Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Final Four

Hello dear friends!  So sorry it's taken awhile to post a new entry.  We have been RUNNING, teaching every day and then back to the room to prep for the next day and new opportunities that opened up.  Thank you to those who've been praying for strength - we have desperately needed to depend on the Lord!

Sunday was one of those great opportunities that we did not know about until we got here!  We got to teach for a group of preschool principals, which is a BIG thing here.  A million thanks to my friends Carol VanHorn and Marguerite Katcho who sent FAST emails to help with this time of teaching - you got to minister in China from stateside!  There were both believers and non-believers there but we shared freely about reaching your students, parents, and community for Christ.  They loved the community outreach ideas I shared from Gateway!  At the retreat we had done the day before, in my small group of 10 moms, three of them had come to Christ through the ministry of these schools!  INSPIRING!!!  Again, we came away feeling like we learned more than we taught! 

Then my neighbors from Happy Valley (moved in a week before I got the China "assignment"), James and Hong Tao, who still live in Beijing most of the time, came and picked me and Peggy up for a DELIGHTFUL time!  They showed us their apartment, then we walked to a hutong, an area of OLD TOWN China, very poor inner city area.  Then they took us for a traditional Peking Duck dinner, and we shared the most amazing conversations about the Lord! 
Monday we didn't teach until the evening, so we grabbed a driver and went to see the Great Wall.  It really is quite incredible.  The steps were huge, quite tall, you had to grab the handrail to pull yourself up.  We ALMOST made it to the top, but our legs were jello and we were dripping so we headed back down!  The next day, oh my, we discovered pains in muscles we didn't know we had!

That evening we shared with another group of young people hungry to know more about their Savior and committed to sharing their faith.  Their support of each other is tremendous to observe - we could learn a lot!

Tuesday is another one of those days I'll never forget.  13 sisters gathered at a house out of town, under the leadership of Ma Wei, a sweet tender-hearted servant.  I got to teach again on parenting, and again almost every woman wept as we spoke of healing and forgiveness and breaking the legacy of abuse that has gone on in so many of their families for generations.  It was a POWERFUL, Spirit-led time, and they hugged us and wept as we left, asking us to please come back, and MY instructions were to bring my daughters with me!  I loved what one of the women said - "The men who come to China teach us theology, but you teach us with your stories."  Stories have been what God has been using to cause walls to crumble and to bring healing.  Oh praise you, Father!
And everywhere you go, they feed you the most amazing food, and tons of it!  They eat so much more than any of us - and they're skinny!  Ma Wei's lunch was incredible - except I ate some pods that I wasn't supposed to (you should have seen their faces when they saw what I'd done, telling looks like "oh dear, gonna be trouble in River City), thus I am home tonight while the other 3 are out teaching, PRAYING I'll be better by the time I board the plane tomorrow!

Then today, my last full day here, an exciting opportunity opened up!  We were picked up by a petroleum company van and driven 2 hours to Tianjin, where Peggy and I got to teach a group of mostly non-believer business men and women, 30 or so wonderful souls!  The president of Anadarko is a committed believer and wanted us to share biblical principles with his staff.  So we sat with our laptops bouncing around in the van, turning our talks (hers on balance and mine on parenting) into Power Point presentations that we prayed would be bold but not offensive.  "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" has been my song all 2 weeks!  Our teaching seemed very well received, and one young man at the end said, "I think this all comes from God!"  PRAY with us for the believers amongst then to have opportunity and boldness to follow up with their co-workers.  They also asked us to please come back.

It will be hard to leave here in a few short hours.  The people here have an openness and hunger that I PRAY our country recaptures.  Their passion for sharing the Good News is inspiring and so refreshing.  I asked my friend Steve, who has been serving with Muslims overseas for decades, "how do I go back home after this?"  He answered, "You go back home and share the vision, then you come back and bring with you someone to train."  Get ready, friends, here I come!

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or think, to Him be the glory and honor both now and forever!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Retreat to Remember

Friday and Saturday we taught at the first ever women's retreat in Beijing.  What an amazing time!  We boarded a bus Friday afternoon and headed for our destinaton.  Spirits were high, as these sweet women rarely have a break from family pressures.

