Monday, July 5, 2010

Ten Days in Beijing, China

DAY ONE THURSDAY, June 24, 2010 At the Richmond International Airport
Psalm 34:8 “O, taste and see….that the Lord is good.”
What will I taste—absorb; what will become part of my being, my soul, as I take this trip to China?
What will I see that baffles me; moves me; and stirs all of my senses?
What, O God, do you have in store for me? What lessons are there for me to learn?
What do you want to draw out of me that lies hidden under “busy-ness” and reluctance, and my own selfishness?
I do want to taste—to savor every morsel of China. I do want to see the Chinese women with your eyes.
You have placed this plate of uncertainty before me, and I know it will be good because you, my Father, are always good.

A few years ago I was driving my grandson Reid to the drop-off point where my son would be picking him up. We had enjoyed several days of fun activities without his parents. I had brought along several treats for us to enjoy in the car as we drove the two hour route. We sang songs and told “knock-knock” jokes to pass the time. We were enjoying a package of M & Ms when I asked, “Reid, do you know what the “M” on the M & Ms stands for?’
I waited a few seconds, and then answered my own question. “It stands for “Maye,” my name!”
Reid thought about my explanation for only a moment, and then he replied, “Grandma, did you know that in China the M & Ms have an “R” on them for Reid.”
Well, Reid, I guess I’ll find out!”

Day Two FRIDAY, June 25, 2010
We arrived in Beijing on Friday afternoon. The Beijing airport is a beautiful piece of functional art, very modern and has only been open for a couple of years. As we left the plane and entered the airport, we went through body temperature sensors which are used to detect anyone who has a fever. If that happens, one is immediately put into quarantine. We noticed many uniformed young people, all of them expressionless as they carried out their duties. As we cleared customs, a young girl who was checking visas noticed that Faye and I were twins, and she gave us a smile, but quickly returned to her neutral expression. We were met by Sabrina and Josh. Sabina is on staff with Global Partners in Hope in Beijing. Josh is Sabina’s husband and pastors one of the “house churches” in Beijing.
Because Peggy’s plane was late, another staff person, Shaun Bao and his wife Sarah, drove us to our hotel—the Quality Hotel. Peggy works for Global Partners in Hope from the US and visits Beijing four times a year to coordinate the women’s outreach.
On the ride into the heart of Beijing, we began to see some of the tall apartment and office buildings. Every thing looked very new. The freeway system was excellent. There were no old cars on the freeway. We later learned that the Chinese government does not allow cars that are older than five years. As we got closer into the city, automobiles and bicycles shared the road. It was like synchronized driving. There was some polite horn blowing, but for the most part, everyone seemed to accept merging in all directions.
Our hotel is as modern as any I have ever stayed in. Our room is beautifully decorated, and it looks out on several multi-storied buildings. The room is equipped with a flat-screen TV which gets CNN. We are on the 20th floor.
We had dinner in a restaurant within walking distance of our hotel, and I got my first real experience using chopsticks. Our hosts, Shaun and Sarah Bao and Josh and Sabrina, ordered for all of us. The food was placed on a lazy Susan, and everyone just picked out of the dish and put small bites on their plate. Goose liver pate, lotus, a hot, spicy vegetable, candied walnuts, cucumbers and bamboo were some of the unique dishes. Everyone was also given a bowl of white rice. Yum…something I can count on!
By the time dinner was over, we were exhausted from being up about 30 hours since we left home, but looking forward to tomorrow and our day of training for the Chinese women.

