December 10, 2006

Today’s church service started with the congregational reading of Psalm 84 “The Joy of Worship” followed by the message of the Christians call in 2 Peter 1: 3-11 that believers should diligently seek to add to his or her faith by observing the character and Christ like attributes of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. This week’s songs were “O God Our Help in Ages Past”,Deeper/Deeper”,More to follow” and “Forth In Thy Name O Lord I go”. My Chinese friend Huo Enfu sitting next to me interrupted my meditation when his cell phone range. As I glance at his phone I saw his reply message popping up.  It read, “I am busy now because I am with God.  I will call you back as soon as I can”. I couldn’t help thinking how much this man was sold out for his faith.  He is one of the most vocal person in the section were we are seated when it comes to prayer and singing, even his cell phone messages leave no doubt about his priorities on Sundays!!

For lunch James and I we went to the Yanchun Garden Hotel to enjoy a western type meal of Spaghetti Bolognaise served with garlic bread and fried tomatoes. After lunch we visited the official ticket agency for airline travel to see what the lowest ticket price would be for me to fly home to the USA during the upcoming Spring Festival Holiday (Chinese New Year) in February.  After two hours of reviewing various airline schedule combinations and prices it became very evident that I wouldn’t be able to book anything under $2500 during the travel dates I had in mind, and on top of it, none would be a non-stop flight to Chicago. I decided to hold off buying any ticket yet until I would hear back from Liaosha’s mother later this week as she was looking into some cheaper travel opportunities through her company.

Late Sunday afternoon Luo Yong Fang, the mother of Michele came by my apartment to pick me up and bring me to their home for dinner and teaching her daughter English for one hour. I should have known right then and there that the evening would go much longer than I was told. After a lengthy dinner affair I had no choice than to cancel my Sunday evening fellowship group when it became evident I wouldn’t be back in time.  The teaching went very cumbersome since Michelle’s English vocabulary was very limited and she was unable to put together any sentences. At the end of the evening I suggested to her mother that Michelle would be better served if she enrolled her daughter in a Basic English course at a private institution so that Michelle would be ready when she started middle school next year. I later in the week learned that her mother contacted James, my student who acted as my translator, and talked him into to continue teaching her daughter for a small fee on Sunday evenings.

On Monday morning after the University administration office opened up I was finally able to replenish my Internet account after being shut off for the weekend without any forewarnings for insufficient connection funds. I knew I had to pay for the privilege of having access to the Internet and email but no one explained to me when and how this would take place.  So you can imagine how I felt last Friday morning when my computer went down.  First I thought it was another one of these frequent problems with the English server but by the afternoon I called Peter, a computer student, to come over and take a look.  It didn’t take him more than a few minutes to show me on the Server connection screen where it in Chinese stated that my account showed a negative balance of RMB -14.60. Apparently the previous English teacher in this apartment had some credit left on his account when he left which in the interim through my usage was depleted. When I asked Peter how I could quickly replenish the account so that I would not be without any communication over the weekend he made several phone calls only to learn that paying for Internet access was only possible the first 3 working days of each month or every Monday morning from 8:00-Noon.  Needless to say, I was not very happy over the weekend.  When I asked in the administration office why no one pointed out to me where I could find out about my account balance and how to take care of it when it needed to be replenished I got the proverbial smiling Chinese answer, “We are very sorry that we forgot to tell you this”. After we left the office I was told that the administration guy in Chinese said that I was “very picky”!

On Wednesday I received the following email message in answer to my prayer request from last week that God would provide the necessary funds allowing me to purchase a round trip air ticket to go home during my school holidays.  To show that CEO still answers fervent prayers here is the message Sherri received from dear friends of ours:

It was so good to see you and get/give hugs the other day. You have been on our hearts and in our prayers. I believe our meeting was a divine intervention…I have been praying (for years) to be able to support you and Rolf and your ministry. My husband and I would like to make a contribution to get Rolf back and forth from China. Your faithfulness and struggles touched our hearts and the Holy Spirit used this to open ours!  So how do we go about sending you a check and tell Rolf to make plans to come home!!  We love you and your family. Praise to God through whom all things are possible.

