Friday, January 9, 2004

China Trip: Pre-departure excitement

Two days from now, early Sunday morning, I begin my first trip to China, my first trip overseas to any country, my first taste of jet lag, my first missions trip, my first immersion experience in another culture and another language, and my first opportunity to teach English as a second language. Needless to say, I am extremely excited!

As background information to set the stage for what I am soon to experience, this is the missions opportunity with my class at Verity Education, where I’ve been attending college for the past two years. Verity’s desire for each student to participate in a ministry trip in another country was fulfilled for last year’s class with a trip to Mexico, which I would have enjoyed, too, as an opportunity to improve my Spanish, but I certainly am not complaining about this trip to China! Mexico is always there, and I can visit there relatively easily, but China? Possibly this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

There is much known and much unknown about this coming trip. We know that a group of 30 of us are going to Pinghu Compassion High School in Pinghu, China, a “little tiny town” (in Mr. Mattix’s words—Mr. Mattix is the director for all international ministry and missions for IBLP) of 500,000, 1 ½ hours south of Shanghai. We know a little bit of the culture. Give or receive something using both hands, not just one…Don’t point…Don’t leave your chopsticks sticking up out of your food…Don’t embarrass people but ensure that they can save face. We know that it will be cold there as we teach in unheated classrooms during the January temperatures of lows about 32 degrees. We know that we are staying at a hotel that does have heat, that we will teach middle school- and junior high-aged kids for one week, then do sighseeing for about five days, and then come back to teach high schoolers for another week, and that our visit will fall during Chinese New Year.

There is so much unknown, though. I don’t know how to say a word in the language! What will it really be like to visit a different culture? How will I actually teach English? I’ve never done it before! How will the people respond to us? Will we offend them? What kinds of experiences will I have? What kinds of trials will I go through? How will the enemy attack us and seek to destroy our Christian witness? What kinds of souveniers will there be to buy? What will it be like to bargain in an outdoor market? What forms of transportation will we use to travel? What happens if someone gets lost in Shanghai? If someone loses their passport? What will I enjoy the most? How will this change my life?

I’ve enjoyed my preparations for my trip, as they help to heighten the anticipation of leaving. I bought a good pair of hiking boots, silk long underwear, and some Gore-tex gloves in anticipation of the cold. I packed all my wool skirts and all my long sleeved shirts as well. I am supplied with tissue packs for those public restrooms that don’t come equipped with quite all the supplies we are used to, hand sanitizier to improve my peace of mind while I’m eating, flascards and books for the kids to read, and applesauce and granola bars in case I ever get hungry.

One thing that sort of intrigues me is a recurring strong impression I have had. It first came to me several weeks ago as I was praying for the trip to China. It was as if the Lord impressed firmly on my mind, “You are not going to die in China.” My reaction was one of sort of surprise… “Well, uh, thanks, Lord – not that I was expecting to or anything. I mean, I guess it’s nice to know, yeah, it’s great to know that I’m not going to die in China, but… why are you telling me that? I’m not afraid of it. I hadn’t even thought of it. Maybe it will be a comfort to me if I get really sick over there or something.” After the incident, I promptly forgot about it, but it has recurred with increasing intensity over the past few days. It will be very interesting to see what becomes of my trip there and what is in store for me as I spend the three weeks in China.

As of now, I am eagerly anticipating everything the trip holds in store for me. My prayer is, and has been ever since I heard where we were going, that the Lord would love the Chinese people through me, that I would be an empty vessel that can be filled with the Lord’s love, that I can pour out that love which comes from God and is a universal language. My goal is to be immersed in the word of God, and dependent on him through prayer every moment. I don’t want to go in the strength of the flesh, and I just desire to reach the utmost potential God has for me over there. Mr. Mattix assured us that God can use the light of our testimony, our cheerful countenance, and the power of the Holy Spirit shining through our lives just as much as he could use sermons, tracts, and words that we would speak. We might have limited opportunities to preach the gospel verbally, but they will know that we are Christians, and we have the opportunity to let them know that we are for real.

This is the first post in this series. 
Next post: Frozen Photo

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