Day Three SATURDAY, June 26, 2020
Looking out our hotel window from 20 stories up, it is easy to see the wide blanket of smog that covers the city. I remember hearing much about the smog problem when the Olympics were held in Beijing in 2008. We met Peggy, Executive Director of Women’s Connections for Global Partners in Hope, for breakfast which is provided by the hotel. There was a very large buffet of breakfast foods, as well as, many other dishes which one might have considered for lunch or dinner. We were able to get fried eggs, bacon, bok choy, several kinds of dried fruits, and wonderful yogurt. I can see that breakfast will be my favorite meal while I’m in Beijing! We even got forks!
After breakfast we walked to a grocery store which is close by. As we walked the aisles, we could see a few items that we recognized such a Jif peanut butter or Maxwell House coffee, but most things were unfamiliar. Everyone greeted us with smiles, and one lady who was a clerk followed us around wanting to help us. When we got ready to check out, she gave us her customer VIP card to get a discount. We purchased bottled water because we have been warned not to drink any of the water, not even for brushing teeth.
We filled 75 treat bags for the participants at the workshop before being picked up for our drive to the workshop location. Driving along we were able to see for the first time many of the beautiful gardens and parks in Beijing. There were flower boxes containing marigolds, petunias and begonias along the guardrails on the freeway. Large cone-shaped structures held flower boxes which created a tree of flowers. Again, most of this landscaping was done for the 2008 Olympics, and for the most part, it has been maintained. The cleanliness of this city of millions of people is really incredible.
The training was held at what seemed to be a very large sports complex, used mainly for tennis. We had one of the conference rooms to use. We were greeted warmly by the women when we arrived. Sabina who works for GPiH and some of her friends from her house church had done all the set-up for the event. There was a steady stream of women coming into the room, so we started a little late, but the enthusiasm of those who came showed us that they were there to learn. All of the women were young; most of them looked to be in their 20-30s. I was surprised at how many spoke English. They were fascinated at seeing Faye and me. Hugs, smiles, and chatter filled the room. Hope is a beautiful, young woman who is also working with Global Partners, and she and Sabina did translation for Peggy, Faye and me. Wendy who did not speak English led the praise music. Even though I did not have a clue what they were singing, it was clear that they loved to praise God through music.
Our presentations, focusing on work life balance and how to give your personal testimony, went well. Many of the women related well to Faye’s story of her career and how her divorce changed her focus. I had been very concerned about how the translation would go, but thanks to many prayers, it went fine. As I watched the facial expressions of the women, I was reminded of the early church in the Bible, and how they were so hungry for instruction, and what a critical time it is for these women in China. It is so important that they receive clear teaching on the spiritual level that they are on. It would be so easy for them to fall victim to false teaching, as most of them are young in their Christianity.
After the sessions were over, we packed up to leave. I needed to use the restroom, and I had my first experience with a “squat toilet.” Yes, it is exactly as the word implies!
Several of the women from the workshop went to dinner with us at a restaurant. As we drove along in the traffic, there were bicycles, motorcycles, cars, and I even saw an old horse pulling a cart—all with the flow of traffic. The bicycles and motorcycles were almost as many as the cars. At the restaurant, again, one of the girls ordered for all of us. Everyone always gets a bowl of white rice. Among our dishes were pumpkin soup with rice, nut soup, a dark-colored spaghetti, celery, and small pork balls in a sauce.
Peggy had brought gifts (prayer shawls) for the women, so those were given and greatly appreciated. Wendy modeled her shawl and said this was the best gift she had ever received.
A long day…
DAY FOUR SUNDAY, June 27, 2010
After breakfast we took a taxi to Josh and Sabina’s church. Their congregation has rented a four room apartment in a high-rise building and this serves as their church. The living area was filled with small (very small) folding chairs, packed in as tightly as they could possibly be. Again, I was struck at the age of the group. Of the 75-100 people in the house church, there were no older people, just young professionals. By the time the service started, the room was completely packed. Those who came in late went into the two bedrooms which served for overflow. The air conditioning was no match for the warm bodies and the hot, humid day. Sweat poured down my face as I sat listening to the group sing, and I don’t think I have ever felt so hot in my entire life. I felt embarrassed that I was so uncomfortable when these Christians seemingly had no concern for comfort. They had come to worship, and it didn’t matter to them if it was hot or cold.
Wendy, who had been at the meeting on Saturday, led the music which was projected onto a screen. I was struck at the total involvement of everyone. No one was looking around, but everyone was completely engaged in worship. Sabina sat with Peggy, Faye and me to translate. One of the bedrooms served as the nursery, so occasionally a child’s cry could be heard. We were asked to come up front to be introduced and to say a few words. Again, the group was fascinated with twins. Laughter communicates when words do not. When I told them where I lived, a girl in the audience said she had lived in VA. She was now going to Harvard and doing study abroad.
We were struck with the dedication these Chinese have for their worship. I will admit to a little uneasiness attending this worship service which is clearly prohibited by the Chinese government. It is the first time I have ever felt that I did not have the “right” to worship. These people worship on a regular basis knowing that at any moment this opportunity could be taken away.
Summer, one of the girls who had attended the workshop yesterday, had been scheduled ahead of time to give her testimony on this Sunday. The joy I felt as she began to tell her faith story using the outline and other information I had given at the workshop yesterday was indescribable. Summer captivated the audience as she told he story, modeling perfectly what she had learned the day before. My heart was so warmed at the thought of a Chinese woman who had taken what she heard, and now would be telling her story over and over in the years to come.
Communion was served, and Josh preached a sermon about lying and dishonesty which we have heard is a big problem in the business world in China. After the sermon, visitors were introduced, and one young girl stood to indicated that she wanted to become a Christian. So right there, as everyone looked on, Josh led her in praying to receive Christ.
When the service was over, the chairs were quickly moved back, a table was brought out, and hot dishes began coming from the kitchen. As the guests, we were given places at the table, and everyone else stood around to eat. A steaming soup of white carrots, seaweed, and a spicy, very salty vegetable dish were some of the dishes served to us. Afterwards, some of the people went into the other rooms for new believers’ class. They take 12 weeks of classes, and after that, they are baptized. Others members cleaned the rooms and kitchen.
We sat around talking to some of those who had stayed after lunch. Because many of them seemed very shy, in most cases, we approached them. Peggy had brought along “fortune cookies” that contained Bible verses. Of course, fortune cookies, or “lucky cookies” as they were called in China, did not originate in China. In fact, Peggy had to show them how to open the cookies to get the verse out. One unsuspecting young lady even ate her Bible verse along with the cookie! Many were fascinated with their verse and expressed that the verse was meant especially for them.
Next there was a baptism where six people were baptized in the apartment bathtub. They got into the tub, fully clothed, and were leaned back to be immersed. Two of them were a young couple who are well known entertainers, Vivienne Lee and her fiancé. About 3:30, the service was over. We had been there since 10:00am.
Next we were off to an “official” church meaning it is registered with the Chinese government and allowed to operate pretty much in the open. This service is held in a beautiful marble conference center building in downtown Beijing. These people have passports. They were born in China but have spent many years away and now have returned to China. We were introduced, among the other guests, and they warmly welcomed us. Peggy was given the opportunity to tell about Global Partners in Hope and the ministry they will be establishing in China. The service seemed very much like one that would be held in the United States except it was in Chinese. Words to the songs were projected onto a screen. There was a quiet reverent worship style.
After the service which lasted 1 ½ hrs, we went with several of the people to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Everyone wanted to sit at our table. This was a completely different experience from the morning group because most of these Chinese spoke English. They were extremely friendly people. Conversation was very easy at dinner. Some of the dishes we were served were: fish soup, long beans, sweet and sour pork, noodles, a hot potato dish, green peas, fried corn, sweet potato fingerlings. We made arrangements to meet the pastor’s wife Eunice and another woman named Ellie later in the week for sightseeing.
This church group was very different from the house church group—very educated and well-traveled. Many contrasts could be seen from the two church experiences, but both groups seemed to be worshipping God with no fear of reprisals. The first group was made up of young, urban professionals, and for the most part, new Christians, while the second group was older and more experienced in their faith. The registered church group is made up of people who have traveled the world. They have known Christ longer and appeared to be somewhat skeptical of this new opportunity that the Chinese government officials have given to Global Partners in Hope. Experience has told them that this door may not be open for very long.
We learned that there is a legacy of suspicion and sometimes hate among the Chinese people for outsiders, especially among the women. They have been betrayed many times over the last century, hoping with every change that they will experience true freedom. However, they have been left with disappointment. That explains their expressionless, almost sad faces. Global Partners in Hope wants to orchestrate religious freedom in China that will give these dear people the true freedom that only God can give.

