Missionary work is illegal in China, and the government has recently toughened its response to proselytizing both clandestine and perceived. A Canadian couple living near the North Korean border were detained this August on suspicion of “espionage and stealing state secrets.” Although the accusations may not be linked to religious activity, the couple are actively practicing Christians. A broader crackdown on missionary work soon followed the couple’s detention.
Amber Scorah, of ChinesePod’s “Dear Amber” fame, first went to Shanghai as a Jehovah’s Witness missionary. Her goal: to save as many people from dying in Armageddon as possible. Back home in Vancouver, she dutifully avoided interactions with “worldly people” (non-Witnesses). In China, however, she had to hide her missionary work and develop relationships outside the faith in order to convert. In the process, she began to question the teachings of the church.
Scorah recently spoke to KCRW’s “The Organist” about learning Chinese, living abroad, and her spiritual transformation. Scorah also wrote about her Shanghai journey in the February 2013 edition of The Believer:
Sipping our coffee drinks, we looked like the other expats one sees around Shanghai. But we weren’t. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses. We had, each of us, arrived with bags full of Watchtower publications wrapped in gift paper or hidden inside socks, to be used for converting Chinese people to our faith. We knew lots of stories of Witnesses who had been followed, watched, bugged, deported by Chinese officials. All three of us were criminals in the eyes of the Chinese government. But only one of us was a criminal in the eyes of the church elders, and this meeting in the Starbucks would result in a different kind of deportation. It would result in the swift kick out of the life I had lived for thirty years, and into an intimidating, complicated world I had known only from the periphery. [Source]
Learn more about missionaries in China from CDT.