Saturday, December 13, 2008

Joy

"Thou will make known to me the path of life, in Thy presence is the fullness of joy, at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

The last evening is here. Today I felt like wind blown leaf in a temporary resting place along the side of another foreign road.

Yesterday's flurry of activity began with our trip to the Grace Orphanage. In just one year, the entire landscape surrounding the old traditional Chinese neighborhood has radically changed. It made it difficult for us to locate. Although H (our friend and acting interpreter), had detailed directions, the cab driver still needed to stop and ask police as well as street cleaners where we were and where we were going.

The street is closed to traffic now, so the director came to the corner and a broad smile of familiarity and thanks broke across his face. He walked us the rest of the way to the building our arms loaded down with the packages filled with new shoes, socks, toys, gifts and other items we negotiated for the day before.

The 10 youngest children were there - many now old enough to remember last year's visit from the "soo-chow". We played games, told the Christmas story, took photos and closed with the children singing "Jesus Loves Me" in English. We took a tour of the building and saw the three new water heaters for the children's bathrooms as well as the air purifiers we purchased last year. Perhaps small improvements but they will make a big difference in the quality of life for the orphans during the cold winter months.

We loaded up and hurried back to the hotel to be picked up by the University's driver and taken to the performance. We drove away from the city and watched the car's thermometer continue to drop. The shoulders of tree-lined lane leading up to the campus were sprinkled with snow, the thermometer read -6• C.

It was COLD - but the warmth generated by the awaiting students was better than a blazing fire. I can't recall every entering a classroom that was heated adequately (for a Texan). Everyone in the audience remained bundled in coats, scarves and gloves. They laughed. The volunteers willingly acted out the stories. And in the end they asked the "questions" I am always ready to answer.

My friend G sat on the front row and prayed.

It wasn't long before the "why" question opened the door for the answer of faith. Then one young man asked if I would sing them a song. You might find this curious but it is not uncommon. I told the students I would sing the song of the orphans. I stepped off the stage and began "Jesus loves me this I know.. " I reached out and touched the hands of the audience members "yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves YOU".

More questions, deeper and deeper into the depths of faith came the answers. Several students asked H for her number so they could plan to visit the orphans. Today I received an email from the Ps in Jinan that already the ENTIRE class is arranging a visit to the orphanage!

This morning Professor N (S) who makes all the arrangements for my performance said one of our taxi drivers inquired what we were doing there and when he was told about our visit to the orphanage, he was so excited because one of his relatives is looking to adopt a child. S gave him H's number to contact Grace Orphanage and schedule a meeting. God work's in mysterious ways indeed. He guides us to the path of life.

I have been in China, but also in His presence. I can say this with confidence because I experienced great joy.

Pray for harvest hands! The Chinese people are hungry for love, joy and Truth.

Pray for the young girl student who approached me as we were leaving and took the scarf wrapped around her neck and said, "I must give you something, for what you have given me." She then began to cry. I embraced her and asked why she was crying and she could only choke out the words "I am so sad". Pray God's love comforts her and His Truth heals her unspoken pain.

Pray for safety and rest for the journey is long and never easy.

Pray for the meaning of Christmas to reap the largest harvest the workers have ever witnessed!

Pray for the gift we have been freely given to be boldly shared.

Praise God for the Reason of the Season!

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go...

I've already said goodbye...
...Smile for me You are in His service too!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Now to Him...

... who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in His bright presence, fresh and celebrating -" Jude 24 The Message

Our Master certainly kept us on our feet today! I met my friend this morning at her hotel and had my first non-Chinese breakfast in 10 days. It was quite continental: British cold baked beans, French croissants, Swedish museli, German sausage and good ole American scrambled eggs!

My friend H arrived to take us to shop for the orphanage. She already arranged the "big" purchase of new water heaters to enable the children to have hot baths (without having to heat water over the stove). Today we bought new shoes for each child, warm winter socks, and educational toys for the toddlers. The three of us then returned to stuff Christmas gift sacks and pack everything we will need to take tomorrow.

It will be jammed packed. First heading out to the orphanage - then immediately after returning we will be picked up from the hotel and go to the campus performing for close to 200 University students. Our day will finish late in the evening. But oh what a day.

Pray for joy and happiness for the orphans. The director told H, "I can offer you nothing for such a great gift but I will pray for you and your families".

Pray for the students who are taking time away from their end of the year exam studies to learn a lesson that will change their lives.

Pray for questions that will open the door (and their hearts) to the Good News!

Pray for us to "stay on our feet in His bright presence". Pray His radiance to shine shine shine.