Rather than me trying to explain the retreat, I am going to share an email sent by Yolanda, the sister in the yellow jacket standing in the above bus picture.

Thanks for your coming to China with others sisters. you are so brilliant!!!

This re-treat meeting is so wonderful that every sister who had fulfilled by the abundant love of God. this is what we need now...thanks god for touching your sisters' heart to organize re-treat for Chinese sisters. whatever single sisters, married sisters, servant leaders in church who their need during the meeting.....the biggest blessing is three non-believers have decided being a christian. can we have better news than this?

Thanks for you provide the platform in which we can share love, testimony and even tears together...that's why sisters were exciting to talk till 4:00am: ) god is listening our prayer, you and sisters are angels to comforts us via the love of god...

Thanks for your great organization...children have volunteers to be taken care so that mom sisters could focus on the words of god, all speakers are wonderful and their speeching are meaningful and profound...

The last but not the least, we hope to have the re-treat meeting will be held regular, at least once a year:) ...thanks for the sponsorship by the brothers and sisters who are in American...we love them and hope to see them one day.

May god richly bless you and sisters forever,

Did you catch that 3 new sisters part?  Several wonderful friends from back home donatd money so that more women cold attend the retreat,  Many were believers who had unbelieving husbands who said "Yes you can go but you can't have any money."  Then there was a teacher from the local college who invited 3 of her young students who had no money, AND ALL 3 RECEIVED THE LORD!  They looked so depressed at the beginning of the retreat, but look at their precious faces now!
THANK YOU, dear friends, for giving so generously.  Pretty amazing what God can do with our mustard seeds!

We asked at the end who felt led to take a leadership role in bringing women to Christ and discipling them, and 30 women responded!  When you ask ANY group of Chinese believers what they feel China's role is, they say without hesitation, "God will use China to tell the whole world about himself.  We will be the largest missionary force in world history."  They are an incredibly missional group of believers.

Another amazing experience.  I am exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.  KEEP PRAYING!  3 more days of teaching and sharing!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More exciting news!

We just returned from the 2 day retreat and I am exhausted!  But we have 3 new sisters and so many other great things to report!  More tomorrow - I've gotta prep for another teaching time in the morn.  So I just copied Peggy's blog on the subway adventure.  ENJOY!  More tomorrow!


 This photo does not do justice to the scene - a literal mass of humanity pushing forward as one both into and out of the train!  We divided into 2 small groups so as to keep any of us from being left behind!
My pitiful photography...trying to capture Hope and Lynne's eyes and the tops of many heads at the same time...we laughed and had the best time - I think entertaining those around us!  Must admit we're glad we don't get to work this way each day!!

Jim and Judy went with us to see a group of students and graduates (S2 group) - they train with heart and excellence!  Rebecca translated and she's wonderful!  Also, is a performer at the Upper Room Christian bistro.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Holy Ground

I've been sitting here for awhile just staring at my computer screen.  How on earth can I put into words what I experienced today.  I can't imagine anything that could ever top this.  Let me start at the beginning.

I'm so glad that I took a picture out my hotel window yesterday.  The pollution was SO bad, you could only see about a block away, and you really felt like you could chew the air.  When we left the house church at which we taught last evening, it was VERY windy, and when we woke up this morning, the wind had blown away much of the pollution!

We stepped out into fresh air and sunlight this morning, very appropriate, since we were about to see the Son more clearly than we had ever seen Him before.

We were not told much about where we were going, just what we would be teaching.  Peggy is such a great leader, she sent us out to share without her (didn't Jesus do that?), just had our Chinese interpreter / GPiH staff member Hope.  The taxi  kept driving and driving - we left the main part of the city and into the poor suburbs, the part that is the real China, not prettied up for the Olympics.  After getting lost in the maze of old apartment buildings and rubble, we finally exited the taxi and quickly moved towards a door.  There, a Chinese hand was extended in greeting and then firmly pulled us inside with a whisper, down some narrow stairs silently, and into a room packed with young people.  We were to spend the day teaching in an underground seminary!

