Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rudolph


... the Red-Nosed Savior!?

There is snow falling in Texas today - most unusual as it was a unseasonably warm day yesterday with high temperature reaching almost 70 degrees! Anyone who has lived in Texas very long, learns quickly - there are no seasonal sureties, and on any given day spring can be winter and winter like a promise of spring.

Unpredictable
Unseasonable
All of the above.

Christmas is three days away, and as I look out my window and see the snow falling at a "blizzard's" rate (well after all I am a Texan) I am thinking of the "strange unpredictable, unseasonable way" God chose to save His world.

I thought of Rudolph too, and actually for the first time I saw the parallel found in the Gospel message. Someone unpopular, made fun of by the bigshots (wonder what the Pharisees Reindeer Games would looked like?) the last person you would think of to "save the day". Yet Santa chose Rudolph, he had unique properties about him that would "light the way in the dark".

"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men" John 1:4

A baby in a manger? Funny way to get started - doesn't look good on a resume - leaves room for skepticism but throws the door wide open for FAITH.

"you know Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blixen
But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?"

I don't think I'll be singing the tune so casually. And I wonder if you know the most famous Light of all?

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8: 12

Friday, December 17, 2004

jiggety jog

home again home again that is

From the comfort of my desk chair and fast access computer - I complete my China adventure. Days filled with activity, nights lacked rest. I'm over the "lag" of the jet but not the trip itself. As I busy myself trying to get ready for Christmas- I am trying not to forget the activities that continue to take place a world away - in a distant land.

The Harvest is white - the reason for the season wishes you more than a Happy Holiday.

Monday, December 13, 2004

V.I.P.


a.k.a. - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Beijing

Shandong Airline VIP Lounge
Monday - December 13, 2004

Awoke this morning, looked out the window at the darkness and cloak of dense fog. Planes will definately be delayed this morning! D and I proceeded to drink coffee and pray for clearing in the upper atmosphere - J still sleeping as late as possible, dressing at the last minute and carrying the luggage noisily down three flights of stairs.

6:10 am - no driver - the usual promptness of their friend could be delayed due to the weather - at 6:30 J went back upstairs and called - he was SLEEPING. He woke in time - looked out at the weather and thought "no flights this morning". J said "come right away"

At 7:00 the driver appeared, looking at as like we were crazy to be attempting to go to the airport. We set off through Chinese "pea soup" while I kept my head bowed in the back seat repeating my original mantra "fog is not fog to you" over and over - the Father has gotten me safe thus far... now lead me home (via Beijing)

WOW

There were places the fog was so heavy it was difficult even to see the stripe in the roadway, and what makes the travel even more hazardous are the bicyclists and pedestrians. I tried my best to keep my "EEGADS" and screams to a minmum. At the point of entry onto the highway our driver missed the entrance and we proceeded to back up - horns blared, cars swerved and the passengers PRAYED!

Once on the highway things would clear periodically and the visibility improve, but then as we approached the river - visibility back to zero - it was horrible and very frightening. I was very thankful our driver cared so much for his car he drove with extreme caution (except for the backing up part).

"darkness is not dark to you - night is bright as day"

When we reached the airport - NOTHING - the terminal was invisible until we were right in front of the door. No chance the flight would be leaving on time (10 minutes from departure). Unlike delays at DFW - there was a strange absence of activity - like the cab driver I'm sure most have abandoned thoughts of air travel this morning.

D's student Mr. T, was not far behind us. He greeted us warmly with great apologies for the weather and said "no problem, I will take care of you while there is the delay". We left the airport with his personal car and driver and headed to the 4 star airport hotel - where we were treated to a sumptious combination breakfast (American fried egg, bacon and toast - Chinese vegetables, soup and dumplings).

Mr. T was very gracious to explain he typically has a meeting on Monday morning - but his supervisor at the airline felt this was more important - to host an American visitor who is so kind to Chinese orphans. Can you imagine - this would NEVER happen in the US (and frankly I can think of no other country where it would) where a simple undercover disciple would be treated like the Ambassador she really is!

