By Geri Ann Fuller
A deep desire to find answers to her own questions and support young people struggling to bridge the gap between faith and education in China is what motivated Christine Jin, TEAM scholarship recipient, to study Education Psychology at Andrews University.
Although not on a direct ministerial track, Christine applied for and received a scholarship from TEAM because she wants to use her PhD in Educational Psychology to spread the Gospel by helping other young people seeking answers to their own questions. China, where she grew up, is different from the Western world when it comes to religious freedom and education. She wants to work with students who grew up attending SDA home-based schools or non-government-authorized church schools as well as those who, like her, attended public school. These young people are struggling with their own identity crises, as Christine did, she believes. She wants to help them thrive in Christ as they come to understand learning as a lifelong process. “I do not want to see younger Chinese SDA’s have to choose between education and their faith—they have the right to both of them.”
Growing up the daughter of a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in China, available religious schooling was limited to home-schooling or church-based schools unauthorized by the government. “Before my father became a minister, he was a successful businessman, and my life was carefree,” she said. “Becoming a pastor was a life-changing decision for my father, and so was it for me.” She attended public school, deciding she needed more educational opportunities to meet her goals than would be offered in church schools, which would not qualify her for college entrance exams necessary to access quality higher education in China.
But the rub was dealing with the conflict between what she was taught in school and what she had been taught in church. “When I was finished with all this, I had some real issues to deal with: Who am I? What does God mean to me? Why did I choose to be a Christian? Do I have the courage to face tough questions raised in the conflicts between Christianity and science, and between Christianity and other worldviews? My dad chose for my family but I had to choose for myself.”
Christine felt her relationship with God developed through facing these difficult questions. One turning point in her journey came in a non-SDA church in California where Christine was inspired by the slogan, “Christ is all and in all,” from Ephesians. The pastor from this church showed her that while we must work hard for our own goals, in the end all pursuits should lead to Christ.
Another turning point was the influence from a pastor from Australia. “This pastor told me that you are either the missionary or you are the mission field. I realized I must be the mission field because I have so many questions. I also realized that I had to be the mission field before I could be the missionary, even though I was born into a Christian family and raised that way.”
Her reading also led to pivot points. One was Dallas Willard’s “Nietzsche Versus Jesus Christ” in the book A Place for Truth. “I always thought of Nietzsche as anti-Christ and the icon of post-modernism,” Christine said. “Yet from this book I learned even Nietzsche could teach us how to be a better Christian if we really read it from the view of Christ.”
Her journey led Christine through a process of discipleship. Coming from an Asian culture and a conservative SDA family, Christine was taught to be respectful and always trust and obey even when she didn’t quite understand. Yet her experiences convicted her that God is not offended by sincere questions and loves an honest seeker. “Whatever questions one has, God is bigger.”
Christine is passionate about supporting other young people on their own faith journeys and wrestling with their own questions. One of her professors at Andrews helped her understand this journey as one of deconstruction and reconstruction. She believes “You need to travel this path to understand your own experience with God and not just something you inherited from your parents and grandparents.” She hopes to share from her own experience as she works with young people.
On track to graduate this year from Andrews University with Ph.D. in Education Psychology Christine says, “God made me this way, to ask questions. Not only ministers minister, believers can minister too. A minister can have many occupations.”