A new adventure has started once again. It seems like such a distant memory the last time I was on my way to distant shores. I have not finished my last update which I add to periodically and labeled “The Long Overdue Conclusion”. None the less here we are now with a new update. So much has happened with me and in me since I last embarked on a journey like this two years ago. The people and memories however have burned fresh in my mind daily. I left with a purpose and the expectation of something different. China was the first stop and did not disappoint as being very different.
I landed in shanghai China and proceeded to soak up as much culture as I could as quickly as possible. Street food, bike share trekking, milk tea, museums, new friend s, dumplings, skyscrapers, crowded subways, more dumplings and more milk tea. I met up with the team of teachers and we headed to a nearby city to teach. The smaller cities in China still hold over a million people and China has the most cities in the world with over a million in population. The people were mostly friendly but with a very different version of manners and etiquette than we have in the west. I met my God send of roommate name Edward, or as I and his students called him “Mr.Ed”. He is a young man fresh out of Bible College with a heart for truth and seeing people given hope. He and I shared in our affections for strategy games, spicy food, beards, and sarcasm. We had great conversations, prayer sessions, disagreements, and even coined the phrase “Broanerges” from the Greek “boanerges”. Ed is an orator, great teacher, and mostly importantly a good friend. If China had been a bust I was glad to make a new friend in Ed.
The other teachers all brought something unique to the table and all loved their students. They were made up of two wise and kind men with valuable life experience. The rest of the team consisted of wonderful, beautiful women from all different ages and walks in life. They each brought different skills, talents and teaching styles. We shared laughter, disagreements, and love for each other and the students. I learned much from the team in China, and I am thankful for them, and pray blessings over their every step.
Although I was on a team, I sometimes feel that I am the only broken follower of Jesus. I believe a lie of isolation that whispers that my junk is dirtier than the rest of humanity. That I am beyond repair and that my pain is unique. I also can feel alone in my passions for what is good and right in the world. I can feel by myself in my desire for children to know love, and the reality of the spiritual to be manifested in the lives of the broken hearted. But I was not alone. I was with a group of different people from different walks of life, in a very different country and culture. And the amazing thing was that each one of us was broken in a different way. Brokenness has a strange effect on a person. It ushers in humility to combat the pride and a battle rages between one’s self and the Healer of ourselves. This battle weakens a person till they say, like I did, “Okay, I’ll go”. Everyone knows pain, whether they caused it or it happened to them. Everyone knows shame, and regret. But not everyone knows the One who rushes to meet our pain, the Healer and Lover of the soul. This love rushed to our students in China, and broken people were used, because God works in very different ways.
The students were the highlight of my time in China. A great movie character once said “the ninos are my heart”, this is true for me. The kids captured my heart and I loved being their teacher. I loved teaching them the English language, reading them Bible stories and reflecting as much goodness as I had to that comes from the good Father in Heaven. It was amazing to see the heart changes in them, and I will forever cherish their precious smiles in my memory. Goodbye China, I know I will see you again, until then, my prayers and part of heart I leave with you.
Another red eye flight and I am in Israel now. I was greeted by dear friends at the train station and told them that I already have been in two arguments with Israeli women. If you have never argued with an Israeli woman then you do not know the hail storm of fire, attacks and irrational thought that is hurled at you relentlessly! They do not hold back, and I do not back down. And that is the mixture of a spectacular verbal engagement. As I recounted how I was wronged, I was gently reminded by Mr. Ajaj that Jesus changes hearts. That was it, stated simply and with full confidence that Jesus is real and changes people in real ways. That type of faith is refreshing in a cynical world. The Ajaj family also treated me as family and I was honored to stay with them. The first day I explored Nazareth and stumbled upon a church where Jesus spoke the words “The Spirit of Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” I read these words, sang a song in the small ancient chapel and reflected on how many times I question why I am where I am, my purpose, and where my focus should be? In the place where Jesus proclaimed it, I was reminded that I live to bring the good news of freedom and hope. Not a false hope, not a dead God, not irrational religious constraints created by man, but to tell the truth that Jesus is alive and the spiritual is real, and these things have rational evidence. I show up and Jesus does it all, I deliver a message when prompted and He changes the soul. Faith leaps through fear and doubt, no matter how many proofs I can deliver, the heart still needs to take a leap past fear and into Jesus. Thankfully God is gracious and kind to push us toward Him and away from our own ideas of worth and identity. And Thankfully He pulled us gently to Himself and away from an impossible path of earning worth and trying to obtain goodness. His goodness gives liberty, gives hope and his love is at work to reach the poor and powerless. We are all poor and powerless in some way; He is here for you and me as well. Be alive in Christ Jesus and through Him all things are possible.