Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Christmas time has always been one of my absolute favorite times of the year, and being in China hasn't changed that one bit. For me Christmas is a time to celebrate the most wonderful gift of all, the birth of our Savior, but it is also a time where I look back on the past year and reflect on the joys and blessings the year has brought.
God has granted me the opportunity to live in 2 countries (3 including the States) and serve him in ways that I never dreamed would be possible. Both experiences have been rewarding and have taught me a lot about the power of the hand of God. There is such a joy and peace I find in living and working here and I know that peace comes directly from the Lord. Yes, there are definite moments of struggle, loneliness, and feelings of discomfort. But it is in those moments when I must rely on the Holy Spirit to strengthen me and remember that God has brought me here and will be with me always. I think of Isaiah 49:16, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." God hasn't just written me into the palm of His hand, he has engraved me which is a mark that will never vanish. He has all my fears, joys, weaknesses, everything permanently imprinted into His hand. Amazing Love!!
I was able to visit the orphanage last Friday and found out that things are a little different than I expected. After visiting, I am not sure that this particular orphanage is the best place for me to volunteer right now, so I am meeting with World Vision again tomorrow to find out if there is another orphanage in the city where I might be able to work. My main concerns are the amount of time this orphanage requires that I volunteer as well as the lack of interaction I will be able to have with the children. My prayer is that I will allow God to direct this opportunity and I will not become a backseat driver. If this orphanage is where God needs me to be right now, then I know I will find joy in the work and God will work out a way for me to manage both school responsibilities and the volunteer work.
I have taken some new pictures of campus and posted them on my pictures sight along with a video of my students. I taught them The 12 Days of Christmas this week and they had a great time singing and doing the motions. The picture quality isn't great, but it is still really cute. So turn up your volume and enjoy their singing!!

Merry Christmas to all!! God Bless You!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Trading In the Old For the New

"Realize that you must lead a dying life; the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God."
Those words from Thomas Kempis have been circulating through my mind all week. How difficult it is for us to give up our habits and old ways of life and accept the new creation which Christ desires for us to become.
The bible study I am currently doing has allowed me to see certain areas of sin and struggle in my life that I was either not aware of or had worked hard to ignore. Through reading God's word, participating in this bible study, and asking God to make known to me areas of weakness, my eyes have been opened more to how important it is for me to die to myself and my sin and allow God to dwell in me and make me new. I knew all about grace, but I wasn't fully living in it. I continued to tie myself to certain laws and rules instead of relying on God's mercy and grace to deliver me from the law. God does not ask me to give parts of myself or only that which I am comfortable giving. He asks for everything and will accept no subsitutes. Dying to old habits and selfish ways can be difficult for me because I often have a hard time with change, even if it is change for the better. However I know I cannot be the woman God truely wants me to be unless I am willing to surrender my ways and adopt His ways.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8

Prayer Requests
**Complete surrender to all that I cling to
**My work at the orphanage which begins tomorrow
** A Christmas project I am involved in with a very poor, deaf school in Guangxi Province
** A new friend who is searching

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tis the Season

My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree!!
Well it's that holiday season and believe it or not, Christmas has made its way over to China!! I was in Wal-Mart last week and there was a huge Christmas display right at the front complete with trees, ornaments, and Santa costumes. Christmas music was playing all throughout the store (and not the horrid songs like Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree) but the good stuff like God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Silent Night. I almost couldn't believe my ears. On Sunday, Dee brought me a Christmas Tree and Don and Karen gave me some garland for decoration. It is nice to still be able to experience a little holiday cheer but not be bombarded with all the commercialization that exists in the States. Our school is allowing us to take the 25th and 26th off to celebrate Christmas if we choose. I am hoping that my dad will figure out how to get me hooked up to a live broadcast of our Christmas Eve service since it will be noon on Christmas Day here. Isn't modern technology great!!

Last Saturday we had a school dance for all the freshmen. I told all my students that I would be there and they all said they were eager to see me dance (for those of you who have seen me dance you know it is quite interesting)! This dance was very different from what college dances are in the West. All the music was from various time periods and we got to do the waltz, the jive, and the cha-cha. I got to dance with a couple of students and one of the other foreign teachers who is an excellent ballroom dancer. I think his toes must have been quite sore because I kept stepping on them. The whole time we were dancing I kept saying, " Oh sorry. Oh sorry again." The students were fascinated when they would see me dancing and it reminded me of how I felt any time I saw my teachers doing non-teacher activities. They suddenly realize, "Oh yeah, she's a real person and doesn't live under the desk in the classroom." It was also fun for me to see them outside of the classroom and in a different environment.
It is hard to believe that there are only 6 more weeks in this semester. I guess it really is true that time flies when you're having fun! Our CEO has already asked teachers to make a decision about whether they will stay on for next school year. Please pray with me as I make this decision. I am fairly certain that I will renew my contract, but I want to be sure that staying here is what the Lord is leading me to do.
Happy Holidays to all!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Answered Prayers