DAY FIVE MONDAY, June 28, 2010
After breakfast we left for the Silk Market, driving into a different part of Beijing, and seeing more amazingly tall office and apartment buildings. We were met by Phoebe, one of the girls who had attended the workshop on Saturday. Phoebe speaks perfect English, and we really had a great time with her. The Silk Market was as exciting as any shopping I have ever done. The Chinese economy is the fastest growing in the world, and we did our part! Haggling is expected, and we got some great deals. Christmas shopping is well underway! We lunched in a café that had American food. A Coke has never tasted so good! Faye had a small pizza, and I had a BLT with French fries.
All along the way today, Phoebe witnessed to the booth owners. At one point, one of the Chinese women asked her (speaking in Chinese) why the older American women were so happy and smiled so much. Phoebe used the opportunity to tell her that it was because we had Jesus in our lives. At the café, she witnessed to our waitress. The young Chinese girl told Phoebe that she was not ready, so Phoebe gave her card to the girl and told her to call her anytime she needed to talk. This was Gospel shopping at its best!
We saw lots of European and other Americans at the Silk Market. Phoebe told us that most Chinese do not shop at this market. Even though the prices are wonderful by American standards, they are still cost-prohibitive to many Chinese.
It was good to spend the late afternoon at the hotel relaxing and looking at our great purchases.
For dinner we went to a restaurant called, “The Upper Room.” Upon entry into the restaurant, we saw a mosaic of the Christian fish symbol and a communion cup on the floor. There were murals painted on some of the walls with scripture verses. It was a beautifully decorated, very large dining room. We learned that this restaurant is owned by a Christian man who promotes it as a place for Christians to meet socially and for business discussion.
Our dinner guests were Sabina, and Lucien, who is the pastor of both a house church and a 3-S church (3 Self—government sanctioned church). Lucien had brought along his twin daughters and the American fiancé of one of the daughters. Lucien ordered a wonderful meal for us, and we had very insightful conversation about his two churches. He shed further light on how the government looks on house churches. The police and the house church member co-exist, as long as the house church does not get too large and bothersome for the neighbors. The police want to know what is going on the house church, what plans they may be making. They do not want them to venture outside their area. He also reiterated that the house churches are made up of younger people many of whom are professional people who have come to faith in Christ recently. They have much enthusiasm, but have not yet been grounded in Biblical teaching. His 3-Self church is made up of older people, and this service is much more traditional. This sounded much like some of the controversy that American churches have been through in regards to traditional versus contemporary worship styles.
I am glad that this trip is centered on meeting people rather than seeing “things,” which is often the focus of trips we Americans take to foreign countries. I feel as if I have a whole network of Chinese friends in Christ.