We returned to the airport wading our way back through the still very dense fog, said my goodbyes and went through the VIP security check into the VIP lounge.

So here I sit, in the lounge complete with putting green, a hostess to keep my tea cup filled, and the bird's eye view of the tarmac (or the only 20 feet I can presently see). Phone calls have been made to alert my escorts in Beijing of the delay and Mr. T has assured me if I don't depart before lunch

he'll be back.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Broken


...do this in remembrance of Me... Luke 22:19

Sunday December 12, 2004

This morning, at 7:45 am the E teachers gathered outside in the cold and fog, to travel together across town to the Church. It is a unique experience as most of the foreigners sit in the balcony with willing translators sitting behind them, carefully writing out one or two paragraphs of the sermon, passing it forward, then writing on a second sheet the continuing translation. The paper makes it circuit through the group and back again to the one holding the pen. The service is conducted in similar Western style, prayer, reading of the word, song, sermon, standing for song, etc...

Many of the foreigners quietly read their Bible or devotional while waiting for the next round of translation to come passing over their shoulder. I was no different, reading the Word, standing while they sang, writing and reflecting as my time here in China comes to a close. Just as my legs and back were beginning to complain in earnest about the extremely hard, small and uncomfortable seats the special portion of the day began.

Communion.

I have shared the "bread and the wine" with believers in many different lands, I was particulary honored to think as my time here ended, I was given this special blessing to share with the Chinese faithful.

The pastor read the familiar passages, the ushers passed the bread throughout the throng of over 500 worshipers, slowly making their way up to the corner balcony where the aliens sat. The communion bread however looked a bit unusual, much thinner and obviously broken from large pieces instead of our typical "communion portion" crackers. Each took the bread in quiet contemplation, the pastor prayed and we partook the representation of the body of Christ.

Today, in the midst of the familiar ritual a very unusual thing happened to me. For the first time I HEARD the breaking! The little thin wafers cracked when we put them in our mouths. During this sober and typically silent undertaking, to HEAR the breaking ...

well

it brought home the fact to be broken - takes noise. Suffering is seldom a silent event. There are tears, there is pain, and there is definately noise. It prepared me for the days later events - the visit to the broken (the orphanage for the disabled children).

On the way to the orphanage, my interpreter asked "how did you have this thought to go to the orphanage? I explained orphans are very close to God's heart. He takes special interest in them and in fact tell us to visit them in His Word. She was suprised to know this "really, it says visit orphans?" as I pointed out the passage in James.

Upon our arrival the children made noise! These precious abandoned and forgotten children realized quickly one person remembered and came back. They were ecstatic with joy. They began telling all they recalled from the last visit - their favorite trick, the funny story. Most have very sharp minds. Only their bodies are very broken.

Today, I worshipped and shared in His brokenness at church, I practiced pure religion undefiled sharing with the broken children, I praise Him for the "noise" of their laughter, I give thanks for the remembrance of it all...

and smile.

I'm sure He's smiling too.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Lost in Translation


...that they may not understand one another's speech... Genesis 11:7

I admit it is a hassle to use a translator in a foreign country. Especially, when interpreting is NOT their profession. Grammar, vocabulary, idioms you don't even realize you frequently use present problems. I can't begin to comprehend - after all I'm an American, I speak THE language!

In advance of my performance, I discuss the stories, the meaning I am trying to convey, the "suprise" revelation at the end of each trick. But nothing is scripted - I improvise much of the show varying timing and presentation so I won't be bored. But there always comes a time (generally after a brilliantly humorous line) I am faced with a curious silence. I turn toward the interpreter who meets my gaze with a blank stare as if to convey "what did you just say?"

Quickly trying to recover and keep the flow going I'll whisper a more general phrasing of my genius joke delivery. The words are interpreted, the audience laughs and the "show" goes on.

Sometimes, after several spoken sentences during a story the interpretation winds up being far shorter? I look quizzically at my "second voice" and they nod for me to proceed... something is definately lost in the translation! I feel like a ventriloquist throwing my voice to an uncontrollable "dummy" but which one of us is the real "dummy" probably the uni-lingual wonder dressed in ridiculous clothes and make-up?