Yay! I finally heard from the orphanage yesterday and I begin my volunteer work next Friday. They want me to volunteer every Friday afternoon and all day on Saturdays. I am really thankful that all this has worked out and am ready to begin spending time with the children. I am also hoping I will have the opportunity at some point to sit down with the director and ask her questions about orphanage administration, since opening and running an orphanage is something I would love to do someday.
On Friday night, Dee and I went to a contemporary service at church and were asked to speak about Thanksgiving. Dee talked about the origins of Thanksgiving and I shared with them about what most families do today to celebrate. We also shared with them the one thing we were most thankful for this year. Later in the evening, we divided up into small groups and each person shared why they were thankful. It was so amazing to hear some of the stories and to hear them talk about how their faith in God has increased because of situations they have faced. The most touching story was from a girl who was about my age. She had lived for a long time in an old basement apartment with few windows and no electricity. She found it very difficult to find time to read her bible because she worked long hours during the day and when she got home, it was too dark to see. She began praying that God would move her to a different location, and a few months ago her prayer was answered. She has recently moved into a new apartment with both windows and electricity. She is now most thankful to God for the opportunity to read her bible whenever she wants. That was just one of many, many stories I heard about how God has made necessary provisions for his children over the past year. It showed me once again how God truly does tend to his sheep!
On Sunday afternoon, Anne (another teacher) and I traveled to the fabric market where she helped me pick out cute fabric for some new winter clothes which we then took to the tailor. I found really beautiful coats and dresses from Bloomingdale's, Lord and Taylor, and Nordstrom websites and the tailor assured me that she could make the exact clothes. I could seriously get used to this!!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and thank you, thank you to everyone who sent me holiday greetings!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gobble Gobble

Happy Turkey Week to everyone!! The weather is cooling and winter is beginning to arrive. Well it is still in the 70’s but it feels more like the holiday season and for that I am thankful.
Before I tell you about my Thanksgiving, I must share one gross story with you. So breakfast cereal can be somewhat difficult to find here, and when I find kinds I love I just snatch them up. Last week I was at the supermarket and saw what looked very much like Cheerios. They came in about 6 different colored boxes, so I bought 2 different ones hoping that maybe they were different yummy flavors. WRONG!! When I got home I opened the first box. I tasted it dry and it was very similar to a barbeque flavor. Thinking it might taste better with milk (it seemed like a good idea at the time) I poured some in a bowl. You can use your imagination to figure out how disgusting that was. After dumping the cereal in the trash I opened the other box. I thought to myself, “This can’t possibly any worse than the first box.” Wrong again!! These Cheerios were covered in FISH seasoning!! I think that seafood might possibly be the absolute one thing in this world that never ever needs to be combined with breakfast cereal. But it is common for Chinese people to eat fish for breakfast, so why not combine a food they really love with the first meal of the day. Let’s just say from now on I will be sticking with the imported cereals.
Now on to a more appealing story, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast on Saturday night with about 15-20 people, some foreigners and some Chinese. We began the evening by saying one thing that made us most thankful over the past year. I am most thankful for my wonderful parents who have been so supportive and encouraging over the past year as I have traveled so far away from home. I know that God gave me one of the greatest treasures in the world when He blessed me with my amazing mother and father.
At our Thanksgiving dinner, we had all the traditional dishes, including stuffing that someone had mailed from the States. We didn’t have turkey (because you can’t find it here) but we did have chicken and duck, which was very yummy! Some of the people there had never before experienced a thanksgiving meal (being that the pilgrims and Indians didn’t make it to this part of the world) and it was fun to share our holiday and traditions with the Chinese people who came.
I hope you all have a wonderful week with those you love. Remember to tell your family and friends how much they mean to you and enjoy all the blessings we have been given by the One who deserves all our thanks!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Just Truckin' Along

