International Language Programs has over 10 schools with around 125 volunteers serving in China each semester. Although we are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a vast majority of our volunteers are LDS. With that being said, every semester our volunteers wonder, "Can I attend the LDS church while living in China?"
What a great question, especially considering that LDS missionaries are not allowed in mainland China. The people in China, for the most part, have freedom of religion.. BUT, they aren't allowed to proselyte or share their religion with others. This is why our volunteers are not allowed to talk about their beliefs with the Chinese people while serving abroad. However, our volunteers can attend church in China and can have their testimonies continue to grow while living and serving abroad. Depending on what school you are assigned to, the church situation varies.
- Meet with others in an apartment
- Stake Activities
- Hong Kong Temple
Meet with others in a members home
Some of the ILP schools spread across China, are relatively close to other non-ILP church members living in China. Often times, these church members LOVE our ILP volunteers because it causes their small branch to grow exponentially. ILP volunteers travel each sunday to the members homes/apartments and have a great time taking the sacrament, socializing and feeling the spirit.
If there are no meetings nearby, LDS members in China have the option to either call or skype call into the branch broadcasting from another city. Sometimes the ward members might even ask a member of your group to give a talk, teach the Sunday school lesson, or share a testimony. Depending on the school you are at and if there are worthy priesthood holders in your group, often times they will get permission to pass the sacrament while you are calling/skyping in, so you can have the opportunity to take the sacrament without actually being present at a ward/branch.
Autumn, an ILP volunteer in Zhongshan told us, "Church in China was different than in the States, but still awesome. We would call in on our apartment phone and listen that way, or a few times a month we would also travel across the city to another ILP school that had guys who were able to pass the sacrament. It was so nice to be able to renew my covenants even while living in a place where church attendance was different. Plus, how many people can say that they went to church by calling in on their phone or computer!"
If you live near an area with more members (like Shanghai), there have been times in the past where single adult conferences were held. You may have the opportunity to get together with other members throughout China and explore new cities. Many times ILP teachers from different parts of China will run into each other and not only get to enjoy some time with each other but with other westerners in the area.
Often times as members of the LDS church, we can find peace and comfort during times of trials by getting a preisthood blessing. While serving with ILP in Weihai, China, Mark Brown tells us his experience with being able to give blessings to other volunteers, "When I was a teacher in Weihai I had a couple dozen opportunities to give blessings to my fellow teachers. They were all great experiences that really helped me to form closer friendships with the recipients and helped me feel closer overall to our group of teachers."
One day, one of the teachers in Mark's group got pretty sick so she went to the hospital. In this public hospital, she was in a room with about 15 other beds all full with patients and their family members. As ILP teachers in China, everywhere you go people stare at and notice you. It was no different in this situation. As Mark walked into the hospital room to give this volunteer a blessing, all eyes seemed to be on them. With no dividers to give them privacy from the others in the room and with many interested onlookers Mark prepared to give his friend a blessing.
"I annointed and quietly blessed my friend in front of all those people and the entire room was silent the entire time. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt the Spirit so strongly during a blessing before. I don’t know if any of the other people in the room remember that day, but for me it is a memory that will stick with me for a long time, as the time I was able to share a spiritual aspect of my life with the people in China." Even if the chinese people didn't fully understand what was happening, they all respected and fell quiet during this testimony building moment for Mark.
HONG KONG TEMPLE
Because of visa requirements, during the semester, ILP volunteers are not allowed to travel to Hong Kong. However, at the end of the semester some teachers choose to travel on their own and you can take that chance to see Hong Kong. Just know that as soon as you leave China, your visa is void. Hong Kong is not considered part of China so you will not be able to re-enter China. Just make sure you have a flight set up directly out of Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, there is an LDS temple. After spending 4 months teaching in China, I was so glad that my sister and I were able to go to the Hong Kong Temple together. My love for the gospel grew even more. Going to the temple in China really helped me to realize that Heavenly Father loves each of his children, including the sweet kids I was able to teach, even if they have no idea who He is. Going to the temple was the perfect way to end my incredible semester in China.
When in China, going to church may be a little different than going to a standard ward or branch here in the States but that doesn't mean that your testimony can't grow while you are living abroad.
Kaitlyn, an ILP volunteer in Ningbo tells us about her experience, "My China church experience was amazing and my testimony grew so much while I was there. One thing I felt inspired to implement was having nightly prayer and scriptures with my girls for whoever wanted to come. They all knew it was at 8:00 in my bedroom so anyone who wanted to come could. There wasn't any pressure, we would read just one chapter and have a quick prayer together. I know that helped us grow together because we would end up hanging out and talking/laughing telling stories from the teaching day together. It brought our group so much closer together and I recommend doing that to anyone who is LDS and looking to grow together."
Now that you have learned a little about attending church while living in China, click here to read more about China.
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