Pray for our health (snow in the forecast). Pray for safety on the roads.

"God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!" Ephesians 3:20 The Message

Dreaming and imaging His abundant provision!

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Measuring Reed

A few weeks ago, I was reading in Ezekiel where the Lord instructed the prophet to write down the dimensions of the Temple. I confess, reading details like these in measurements I don't understand and frankly am not sure why I sure care about, I am tempted to skip on to the "good" stuff. You know the part where the justice of God is meted out against the enemies!

I realize however, the exact details and measurements are given to make sure we understand the "concrete" reality of the new Temple, the new Heaven the dimensions may not make much sense while we live in cities of concrete and steel - oh but one day, gates of pearl and fine gemstones. Not to mention the streets of gold!

Last night, at the foreign teachers fellowship, I think the "kingdom here on earth" could have been measured in the 10'x12' room. The participants went around the room making brief introductions of their name and country of origin. What a fulfillment of the prophecy, "all nations will praise the name of the Lord." Madagascar, Botswana, Tanzania, Rwanda, America, Hungary, Holland, Germany, Australia and of course one itinerant clown.

Each week, they meet together and praise the Living God, have Bible study, encourage one another and PRAY FOR THE HARVEST. Some are students, some are teachers, some are starting businesses as an avenue to share the Good News but ALL are about the King's business.

I was exhausted after the day at the Jinan orphanage, and yet I knew being among brothers and sisters in Christ from distant lands united for one purpose would strengthen me for the remainder of the task set before me.

Many students accompanied our group to the visit the children. I took many pictures for the Jinan group of adoptive parents so they can share with the children now living in the States the faces of their friends who have not forgotten them (on either side of the ocean).

I have noticed many changes here, in the eight years I have visited, but many things remain the same. I would say, the biggest one is the great number of people who have never heard the Good News or have any hope in the greater love of the Living God.

Keep praying. Keep holding up the harvest workers who live far from comfort and familiar things. Pray for their stamina, health, and unity.

Tomorrow I leave for Beijing. I will be connecting with friends flying in from the States a few hours after I arrive. Pray for their connections and rest on their long flights from America. Tuesday night I will have dinner with a few former students who have helped me down through the years. Pray for their hearts to be open to hearing the Good News, as they have seen the love of Christ displayed many times.

Wednesday we will spend the day making purchases for the orphanage. Pray for good negotiated prices so we can buy even more needed items for the children.

Thursday we will spend the afternoon with the children and then off to the University for a performance for the students at the Technical College. Friday will begin the process of our journey home.

Close to 800 University students, orphans and public school children have heard the work of the mighty King. They have ALL heard the meaning of the celebration of Christmas. Pray for harvest hands to reap mightily during this "season" of the Greatest Gift!

Packing up and moving on!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Real "Page-Turner"

Have you ever stayed awake late into the night, engrossed in a book because you HAD to know how the story would resolve itself? You keep telling yourself, "just one more chapter, surely the hero will turn everything around."

When the back cover is closed, we expect the story to have a fairytale "happily-ever-after-ending. The hero wins, the man gets the girl, the good guys win and the bad guys are defeated; all against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.

Last night I stayed up past my bedtime...

turning the pages of my heart
while I cried myself to sleep.

Our team of three Americans and four Chinese were all excited to return to the Taian orphanage a two hour drive from Jinan. We were surprised by a late night phone call from "J". He would be taking the overnight train from his home in Shanghai, just to see the children. He is a businessman, recently married, and extremely busy working with a foreign company. But in 2001, he was a student of the Ps and served as my interpreter. Ever year since, he has acted as liaison between the government and orphanage officials to arrange our visit. He wouldn't miss this for the world (or a good night's sleep).

When we arrived in Taian, friends of the Ps once again arranged an inviting energizing lunch in their home. Hospitality is a great gift, but even greater is their service to enlist their students to make all the purchases for the orphanage. They encourage them to share what they are buying is for the children in the orphanage. They both shared, every vendor, from food suppliers to clothing stores ALL gave them a discount and expressed their appreciation for the help the children would receive.

Their office was filled with crates of fruit, milk boxes, biscuits, meat sticks, diapers, wash clothes, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and of course special treats! CARE EE sat in the midst of the all the "goodies" and praised God for the testimony in provision for the children.

Last year we were escorted to the new $30 million (US) dollar facility and were told the children would be moving here in September 2008. But when J contacted the officials, he was told the building is still under construction. Setting out for the orphanage, we found ourselves temporarily lost, passing by the old building because the facade is covered with scaffolding.