Sorry about the delay in updating. I found out that the Chinese government has put a ban on blogspot, so for the past 2 weeks I have been unable to post anything and have tried to find a way around all the mess. Well, there is nothing blogspot can do about it and so I was left with 2 options. Set up a whole new blog, or email all my updates to my mother who can then post them. I really didn’t feel like setting up something new and then having to inform everyone at home about a new blog address. So my wonderful mom agreed to post updates for me every week!! She is so great!!
Ok, so over the past 2 weeks here are the new developments. I spoke with the woman from the orphanage and found out that I will be able to volunteer there on the weekends. I will be going with another group of university students, but I am not sure when I will begin. I must first meet with the head of the orphanage and am waiting to hear from her. I have found that sometimes things take a little longer to get accomplished here and I am learning to go with the flow and practice patience.
Speaking of going with the flow, we have had a change at the university, which will affect my teaching over the next few weeks. One of my group members had to return to Canada and now we are short one teacher. Until a replacement teacher can be found, myself and my other group members will have to pick up her students and possibly teach extra hours. It isn’t a huge deal because her students are learning the exact same material as mine, but it does require some flexibility on the parts of the teachers and administration. They are hoping to find someone within the next 2 weeks, but nothing is guaranteed. So for all of you out there who have ever wanted to teach abroad, now would be a great time to try it!!
Classes just get better and better every week and I love watching the progress my students have made so far. I am amazed at the dedication these students have and I am so proud of them.
I’ll leave you with a funny story. Last week I ran out of coffee beans (which is tragic for me) and had to find a place that sold them. I went to a little coffeehouse that is right off campus and decided it would be the perfect time to practice my Chinese. So I confidently went into the store and thought I knew I all the right words. Except when I got in there I realized I didn’t know the word for coffee beans, only the word for coffee. So I shaped my fingers like a small bean and then began making whirring coffee grinding noises. The sales woman got a real kick out of this and then I realized that there were coffee beans sitting on the counter behind her. So I began pointing to them and said, “Wo yao mai (insert pointing here).” Which means I want to buy ________. But the confusing thing about Chinese is that many words sound the same, you just change the tone and it changes the whole word. Well, buy and sell are the same word (mai) only you change the tone. I was using the wrong tone and kept confusing her, because instead of saying “I want to buy coffee beans.” I was saying, “I want to sell you coffee beans.” She was really kind and patient and after several minutes, she finally understood what I really wanted. Someone once said, “Making mistakes simply means you are learning faster.” If that is true, then I am a whiz at learning and should be fluent by the end of the year!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blessings, Birthdays, and Dancing

"He who is a believer in Jesus finds enough in his Lord to satisfy him now, and to content him forevermore. Dost thou feel that all thy desires are satisfied in Jesus, and that thou has no want now but to know more of Him, and to have closer fellowship with Him?"
As I read those words of Charles Spurgeon during my morning devotion, I began to realize how deeply my heart was aching for a deeper fellowship and regeneration of my soul. I have been feeling a tiny bit depleted lately in the area of spiritual fellowship and renewal. I thank the Lord every Sunday for the freedom I have to worship here, but there is definitely a gap I feel since everything about the service is in Chinese. I have been listening to my dad's sermons online every week which has definitely fed my spirit, but I needed some refreshment in the area of worship and praise as well. As I began watching the message from last week, I noticed that the time at the bottom of the screen was longer than normal and soon realized that the entire service was online, not just the message. My heart literally did a little flip flop in my chest and I began to get really excited. As I listened to the music and reflected on the words, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit begin to wash over me. After listening to the singing the first time, I thought to myself, "You know you wanna sing along, so do it!" So I started the video over again and just sat in front of the computer and sang along about 3 times with the choir and congregation. The presence of the Lord has been so powerful here at times during my quiet times and I know He is forever with me. It isn't that His love and presence isn't enough, because it certainly is, but since being here I have really begun to realize the importance of fellowship with other believers. God blesses us with friends and family who can be encouragers and pillars of strength during times in our life. Praise Him today and thank Him for the blessings you have been given in friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, the freedom to worship and gather together, and most importantly His Holy Spirit!!
This past week was also great for me in that I got to experience something special about the University. My students told me on Thursday that they were in a dance competition during the weekend and wanted me to come and watch. Dee and I decided to go Saturday night, not really knowing what to expect, and watched as my students competed against other dance teams that are at the university. They had very elaborate costumes and about 15-20 different teams competed against each other. It was a little disheartening to see that the dancing was very western, slightly provocative, and did not include much of the traditional style of Chinese dancing. But it was entertaining nonetheless and the students seemed to have a great time performing.
On Sunday night, I got to spend some time with some of the other foreign teachers as we celebrated Bunny's birthday. Bunny is my language teacher, and her boyfriend arranged for all her students to get together at a restaurant to celebrate her 26th birthday. It was so much fun and was a great way to start the week. We all agreed at the end of the night that we shouldn't always wait for a special occassion to hang out and will hopefully get together more often in the future.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Blue Skies Smiling At Me

