Chinese Student Association defining its role at Calvin


Photo curtesy of Chinese Student Association.

CSA Bible study presents play at a Detroit Chinese church

The Chinese Student Association (CSA) has been undergoing some changes this year. The club, focused on helping Chinese speaking students as well as teaching other students about Chinese culture, organizes many events for students, including Bible studies, social and cultural events as well as a yearly retreat.

The club started by a Calvin seminary student as a fellowship in the 1990s. Professor Anding Shen, the faculty advisor for the club, noted that back then, its primary function was as a bible study and social space for students who spoke Chinese. During the fellowship’s early years, there were at most five Calvin students who spoke Chinese. However, after that number began to grow, it was decided to transform the fellowship into an official Calvin club.

“Starting in 2010,” Professor Shen said, “the numbers surged, steadily going up, and then by 2012, 2013, there were a lot of Chinese students… people just felt like it was about time to have official presence on Calvin’s campus.”

Professor Shen explained the club has two primary functions. The first is to “provide a place for Chinese-speaking Calvin students,” she said. “It’s a place where they can grow spiritually, they can grow socially… and then they have a group on campus.”

The second is to teach other Calvin students about China.

“[CSA] also exists to help the rest of Calvin students in their getting to know Chinese culture and Chinese language,” Profesor Shen said.

This year, the club is changing the way it is is set up.

“We’re trying to define our role at Calvin,” said junior Gordon Tu, the president of the club. He noted that next semester, his role will change to be the director of partnership, as the leadership of the club shifts from a hierarchy to more of a democracy.

“It’s a platform, so everybody should be equal and have equal voice, or equal responsibility,” Tu said.

“We vote a lot for the proposals,” he said. “So we tend to be more democratic.”

Senior Solon Hui, the director of community life for the club, talked about the faith aspect of CSA, especially the Bible studies the club runs.

“The goal of this year’s CSA fellowship bible studies is to disciple new believers,” Hui said, “and also to enhance the knowledge and experience of current believers.”

Hui said his role in the CSA community means he offers “support by checking up on people and providing company, food or encouragement when appropriate. I liken it to being a kind and accountable Christian brother.”

The small groups are using Chinese language study material, and Hui said this year they are going through the book “Life Influencing – Life Discipleship Training,” written by Professor Chuck Kwok.

The club has four or five small groups, with about seven members each. The small groups meet once a week, where they worship and have a lesson. The small groups also assign scripture to read throughout the week, Hui said, alongside a memory verse.

Leaders meet at a bi-weekly prayer meeting, where they talk about upcoming events and share prayer requests and updates.

CSA also has a retreat every year. Professor Shen said the retreat has both a faith as well as a social focus.

“We usually have a speaker, and they give us [a] message from the Bible,” she said, “and we also have community building events.”

At the retreat, which usually goes from Saturday to Sunday, students participate in games, small group discussions and other activities.

“We usually see people getting closer after retreats,” she said, noting students tend to build strong friendships through the retreat.

CSA also aims to have one cultural event per month. The group has started putting a larger emphasis on teaching other Calvin students about Chinese culture.

In September, the club hosted an event for the Chinese mid-autumn festival.
“We had karaoke,” Tu said, as well as “a Cultural panel about why we have [the] mid autumn festival. We also… gave the students who came there some riddles about the festival.”
The event was very successful, and Tu said that they had almost a hundred people come to the event.

This month, the club is planning a movie night, most likely on Halloween.

Last year, CSA hosted a China square event, where students could come to learn about Chinese culture. The club set up multiple stations, where students could try Chinese food, practice using chopsticks or learn how to write a few Chinese characters. Tu said the club plans on doing something similar this year.

CSA works alongside other student organizations as well. Tu said the club is working with Asian studies students — he noted that Chinese language students received a pass from one dictation for participating in the China square — and a possible joint celebration for the Chinese lunar calendar new year is in the works with the Korean Students Association.

Tu hopes CSA can give other Calvin students a better perspective and understanding of China’s culture.

“We’re trying to prop ourselves in an irreplaceable position,” Tu said. ”Most of us are international students… we have the real perspective of how China looks like, how Chinese culture looks like.”