سلام لكم في هذا اليومThere'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, "Um...it 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