The leaders of this seminary are a Korean couple who have been ministering in China for 15 years.  They are the most gentle, loving people I think I have ever met.  Every room of the apartment was jammed with beds and then a dining table in the middle.  17 of the students live with this family.  Down another flight is where they study and worship.  Have you ever worshipped with people who have given up everything and who know they could be arrested at any moment?  Joy unspeakable and full of glory!  There just aren't words.  To be on my knees in worship with these saints, to have them grab my hands and plead, "Pray for China!"  Why would they want ME to teach THEM!  I just wanted to sit at their feet and learn, to bring home a large dose of their sold-out faith.  Holy ground indeed.

Yet they loved our teaching and begged us to come back.  At lunch, I asked the pastor ( can't show a picture of him) what their greatest need is.  He said, "More leaders, and more teachers like you all who will come and share with us."  Seminaries like this are growing rapidly, and for safety, they split into smaller groups and spread out.  This one just split into 4.  Which means many more leaders are needed, and always more funding.
It was difficult to leave them, but part of what they kept celebrating in worship is heaven, the fact that we WOULD see them again, that people of every tongue and tribe and nation would be there. 

It was a day of experiencing, "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

We drove home in silence, moved and challenged by our brothers and sisters.  I pray it's a day I won't ever forget.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Amazing Grace

Oh my, what an incredible and humbling day!  We began our day by going to Jufang's apartment and teaching all day long with a group of mothers.  Jufang has such a story.  She began not long ago attending a house church, and they have now multiplied into 16 groups!  She leads women's growth groups for 6 of those churches.  Yes, the need for leaders is GREAT! 

And these precious women, they love the Lord so much and spend whole days together around the word, breaking bread and prayer.  Sound familiar?  It was so moving to me to get to share what God has taught me about being a parent, and as I shared my story, about half the room just wept.  I am pretty open about my biggest failures and how God forgave, healed, and brought beauty from ashes, and it is touching very deep chords here in China.  I joined in the crying as I was hit with the GOODNESS of God to use even our failures for His great glory - nothing is wasted, amen?  In His sovereignty, every experience we have prepares us for His future for us.  I think I'll go cry again.  Thank you Jesus!  There has been so much pain in these women's lives that stories of abuse and healing, breaking the chain of anger being passed from one generation to the next, and the fact that we can be open and honest with our failings AND feelings with each other hits very deeply everywhere we go. 

Then we ran back to the hotel, exhausted, with an hour and a half before going out again.  But His grace is sufficient - we were reenergized...for an ADVENTURE!  We took the SUBWAY, in BEIJING, in RUSH HOUR, and lived to tell the story!  I loved every minute of it!  And yes, they DO smash and push you in like sardines!  We were laughing and having fun with it, which made the Chinese people around us smile from ear to ear.  We wanted them to be free to push us like everyone else, and they did!  A true cultural experience!

We were headed to an S2 group, college grads ready to head into the world for jobs, and we did some teaching on dating, marriage, and sexual purity.  WELL received, and so delightful to see a new generation of brothers and sisters wanting to be very purposeful about obeying Christ in everything.
Gotta run for now.  Headed back to see Stephanie at the silk market - pray with us that she will receive Christ!  More later - LOVE YOU, and thank you for praying!

Monday, May 16, 2011

2 more days of blessing!

Sunday and Monday were two more days filled with amazing grace.  On Sunday, we met with members of a house church who had been there since early morning and then stayed with us all afternoon after our teaching, asking more questions!  All this in a culture where they work 12 hours a day 6 days a week.  These dear sisters and brothers LOVE Jesus and each other and have such a thirst to learn!  And they are incredibly open and honest, wanting to hide nothing.  I felt like I was in the church in Acts 1!

When we left there, we went back to our hotel and changed into cooler clothes (it has been 75 to 80 every day so far), then headed out on an adventure to the local Walmart!  This place was massive, and I don't believe I've seen dried duck, complete with intact head, at our Wallies back home!  But the real adventure is being a pedestrian  in Beijing - LOW on the food chain!  It gives new meaning to "pray without ceasing!"