We were met with the usual fanfare - newspaper reporters, photographers, and a television crew filming every moment from arrival to departure! The children were all excited and seated around a play mat where I quickly joined them on the floor. We tossed a sponge ball around and from their cheers you could believe in their hearts they had just caught the winning pass at a Superbowl Game. Bells, and instruments were passed out and we quickly assembled a band and filled the room with music heard to the heavenlies. After Polaroid photos, and decorated frames, we were escorted to the original building home to the infants and severely disabled children.

It is the same building visited for the past eight years. But now choking dust, and a cacophony of hammering, constructing and destroying filled the stairways as we climbed the six floors to the children's ward. The first room at the end of the hallway was very familiar to us. There are 15 cribs with children a range of ages, but all with crippling disabilities. Even though they have grown, they remain in beds designed with the safety of babies in mind. As I knelt down to look in their eyes, pat hands and stroke faces through the bars, it seemed like a cage. Don't misunderstand this is not cruelty, it is necessity in a place where proper physical therapy and treatment is limited.

"This is not at all how we thought it was supposed to be..."*

We were then led to the room where we performed the first year. Now it is filled with more cribs. Each with a tiny child clothed with heavy quilted winter wear and covered by a thick blanket. The room had no heat. When I touched the tiny hands, they were ice cold.

"We can cry with hope"*

We went from crib to crib, touching, praying and wondering "why"? On the other side of the city a "showcase" is being built, and yet here and now - they are cold, in need of such basic necessities as milk and diapers. After we finished we were led to another room - filled with more cribs...

"We can say goodbye with hope"*

And we were led to another room - filled with more cribs...

"We can grieve with hope"*

And another...

My interpreter turned to me and said, "these children are dying."

"'Cause we believe with hope, there is a place, by God's grace, where we'll see your face again"*

One of the questions during the performance at the University was "do you ever leave really sad?" Truthfully I answered, "of course, there are many times my heart grieves for the conditions and situations I see the children in. BUT... I know God knows where each one of the children are born, He has numbered all the hairs on their head, and His promise is not to leave them or to forsake them. He has promised to give them hope and a future - they are created in His image for eternity! It is never easy, but it is the Truth I hold on to."

"We wait with hope, we ache with hope,

We let go with hope,"*

Pray for the last performance in Jinan at the orphanage. Pray for joy, pray for laughter, pray for HOPE!

Faithful, hope-filled and turning the pages
* Lyrics from "With Hope" Stephen Curtis Chapman

THE END OF THE STORY:
"He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good - tears gone, crying gone, pain gone - all the first order of things gone... Write it all down- each word is dependable and accurate." Rev 21:4-5 The Message

Friday, December 05, 2008

"And makes the Nations prove...

... the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders, of His love!" excerpt from Joy to the World traditional Christmas carol

Friday WAS full of joy overflowing

The invitation to perform at a government sponsored Primary School was approved at the request of an "English" volunteer teacher. A young man and his wife, who has now lived in China for over five years with three young children. They are committed to the harvest here for they have seen the ripe fields! The two older girls (3yrs and 2yrs) came with us to the school. It was humbling to see his commitment as well as sacrifice for the work of the Kingdom. He chuckled, as we were weaving in and out of the traffic (with no "child-safety" seats) and said, "this is all they know". He and his family are here to "hear" the NATION prove.

"the glories of His righteousness."

The auditorium of the school housing over 2000 children filled quickly with the chosen 400 (10 from each classroom). They were well behaved (for youngsters) but when CARE EE walked in the room - it exploded into squeals of surprise and delight. They were ecstatic to see a real "clown" up close. They had fun with the skits, the tricks and in the end, when time came to close, CARE EE wished them a Merry Christmas. I asked them, "do you know why Christmas is celebrated?" They all shouted back, "it is the birthday of Jesus!"

Just one week ago, the young man had carefully, shared the real meaning of Christmas. They remembered. When we walked out their volunteer "teacher" exclaimed, "WOW, they remembered."

"If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me."

After a brief rest, I made my way through the dark below freezing night across the campus to J's combined classes. He was unsure of the turnout because most of his students are older and have jobs and families. The room appeared a bit vacant with only 50 students but they were engaging and had a good time with the performance. Once again, the evening closed with a question and answer session.