Using a translator keeps me patient, It keeps me praying for clarity of presentation it makes me humble at my own lack of language skills. I try and stay diligent to find new ways to communicate across barriers of dialect, culture and language - I have to lean hard on the mercy and grace of the Father and the gift of His Spirit.

...for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.. Romans 8:26

Of course God knew exactly what He was doing way back there in Genesis at the "tower". He created in an instant many different languages - and thousands of years later - a clown still relies on words that cannot be uttered in any language. Those the Spirit is speaking to the listeners in the hidden language of their hearts.

Confounding


The week of performances at the University has concluded. I could easily be intimidated by the level of intelligence as well as the position held by most of the students. If one of D's students had not been VICE PRESIDENT of an airline, it is doubtful my luggage (left in Beijing for three days) would have arrived at all! One of the teachers here waited 2 months for luggage to arrive. For me - this time - there was provision, there was a plan in place, there was a person provided "for such a time as this".

I have enjoyed "confounding" these wise scholars with simple things revealing deeper truths. They are quick to comment "you have such a very kind heart to do such things." While they grasp the benevolent concept toward the sick and orphaned, I wonder if they miss, the same God that is using me to touch the weak, is also using me to touch the "strong" - the accomplished men and women, well established in their careers, party members, afforded the luxury of continued higher education at some of the best univeristies in China?

They listen well, they participate with enthusiasm, they laugh heartily, they ask questions, they witness the unseen creator of the Universe - slip a disciple in disguise (red nose - red hair) behind the Bamboo Curtain - use a foolish American clown to confound the higher educated scholars in China.

1 Corinthians 1:27 executed in 2004!

I see men as trees...


walking (Mark 8:24)

10:00 pm
Saturday
December 11, 2004
Behind the Bamboo Curtain

Before an audience of over 300 children and adults - joy was brought forth, the Message of love proclaimed, and laughter was heard in abundance. Despite lack of communication on the details, technical difficulties, language barriers and comic prop failures - those in attendance had a great time! So did I.

The Church issued invitations to children in attendance of their Sunday morning classes - most in the audience were well past childhood - yet all were young at heart tonight. They loved the "magic and tricks" and participated joyfully in the "storytelling". No matter where I go - that is my favorite part of the performance; involving the audience, interacting with the crowd, and sharing the "secret" deeper meaning of a childhood tale.

The story of the "Little Apple Tree" always receives great rounds of laughter and applause from the crowd. They love seeing the unhappy little tree (the smallest child I can find) in the middle of the forest (3 tall gentlemen) of strong important oak trees. "Oh if only I could be like the other trees in the forest, with stars twinkling in my branches" prays the little apple tree. Each time the apple tree prays, the Creator (of birds and bees and flowers and trees, and apple trees and oak trees and you and me) says "Be patient". After the seasons (and fancy hats) change finally the Lord sends a great wind, the oak trees bow down (to a huge roar of laughter) the apple tree shakes and an apple drops from its branches revealing the seeds form a "star".

Everything the apple tree desired, the Lord tells her "was inside all along". Everyone is happy, the trees take their bows (I take their branches) and the audience applauds.

I found an "ancient Chinese proverb" and I tell my audience it may only be that because I am ancient and now I am saying the proverb in China! "You can count how many seeds are in an apple - but you cannot count how many apples are in the seeds!"

"...it yields seed for the sower... so is My Word that goes out from My mouth. It will not return to Me void but it will accomplish all that I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it..."

Jesus healed a blind man by using extraordinary spit mingled with ordinary mud. He asked the man "what do you see" to which he replied at first "I see men as trees walking" Jesus touched the man again and he saw clearly. Perhaps, as people young and old across the globe are touched by the story... at first they are still only seeing "trees" but the Lord brings the water... the growth, the healing and the salvation of many. I have told the story of the Little Apple Tree thousands of times all across the world, sowing seeds of kindness, sharing the truth of His Word. It excites me to know it will not return to Him void. There IS a great Harvest coming!!