Every morning, I wake up at 5am, "bright eyed and bushy tailed" as my mom used to say!  What a DELIGHT to have 2 hours every morning to pray and read and listen to the Lord's direction for the day.  Dear Lord, help me to continue that back home!  Well, this morning I really felt that we would have a chance to share Christ directly with Stephanie, the Chinese woman who makes our "wordless book" bracelets.  Peggy had shared with her before but she did not seem to respond.  So off we went to the Silk Market to see Stephanie right after breakfast.  We did get to share with her, and it turns out that the concept of Jesus and what the beads represented  was so foreign to her that she did not really understand when told verbally.  When we offered her the tract that goes with the bracelet, written in Chinese, she was delighted!!!  We will go back next week to see her again.  Pray with us that she will receive His offer of new life!

We then had lunch with Lydia (her Euro-name), who we had met at the Tea House teaching on Friday.  She is a fairly new believer who is just beginning to lead a bible study at her place of work.  We had a wonderful time encouraging this sweet sister and answering her questions about women's roles in the church.

Then we met with Sabina and Josh - what an amazing couple!  Peggy mentored Sabina a year ago on leading a women's study, and already Sabina has helped to mentor two other women who have now gone out into other cities to begin their own groups!  What is happening in Beijing is that the church is growing so fast that they rapidly outgrow their apartment space to meet in and have to split and form other churches!  Most of these churches do not have pastors, so several of the men have been called by God to be "traveling pastors", teaching at many churches and often in many cities.  That would be Josh. Don't you LONG for this kind of growth and this kind of "problem" in the U.S.?  Pretty amazing. 

I'd best stop for now.  We have 2 more groups to share teaching with tomorrow, and no  doubt a thousand more questions.  PRAISE GOD!  Lord, may we be so thirsty!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beijing Beginnings

Oh my, where do I start!  Today was amazing.  It began with a wedding celebration with a room full of Chinese Christians who totally exuded the JOY OF THE LORD!  Their faces are a marked contrast to the dour looks of most of the Chinese you see on the street and in the markets.  We sang Amazing Grace about 10 times - I think these brothers and sisters GET IT big time!!!

Then we grabbed a quick lunch (I can now eat with chopsticks!  I was so excited about that accomplishment that I forgot to stop eating when I got full - I just kept shoveling it in proudly!  Pride goeth before a REALLY full tummy - groan) and then walked to the Tea House, which is run by Christian women, with shelves of Bibles right in the main room!   This was a teaching time for believers from many different house churches in the area.  Peggy Sperling is my friend who invited me and is the Director of Women's Connections for Global Partners in Hope.  She is just amazing, and the love the Chinese women have for her is quite evident, as is her love for them.

Yesterday I heard that the expected number of women at this event was about 20, but by the time we got underway, there were about 50 women packed into every nook and cranny.  They were eager students of the Word!  Peggy taught a wonderful class on Women of the Bible and their personality styles - they had so much fun identifying themselves and finding out which of their sisters shared their style.

The teaching I gave was on Parenting God's Way.  MUCH prayer had gone into this because I know there is so much hurt involved in their past and a danger of opening deep wounds.  Many tears were shed as I shared stories of abuse and God's healing and challenged them to make God's Word the standard rather than their culture.  We talked about the gifts we can give our children, and one of those gifts is to honor and respect their husbands.  OH MY!  It appears that was a hot button issue too - divorce is rampant in China right now, and the idea of honoring your husband even when he "doesn't deserve it" was a new thought to many, and one that a few resisted.  But here's a fabulous thing:  these women want you to hit them between the eyes with the truth!  They are not offended or hurt, just challenged to take another step of obedience to the Father!  I am learning much from them already!

I could write so much more, but I'd best head for bed.  THANK YOU to those who have been praying for health and energy.  God has more than answered.  However, I do feel like my laptop - when the battery gives you a "low" warning, it's got about 2 minutes left, and I'm here to tell you, my lights are flickering!  Nighty night!   I cannot wait for tomorrow - I'm sure there will be lots more to share.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or think, to him be all glory and honor and praise!