October 22, 2006

Last Sunday James and I left early in the morning by bus for Shijiazhuang to enjoy a western style breakfast for my birthday at a five-star hotel in the city.  Afterwards we attended the 9 o’clock worship service at the “Fu Yin Tang” Christian Church.  By the time we arrived the church was packed and we hardly could find a seat.  The Ushers send us upstairs into the balcony, all the way to the back, from where we had a bird’s eye view over the auditorium and the congregation.  I was pleasantly surprised to see so many young faces in the crowd.  There seems to be a real hunger by the younger generation to hear the Word.

The sermon was in Chinese delivered by a male pastor and centered around Acts 11:25-26 how to be a real Christian and concluded with the choir singing the hymn: Lord, I want to be a Christian. Immediately following the service a wedding ceremony took place in the auditorium led by a female pastor. James and I then visited the Pastor’s office where we learned that this church has a little over 2000 attendees on any given Sunday.  Service times are Saturday and Sunday from 9-10:30 AM, and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 7:30-9:00PM.

James was quite taken back by the message and asked how he, too, could become a Christian.  We prayed with him and now he is a Kingdom brother. As we left the church we stopped in the courtyard bookstore where I purchased two bilingual Bibles, one for James and one for myself.  It is the new Revised Standard Version sanctioned by the National Three Self Movement (TSM) and the China Christian Council (CCC) committee and printed by Amity Printing.  I also bought for myself an English Chinese Bilingual Hymnal book that is rather cool.  It has on one side the hymnal songs in English and on the other side in Chinese, containing 292 widely known hymns. It is yet another witness to the work of the Holy Spirit here in building up the body of Christ through spiritual songs in worship and gatherings (Col.3: 16).

The afternoon and evening was filled with student well-wishers who phoned, text messaged, e-mailed or stopped by the apartment with gifts, food and a big birthday cake with candles. I received a Teapot with Tie Guan Yin tea leafs, two green flowerpots for the living room and a beautiful calligraphic wall hanging. Students came from different classes in batches in and out.  We had a lot of fun singing, chatting, watching DVD’s with the last student’s leaving close to 10PM.  They even cleaned up the apartment and washed all the dishes.  This was, indeed, a very special Birthday!

The campus buzzed for the last two weeks with workers and students sprucing and cleaning up everywhere. Trees were trimmed and bushes cut, windows and buildings washed, streets were lined with beautiful yellow and red flowers in clay pots, outside gates around the property were closed to streamline everyone towards the University main entrance. Campus police and entrance guards dressed in their best attire and most of the students had to attend organizational meetings all day.  I learned that all of this week the China National Education Department is sending a high-ranking delegation to this Campus to inspect and re-evaluate the University’s educational classification. I was told that Inspectors would visit my classes and observe teaching procedures and classroom activities. Having foreign English teachers apparently helps to get an improved rating!!!  Students were on their best behaviors all week.  Nobody came late or left early.

It does, however, slowly become evident that many students or teachers within a particular class are on different English proficiencies levels forcing me to slow lessons down into 2-week assignments. This causes a classroom dilemma in that the slower learning students hold the better English students back, and they in turn showing signs of getting bored.  I have tried to seat them in pairs of good/bad student so that they can help each other but there are a lot of objections to such seating arrangements.  Some students simply refuse to sit with certain classmates.

It appears that today’s younger adult Chinese have a somewhat rebellious type of spirit manifesting itself in every aspect of their personal life.  They dislike being told what to do, have very independent and at times lofty ideas, questioning everything and debating anything.  Compared to students at the same level in the US their intellectual curiosity and knowledge of domestic and international affairs is far advance here coupled with an insatiable appetite for American cultural values and academic learning strategies.

Thought you may enjoy reading of some of the unusual English names students selected for their Chinese names. Many Westerner’s have trouble pronouncing Chinese names and most do not realize that the Chinese family name comes first. In addition when we see a Chinese name we have no way of knowing if it is a man or woman!  Chinese usually choose an English name for the sound of the name, not for the meaning. They may decide on a name that has a good meaning, but sounds strange to English speaking people.

Here we go: Lychee, Hami, CiCi, Snow, Chili, Melody, Olive, Linxy, Wonderful, Echo, Cloud, Luna, Cinderella, Summer, Silent, Farmer Lee, Soldier, Sunshine, Leaf, Apple, Fresh, Sky, Forrest, Donkey, Rainbow, Great Wall, Kite, Crazy Stone, Savannah, White Hair, Simily, Amani, and Tree. Sometimes you just have to love students’ names.  Even the crazy names usually have a story or reason behind them.  And while we may think these names are funny, unusual, or just plain weird…there is someone who not only knows their name, but how many hairs are on their heads.

It’s getting colder here but the apartment radiators won’t be turned on until November 1st. I went this week to buy a long sleeve shirt, gloves and wool head to get ready to brave the bitter cold winter when I peddle around the campus on my bike. By accident I also found some individually packed microwave popcorn that was available in chocolate flavor, onion or plain flavored. Being known as a popcorn freak I splurged and bought five plain, sugar flavored packages.  After eating one sleeve I have to say the Chinese have a long way to go to match Orville Redenbacher’s signature gourmet corn hybrid with its mouth-watering aroma, light and fluffy texture, incredibly delicious taste, and superb pop ability.

This past week has been especially great; one of the teacher students in my Friday evening class asked me if I was a Christian and wanted to know what I believe in!  I had the opportunity to share my convictions with the whole class at their request! That was really cool! It came totally unexpected. He then continued to press me after class who God and Jesus were leading me to explain to him Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  I gave him a pocket copy of “The Gospel of John” that sheds the unique light not only on the ministry of Jesus Christ but also on His nature and His relationship with God the Father.  Please lift that class and the individual up and that lives would be changed supernaturally through the Word.

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand. Chinese Proverb

Until next week…

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