The Amity Foundation Summer English Program
This summer I was a volunteer teacher in China teaching oral English to high school English teachers in Jinan, Shandong Province. The opportunity to teach came through The Amity Foundation’s Summer English Program (SEP). The Amity Foundation is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded by Chinese Christians in 1985 to promote education, social services, and health and rural development in China. It is one of the earliest NGOs established in China.
This year, the SEP had a total of 45 volunteers from three countries (USA, Canada and England) representing 10 denominations and working at 12 sites throughout China. In short it was an excellent way for a foreigner to get to know China and for the Chinese we met to get to know us. For me personally it was an opportunity to discern a possible call to ministry in China. For others in the program it was an opportunity to serve the church and Christ in China. Many of the volunteers had been doing the program for years. Some were planning to stay afterwards and continue teaching.
The program was intensive, teaching at least three hours a day in the morning and leading one-and-a-half hours of extracurricular activities in the afternoon. Amity provided its own lesson plans which we were free to adapt. The objectives of the program are to help build up the speaking confidence among China’s high school English teachers, many who have never had the opportunity to speak with native English speakers, much less a native English speaker as a teacher when they were in school. A native-speaker teacher not only can help with pronunciation, grammar and common language usage, but also provide a door to the culture behind the language, which is an important component of language acquisition. In getting to know us foreign teachers our students were also getting an understanding of Western English-speaking culture through our discussions and behavior.
Although we were not permitted to proselytize, it did not stop us from discussing our faith with students when asked directly about Christianity. In spite of what Westerners hear about persecution of the church in China, there is another side to the story. The official protestant church is booming. At every church service we went to in Nanjing, Jinan, or Shanghai, the church was bursting full. At one service in Jinan 135 new members were baptized. We were told that the church was growing by 1000 new members a month in Jiangsu Province near Nanjing and Shanghai. To see this remarkable phenomenon happening on the ground was another marvelous benefit of the program.
I cannot recommend this program or others run by the Amity Foundation more highly for anyone with an interest in China or global ministry. For more information about The Amity Foundation go to their website (http://www.amityfoundation.org) or contact Rev. Dr. Xiaoling Zhu, Area Executive for East Asia and the Pacific, Global Ministries.