Saturday, July 30, 2011

China Pictures, part 1

Here are some pictures! I'm starting with the second camp, because most of my pictures from the first are on my phone, and I haven't yet gotten them switched over. So here, for your enjoyment, are pictures!
A little pagoda thing at NPU.
Allison, one of my teammates. She was quite thrilled at the prospect of free toilet paper.
Some of my teammates. We were taking a walk!
Alice and I. Alice was another member of the logistics team. She's wholly dedicated to God. It's beautiful. I love her. :D
My roommate, Carissa, owned a guitar, and thankfully had the foresight to bring it with her. Since we were living in the same room together the whole month, we were able to have some pretty epic worship sessions!
Our life group at the second camp. Or part of it, at least.
There's the whole life group! Summer is hiding in the corner behind Hu, but otherwise it's all of us. :D
Mickey, Helen, and Aileen.
Catherine. She was one of my co-coaches at the first camp.
Angela, one of our roommates, and I. We were a testimony to her. Still praying.
Mickey, my coach at the second camp. She was...crazy. But I love her anyway. :D
Gracie and I. She was a sweet girl, a member of the logistics staff for the camps.
Xi'an's ancient city wall, built I think in the Ming dynasty. I took notes. Which will be used in future stories.

Stairs down from the top.
My roomie, Carissa, in the airport McDonald's eating ice cream.
Papa Johns in China! It's a sit-down restaurant over there. After that, we went to Dairy Queen which was just next door, but sadly I didn't get a picture of that. I did eat an incredible cranberry cheesecake blizzard, however.

Friday, July 29, 2011


سلام لكم في هذا اليوم
There's a few questions people always ask when you go on a big trip. Number one is "How was it?" Number two is, "Did you enjoy it?" Number three, at least for this trip, has been, "Did you learn anything new?"

I kind of dislike questions like this. They're annoyingly vague. I also never quite know how to answer. To the first, I usually give an awkward, " was good? Awesome. Amazing. Pretty cool." Inwardly, I'm thinking: what exactly do you want me to say? It was a country. With people. To the second, it's usually an emphatic yes. The third is usually also a yes, and that is what this post is about. Part of what I learned in China.

China, like Africa, taught me how lucky I am. Africa taught me how lucky I have been in the realm of material possessions. I have so much; the people there have so little. But China taught me how lucky I am to have the freedom to worship that I do. While at the second camp, one of my roommates was a Christian girl. She was involved in the underground church, and one day she shared with us the things they have to go through just to meet. She was amazed at how we could just go anytime we want to. Talking with her, you could hear the wistfulness in her voice as she contemplated what it must be like to not have to be afraid, to not have to sneak around and risk being persecuted by your own government.

Then there was one of the girls in my life group, who had never before heard the gospel. That is amazing to me. Here in America, we take that so for granted. Everybody, surely, has heard at least once, and if they haven't, they've had a chance to. In China, it's not like that. There is so much room in China, so many people, and comparatively so few people working for the Gospel, that people may be born, live, and die without ever hearing. I'm sure it's like that here in America, too, which is challenging. But it was really brought home to me in China.

I have it so, so lucky. Day after tomorrow, I'm going to pull up to my church building, climb out, and go to Sunday School. I'll sing at the top of my lungs during worship service, and not have to be afraid. I'll listen to preaching, straight from the Bible, and not have to worry about who might hear. Then I'll go home, and it might be that I'll have not even listened to the message. My mind could have been miles away because, after all, it's just church. I'll get to go next week, and the week after that. And next week, if our air conditioner is out, it's too hot. We'll just skip church. We can't be uncomfortable, you know.

The Chinese Christians I met taught me something very important. There is nothing more important than the Gospel. You can't hide it. You can't make it go away. There is no either-or in living it out. Either you are passionately committed to its message, or you have almost no part in it.

But the non-Christian Chinese also taught me something, a far more sobering lesson. One day, I was talking about the fringes of a religious topic with one of the girls in my small group. I was getting a bit excited, because I love this girl and I really wanted to get a chance to talk to her about it. But then she couldn't think of how to say what she wanted to, and appealed to one of the guys in our group, asking him to explain what the Chinese people now mostly regard as a god. (And, of course, there went the conversation.)

