Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why I Live In China :: Part II

For the first part of the evening, as another man shared, he stared blandly somewhere near his knees. Then someone asked him to pray. He rose up and his voice bellowed forward, melodic and rhythmic and it filled the room in a way his frail frame did not suggest was possible. "His Name is Wonderful!" he repeated several times. And I knew he believed it in a way I have yet to learn.

He has lived in China for more than twice the number of decades I've been alive, and he has seen changes most people will never relate to or understand. He spoke of many of those changes and the testimony of faithfulness of His God whose Name is Wonderful. He has tested that faithfulness through war torn years, change of power, dark and tense years when much of life as we understand it was being undermined and even destroyed, and finally, in prison. 

His Name is Wonderful he said, and this man believed that for that Name it was worth standing in prayer before a building that was being bulldozed to the ground, because it was built for the Name. Bulldoze away, they said, we will rebuild it again. And they did, and again they knocked it down, and again they rebuilt and now it still stands. But stronger than that building is the faith of these men and stronger than their faith is the One they put their faith in. 

One of our white faces stood up to share our thanks, for being able to sit at the feet of these men as they shared their stories and their hearts for their country with us. We feel small, he said. We are humbled. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain, and though our faith felt so small it is the size of the one we have faith in that really matters. And in that, we were all brothers and sisters, perhaps worlds away in culture, experience, history, age, and maturity, but clinging to the one whose Name is Wonderful in any age or land.

And what did I learn? That perhaps a stripping away of all that seems necessary can be a purifying thing for gathering worshipers. That for some, starting a school that aims to teach from a Logos-Worldview is a frightening and important venture that is vital to the minds and hearts of the next generation, not merely another school option. That old men who look like they are sleeping, are just waiting to stand up and shout Hallelujah. That some people get geeked about rock concerts or celebrity sightings, but this is where I become a hopeless and pathetically adoring fan.

Dear Old Man, I could listen to you sing out "His Name is Wonderful" for the rest of my days, and someday... I will.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Why I Live In China

In China, there is one commodity that teems through its cities and villages in numbers greater than any other nation on earth. People. Living, breathing, eternal souls who work fields and factories, inhabit high rise apartments and simple, dirty shacks, buy cell phones and sell roadside vegetables.

It was a person that was the crowning achievement, the glorious moment that culminated God's first creative act. And it was for people that He gave the final and Greatest Sacrifice. For this reason, in all that we endeavor to care for, live for, and love before God on this earth, it is people in their teeming masses, but always scaled down to the one living soul before us in any given moment, that is of supreme importance.

Because of this rather grand statement, no matter where you live in the world, if you are under this calling, you are under the highest calling a person can answer in their lifetime. China is one place on earth where the call is almost deafening if for no other reason than the sheer numbers of people that live there, and so many of them having so much need.

This great calling also means that often what most inspires us, what lifts us to a life beyond ourselves, is the example of people who evidence some act or attitude of divine, sacrificial love. They beckon us to a love of a different quality, a costly kind of love that seems weighted with the gold of heaven. It is the kind of love that also raises the person it is poured out on to the heights of God's vision for what they were meant to be and what he gave so much to make possible.

I heard this quote the other day, from someone who was sharing about this hard work of loving people going on in China.
True discipleship takes time and is very costly time-wise.  I’ve found those growing the most were closest but there was a sense of disappointment that it took so much time.  But discipleship is sacrificial, it’s going to cost your life.  To disciple the nations is going to cost many lives.” ~Rob Cheeley
The thought was sobering and beautiful in the weight of its importance.

I sat and listened this week to two women, two teachers in our school, both Chinese. Their hearts are shaped by the Love of their Lord; and their hearts beat for humanity, specifically for their countrymen, for the humanity that teems through their China's vast cities and rural villages. There are many ways they could answer this call to love their many neighbors, but they are teachers and so this is the path their burden takes.