"you will go out in joy and be led forth in peace: the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,

AND ALL THE TREES IN THE FIELD WILL CLAP THEIR HANDS" Isaiah 55:9-12


May the applause of the "trees" in China tonight bring Him glory.

...hears a who?...

Horton that is

You may recall the old Dr. Seuss story about a very large humble elephant who happened upon a dust ball one day. Leaning down admiring his find he hears a tiny little voice cry out for "help". He was excited to think he could do something for the tiny little inhabitants after all he muses "a person's a person no matter how small."

Horton is ridiculed by all around, tied up and the dust ball doomed for boiling oil UNLESS all the residents can gather around and make some noise (to make believers out of those in Horton's community).

"We're here, we're here, we're here," the residents shout out to no avail - all seems lost as the vultures swoop down to drop the dust into the oil. But as in all Dr. Seuss stories - at the last minute (remember the Cat and the Hat - mother on the way) one tiny child is found not to have made a sound. They rush the infant to the tallest tower in Whoville and out peeps a voice that breaks the "sound" barrier out into the Horton's land!

A person's a person...

There are over 1 BILLION people living in China - the vast majority of them have had no religious exposure at all. Confusionism, taoism, some buddism from their ancestors plays a minor yet no real influential role in the daily life of the average Chinese. Christianity... a myth

The Father is not slow as some would count slowness - but is long suffering that none should perish! You wonder what is keeping Him from returning? Think of the souls of a billion Chinese, crying out to the Church "we're here, we're here, we're here..."

Perhaps our Father is waiting for the "Horton's" who will stop and listen to the "who's"

in China...

Tonight there will be a public performance for over 400. Pray they will listen - pray some will hear!

Friday, December 10, 2004

xmas


...unto us a child is given...

But you wouldn't know it from the decorations hanging from the street corners in China. Traditional images of "Jolly old Saint Nick" are found in abundance. Almost every restaurant has a cardboard cutout of the spry man pasted in the window. Lights and tinsel hang from the most unusual places. I have seen NO nativities present anywhere.

In the newly published Jinan Global bilingual magazine - one of the editors dressed in his red best with beard - is hugging children of every color - expressing glee over the multinational image of this new periodical. "Xmas in Jinan". Inside full color ads noting where you can have your "traditional turkey dinner" are numerous. There are several places where they will cook your turkey for you complete with dressing and cranberry sauce. Of course they want you to feel at home.

There is a lengthy article featuring Santa's visit to the local kindergarten. The article explains that "good" children get a gift and "bad" children get nothing. Teachers at the school have apparently been keeping lists for the upcoming visit and the "bad" children - got nothing. "A warning for next year" states the story. Be good!

While I was waiting for the train last week to bring me to Jinan - the young man that spoke with me was quite happy about the upcoming holiday. He said "what is the name of that man? San..sain... santa - claws?" He told me his young son was happy to recieve a gift from the jolly gentlemen - it made him smile.

It made me sad.

It seems we have exported our "xmas" and not our "Christ"

However, this is the season, when the Christians teaching at the Universities in China can explain the "real" reason for the season. And believe me they take every opportunity to do so. They are busy reading the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are quick to relate the person spoken of in this BOOK was a living person. This is not some fairytale! And while you may find this confusion hard to believe - over something we have known for so long.. remember where you live - the freedom you have been privileged to enjoy. The parents, grandparents and teachers who made this story a part of your life.

It is more than a heritage - it IS life
indeed.

Continue to request the Harvest - it is white (although there is no snow) and while here in China in the Christmas season 2004 "santa" may be coming to town...

I have it on good resource
The King is on His way!!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

fallow ground


Today is the final day of performance in the University. Yesterday, I performed back to back for four hours, traveling from J's class (near their home on campus) to D's class (30 minutes away by treacherous taxi) back to J's class. It was hectic to say the least.

This morning, the last two performances will be in J's class - a short (but interesting - with lots of looks from students) walk away.

In one session yesterday a student questioned "what is your motivation for this type of work?" Again, I had the privilege to share openly the good news. The message the Bible teaches about "the least of these" and another seed was planted, soil tilled, fallow aethistic ground broken.

