Sunday, January 16, 2011

Goodbyes, but not Endings...

    To end our adventure in China on a Sunday was perhaps the most fitting culmination of what our trip was supposed to be.  We awoke to leave our hotel at a reasonable time (0800) only to find that the food which was supposed to be sent to our rooms was not going to arrive before we left...this start to a day being hungry and grumpy was a true test of faith (lol).  But we persevered it made it to worship at the Mei Ling Christian Church in downtown Shenzhen.
  Although we did not understand most of the service (as it was in Chinese, with no translation), we felt God's presence in the music, and hospitality of the congregants.  During this worship, we were invited to be participants as we shared with our Chinese brothers and sisters (some 2000 persons) our "renditions" of Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone, and a musical interpretation of Psalm 100.  Whether or not we sounded good, we were given a great deal of applause.

In the distance....Prof. Heim preaching and Hiiutung translating
Below, the church--it's so big that it is hard to get back far enough to take a picture, so this is from the front of their brochure

Group outside the Mei Ling church in Shenzhen after Sunday worship

 Professor Mark Heim (our fearless leader for this adventure) was also asked to share a brief message with the congregation.  He shared with our Chinese brothers and sisters a passage from Luke, chapter 24 verses 13-32; the story on the road to Emmaus.  What Mark had to say was beautiful, and this passage has been the text/theme that has inspired our group throughout this trip.  To summarize (almost too simply) that passage reflects the hope to see Christ in the other, through the other, and from the other, understanding that it is our new experiences and interactions with strangers that can have the deepest impact on us as Christians.
   After service, we once again had another HUGE meal, with the head pastor of the church, and a few other brothers and sisters from the congregation.  As we left lunch, there were a couple of young waitresses who wanted to share a song with us.  During the song, one young lady pulled Jordan toward her during a line which translated as, "I want my new husband to come home".  Jordan was then a big hit who got his picture taken with all the young ladies...boy was he red (We love you Jordan).
  Following lunch, we then spend a short time at a large fiber market where many styles of cloth and fabrics were sold.  Some of us bought scarfs, while others of us were soooo disappointed there were no suits that we could buy (who else do you know can say I got a suit tailored in China).
    Aside from these wonderful times, we finally made our way back toward Hong Kong (Yay Passport Control...not).  We are now back at Tao Fong Shan, our starting point.  Many have gone to bed, and others are packing.  We know that for now it is time to say goodbye to this beautiful country, but our faith in light of this trip is just beginning.  There are no ending to this story, only a newness of faith, a newness of reality, and especially a newness of our perspectives on Christianity around the world.  We look forward to returning home, and seeing all of you, our loved ones, our families and our friends.  Thank you for your love and support as we strive to learn to be the best clergy we can for the grace and glory of God.  God loves you, and so do we...see you soon.

Saturday, January 15

     After the fact, we can add in notes about our Saturday, which involved another move...this time from our hotel in Guangzhou to another in Shenzhen. We traveled by van from Guangzhou to the outskirts of Shenzhen where we had been promised a "light, simple lunch." We pulled up at a small local restaurant where we were treated to a lavish meal that contended for Erica's title of best meal ever. Our host was the owner of local factory, who then took us to the factory, gave us a tour and sat us down with his top management for a talk in their board room. The company makes solar panels for sale all over the world, but mainly in poorer areas, as they make them very inexpensively. He runs his business as a Christian enterprise, with Bible study twice a week for all employees, though 90% are not church member Christians. Some are believers, but do not belong to churches, and the company is their faith community.

The group at the NZX Solar Electricity Technology Company in Shenzhen with the owner GuHaiBo
   This stop was tailor made for Catherine Merrill.. The calling that brought her to ANTS is a vision for how the church can be a missing link in overcoming global poverty by connecting business entrepeneurs with the distribution systems and integrity needed in many struggling economies.

         In the evening, our group became guests of honor at an event that brought together a Christian businessmen's association in the Shenzhen area (based in the Mei Ling Christian church we would attend on Sunday) and groups from various churches in the area. It was a lively event with praise music and enthusiastic testimony and even more enthusiastic hospitality as many people came up to greet us, despite our lack of Chinese and (usually) their lack of English. Three members from our group--Tonia Petty, Erica Pettiti and Brandon Harrington--shared their testimony. And the entire group sang a couple of songs,with Kim Salico-Diehl on the keyboard and Brandon Harrington on the electronic drums.

Jordan Daigle and group at the Saturday evening rally'
Below-- Erica and Tonia share their witness.

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