a good understanding of why we believe Christianity to be true, that conversation would have gone differently. I wish I could say that was an isolated incident, but there were other times as well. A bit of apologetics training would have gone a long way in talking through some of the questions and objections people had.

Looking back on my time in China I realised the importance of being ready to give a reason for the hope that we have, as 1 Peter 3:15 tells us. Each and every one of us is called to go out and make disciples of all nations. As we live this out, whether it is in your hometown or across the world in China, someone is going to ask us why you believe what you believe. We need to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.

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