DAY SIX Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Breakfast was over, and we headed out to get our taxi to meet Dony whom we had met at the government registered church Sunday afternoon. Dony said that she had been a Christian for twenty years. She works for Lucent Technologies and has traveled the world. She was to be our tour guide for the day. Taxis are very cheap in Beijing and it’s the best mode of transportation for visitors. It is recommended that visitors hand the taxi driver your destination clearly written in Chinese so that you have a better chance of arriving at the right location. We were in good hands since Dony communicated to the drivers in Chinese.
Judy Burrows from Family Life Ministries, which partners with GPiH, also joined us. Judy and her husband, Jim just received their visas to do marriage and family counseling, a great need in China. In most Chinese homes, there is an extended family of grandparents who have responsibility for the children while both parents work. Many problems arise in these situations because the children do not have enough parental involvement in their lives at a young age. Divorce is currently over 50% in China, and the government recognizes this as a major problem and has agreed for us to do marriage and family counseling.
Our meeting place was in Dony’s neighborhood which is close to Confucius’ Temple. It was a beautiful neighborhood with small Chinese homes, long alleyways, and mostly bicycle traffic. We took the subway to Forbidden City, former home of the Emperor. The subway was similar to NYC subways except it was extraordinarily clean and more open.
When we arrived at Forbidden City, we were struck by the beauty of these ancient buildings. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Across from the Forbidden City is Tian’anmen Square. There were several beggars as we entered the gates. Along with hundreds of other Chinese tourists, we spent about 1 ½ hrs touring the buildings. It was a very hot day (how do you say, “sweltering” in Chinese).
Dony took us to another unique Chinese restaurant owned by a famous Chinese actor. Again, we ate some delicious dishes. The authentic Chinese food that we are eating is so different from the western versions of Chinese food. Very small individual plates, a small bowl for soup, and chopsticks complete each place setting. Several dishes are ordered which are placed in the middle of the table and served family style. There is always rice, as well as, soup of some kind. There is not nearly the seasoning in the dishes that we have in American Chinese food. Most times there is no drink, or if there is a drink, it is water or hot tea. Desserts are not even a consideration. No matter where we have eaten, this seems to be the pattern. Our host always openly asks God’s blessing on the food.
We headed back to the hotel for a short rest before going to Josh and Sabina’s house church for Bible study. The Bible study was held at the apartment where we went to Sunday services. There were about 25 people present, again all in their 20s-30s. The time began with music worship, and then Josh introduced Peggy’s presentation on Bible study. After Peggy finished up her talk, Josh opened up a time of questions/answers. Most of the questions had to do with knowing whether or not you are called to be a leader. Other questions had to do with whether a new Christian is qualified to lead a study. They seemed to be asking: What does it take to lead a Bible study, and how can I be equipped to lead? It was good to see several of the same people we had met on Saturday and Sunday. The study lasted a little over 2 hrs.