For the first time I can remember, after I gave the explanation for "why" (because I am a Christian) I chose this type of job, one of the students said, "can you tell us what lead you to make this decision to become a follower of Christ, and when did this life-changing event happen?" You can imagine, the prayers that were immediately shot as arrows into the Throne Room from J,D, myself and the other Chinese believers in attendance. I was able to give a clear presentation of the message of the Gospel. We are all sinners, in need of a Savior. I also was clear in expressing, in America, many children are raised in Christian homes and exposed to the Truth of the Bible at an early age. But, the Truth can be understood anytime you hear it. God so loved the World...

"...and wonders, and wonders of His love."

In a few minutes, my friends will arrive with our Chinese version of an SUV, we will pack up the treats and goodies and head for Taian (two hours away). The children are still in the old facility and still in great need. This year we added diapers to the list of items we are taking to the precious disabled young ones, who must spend the majority of the day, confined to a crib.

Pray for safety on the roads.
Pray for joy among the children.
Pray for understanding from the workers of what keeps me coming back and back and back.
Praise God for the WONDER of His love!

And all the nations WILL bow before the King.
Kneeling

Thursday, December 04, 2008

T.I.N.A.

"T.I.N.A." is the acronym used away from home when faced with the unusual or strange. It is meant to secretly jostle (and quiet) one another, "This Is Not America." Often quoted, is the culture sensitivity reminder, "it's not bad, it's just different."

It's Friday morning here, and the University Hotel dining room was filled to capacity. Professors, conference attendees and a variety of other official looking people clamored around, with plates and chopsticks, dishing up breakfast. Can you imagine what they serve for breakfast? Chinese food of course! T.I.N.A. indeed.

This year I came prepared. Knowing the fare each day would be virtually the same (noodles, rice, ginger cabbage, steamed cauliflower, strange hot items I am too scared to try, and other hot liquids that are probably very healthy but... well different.) A good dose of protein is needed for a day filled with performances, exposure to the weather and the floating bacteria in the atmosphere. I added a new item to my list of "must have for travel" food bags. I have defeated the dreary common boiled egg by bringing packets of mayonnaise and mustard.

There I sit, alone, strange and VERY American, with cracked eggs and packets my fellow diners are curious about - to stir up "deviled" delights. Okay, so it is day three and I have had my fill of them. Tomorrow I may move to add PB&J to spice up my morning delicacies.

No, this is NOT America.

I cannot imagine University students being entertained by a "clown". Much less after a performance more suited to those under 13, to ask provocative life-challenging questions. A question asked last night during the Bible study (for the students) was "what I have learned" from my travels. I gave a lengthy response, but the core of the answer was love is communicated with much more than language. Everyone, young and old, feel the need for value in their life, purpose, and to know they are loved. It was a forum where I was free to share the full Gospel message. The love of God exhibited through the gift of His Son. This is NOT America, but people are God's creation wherever they find themselves geographically. People need to understand the real reason for Christmas. We don't need a "bailout" governments vote on - we need a Savior!

This afternoon, my first performance will be for Primary School students (about 500)! Pray for clear translation, joy and love to be communicated to the eager audience.

After a brief rest (and a PB&J) I will perform for J's combined classes. The conference room can accommodate 300. Pray it is filled to capacity! Pray for the questions. Pray for the Holy Spirit of the Living God we serve to answer with life giving, life changing truth.

T.I.N.A.

This is not America. This is the Harvest Field. "Red, and yellow, black and white - all are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the WORLD."

"On your knees, pray for harvest hands" Matthew 9:38 the Message

Hands serving, face smiling.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"I Know..

... what your visit means to the children."

Those were the first tearful words from the last University student to hug me goodbye after the performance. I thanked her, but saw her turn her head to hide the tears running down her cheeks. I embraced her again and and through her tears she explained, "I am from the countryside, from a horrible childhood. My family was very poor, and I often did not have clothes to wear or even food. We lived in a terrible house that really was not even a house." She could hardly completer her sentences. "I know the greatest thing you give, you give hope. Tonight you have helped me understand that I too can give the gift of hope."

American culture is built on hope; with hard work anybody has a chance at greatness, paupers can become millionaires, people without education can teach themselves to read by fireside and change the nation (President Lincoln). One of the greatest privileges of our country, the land of "opportunity", is the abundance of hope.

The students prepared their questions in advance. They were cheerful, open and inquisitive about many aspects of non-profit work. It did not take long before the proverbial question was asked, "why do you do this type of work." From then on the discussion was centered on faith in the Living God. The Truth, the Light, the Hope and great love of God was proclaimed boldly to the eager, listening audience.

As we were heading back to the hotel after the performance discussing the many thoughtful and provocative questions of the students, D commented in an atheist society, when God's love is shown people respond.

