December 3, 2006

My early Sunday morning started with a phone call at 5:00AM from John who let me know that his train from Harbin would arrive in Shijiazhuang around 10:00 AM and that he would meet us at the church.  Next came a call from Albert, one of my Chinese Teacher students, who decided he would also like to come to church this morning. He wanted to know when and where we would be leaving from. Needless to say, God is working around the clock to get his sheep to the right pasture.  The sermon this morning started with a prayer for cleansing and pardon, followed by Psalm 51 in which David recorded his confession and desire to be reconciled with God. The female pastor’s sermon then reminded everyone that our vertical relationship with God is the key to the horizontal relationship in our lives as recorded in John 3:1-15.  The choir sang “To God Be the Glory”, followed by the congregational singing of “There Is A Fountain”, “Ye Must Be Born Again” and the closing doxology “Amen”. John managed to slip quietly into the bench seats half way through the service with a big grin on his unshaven face radiating happiness being back.

After the service Wang Yuchao (Christopher), the young men who approached us last week for more information about faith issues, introduced to us his female classmate Shang Ning (Echo).  He was so excited that she joined him for her first church service. They wanted to take some photos and continue their questions as to how to become a Christian.  A Mother, Lou Yong Fang and her daughter, Michelle, asking me to teach her High School age daughter English on a weekly basis, soon joined us.  I tried politely to decline her advances saying I was already overloaded with teaching assignments but she continued begging, even to the point of inviting me to her home next Sunday afternoon for dinner.  She promised she would pick me up and bring me back to my apartment in time for my Sunday evening study group, and that I would only need to teach her daughter for one hour.  I finally agreed to do it, one time only, next Sunday.

Albert, the adult Chinese teacher suggested we have lunch at “Meila” a Brazilian buffet-style restaurant where guests can eat as much as they like, tasting several kinds of signature Churrasco, charcoal-grilled variety meats and sausages marinated in chimichurri sauces, cooked over open fires (Fogo de Chao). The name means “fire on earth” in reference to the ancient gaucho habit of preparing Churrasco in open air, without ovens.  The meal for the four of us came to RMB224 ($28).  Three hours later we rolled well fed back into the University for the Proverbial Chinese Afternoon Nap. My Sunday evening study group got cancelled since most of the participants had to attend this weekend mandatory evening classes in preparation of the upcoming final exams. Since my back was hurting from standing and walking around all week in the classrooms giving Midterm exams John suggested we go and get a relaxing foot and body massage after dinner. Price for the two-hour extravagance was RMB50 ($6.25) per person.  Aren’t you getting jealous at these low prices? I probably could never afford such a treatment at home without paying a small fortune.

Most of the week I spend time slumped uncomfortable over my little coffee table in my apartment grading papers for hours and hours. I wish I wouldn’t have to give any kind of exam in the aftermath of the grading work that has to be done.  I was so busy that I didn’t even have time to update my web blog, making phone calls, seeing students for tutoring or answering emails piling up all week in my inbox. On an interesting side note, (37%) of the adult Chinese teachers failed the Midterm test versus the English Major freshman students (0%), English Major sophomores (1%), Non English Major Business students (23%), Non English 2-year Students Class 1 (14%) and Non-English 2-year Students Class 2 (13%). Next week I will resume with the normal curriculum schedule and get ready for the final oral exams which are due to be delivered no later than January.

We were also told this week that the foreign teachers could go on Spring Festival vacation from January 7 through February 28 but needed to be back in time for the second Semester starting March 4 through July 8, 2007.  This means that I would be free to go home to the US to be with family and friends for close to 8 weeks. Preliminary inquiries on the Internet and through local travel agencies revealed ticket prices fluctuating between $1600 and $2000 depending on airline selection and travel date availability. Please pray that God would provide the necessary funds allowing me to purchase a roundtrip air ticket.  The sooner I can lock in an air ticket reservation the less expensive the cost will be as the prices will go sharply up once the Chinese people start celebrating Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) on February 18, 2007, which is the beginning of the new year of the Pig and the main Holiday season in China.  I was told that the campus would be completely deserted by the students and teachers as everyone is going home during the 15-day holiday to be with his or her families.

I got a visit this week from Chen Liaosha (Cecilia), her mother (Liao Yuzhen) and her new husband, Zhang Wen (Kevin). They just returned from Yin Chuan, the capital city of the Ningxia province, Kevin’s hometown where they got married on November 15, 2006.  They will have a second wedding ceremony here in Shijiazhuang, Liaosha’s hometown, on Saturday, December 9 at 11:30AM at the Yang Shang Hotel expecting some 500 guests. Liaosha and Kevin extended me a personal invitation to attend the celebration and asked me to give a traditional Wedding blessing in their honor. As this is a dress up affair I need to borrow or purchase a tie next week since I didn’t bring one along from home. I also need to do some research amongst my students to find out what the appropriate custom is in this situation and to come up with some kind of speech to fit the occasion.  Pray for me that God will give me just the right words to say for this very special and honorable invitation.

On Wednesday evening my English Major Freshman class organized a dinner for me at the Campus Hotel. All 32 students showed up as we enjoyed great fellowship and a variety of delicious Chinese food dishes. Since the students were spread over 3 tables I played musical chairs going from table to table with my chop sticks only to find out that by the time I got there all the food was gone. We talked, laughed and had a good time taking pictures of each other with cameras and cell phones until the serving staff told us that we needed to move on as the restaurant section was closing up.

Saturday evening James, John and I went out for a goodbye dinner in John’s behalf who graduated this week with a Master degree in Locomotive Engineering and will return to his home town near Harbin Wednesday next week.  I will miss my dear brother who has been a great disciple over the last few months and come to love God with all his mind and heart.  He will be sorely missed on Sunday mornings at church and in the evening during our fellowship studies.  I gave John a Bible as a gift with the inscription to spread divine encouragements amongst the people crossing his path as he reaches out to people on His behalf. I also gave John another Bible for delivery to my long time Chinese friend Wan Bo (Mary) in Harbin who many years ago were the interpreter for a Bank executive through whom I did business transaction into China. Mary has a young daughter, Yuwei (Nancy) and she recently contacted me to let me know that she is suffering from heart disease, loss of memory and insomnia at the young age of forty-six and has been forced to retire from her job to the menial task of doing housework and take walks in the garden. Please join me in praying for Mary’s health and mental restoration as she physically, emotionally, and spiritually is struggling with understanding the suffering she has to endure as a child of God.

“If you want happiness for a lifetime – help the next generation.” Chinese Proverb

Until next week…

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