DAY SIX WEDNESDAY, June 30, 2010
After breakfast we were joined by Eunice, wife of the pastor of the BICF (Beijing International Christian Fellowship), one of the registered churches, and Dony for a trip to the Great Wall. Our drive took us out of Beijing into the countryside. We drove along a modern freeway for about an hour, and then took a two lane road to the Great Wall. Along the way, we drove through a large agricultural area. The small towns had only a few people out on the streets, perhaps due to the heat. We saw many older buildings that seemed to have been deserted. I was later told that these vacant building had been bought by the government because they are old and in need of repair. They will be bulldozed to make room for newer buildings. There were vegetable stands all along the roadside. We passed streams where people were fishing from the banks.
We were dropped off at the entrance to the Great Wall where we purchased tickets. There were people hawking their souvenirs at the entrance. We rode lift chairs similar to a ski lift to the top of the Wall. After getting off, we began our walk along the Wall. The Wall extends 5,000 kilometers from east to west. We entered the Wall at the Mutianyu section which was built in 1569. Outside the wall the mountains are steep, while within the Wall (the Beijing side) the land is gentle. Vegetation was luxurious, and over 90 percent of the land was covered by grass, forests and fruit trees. Chestnuts trees were everywhere.
At one point we saw a family approaching us, and I noticed that the child was wearing a Virginia Tech t-shirt. I commented on the shirt and told them that I lived in Richmond, VA. They said they were from Richmond also. I asked what part of Richmond, and they said Short Pump. It turned out that they live in Church Run, just a couple of miles from us. How incredible to meet someone from my neighborhood in such a far away place!
The trip down from the Wall was interesting. We rode on a toboggan slide! It was really fun. Dony who acted as our translator told us that when we were about to get on the individual toboggans, the operators questioned her about the “two old ladies.” A sign at the entry point said that this ride down was not for the “old and weak”. Dony assured them that the two old ladies were in perfect health and could handle very well the ride down the mountain!
In the evening, we were picked up for dinner by Shaun and Sarah Bao. They took us to a very western-style restaurant in an upscale section of Beijing called Soho. There were several young professionals in the group, and we were the three Americans. A man who is a friend of Shaun’s showed 3-D slides of his trip to the Holy Land and talked about a Biblical theme park that he is planning for northeastern China.

