Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chapter 9: Sorry I Have Not Kept Up and and Update

Hello Everyone!

First, I am sorry I have not blogged in the last month and a half. I can't even believe it has been that long. In some ways, I feel like I stepped into a time machine and in some ways I feel like I have been here forever. The weeks are going quickly but the days are long. It is quite an interesting combination.

I feel like I have grown so much since my first month here. It was easy to write of comical novelties the first month. Everything was new and I had to laugh so I didn't cry. The second month, I was taken aback by the life He was revealing that He had prepared for me here. Friends and my fellowship filled the evenings and weekends; dinner out on Tuesdays, Ladies’ Word Study on Thursdays, Small Group on Fridays, Lunch on Sundays. I began contemplating SERVICE. Lots of laughter, lots of blessings. 

The third month... has been filled with real life. Stress about too much work and not enough time to complete the work, occasional overextension in Fellowship activities, no shortage in Divinely sent friends, sponsoring a student club, and SERVICE opportunities to work with teens, women, AND orphans popped up—all three passions I have had for some time. I had to start deciding how to spend my time wisely because I actually had stuff to do- more often than I could say yes.

Then the occasional “I NEED TO SEE MY BABIES!!!” (My nephews) where I would go crazy, missing them and my other family. Those moments were fewer and further between in the second month.

Well now, I have two amazing couples who I am friends with. Of course I am closest with the wives but their husbands have become important friends in my life too. They have also filled the need I have over here for a male presence. Someone to carry my heavy bags when shopping and to change my light bulb in the ceiling. J And of course to be the same despite my emotional turbulence at times. But on a more serious note, Christina and Mike AND Sonda and Jeff have made my life here enjoyable, not just tolerable. I love them dearly and am so glad that I was brought to China if for no other reason to gain these friends.

I have much to say and will say it soon. Although, most of it would be better suited to share when I get home over Christmas. I will be sharing my testimony and about what is happening in the places I have traveled at CRBC-CR in Dec. and at the high school EDGE Club where I taught the past three years in Jan.

I will be home on Dec. 17th!!!!!



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chapter 8: (Part 2) The second site

Day 1, Site 2
Mostly excerpted from my journal

This afternoon, I fell in love with the children here. We visited Samuel’s School, a Christian day school for children to attend when they are not in regular school (They have half days of school. Half of the kids go in the morning and half go in the afternoon).  We did two dramas, Joshua and the Battle of Jericho—very interactive and great fun and we did Zacheus again. Kristen taught them two songs which corresponded to the stories.

Our team and ministry partners then went to the upper room[1]. There, we discussed the ministry needs in Cambodia[2]. We took communion and prayed together in a circle. We then prayer walked through a slum site that was moved into an alley because their first two neighborhoods (slum/dump sites) were flooded. They were forced out of their homes twice this season due to the immense flooding.

The moment I walked into the alley, the children grabbed onto me. They would not let me go. They hugged my legs, squeezed me, and wanted to be held… all at the same time! They wanted hugs and kisses and to have their pictures taken. They wanted to know Jesus; I know it. They are children of light.

I fell in love with these children. Their eyes are so inviting. They just want love and attention. I have a desire to build a school here, another school, an orphanage perhaps. I want to educate the women and children, to teach them literacy and help them learn skills, and their value in Christ, to see The Kingdom expand. The harvest is so ripe and this place feels so right. There is so much work to be done and the people are so receptive. The soil is fertile.

I now understand “Matthew 18:2-4” in a new light.

“2And [Jesus] calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I used to think that this just meant we needed to have blind faith like children, faith that they will be taken care of and will believe anything, but after this experience, I realize that it means so much more.

The people there, especially the women and children, are so humble that they will accept any gift offered to them. They will also ask if they see someone who looks like they have something to give. The spirit with which they do this is not like other spirits I have encountered, demanding and ungrateful spirits, but one of desperate hope. They are humble like children, naked and less ashamed than the rest of us. They know they are needy and in need of help. I understand now that this is how we all must be in order to have a relationship with the Father. That is why it is so hard for the rich to inherit the Kingdom. What have we really to ask for?

[1] Note that the upper room was literally the only room upstairs. I LOVE the biblical allusion.
[2] Cambodia is an OPEN field.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chapter 8: (Part 2) Day 1 The first slum

Day 1
The first slum

As we drove up to the dumpsite— the dump that people build their homes upon so they could make use of the disposed of materials— the children were sitting under a tent in chairs, anxiously awaiting our arrival. When we got out of the van, I smiled. My eyes locked with a little girl of about eight years. She was wearing a blue dress uniform for school and kept smiling at me. She was beautiful.