The harvest is ripe, pray for more workers! And keep up your prayers for this one.

Sowing seeds of love in the field smiling

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Safe and Sound

It is a dreary Wednesday morning here in Jinan. After 24 hours of travel, plane rides, taxi drives and the burden of 200 pounds of "goods for services" - I arrived late last night. Sleep was fitful on the Chinese version of a mattress (closer to a floor than a bed), but I rested and now I'm ready to get started. My tiny room looks like a clown factory exploded with all the toys, trinkets, props, red wig and funny Christmas costume hanging from the doorpost.

Today will be the first University performance for around 150 freshman English majors. My friend discussed the "visitor" worked for a non-profit, but neglected (to surprise them) to tell them I am a clown. They are in for a surprise indeed!

Pray for JOY! A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.

Pray for the question and answer session to open the door to the presentation of the Gospel. Pray for those who know His voice to HEAR the Truth.

Pray for health and stamina. This will be a whirlwind "tour" and I need to remain well and armed against any weapon or bacteria the enemy would try to use to slow me down.

Pray for the real meaning of Christmas to be understood among a people who have eagerly embraced the man who wears a red suit and gives gifts. Pray they understand the gift of the shed blood of the one whose birth we celebrate.

Live from the red zone

Monday, December 01, 2008

Black Friday - Red China Monday

The sun has yet to peek its blazing head over the horizon here in Dallas, Texas. I arrived early enough to the airport to miss the masses of people returning home from the holidays. At 6am the airport is already bustling and the gate agent is growing tired of saying, "no sir, we are completely full."

Approximately 24 hours from now and 15,000 miles I'll be back in red China. My mind was reeling watching three days of reports coming in from Mumbai India. Many of you asked I if I knew anyone there. I do not, but many of my contacts have friends and family who no doubt were affected by the terror.

Terror can happen anytime, anywhere. Even in a Walmart parking lot by unarmed, unwitting and enthusiastic people searching for the best bargain before they run out. For the family of the employee, hearing the news this young man had been trampled to death - was terror. Something totally unexpected and out of our ability to affect the situation.

I praise God nothing is unexpected to Him. Nothing is out of His control or dominion. We will never find an empty shelf where His mercy and love should have been.

Please pray for our hearts to turn toward the necessary not the temporary. There are millions of children not clamoring or even expecting toys, they would just like something to eat. There are mothers and fathers around the world watching their children suffer unable to do anything about it. Terror and terrible.

Open your eyes to the greatness of the God we serve - trust Him for the need. After all the Word does say' "for God so loved..."

May we love so well - we tell others
Flying serving and smiling

"So, Roll up Your Sleeves...

…put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives” 1 Peter 1:13

Today, in Texas it is a warm, sunny day with a high of 63, my sleeves are definitely rolled up, as the sweat is dripping down my forehead! December is just one week away, and I am just one week from “leaving on jet plane” to China. I was encouraged reading 1 Peter 1, especially by verse 13. I have been trying to get my mind to the necessary gear to prepare for my eighth trip to the People’s Republic of China. Over the past eight years over 10,000 University students have experienced Sunshine After Rain! We have visited the Taian Orphanage seven consecutive years, the orphanage in Jinan for the last five years, and the orphanage in Beijing the past four years, consistently ministering to the children, orphanage workers and directors. Our visit is something they look forward to each year.

Through a variety of media opportunities (televised public performances, cover stories in magazines, radio interviews and last year even a documentary) close to 3,000,000 Chinese have heard the story of the ministry, our visits and care for the orphans in their country, as well as the reason we come, to practice pure religion undefiled according to the Word of the Living God. God used the simple (a clown) to confound the wise. His message of love and hope travels beyond our days and into eternity.

We may look at the future as uncertain, but there is no uncertainty with God. His Word does NOT return to Him void. It produces a harvest, some ten fold, some hundred, some thousand fold. We have seen it in the testimony of our work in China. Pray for the BILLION fold!! Nothing is too hard for Him.

Sleeves rolled up, coat packed and smiling in His service.

CHINA - Calendar of Events

December 1
Depart USA

December 2
Arrive in Jinan

December 3
University Performance

December 4
English Corner

December 5
Grade School Performance
University Performance

December 6
Taian Orphanage

December 7
Jinan Orphanage

December 8
Home Visits

December 9
Travel to Beijing

December 10
Preparations for Orphanage

December 11
Kindergarten Performance
University Performance

December 12
Beijing Orphanage

December 13
Return to USA