I continue to need prayer for my health on this home stretch. Everyday, from now until I leave on Wednesday will be filled with meetings and performances. (Saturday - public performance for 400! Sunday - orphanage in Jinan - Monday - orphanage in Beijing - Tuesday - University in Beijing).

It is no wonder SARS was such a big scare here. Public spitting is common and culturally acceptable (even in classrooms - doctoral candidates will lean over their desk and spit on the floor)! Bacteria and virus' flying this time of year and my need for stamina is at its highest.

The Harvest is ripe, the worker can't be sick for maximum sowing!
Thanks for keeping up with the clown in China.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

ailments

Despite my best efforts and oils, today I am a bit under the weather here. It is 6:30 am and all through the night the wind has howled, banged the doors, and disturbed my sleep. This morning I have back to back performances at the two different Universities.

Negotiating through the traffic proves nerve rattling in itself - and with my phobia of driving you can imagine the prayers I must utter from my backseat domain! I really need prayers for strength and energy as well as prevention from falling sick.

The pollution here is notoriously bad (one of the worst cities in China - which is about 10 L.A.'s on the smog scale) and often causes URI's (upper respiratory infections) plus it is culturally acceptable to spit in public and by public I mean anywhere there are other people (classrooms, dining halls - ANYWHERE) which only adds to the spread of bacteria.

Pray for protection, healing and an extra measure of His strength

it remains my joy!

what is...


most important in your life?

A question posed by one of the doctoral candidates in class today. And the $64,000 dollar answer was...

"My relationship with God - of course"

Tuesday was the first day of my performances at the University. The 100+ students in each of the two classes were enthusiastic and watching with careful consideration at the tricks and listening to the underlying message of the stories. They took great pride in acting out the tales of the "Little Apple Tree" and "The Wise King and the Baby Bee". Much laughter was heard, smiles and many thanks as they left the classroom.

Today, for three hours 100 more students had an opportunity to ask questions for the first hour, watch me transform into the "clown" the second, and sit mesmerized at the final hour's performace. It was during the question and answer time, one student said "you are quite a kind person to do so many things for orphans and people who are poor, but what is the most important thing to you? What is the criteria your organization uses to choose where you are to go - there are many needs in the world?"

This is what coming to China is all about. Providing an avenue for deeper questions to be asked - and answered freely. A time for future reflection on why would someone choose this lifestyle of serving others. While language may pose some barriers, for this level of students - many in their 30's and 40's - life has "happened" to them. They have seen and known real suffering and hardships. They reflect on the "why" - they want answers for the "what...

is most important"

for us all

write these words...


...for they are faithful and true.

So said Jesus in Revelation 21:4-6. The oft quoted verses begin "He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, neither sorrow,nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things have passed away. "Behold I make all things new..."

I can only imagine

a place where there are no orphans
a place where babies are not abandoned when they are born with broken bodies
a place where I will never cry

I can only imagine

On Sunday afternoon as we walked through the orphanage nursery, many of the babies there last year have passed on to that other side to be with Him. The cribs are still filled to capacity - unfortunately babies here are still being abandoned - especially those who have disabilities beyond the resources and education of the parents to understand or cope with.

The infants wear tattered rags fashioned into diapers- there are no disposable ones in this facility - to cost prohibitive. The windows are open to ease the odor for the workers and any outsiders who may happen in - but as the odor drifts out the cold winter wind blows in. 90% of the babies are girls, all but one have a disability (most are down syndrome, one 15 yearold girl - the size of a 4 year old, has cerebral palsy) They have been abandoned for their brokenness.

As we were leaving the orphanage my translator, a young Chinese Christian man said "I have never known children had such situations, I have never seen such things as this. It makes me realize that without God we are truly orphans!" The Father's word goes beyond the promise of a future where there is no suffering and all tears will be wiped away. He promises He will not leave us as orphans - He will send a comforter.

Sometimes He sends in the clown...