We played games with the children using balls and hula-hoops. Mike did a fantastic job leading games. He really has a gift for children. Actually, he WAS a gift to the children- and us all.

Before we played, we handed out bread and water. They were all so grateful and humble. There was a little boy with burns on one side of his face, arm, and hand. The whole morning, he just wanted to be held. He had such a lively spirit. He loved having pictures taken of him and constantly wanted to look at the pictures on the camera. Each picture resulted in a joyous my-heart-skipped-a-beat bout of laughter from him.

After games, we told the children a bible story. I narrated the story of Zacheus and Jesus, and it was translated by Radu (sp?). Mike acted out the part of Zacheus in hilarious fashion, making very animated facial gestures and body motions while using a pole and a fence as the tree.

Then, it was time for prayer. Kristen, our leader, asked if we could walk around the village and pray God’s blessing on the homes and the families. The people were so receptive. The little girl, the first one I saw who locked eyes with me, with an amazing smile, grabbed me by the right hand and a little boy grabbed my left hand. They dragged me to their homes, giggling the whole way. Without words, they introduced me to their parents and excitedly pointed to where they slept with humble pride, mostly wooden floors. Their parents let me pray with them. In most cases, I held the hands of the adults as I prayed. One of Pastor Narin’s staff, a young Cambodian man, walked with me and loosely translated enough for me to have permission to pray with the adults. He was with us all morning and until our prayer walk at the end, I didn’t realize he was on our team. Treasures are often at first unseen.

One woman wanted me to pray for healing for her. She had been sick for a while with a temperature. I could see the desperate hope in her eyes as she reached her hands out to me from her window. I climbed the little wooden ladder and cupped her hands into mine and prayed for spiritual, emotional, and physical healing and provision. I prayed that she would receive the truth into her heart and mind and that evil darkness would flee from her whole household.

I tried to pass some people by because it was time to meet at the van; I told myself that one of my teammates probably already prayed for them, but the Hoy Spirit just wouldn’t let me go-- And I’m so glad He didn’t! I smiled at my personal translator friend, said “just one more!” and enthusiastically ran back to the women I had passed by. He spoke to them and gave the “No problem” thumbs up. Then, the most obscure thing occurred. An older woman with whom I had already prayed, walked up to me and the ladies I was praying with and knelt down before us on the ground. I layed my hands on her as I finished praying. I had the most peculiar feeling about her. Either she already knew Jesus or she wanted to know Him. So I had my translator friend ask her if she knew Jesus. He told me that she was a Christian! How amazing. She wanted to pray for the people with me. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be one of only a handful of believers around. I motioned to her that she needed to pray for everyone when we are gone and she nodded in agreement.

Her embrace was so peaceful once I finally better understood her perspective. She had smiled the whole time. She couldn’t tell us she was a believer because of the language barrier. At last, I recognized the unique light in her eyes.

Cambodia Part III- Coming Soon

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chapter 8: (Part 1) We're Going to Cambodia, See ya! See ya!

Part I. “We’re going to Cambodia, See ya! See ya!”

“We’re going to Cambodia… See ya! See ya!” Sang Ian, a full grown man with a wife and children, incorporating full hand and leg motions with his song as we waited for our taxi to head to the Hong Kong Airport. It was a welcome and humorous moment after the devil launched his first obvious attack on my spirit… I had decided to go to the bathroom while my team waited for everyone to gather, and upon returning to the meeting site a few minutes later, I found myself alone. Our team was supposed to meet after fellowship outside of the meeting hall and during the three minutes I was away, they had already gone on to the second meeting place, a home in an unknown location, unknown to me anyway. Being completely new to the hemisphere, and in a pre-prayered spiritual and emotional condition, my blood started to boil a bit and I felt like the trip was already starting to weigh me down with resentment. I was so angry I wanted to cry.

Shortly thereafter, following a series of uninteresting events, we reconnected and I had to let it go, as others did not appear to see it as I did. I recognized it for the spiritual attack that it was, prayed through it, and moved on.

The two-hour flight from Hong Kong to Vietnam was a blast. Christina and I bonded considerably as we sat next to each other. Her husband Michael was hilarious. He kept us laughing the entire time. I haven’t laughed so hard since I was home with my sister and mom. In fact, they are the only people I can usually laugh with until it hurts and I’m breathless.