This guy turned to me and calmly proceeded to explain that the Chinese people, if they are patriotic and good citizens, basically regard their government as their god. Their whole concern is to serve their country and advance it. I sat there, listening to this, trying not to show my shock. I had known this was what was believed. I had read about it. I knew that China was infected with nationalistic atheism, that their leaders were practically prophets. But to hear it so calmly explained from one I considered a dear friend was hard to stomach. I now have a face to go with that belief. And that's tough.

Those statistics about how many have heard in China, how many have believed, are no longer just numbers. Now they have faces. They have names. Joy, Summer, Brian, Allan. They are people who I spent part of my life with. Who I love. It's hard to stay at home when you have faces looking at you instead of numbers. Numbers are convicting, friends are compelling.

In other words, I can't wait to go back to China. In fact, I can't wait to go overseas again, period. That's truly where my heart is. In the meanwhile: Good News Clubs start up again in a few weeks, and there will be opportunities for me to help with other outreaches locally. "Preach the Gospel to every creature" is truly an amazing command, because it never leaves with you with nothing to do.

In other news, announcing next summer's plans: I'll be going to Romania, hopefully. I'm also praying about going back to Zambia, Africa, but I've decided I'm waiting on God for that one. If He wants me to go, He'll show me. For now, I'm trusting and resting in Him...which will probably be the topic of my next post, because there's not enough space to deal with it here. :D


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

سلام لكم في هذا اليوم
My trip to China was far too short. However, many good things came out of it. And happened on it. And I wanted to go home, and now I am home, and now I want to be back in China because it was epic. This post is liable to be rather scattered, owing to the fact that my thoughts are still incredibly scattered. Final impressions haven't really sunk in yet, so this is liable to be a post of simple reporting.

My team - comprised of 24 people from age 2 (our PD's daughter) to Jessica, our actual PD - left from LA on July 2, took a 17-hour plane ride, and disembarked in Guangzhou, China on July 4. The international date line is pretty silly, if you ask me. It does things to your brain. From there, we got a plane to Xi'an, which was where our global partner met us. I'm not allowed to give much information about said partner, owing to the security of their position in China, but they do summer camps. For Chinese people.

The first camp was for high school students, most of whom were about my age. We had awesome fun. I was the assistant coach for a life group of 11 students, all of whom became very good friends. It's amazing how you can make friends even when you can hardly speak to the people who are with you. The kids at this camp had taken very little English, just what was offered in their rural high schools, so it was difficult to communicate. But it is true that body language accounts for a whole lot of communication. Because, somehow, our life group still ended up with inside jokes that included myself and Drew, another of the GE people.

After that camp ended, we traveled a bit and ended up at a university campus, where we held Sunshine Camp. At this camp, most of us were only participants, which was interesting since they were all college students and studying crazy stuff like mechanical engineering and medicine. Kind of made me feel dumb. Anyway.

Sunshine was pretty much amazing. I formed so many awesome relationships with people there. Some of them I've already started emailing, because I miss them bunches, and obviously we've been apart sooo long. A whole five days. We might die.

We left Sunshine on the 23rd, and had a fun day in Xi'an the 24th. We went to see the terracotta warriors, which was pretty epic. I love history, and the warriors are definitely history. After we left the university at 4am on the morning of the 25th, we flew to Guangzhou and had a shopping trip. I bought the most beautiful dress, which I shall have to get a picture of myself wearing. :D

On the 26th, we departed at 9pm for Los Angeles, and arrived in LA on the 26th at 7pm. Don't ask how that's possible. All I know is that I was forced to relive two hours of my life. :P Not really. But it was pretty awesome, feeling like we'd traveled in time. Am I nerd? Oh yes. Do I love it? You bet.

So this post is far from insightful. Over the next few days, I'll post more of my deep thoughts about what I encountered on the trip. For now, be content with this. Maybe. Pictures will come shortly.