Monday, December 06, 2004

famous


The anticipation was palpable as we waited for the students that would help out at the orphanage. Ten arrived with grins (at CARE EE) and nervous giggles at the adventure that lay before them. A few have been visiting the orphanage on their own as tutors. Today they would be "face painters" now anxious to get on the way.

Our group walked through the campus, making quite a scene (we were 18 all together) carrying boxes and bags of food and toys for the children. Getting loaded into a taxi was another story. It was no problem getting taxis to stop - but getting the students to decide who would ride in which car, who would carry the money, who would tell the directions.... you can't imagine the cacaphony that ensued on the corner!

Finally we arrived. The director soon followed and with a big hug welcomed us again and took us up to the children (on the fourth and fifth floor of a renovated building). They screamed, they giggled, they smiled, they hugged - and they felt love - again.

They were beautiful. They were growing up, and as I showed them the photo album I made from last year I was sure to convey - they are not forgotten, they hold a special place in my heart and they are loved by many. It was fun showing them the "Shandong Pictorial" magazine. I asked if they knew they were famous? They had no idea. They laughed and gawked at the photo in the article - pointing out who was who and smiling with pride.

The program was engaging and after, the real fun began. The students and I set up face painting stations and set the example books out. What excitement, what fun, what delight on their faces! Then we took poloroids after as they smiled broadly at their new creations. It was the first time they had done anything like that - but it won't be the last (I left all the paraphenalia (the paints, books and brushes) behind).

The testimony remains - the witness of remembrance, the language of love
and the greatest of these is love!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

night market

Saturday

The bags arrived and I packed up CARE EE quickly - and we were off to the bus station amidst the bustle of the first clear day ... people were OUT! The sun promising to shine and we were on our way. The Jinan city bus station is a modern gleaming example of the emerging China - we were even greeted by a life-size Santa next to His proverbial "tannenbaum". Since most of our western Christmas decorations are manufactured in China these days - its no wonder that they have finally circumnavigated globe and cultures to arrive here!

After an uneventful ride through the valley we arrived in the city of Taian. One of the most important destinations for Chinese tourists. Here is where the most revered of the "seven holy mountains" are. Mount Tai. It is believed that if you see the sunrise on Mt. Tai you will be blessed forever.

Our destination would be a blessing (the orphanage on Sunday) but it did not involve ancestor rituals or climbing the steps of a mountain! We were welcomed by D & O (English teachers from California) with snacks and a tour of the newest foreign residence building on the Agricultural Campus. WOW - marble floors, granite countertops, beautiful two bedroom, fully furnished units featuring full-sized kitchens! Quite an improvement from the facility where J and D were located when they taught here two years ago.

The envy and delight registered on our faces - for we were "renting" two of the apartments for our 2 day stay in Taian - at the very reasonable price of 100 RMB (approximately $12 US dollars)

My interpreter arrived to go over the program and any strange language problems he might encounter, probably more to do with my Texas accent than vocabulary. Several former students of the Phalen's came to meet us for dinner. What a lively crowd we became on the street corner! Boisterously greeting each other with hugs and "how are you's. " They all remembered my visit to their classes and took delight in recounting various parts of the performance. "Oh, the coloring book - I liked that the best," said one. Another recalled the stories - laughs were shared with frequency.

After a huge, spicy dinner of .... Chinese food - we made our way to the "night market". A riverside street filled with small vendors, hawking their "made in China" wares and gawking at the Americans making their way down the crowded lane. Most popular are the food vendors - specializing in a wide variety of fried and sugary fare served on long bamboo skewers. Fried sugar apples, dipped bananas, leechi nuts in carmelized sugar, and my personal favorite - chicken heads on a stick!

The cold night wind swept over our enthusiasm and ended our adventure early. Tomorrow - the children

Friday, December 03, 2004

of fog and fleas...


"Praise God in all things"
"Even fleas?!" Corrie Ten Boom asked her sister in the concentration camp. And the answer of course was "yes, even for the fleas, for God has used the fleas to keep the guards away from us and we are able to share the Gospel freely - because of the fleas"

While the fog in China has produced no dramatic visible evidence for its use in the Kingdom realm, it has made me sit, wait with patience, rest (I prayed before leaving for rest) and to watch Him and trust Him fully. I have praised Him for the fog I could see outside and for the "fog" inside too. All the things that are currently happening in my life that I have no clear understanding of, and can't see just HOW He is going to work those things out.