We stayed in a nice hotel in Vietnam. Considering the shady looking neighborhood, it was a very nice hotel. The next day, while we waited for our taxis to take us to the bus station to head to Cambodia, we decided to take a tour throughout the city.  We each climbed onto a small carriage that was connected to a bicycle. We were pushed by the bicycle, sort of. I’ll post pictures. We were taken all throughout the city and it was an experience like none other. They took us to a memorial for the Vietnam War.

I never knew much about the Vietnam War besides the resulting PTSD and prostitution among some American soldiers and some Vietnamese women.

At first, I thought the Air Craft left behind by the United States was cool, that is until I stepped behind a wall into the prison remnants. I immediately saw a tiger cage made of twisted barbed wire, approximately 14 inches tall, 16 inches deep, and 36 inches long. It was a cage that the American Soldiers kept the Vietnamese prisoners in. They could only hunch over. There was not even enough room for them to sit upright. My flesh and bones ached for their flesh and bones.

Then, I saw a prison room. It was a small, dirty, room with a small peep-hole for soldiers on the outside to look through. When I looked in, I screamed and jumped back. There was a life-like replica of a prisoner sitting up on the bed. There was writing all over the walls. I wish I had been able to understand it.

I spent the rest of my time there reading the plaque on the wall that described the many torture techniques that the American Soldiers used on the Vietnamese. My heart broke. I know there is more to war than meets the eye. I also believe that there is a time for war, but there is never an excuse to torment people, ever.

When we got back from the tour, we all agreed that the trip was totally worth it even though the tour guides tried to double the price and rip us off… they tried to tell us that the price they quoted at first was only the price to get us there, not to bring us back too!... ::sigh:: the life of a foreigner.

Part II: Cambodia--Coming Soon

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chapter 7: Lift Up Your Hands

Chapter 7: Lift Up Your Hands

Tonight my friend and I got manicures and pedicures. She took me across the city to a nice little place she frequents and we laughed as the Pedicurist worked vigorously at our feet, mostly mine. It was a relaxing affair… until the nail polish dried.

You see, once the nail polish dried, it was time to leave that little piece of heaven where were pampered on plush red couches.

We left and after she helped me figure out which bus to get on, she went off to take the metro home.

I went after the bus. I saw it, but I wasn’t quite there, so I ran… sort of… in my sandals and got there just in time to watch it drive away. So I waited and waited and waited. At last, another bus with the same number came. When I got on the lady didn’t charge me because when I said “To Wal-Mart,” she knew I was on the wrong bus. She told me which bus to get on by scribbling the bus number on a sheet of paper and told me to get off and catch it at the next stop. I thought she was pointing across the street.

So I got off and went across the street and got on that bus number. Across the street, the buses go in the opposite direction. On that bus, after saying “Wal-Mart” in every way I could think of, “Wa Er Mar,” “Wearmar,” “Wal-Mart”… the driver just said “no” and shoed me off the bus. At that point I was starting to get anxious.

I went back across the street and caught the same bus number, but going in the opposite direction, the original direction. The lady working the tickets got a young girl to tell me as best she could in broken but respectable English that I needed to get off at the stop I was instructed and take bus 22 in order to get to Wal-Mart. The reason I wanted to go to Wal-Mart was simply because I forgot the little card at home that tells me which bus to take to get home and Wal-Mart is close enough to home that I can walk.

We drove down a dark remote road and they told me to get off. I was expecting a bus stop with the bright lights and signs that have at least the name of the current location in English, a sidewalk to stand on, and a covering to stand under. No, not this place. There was a sign, no larger than a street sign sticking out of some bushes. There was no quality lighting and I’m almost certain there was prostitution right across the street. Then I saw bus 22 coming. I got on and the bus driver signaled that I didn’t need to pay. I felt hope. He didn’t speak English, but he had a caring face. He smiled. He tried to ask questions, but we didn’t understand much of each other. I pulled out one of the cards that gave a location I am at least familiar with and showed it to him. I didn’t have any luck with the previous bus drivers when I said “Sea World or Wal-Mart… I don’t care which.” Sea World is the name of a part of the city that is well lit, has many restaurants, lots of people, and I know which bus to take to get home from that spot. He smiled and drove. I could tell we were close. The bright colorful lights that fill the streets began to fill my sight. I saw the big lit up boat, which by the way is why they call it Sea World. There is no sea. There is a boat affixed to land. That makes it… Sea World.