This was our only truly cloudy day in Beijing although you would not have known this because of the smog which makes most days seem cloudy.
We were joined at breakfast by a young woman named Catherine who had requested some time with us to discuss some personal issues. Catherine has worked towards her doctorate. She is a writer for a magazine and does translating. She is a single mother in the process of getting a divorce from her Danish husband. Her question had to do with how to handle her finances in a Godly manner and also how to seek help for the legal aspects of child custody. I was struck by her sincerity in desiring to handle her life in a way that brought honor to God and to raise her daughter in a Christian home.
We got a taxi to the Silk Market where we were met by Dony. After a couple hours of shopping, we returned to the hotel to meet Josh and Sabina for a trip to a local orphanage. The orphanage is in a part of Beijing that is being revitalized, and the orphanage will soon be torn down to make room for more apartments. The area where the orphanage was located was behind the new apartments in a very rundown area. The children were excited to see us, and they loved the blow bubbles I brought to them. Many of them had obvious birth defects, and several of them appeared to have mental disabilities. They laughed and blew the bubbles. Most of them were between 4-10 years old. Only a couple of them spoke English, but their hugs and giggles showed us that they knew we cared about them.
After leaving the orphanage, we drove with Hope, Sabina and Josh to meet Jennifer, a young Chinese business woman, at a Taiwanese restaurant. Jennifer is a 4th generation Christian. She and her husband are very active in their church. As we entered the restaurant, we immediately heard Christian music playing in the background. We were told that the owners of the restaurant were Christians. Jennifer had called ahead and selected the food we would eat. She had brought gifts for Peggy, Faye, and me. We had a wonderful time of laughing, just like girlfriends would do anywhere.
After dinner, on our walk to the taxi, we passed by people outside at tables socializing and even passed a park where older Chinese men and women were dancing to recorded music. We waved to them from the sidewalk and they waved back. When they asked why what had brought us to Beijing, we told them, we came to see them! They welcomed us and continued their dancing.

DAY NINE Friday, July 2, 2010
What a beautiful morning! Unlike all of the other days in Beijing, we awoke to beautiful blue sky! The rain clouds from yesterday had cleared out all the smog. Looking out our hotel window, we could see much further than before and many more buildings. With the sunshine came the heat, and we had, what was probably the hottest day of our trip so far.
After breakfast, Shaun and Sarah Bao met Peggy and me. Shaun had stated that he would like to do some visioning. Shaun shared his involvement with Global Partners in Hope and his own personal vision for “influencing the influencers” in Chinese society. It was clear to me that this is his passion, and God has truly burdened his heart for creating paths to those in power in China. We all agreed that a strategic planning session is a good next step for Global Partners. Peggy has been effective in her three trips to China in making contacts and identifying needs, and we all felt that the time has come to get specific in defining programs that will go under the different prongs of the ministry.
Hope, a beautiful young woman who had translated for me on Saturday, met us around lunch time to take us to a beautiful restaurant that had authentic Beijing food. We were delighted with the delicious assortment of dishes. Unlike the other dishes we have tasted while on this trip, this food was more seasoned. After one of our favorite Beijing meals, we were off to the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 and was where the emperors worshipped heaven and prayed to their many gods for good harvests.
One last trip to the Silk Market to pick up some last minute items was next on our agenda with Hope. Sabina and Josh met us at a coffee house for some discussion about the workshop that Peggy will be doing tomorrow. There is some reason to exercise caution with regards to the workshop because it has become larger than had been expected. Large gatherings draw attention, so Peggy and the other presenters will chose their words carefully while talking about leadership. Saying goodbye to Hope, Josh and Sabina was difficult. We have come to love these dear Christian friends, and leaving them was like leaving family.
For dinner we were invited to dine with Iwona and Ramsey Fahel at their lovely, upscale apartment overlooking the largest greenway park in China. The views were spectacular. Ramsey is an executive with an oil company, and the contrast in status was extraordinary. The Fahel’s and their two young daughters were delightful. Iwona had also invited Val, a friend of hers who is interested in family counseling. This evening was a very special time of creating interest and expanding the development for GPiH.
Back in our hotel room, it was time to jam everything we had bought into our suitcases! Thank goodness the hotel had bathroom scales in the room for weighing our bags before we get to the airport.