Powerless to change something (like the weather) as well as some of those things that I would like to see changed in others - I must watch, pray and praise Him - Creator of Heaven and earth - fog and fleas.

This morning, the fog is clearing - it is just 7:30 am and already looks better than it has in days. My baggage will arrive on the first plane out of Beijing into Jinan and be delivered by 10:00. We will be on our way by bus (2 hours) to Taian - where the children await eagerly!

We'll be at the orphanage tomorrow at 2:30 for several hours - sharing with the children - joy, laughter and the witness of God's love - that promises He will not leave them as orphans - but will send ....

sometimes a clown
sometimes fleas
sometimes fog

Thursday, December 02, 2004

guess what we're having for dinner?


Ah... three choices
a) Chinese food
b) Chinese food
c) Chinese food

You have to laugh. Spent a relatively quiet day hoping and praying the fog would lift (it hasn't) and the baggage would be on the way. Alas, still covered in the mist of uncertainty. I heard a message from Chuck Swindoll that in 1 square mile of 10 foot visiblity fog there is only 1 cup of actual "water" it is just so microscopicaly dispersed?! Whether or not this is scientifically acurate - it sure sounded impressive. I've been praying the Father would have at least one of the recommended 8 glasses of water this day!

Each Thursday, here in Jinan a group of English teachers meet for prayer. A diverse group indeed that includes a Russian man - here teaching English of all things! WOW - what a Father we have sending out His laborers. Afterwards, dinner - and with 11 people you can guess there were 11 different opinions on where to go for dinner. In typical fashion I made a recommendation - "why don't we just go have some Chinese food?" they laughed got the show on the road and we headed through thick and thin fog towards well... a Chinese restaurant.

Delicious - yes, and no it is really not like American Chinese food - although it is still very distinctly Chinese (lots of soy, vinegar and garlic. Fish comes with head, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, dumplings that I mentioned to the Russian and his daughter are very similar to "pelmini" nothing too weird (locust, scorpions and snake not ordered this time) and very filling.

That's it for this evening. Continue to pray for the fog to lift as both today and tomorrow's performances have been cancelled due to lack ....
stuff

Our plans are still to leave on Saturday for the orphanage in Taian (where I have been for the last 4 years) the children are very excited to see me again - and much has been purchased for gifts through generous donations of the P's and other English teachers here.

Pray hard, beseech the Lord of the Harvest and feel free to email me as I cannot read the posts to the blog (red zone you know)

Live from China
alive for Him

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

a clown without


her tricks is no clown at all!
I arrived late last night after the train ride from ..... you get the picture. Between the fog outside and the cigarette fog inside - my head was about to explode. Adventure - well yes, but ... do I really need another adventure? Safe and sound traveling through the streets of Jinan with little visibility makes driving one of those "prayerful" experiences. The kind where you go "okay, if I need to learn something while lying in a Chinese hospital bed... I'm ready".

My luggage is still in Beijing waiting to get on the first plane that takes off for Jinan (which is still shrouded in heavy fog) hopefully tomorrow it will lift and the bags will arrive. In the meantime, my performance at the University today has been cancelled and probably tomorrow as well .

We (J,D and I) will travel to Taian (about 4 hours by car safely) on Saturday and make it out to the orphanage on Sunday. There will be about 20 local univeristy students that have volunteered to go with us to the orphanage to face paint with the children. The fourth visit - I was running out of things to do and thought this would be a great way to actually do a little more interacting with the children. I did bring lots of Poloroids, and we will once again take gifts and much needed food items. I'm excited of course. There is a new director - but D said "don't worry your reputation has proceeded you and they are very happy for you to come back".

Another schedule change - the Church is renting a concert hall to hold around 400 people. They will be giving the children in Sunday School invitations to give to their friends and relatives. This will be a HUGE outreach and unprecedented too! I'm a little nervous - but.... leaning on the everlasting.