We were at Sea World. Well, we were almost there. We were on a remote street on the other side of Sea World, the side I’d never seen. The side I didn’t know existed. I could see the lively streets, over a huge dark, pit where construction was occurring. Then, he stopped. He gestured for me to get off. My heart sank. I signaled one more time just to make sure he meant for me to get off. He pointed to the big boat that symbolized Sea World and gestured for me to follow the winding road. So, hesitantly, I got off, with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

He did a U-turn with the bus and went back. I was on a lonely street with no bus stop in sight at 10:00 PM. No one except for the occasional man on a bicycle peddling along the sidewalk or a small group of men meandering down the way were present. I didn’t know which way to turn. I looked up one end of the street and it wound around a corner, a relatively dark corner, and the other end did the same. Then I looked a third direction. It had no light at all.

I started walking up the street, the most well lit street. I quickly realized that only way to get to the “safe” part of town in my mind was to cross an abandoned, dark, muddy, rocky, desolate construction site that happened to have one or two men inhabiting, or to walk through a dark abandoned overpass—or I could see what was around the dark stretches of road beyond the high rise buildings under construction. I walked back and forth, crying. Looking for some other route, trying desperately to not get out of the lit spot I was in. A few cars passed. I crossed the street. I went forward down the winding road a few feet and then I came back. At last, I stopped, cried, looked at the part of town I needed to get to, remembered a quote my aunt put on Facebook this morning and followed its directions.

When all seems lost and you feel like giving up then you need to Reach up as far as you can and God will reach down the rest of the way~”

so I literally looked up, put my hands in the air, said God I need you to send help because I can’t do this. I’m stuck.

I turned around and whizzing down the street was a taxi. I didn’t even have to flag him down. I just walked towards the street and he pulled over. It was like a scene from a movie. He had a gentle face as well. He didn’t speak English but he understood Wal-Mart and to Wal-Mart we went. At last, I was home.

The greatest sound of my day came from the beep of the electronic keypad as I opened the door to my building. God is good, all the time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chapter 6: My Father is Completely Awesome

My Father is completely awesome. I don’t quite know how I got where I am, but I’m glad I’m here… today.

Approximately twenty-three hours and fifteen minutes ago, I had a melt down. My plans to visit friends in Thailand over my vacation in two weeks fell through. I was missing home desperately, and I felt lonely. I felt an intense dislike for where I am. Leading up to that, I went to the Chinese Wal-Mart to purchase some much needed items for the apartment, like a vacuum cleaner to battle the ghost of the previous tenants’ cat, pots and pans with handles that don’t melt while I’m cooking, and shoes that actually fit and won’t get me kicked out of work for dressing like I’m just taking out the trash or bumming around the house. I was on a time crunch because the women’s group at the fellowship I attend was having a function to kick off the new season, but I was feeling adventurous.

For some reason, I can’t seem to enter the Wal-Mart at the entrance I want. My plan was to get my groceries, which are in the lower level and then take the flat escalator to the upper level for everything else. I tried to squeeze through to do this but the lady at the door kept pointing me to the other door. That door happened to be the exit. No offense intended, I’m sure…

So, I caved. I went up the escalator first and shopped for the household items; this would make sense to a normal person, but I don’t much enjoy being downstairs because of the unpleasant aroma of the live fish and reptiles they sell in the grocery section.

On to the shoes--
I’ve done this before. I’ve looked for shoes in this Wal-Mart before. I found only incredibly casual rubber sandals that partially fit my feet. My feet aren’t THAT big. Size 41 maybe? Just try one more time. Oh look, men’s shoes. Perhaps I should just buy men’s shoes. It would be easier to find my shoe size over there. Size 41 shoe or men’s shoes. How’s that for self-image? No no no these are all clearly men’s shoes.

So, I found some incredibly casual shoes that are not sandals. I’m still not sure if they are for men or women, but by this part of the shopping trip, my mindset about shoes had changed.

If they fit, buy them. End of story.

So, I did.

Fast-forward to this morning. I’m walking from the bus stop to the fellowship. Suddenly there are three 20 something Chinese guys about thirty feet in front of me, perpendicular. They are looking at me and still walking. One of them is smiling. As a blond American, I have become accustomed to being stared at, smiled at, in normal curious ways and sometimes creepy ways. This was neither. They approached me and asked if I was going to fellowship and pointed in its direction. I hesitantly said yes-- and then, we were walking there, sort of together—on my end-- sort of hesitantly. Then I asked if they were going also, just to clear things up. They said "Yes." We chatted on the way and then the main speaker looked down at my feet, smiled, and said “Beijing Style.” I said, “No, Wal-Mart. They don’t make women’s shoes big enough in this country for my feet.”