DAY TEN Saturday, July 3, 2010
After breakfast we said “Goodbye” to Beijing. Peggy will staying for a few days longer, doing another workshop today, as well as meeting with other Chinese who are interested in the work of Global Partners in Hope. For Faye and me, it will be a very long day of flying back to the United States.
In reflecting on Beijing, some of my thoughts are:
What an incredible opportunity Global Partners in Hope has been given by the Chinese government to be part of a small crack in the armor that has kept Christian workers out of China. I was struck time and time again by the openness with which the Chinese Christians proclaim their faith, boldly, publically, and seemingly without fear. I was also struck by their caution and healthy skepticism since they have been disappointed many times; however, they are not afraid to share their faith with anyone they meet. They are hungry for Bible study, for many of them, in its most elementary forms.
This city of 20 million, roughly the geographic size of the country of Belgium, is certainly a city of contrasts. I was told that a nice apartment would rent for about $6,000 per month, yet most of these would be occupied by foreigners holding passports. Beautiful parks, efficient freeway systems, and yet men sweeping the streets with brooms made of sticks tied together.
Starbucks, Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonalds abound, and are frequented mainly by foreigners. Authentic Chinese food takes many forms and is not like Chinese food in America! The Chinese women that we were with do very little cooking at home. They eat out because food in restaurants is so inexpensive.
Technology abounds, yet most of it is out of reach for most Chinese; however, everyone has a cell phone.
Chopsticks work quite well, and because you eat slower, you eat less. Perhaps this explains the fact that most of the Chinese people we saw looked very fit.
The Chinese like twins with silver hair! While stopped at a traffic light, the people on a bus beside our taxi were looking out their windows pointing at the Americans with white hair. We got that same reaction everywhere!
The generosity and hospitality of our Chinese friends was touching beyond anything I had imagined. We were hugged and thanked more times than I could ever count. We were given gifts to show appreciation. We were blessed to be in the company of women who showed Christ-likeness in their warmth and dedication.
God is alive in China. God has always been alive in China! It is believed that there are over 100 million Christians in China. Helping these Christians to grow in their faith with practical Biblical application is part of the challenge Global Partners in Hope is facing with our opportunity to work above ground.
Many of the problems that the Chinese women face are the same as what American women and women all over the world face: balancing home and work responsibilities, parenting issues, choosing the educational opportunities for their children, relationships with in-laws, etc. These problems are intensified because of the huge population, but the basic issues are the same. They want the grounding of God’s word to be their guide in making decisions.
There is a boldness among Chinese Christians that is not seen in American Christians. Chinese Christians believe they will be the ones to reach the Muslim world because they understand the persecution that Muslims have faced over the centuries. Already Chinese Christians are leading the evangelical world in missionaries sent out to the unreached peoples of the world.
I would jump at the opportunity to spend another ten days in China!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Very Special Christmas Present...

It was the day after Christmas at a church in San Francisco. The pastor of the church was looking over the cradle when he noticed that the baby Jesus was missing from among the figures.

Immediately he turned and went outside and saw a little boy with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant, Jesus.

So he walked up to the boy and said, "Well, where did you get Him, my fine friend?"

The little boy replied, "I got him from the church."

"And why did you take him?"

The boy said, "Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to the little Lord Jesus and I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas I would give him a ride around the block in it."