I'll post from the red zone as long as I am allowed. I CAN NOT read the postings you may make - so if you have something you would like to comment back to me - be sure to email it.

Thanks for your prayers and walking with me on this adventure in China.

if clouds are the dust of HIS feet


then He was so close to me today - planes couldn't even leave the ground. Visibility clashes with the invisible!! An unnamed Chinaman knocked on my door shortly after I had resigned myself to a day of napping - but NO ENGLISH. He came in, used the phone and called Mr. T... and WHAT would have transpired weather hazards and all if this year J and D didn't have a Airline Vice President in their class???

Provision abounds in the midst of fog, confusion, language barriers and delays. Feeling favored in spite of it all. What happened...
NO BIG LUGGAGE would make it on the train - only the few things I could snag in the rush to get to the train station.

Drove typical Asian way - make a way - form your own traffic rules and get there any way you can. I got to the station (and some of you wonder why I have such a phobia about others driving) and my escort tried desperately to find someplace to drop me off - VIP lounge (yes, Lord this will do nice) NO the workers were having none of that - I only had the "hard seat" ticket (and yes that means it is going to be a HARD train ride for 7 1/2 hours)

After several trips back and forth across the depot I was escorted to a lounge for which a mere $1.50 allowed me to sit in the smoke filled comfort of a rattan chair, Chinese soap opera for entertainment, noodle slurppers for company. I pulled out my handy DELL crossword puzzle book to amuse myself for the next 2 1/2 hours before my train departure.

A young man interupted me with a desire to speak English and practice his skills. It made the time pass faster than pushing a pencil and he assured me that I'd make my train - no problem. His train left earlier than the Jinan express - so.. the waitress escorted me down through the hordes and I do mean hordes of people.

Similar trains to the Russian ones I've experienced but negotiating through the crowds trying to find my "hard seat #82" claiming one that was already taken.

It is CROWDED little leg room SMOKEY 90% men - 100% Chinese and you can guess the looks a single white woman travelling by train is getting!!

A young man sitting in my seat compartment of 6 did speak a little English - enough to tell me he was getting off in Jinan. He looked as if he would like to say more but his confidence failed us both.

Rich Mullins sings me into melancholy, the fog surrounds me and I roll, moving foward to the the place of my arrival... somewhere at the other end of the tracks

when in rome (oops china)


...do as the Chinese do - and that means starting your day with a healthy dose of stick to your ribs carbohydrates (rice,noodles, buns, sticky and steamed dumplings) have your veggies too - fried kale, fava beans, white beans, soybean curd. fruit - watermelon, pineapple, oranges (the canned mandarins of course!) Ah... tea. I belieive I was the only American in the restaraunt (the waitress said "but this is chinese restaraunt" to which i replied "yes and breakfast included in price" - economics actually

Back upstairs I awaited the certain phone call of Mr. L - but I didn't need the phone to ring to know the flight today to Jinan was cancelled - which means - trains full. Outside (I can see from my beautiful picturesque window) the fog is still as thick as Chinese pea soup. Even the Beijing airport flights are cancelled. It is quite eerie looking with visibility probably less than 200 feet.

AND the added luxury of this 4star hotel - NO ELECTRICITY for today. The hotel slipped a piece of paper under the door last night which I glanced at casually and basically ignored (something about maintenance) then on the money 7:30 am - out go the lights, the TV the hot water pot, AND the heat!!

I grabbed the letter, and checked the time of the "sorry for the inconvenience" until 5:30 pm.

so... I meditate on the relative ease we assume all will be smooth and working. These things will take place in an orderly fashion. I've been here less than 24 hours and I've been overcharged for internet, have no electricity, and I am STUCK in the middle of a freak weather occurence that has halted air travel, congested trains and made roadways extremely hazardous!!

Toto we are not in Kansas anymore!

I'll just sit, read, pray and wonder as I wander what this special repreive is about. No real certainties from my Mr. L ... he is as helpless to know what to do with me as I am. But... there is a plan at work - but the "fog" is keeping it invisible!!