I have been working in China since September. I returned to the US at the end of October to run in a couple races. I returned to the US again in late December to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. I will return to the US again at the end of January and currently have no solid plans for future trips to China. Including two previous trips in the spring and summer of 2010, I have spent a total of about 15 weeks in China so far. Spending so much time away from home has been a challenge but what a blessing it has been to have such extensive exposure to another culture. Most of my time here has been spent working in Weifang but I have also been fortunate to do some sightseeing in Beijing, Shanghai, Jinan, and even Hong Kong.
Maintaining a relationship with Christ can be challenging in the hustle and bustle of everyday life no matter where you are. Being in China has compounded the challenge because of the isolation from fellow Christians. Fortunately I am able to access Northview sermons through the internet. I stay connected with my life group through email. I can also access Christian radio through the internet and being in China is no excuse for not reading my Bible every day. These things are all good, but they don’t adequately replace face to face fellowship with other Christians.
Finding opportunities to serve has been difficult and the language barrier makes witnessing a challenge but then witnessing has never been a strong point for me. For Christmas I did manage to put together gift bags for all the workers at the factory where I work. Each bag contained some cookies and candy along with a piece of paper wishing a Merry Christmas with Luke 2:11 in Chinese and English.
During the Christmas break I read the book “365 Thank Yous”. It’s a story of a man who turns his life around by each day finding something for which he is grateful and sending a hand written thank you note to someone. I decided to work on improving my own attitude of gratitude. I would try to start each day by having my first waking thought be “thank you God” and then through the rest of the day finding reasons to be thankful for everything even for things that didn’t on the surface appear to be good things.
On my way back to China after New Year’s I was informed that the usual hotel where I stay would not have a room for me until January 10th. The new hotel did not have English speaking staff. For the first day I couldn’t connect to the internet. For the first two days I didn’t have any hot water in my shower. The room is tiny and there is no place to put my clothes. There are no English movie channels on the TV. Ok, if this business of finding reasons to be grateful were easy then it wouldn’t be such a good opportunity for growth. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn more Chinese, thankful for finally finding and being able to decipher the Chinese instructions to access the internet, thankful that this hotel is closer to a restaurant and grocery store I frequently visit, thankful for more time to read and write since I won’t be watching movies. Finally I am thankful for the refreshing, clean, running water in the shower.