After researching, by prodding the brain of my friends at lunch later that day, I learned that in Beijing, the women wear over casual house shoes around the city. It’s known as “Beijing Style.” Perfect. Just what I was going for.

Rewind. I spent what felt like a couple of hours in Wal-Mart, trying to get things I needed, and anxiously ducking the salespeople who kept trying to sell me things using their Chinese. Like I really need help spending my money at Wal-Mart. LEAVE ME ALONE! Of course I just smiled and quickly walked away. I watched them closely so I could sneak down an aisle to see what I wanted to buy without feeling stalked. Ironic.

By the time I got home, I was exhausted. Emotionally spent. Physically spent. Financially spent. I opened one of my packages to find the pot came with a broken lid. I looked at the clock and it was well after 7:00. The function started at 7:00. I had this “Everybody hates me” feeling which we call a flare up of codependency, hormones, and loneliness--then I cried my eyes out. I missed home. I wanted to be there for my nephew’s birthday party and I hated being where I was. I didn’t want to go to the function, especially since I was very late.

Quite literally, with tears in my eyes, I got changed and dragged myself there anyway. It was amazing. The women were amazing. The laughter was amazing. The deserts were amazing. By the time I got home, I was smiling—but I was tired.

So, when I woke up this morning, I didn’t want to go to fellowship, but I did. I was late. I didn’t leave my apartment to get on the bus until 10:10 and it starts at 10:00. I didn’t feel like singing, so I didn’t feel bad about being late. I got there. It was packed. Until they dismissed the children, I didn’t have a seat. The teaching was amazing. It’s not always that great because there isn’t a trained person up there; A handful of men take turns teaching, but this- this was amazing. And just when I realized that I was glad I was there, it got more amazing. One of the women told us about a trip to Cambodia they are going on in two weeks. They will be working with people living in the slums. They were asking for support of various kinds.

It hit me as soon as she started talking. Wow, I want to go. Wow, I can go. My plans were cancelled. I have that week off of work. I can afford the expense. I’m looking for travel plans to engage in that week but I don’t know anyone to travel with. This seems perfect.

So I approached her about it. We chatted. We emailed. I spoke to the Father and at this point, unless He shows me otherwise, I’m going. I’m so excited. I feel like I am just being given so many amazing opportunities.

It gets so hard being away from family and friends, but the Father just keeps reminding me that it’s all good. He knows what He is doing. He knows why I’m here. He knows what to whisper in my heart to get me to drag myself across town when I’d rather hide in my 13th floor, too secure for a friend to drop in, apartment.

When I asked Him to give me a heart for the people He wanted me to serve earlier this year, I expected Him to do it before He sent me to them, but it seems He’s giving me a heart by breaking it in there presence.

My Father is awesome.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chapter 5: So, what's the difference anyway?

The differences between the United States and PRC

1. In the United States, most families have at least one car for every adult.

In the PRC, people ride bikes, walk, or take public transportation. Mostly only wealthier people have cars.

2. In the United States, people go grocery shopping only once per month and stock the food pantry, every shelf, the fridge and the extra freezer beyond capacity.

In the PRC, people go to the market every few days because they Have to carry the groceries home, there are no food pantries, and the only shelving is the extra shelving you buy and keep in the hallway.

3. In the United States, laundry is placed in the dryer after it is washed, which is generally located in a separate laundry room.

In the PRC, laundry dries by hanging around the house or on the balcony—if you have a balcony. Or if you have a dryer, it’s sitting on a small table outside on the balcony—shaking.

4. In the United States, it often seems anyone can come into the country legally or illegally and enjoy most citizen privileges.

In the PRC, it’s hard to enter the country if you have a legitimate purpose and legal entry documents, and even then, you must pass a police interview.

5. In the United States, people buy bottled water because it tastes better.

In the PRC, people buy huge jugs of water so they don’t get sick.

6. In the United States, government funding for abortion is debated and in some places abortion is illegal. Having children results in a tax break.

In the PRC, illegal pregnancies may require abortions and illegal births often result in high fines.

7. In the United States, people buy their fish prepackaged from a butcher.

In the PRC, people buy their fish live from a big fish tank in the grocery section.

8. In the United States, turtles are pets.

In the PRC, turtles are sold live at Wal-Mart in the grocery section.

9. In the United States, many DVD players will not                play pirated movies.

In the PRC, most DVD players only play pirated movies.

10. In the United States, my friends and family miss me.

In the PRC, I miss my friends and my family even more!