Spring Has Arrived in Changchun
The winter hibernation is over. There are many things to share from the last few months. But I want to share something that just happened this past weekend that gave me one of those feel good moments. When you are used to seeing something so often, you sometimes lose perspective how meaningful and important this something is to you. This is one of the things I faced when I came to China. I am happy to say I found what I was looking for this past weekend. The story is real, the people are real… (always wanted to say that)
The plan was to visit the Jilin Province Library on Sunday (5/28). According to Tai this expansive multi-story building has some wonderful architectural features. I asked her if they had any books in English and she just laughed and said you are in China, only Chinese books. However, those plans changed the day before we were to go to the library.
On Saturday (5/27) there was no way I would have predicted this; Tai asked me if I wanted to go to Church on Sunday or to the library? Yep, that caught me off guard. Then I wondered what she meant by church. After all, churches as we know them back home are not the norm here. But there are a few around. The Internet gives a very limited list of Christian Churches in Changchun or most of China for that matter. It appears it only lists the larger and higher profile churches. These are the ones that adhere to the strict regulations set by the China Government. Those high profile churches are inhibited however because they have to be careful of what is actually taught/preached. What you will not find listed through an Internet search are the Christian home churches (kind of an underground church). They are popular throughout China but considered illegal. Depending on your location the persecution can be extreme. So my questioning what she meant by church could be the government control Christian Church, the secret home church, or a Christian Church (usually small) somewhere in-between that tends to operate without much interference.
I wanted to attend a Christian Church and my curiosity was urging me, as well, to check out this church. Sunday morning we set out around 9am. I had no idea what to expect. Many churches met in old office buildings with little resemblance of a church environment. Usually, there was only a small sign signifying a church was there. The people met where they could and many times old buildings/offices came at little or no costs. It was the fellowship that mattered. I was not concerned about the location, I was desiring to connect with like minded believers. Even if we did not speak the same language.
As we made it to the street, Tai pulls out a paper and I can tell right off it was directions (the hand drawn map gave it away; I can’t read Chinese) What I found interesting was these directions were not in Tai’s handwriting, which meant she had talk with someone about looking for a church to get directions. I thought about how she sees me everyday open my laptop and Bible and start studying the Word of God. I listen/watch teachings online, read, and pray/meditate and even talk aloud to myself as I spend a couple hours each morning with God. Most of the time I suspected Tai didn’t pay attention or wasn’t fully aware what I was doing.
The idea that Tai was discussing my faith or inquiring about Christian Churches is a significant step forward in her own changing faith (while she might not realize it now). God is bringing blessings upon this home and family. But there is something that makes this even more interesting. Friday, the day before Tai posed the option of going to a church, I was studying 2 Timothy, chapter 2. This study convicted me and I realized my need to step out in faith on what God has led me to China besides being with Tai. . As a Christian I needed to be involved in sharing the gospel with others. In this case the Chinese, who might not know God. Intellectually, I knew this, but for whatever reason (fear, doubt, language, persecution, etc) was holding me back. So, I prayed and started once again searching for churches or some kind of connection with a Christian fellowship. I knew God was putting me through trials already. Patience as a prime example of a trial He has me dealing with right now. I am in a foreign country/culture, a major language barrier, a relationship where there are misunderstandings at times because of translation errors, and the Internet that is always disconnecting and making it difficult to get on many websites and Facebook at times. So for me this became a complete letting go and letting God scenario. Putting my trust in God to find a church home here. Then on Saturday, out
of the blue, (Tai and I have never discussed going to church) Tai brings up the suggestion of going to church. Not weeks in the future or the possibility of going someday. But going the very next day. That is worthy of giving the Lord praise wouldn’t you agree?
The church was about a mile walk from home by my estimate. Approaching, we could see the large red cross atop the building with no fear of hiding. It is a nice looking church that’s four stories with the sanctuary on the second floor. When we arrived everything appeared quite with no service in process. There were some people on the main floor in an open room and it appeared they were doing some sort of exercise program. A nice woman greeted us in the vestibule. She took us to the second floor and allowed me to take pictures of the sanctuary. The woman told us they provided headsets that provided translation into English. This is definitely sounding good. I also took that as there must be English speaking people that worship here. We found out there are services several times a week with the pastor(s) speaking throughout the day. We are going back on Thursday. On Saturday I believe the pastor is there all day as well. China does not treat Sundays like we do. Sunday here is just another day of the week. No special recognition. I forgot to see if they had any kind of church program with the times of services.
Walking home I felt an excitement I had not felt for a while. Tai’s curiosity got her questioning some things. She wanted to know why would God allow her to have a big scar on her neck from a thyroidectomy or me needing to have heart surgery or illnesses people suffer? She does not understand what sin is at this point or Adam’s fall in the Garden and how, because of this, we were born into a sin nature, bad things will happen. That is a very simplified version. She has so much to learn and hopefully this church will be good (no language barriers) in helping her understand. God once again has blessed me… Us. Another prayer answered. That is my major news I wanted to share with everyone. God does and will move in our lives when we stop trying to do it ourselves.
I have many things to write about since I have been silent for about 4 months. I have updates on my length of stay here, my relationship with Tai, health, life as I experience it here, and much more. We had a fire in the kitchen, complete burn out of our fuse box due to an outlet that kind of exploded in the bathroom. I believe you will find it interesting the cost of things here as in repairs, transportation, medication and such. I have new updates on street vendors with some videos. I am adding a bunch of photos to our galleries. We visited one of the largest Buddhist Temples in Northern China, which is in Changchun. We have been to several parks and taking some nice evening walks. The unique night life here with food and entertainment along the streets, breathe life into the night air with live Chinese music, singing, and dance. There are multifarious activity and meals being cooked on the streets, colorful lights/decorations all which make the night an exciting time to intermingle with the locals. This is Chinese life away from the limelight of the big cities or the popular vacation stops. I hope to share this culture from a perspective of being in the midst of an alive city of hardworking, but relatively poor people who have needed to adapt to a lifestyle you rarely see written about publicly. I feel safe here walking the streets, even after dark. I can’t say that for many places (cities) in America (Měiguó). I know since I’ve been here my perspective of the Chinese people has changed.
You will start seeing regular updates each month (2-3 updates at least). We have many upcoming day trips planned to the Sculpture Museum, Changchun Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Jilin Museum and more. After the Jilin Province Library we are going to the Jingyuetan Natural Forest Park just outside of the city which I am looking forward to visiting. We are planning trips to the Summer Palace in Beijing, to see the Landscapes in Guilin, visit the water town of Zhouzhuang and Suzhou near Shanghai, to walk a portion of the Great Wall, and visit Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (inspiration for the movie Avatar). These are some of the places on our bucket list to visit in the next year or two. There are endless places to see and deciding what to see and when to see depends on dollars and time of year, weather wise.
I am going to wrap it up folks. If you ever want to ask a question please do. I don’t get to use my English much here except when I talk to myself mostly. Until next time Zàijiàn (Goodbye)