I listened to them and felt like a tiny grit of sand that is part of a large rock on which these women stand. I loved to watch them far above me, poised as unique individuals because they have been raised in a Chinese education system, trained in a western education system, and have hearts to reach the children and families who are mired in the struggles and pitfalls of their country's current path.

One of our visions as a team here of both foreign and Chinese teachers, administrators, and families, is to raise up national teachers who have a heart for the Chinese, have been given educational tools alongside their foreign teachers, and can go out to schools all over China, transforming classrooms from the inside out, reaching students and faculty and parents with this Difference in purpose and method.

As I listened to these two women, I could see the cost their discipleship has required of them, the pleasures they have given up and the trials they have endured and know they will endure. And all I need to do is hear one story of one child who was changed, or one family who came asking for more, for answers to their heart's greatest need, and I am sold. Sold that this is why we are here, laboring to make this school happen where we are alongside our Chinese brothers and sisters, training and supporting and sending them out as they follow the Call to Discipleship, their hearts bleeding for their country. They do not see their lives as their own, but their trust is implicit and the reverence they have for the importance of their task deepens my respect for them.

My daily work is simple and compared to the vision above it can also seem pretty small. I don't sit in the rural classroom with the migrant worker's child. But she will. And she will teach others to do the same. One waters, another plants, but it is God who makes it grow.
"If you can't feed a hundred people, feed just one."
- Mother Teresa

Thursday, September 12, 2013

expat coffee ladies

The other day I went to a sort of meet and greet for expat ladies in the city. It's not my scene really, but I go to be a face for our school and to rub shoulders with other women who are not in my immediate circles. There are always some colorful characters to muse over and that part I secretly enjoy a little too much.

Exhibit Lady A: from Texas, with the big hair, big makeup, and big jewelry one comes to fondly expect of ladies from this fine state. She also plays Mrs. Santa every year alongside her husband at the Christmas Bazaar, and she is a big reader-- attending multiple book clubs per week. She speaks up quite a bit, and warmly greets everyone in the room as she breezes through with her amply filled out blouse, extending a hand and offering her full name as a sort of audio business card. Before you know it, she's on to the next person.

Exhibit Lady B: Romanian, with hair constantly dyed a different but equally vibrant shade of red, she is a jack of all kinds of trades: gemstone jewelry designer, choir member, graphic designer, Rotary club president, and she will somehow touch on each of those interests in nearly every conversation you have with her.

There was the wise old lady doctor who looks like something straight out of the 19th century with her wrinkles and white hair and British accent and the way she rides her bike everywhere, tanned and clearly bent on nothing other than spending time with and for the Chinese she lives to serve.

There were the consulate wives, and the newly arrived business expat wives who were keen to be involved in everything, especially mah-jong clubs. "Teach us Mah-jong! any! and all kinds of Mah-jong!" they were practically screaming from their seats.

There were a few, quiet Chinese women, though one spoke up for just a moment to offer her ukelele-playing, winner-of-awards-in-Hawaii brother as entertainment for the Christmas Bazaar. We listened and nodded. For a ukelele player, winning an award in Hawaii seemed to really tip the scales.

I sat next to a woman who has spent the last 19 years moving every two years to a different location with her husband and now 4 year old son. I felt inclined to be her friend for those moments and peppered her with conversation, but couldn't tell if she was just naturally reticent or had lost that social edge with the weariness of always meeting new people.

At the end there was a call to involvement, especially in the events that raise money for charity, which is a typical hobby for expat wives living in these foreign cities. The charities are worthy causes: heart surgeries for the children of poor families, and dormitory and latrine construction for migrant worker's schools. Money is important; money is what allows practical needs to be met, needs that are essential to life itself, if not a quality of life that is desirable by most people.

Charities are good (amazing statement there) and necessary. Though there is something that seems out of place when spending a lot of money for a dinner or event with the intent that the proceeds will go towards people in need. It seems like we should just give our money out of generosity and compassion and maybe even with some measure of involvement. But regardless, there are still great numbers of people hurting, struggling and suffering here that any means to help them is worthy enough.