Mother's Day 2010

Being Your Mother
Author unknown
Being your mother means that I have had the opportunity to experience loving someone more than I love myself. I have learned what it's like to experience joy and pain through someone else's life.
It has brought me pride and joy; your accomplishments touch me and thrill me like no one else's can. It has brought me a few tears and heartaches at times, but it has taught me hope and patience. It has shown me the depth, strength, and power of love.
Being your mother hasn't always been easy, and I'm sure I've said or done things that have hurt or confused you. But no one has ever made me as satisfied as you do just by being happy.
No one has made me as proud as you do just by living up to your responsibilities.
No one's smile has ever warmed my heart like yours does; no one's laughter fills my heart with delight as quickly as yours can. No one's hugs feel as sweet, and no one's dreams mean as much to me as yours do. No other memories of bad times have miraculously turned into important lessons or humorous stories; the good times have become precious treasures to relive again and again.
You are a part of me, and no matter what happened in the past or what the future holds, you are someone I will always accept, forgive, appreciate, adore, and love unconditionally. Being your mother means that I've been given one of life's greatest gifts--you.

I learned to love tulips!

Welcome To Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

* * *
©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Every Thing I Need to Know

Since I am a former schoolteacher, and my husband also has a career in education, no one who knows us is surprised that schools, learning, and educational issues are important to our family. You might imagine that a few years ago when I heard about a little essay entitled “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten,” I was intrigued. The basic idea behind the essay was that the most important bits of wisdom were taught and learned, not at the top of the educational ladder, but down near the sandbox. For example: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

That little essay got me thinking about some of the other important truths I had learned as a child. As I thought over my childhood, growing up in the little town of Central, South Carolina, I realized that for me, at least, everything I really need to know, I learned in Sunday School. We adults can make faith a very complicated thing--as complicated as predestination, post or pre-millennialism, or the anti-Christ. But faith is profoundly simple—as simple as Love, Believe, or Jesus. Sometimes in our desire to become spiritually mature, we forget the lessons we learned in Sunday School are still the most important, such as:

1) God is love
When I was a little girl, I memorized five Bible verses, and as a reward, was given a “little motto” that glowed in the dark. It said, “God is Love.” What a comfort it was for me to see it in the nighttime while I lay in my bed. God’s love—what a topic! I’m told of a minister who created 600 outlines for John 3:16—all different, all unique. Think of the greatest love you have ever experienced. Perhaps it’s the love of a parent for a child. Well, God’s love is greater. Think of the best friend you ever had. Well, God’s love is greater. Think of the closest relationship you ever had with anyone. God’s love is greater. Someone has said: “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart. What about the Christmas gift He sent you in Bethlehem; not to mention that Friday at Calvary? Face it; He’s crazy about you!”

2) Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
In the Book of John Jesus tells his disciples that all men will know they are His disciples if “you love one another.” Jesus is giving a new identity or symbol for his disciples. He tells them that they will be known for their love for one another. We might guess that it would be the symbol of the cross, or perhaps a finger pointed towards heaven, or maybe even the fish symbol. However, if you guessed those as the symbol of New Testament Christians, you would be wrong. Instead these early Christians were to be identified by their love for each other. With that in mind, what if I evaluated every action toward my neighbor in terms of “me in her shoes?” What if I refused to respond when I heard critical words hurled at me? What if I tried to look at the world through someone else’s eyes? Maybe the greatest stumbling block that we put in the path of people who would see Jesus in us is that we are not committed to following the life that He suggests: one that is marked by love.

3) Every Problem Has One or Two Answers: Jesus or God
Have you ever worked in a toddler or preschool class at church? Ask them a question from the Bible, and see their hands go up, waving, yelling the answer: “Jesus—God” Even if they don’t hear the question, they know the answer. Imagine a group of adults living each day genuinely believing and acting like Jesus is the answer to every question, to every problem.

4) Jesus Loves Me, This I Know. For the Bible Tells Me So…
John 15:9 says: “Just as the Father loved Me, I have also loved you.” That is the meaning of Christianity. God has loved us and expressed that love by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die for us.
“For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He died for us.” Romans 8:38-39 TLB

So you see…it’s not complicated after all. It’s really not difficult to understand. It’s as simple as what you learned in Sunday School!