On Thursday Kevin, Liaosha and her mother came back to my apartment with boxes of fruits containing kiwis, bananas, oranges and apples just to make sure I was eating healthy. In addition they brought some beautiful wall hangings to spice up the sparse interiors in my bedroom. Kevin also brought with him a hammer, nails and cloth lines, which we spanned in the spare room in my apartment so that my laundry could dry by the warm radiator heat, instead the freezing cold air on the outside balcony of my flat.  I was also informed that a driver would pick me up on Saturday morning to bring me to the Hotel where the wedding was taking place. The rest of the week I was busy grading paper, tutoring students and catching up on the neglected email messages in my inbox.

Friday I spent most of the day on the phone or the Internet trying to find some economical round trip air tickets to Chicago from Beijing.  After hours of searching every combination of departure/return dates I finally found a low cost, direct flight option available for departure only on January 15th out of Shanghai to Chicago.  After several more phone calls I made the decision to use the opportunity God provided to follow up with contacts I made in July of this year in Urumqi. I am now scheduled and booked to fly on January 9th from Beijing to Urumqi, then on January 12th from Urumqi to Shanghai and finally on January 15th from Shanghai to Chicago with a return flight to Beijing on February 27th. This will give me the chance not only to deliver the various NIV books I promised to students and teachers there and spend some additional quality time shedding more of the unique light on the Son of God, in addition to his nature and relationship with His father. Please pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit as I meet with the various appointees and for a safe and trouble free journey home.

Saturday morning at 11:30AM began the official wedding of Zhang Wen (Kevin) and Chen Liaosha (Cecilia) at the Yang Shang Hotel.  After some photo taking in the Hotel lobby everyone proceeded to the 3rd floor ballroom beautifully decorated in pink colors and wall posters of the wedding couple.  I was seated at the table of Kevin’s parents, his uncle and aunt, his brother Eric and other relatives. After everyone found their tables we anxiously awaited the entrance of the bride and groom. A few minutes later, Kevin and Liaosha walked down the aisle to the main stage to the tune of “Here Comes the Bride”. After the MC introduced the couple, Liaosha’s Father and others gave short speeches before it was my time to give the wedding blessing. Here are the remarks I made:

A Wedding is a magical time… when two hearts become one

It wasn’t too many years ago when Sherri and I had the pleasure to meet you, Liaosha, for the very first time. Since then you have blossomed into a beautiful young lady, ready to spread your wings and discover all your hopes and dreams. Now, as an adult, you are beginning a new life. Hand in hand, with Kevin, you will travel roads leading in many directions.  It might not always be smooth, but the paths you follow will be strengthened by the love, happiness and joy you share together.  Sherri and I want you to know that our hearts are filled with happiness and love for both of you.  May the love you share always surround you and Kevin, as you journey through life together as one?

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this very joyous occasion. I am so happy for you both. May your love continue to grow and enrich both of you? May your marriage always be a blessed one? From this day forward, you will share all your hopes, dreams, sorrows and joys. The vows you exchanged and the sacred promises you made before CEO symbolize the unending love you share that shall never be broken.

Sherri and I want you to know that we love you very much. You and Kevin will always have a very special place in our hearts. And remember, our home is your home, a place of refuge where you can always find grace, hospitality and rest.  Like a butterfly that softly flattens its wings in the gentle breeze may Kevin and you discover the wonderment of life with all its beauty and joy?  May the Lord bless you and always keep you.  May heaven’s light shine on all that you do?  May health and happiness come your way and love fills your hearts throughout every day.  Sherri and I wish you both a lifetime of everlasting love and happiness.

Congratulations and best wishes to both of you on this very special day. Bai tou xie Lao

Once the formalities were over the fun part of the wedding began.  According to Chinese custom, the bride and groom must go through the whole room and visit each table. At each table, the groom and bride pour drinks and toast with each guest. After they have circulated among the 400 plus guests, the wedding crowd quickly disappears. This is one characteristic of Chinese weddings that is noticeable different from home.  In the U.S., weddings go on for hours and hours. Here in China, weddings receptions are quite quick. Everyone piles in; massive amounts of food and liquor are quickly served and equally fast consumed. And then, everyone leaves. Once the couple has gotten to your table for the toasts you felt free to leave. But not the table I was sitting on.  Close friends and family stuck around for more pictures and toasts while the crowd filed out and the hall staff came in to sweep and clean up.  When we finally left the Hotel in the afternoon Kevin, Liaosha and her mother drove me back to my apartment. The rest of the afternoon and evening I recuperated from the wonderful and fabulous Chinese wedding ceremony.

To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.
Chinese Proverb

Until next week…

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