"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."
How true of a statement that is and so appropriate for the weather here. It is still very hot and has only rained once or twice in the past 2 months. It averages about 85-90 degrees most days but will dip down to the 70's once November hits. Some days I long for cooler weather, but then realize I am only kidding myself and really do enjoy living in a sauna!
So onto what has happened over the past week. I went to World Vision on Friday and met with 2 people who are facilitators for the orphanage. I was able to learn a lot about what they do and was also able to communicate to them my desire to volunteer. I know that they do allow volunteers because there are some university students who help with the children occassionally. However, the fact that I am an American may hinder me from pursuing this any further. They said they would have to check with the supervisor and get back to me later. I am anxious to hear from them but have no worries about the outcome. I am confident in the Lord with this opportunity and simply place my trust in Him.
On Saturday, Dee and I met a new friend, Sarah, and had dinner at her apartment. She is someone who we met through a mutual friend and she called me last week to see if we wanted to visit with her on Saturday. When we got to her apartment, there were 3 other girls there and later her husband came home. The 7 of us had a wonderful dinner and spent a couple of hours getting to know each other and just chatting about different things. They all spoke at least a little English, which made communicating very easy, and they even helped us with our Chinese. It was so much fun and wonderful to finally make friends and have something to do off-campus. Finally meeting people and making friends makes living here seem a little more permanent. My prayer request for this week is that opportunities to further this friendship will be abundant. I also pray for an ear to hear and the words to speak when the time is right.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bitten by the Bug

The ever unfriendly little flu bug has been slowly creeping around campus and attacking all the foreign teachers. It began last week and sure enough made its way to me yesterday. I began to feel nauseous yesterday morning in class and told my students I had to teach sitting down. After class I went home and that's when it hit hard! Major chills and aches all over. Then the fever set in and I felt like death had cast its shadow over me. I kept counting down the hours until it was morning in the U.S. because all I wanted was to talk to my mom. I rarely ever get sick, but when I do I become the biggest baby. A mixture of talking with her and taking some traditional Chinese medicine made me feel a little better until about 8 pm. Then it hit all over again and I forced myself to go to sleep in the hopes that sleeping would put me out of my misery. That seemed to do the trick because when I woke up this morning, I was experiencing no symptoms and was well enough to teach again. The silver lining in the sickness was the comfort I got from all the other teachers around me. Most of them have been sick in the last week, so they were all too willing to do anything to help. One of them even bought me a card and stuck it on my door. It is so wonderful how we have all become so close and like a little family just in 2 short months. I am very thankful for the care and support we all are able to offer one another.

On a lighter note, I spent Sunday touring the botanical gardens near campus. One of the Chinese teachers here has been observing my classroom in hopes of improving his Chinese. Last week he invited me along with one other foreign teacher (Marg) to visit the gardens with him and his family. The gardens were so beautiful and afterwards we ate dinner in a private dining room. All the food was organic and had been grown there in the gardens. When I told him how much I loved the food, he ordered some for me to bring back to the apartment and cook throughout the week.

I was unable to visit the orphanage on Friday because of a little mix-up. We went downtown and couldn't find the building. Don thinks they moved offices and forgot to tell him. He rescheduled the meeting for this Friday afternoon, so please continue to pray with me about this opportunity and the possibilities it could hold.

Prayer Requests

**Language study- I find myself getting frustrated often with the language, which definitely affects my attitude towards learning. I also don't study nearly as much as I should outside of class. Pray for an attitude adjustment for me so that I might find the language exciting and be more productive in my studies.

**Cultural sensitivity- There are so many cultural things to get used to here and I so often allow myself to revert to my American mindset and become close-minded about many things. Pray for understanding on my part and a willingness to adjust my actions so they don't offend those around me.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Back to the Real World!

Well I had an absolutely wonderful week of rest and relaxation and am ready to reenter the world of working! I was able to get a lot accomplished, but also just had some great down time. I took naps every afternoon and found time to pick back up with my daily running which I have been neglecting lately.

One thing I did last week was got satellite television and it has been really nice. I get all of the major shows including Lost, Amazing Race, and Survivor as well as some syndicated shows like Seinfeld and Friends. The coolest thing about it is that I get two Christian stations, which I wasn't expecting. One of them is TBN. It basically shows The 700 Club, Kenneth Copeland, etc. and the other day had a service from FBC Atlanta with Charles Stanley. The other station is called JCTV (Jesus Christ television) and is MTV for Christian videos, showing music videos and interviews with popular Christian singers all day.

I was also able to find out last week that there is a possiblity that I can volunteer at a local orphanage each week. After seeking the Lord's heart about my place of service in the city, I decided to look into this opportunity but am not 100% sure it will happen. There are some hoops to jump through and I won't know for sure if I can do this until my meeting on Friday with someone who works there. My prayer is that whatever happens I will have peace and know that it is from the Lord. If this opportunity does not work out, then I know God is guiding me in a different direction and I pray for discernment and wisdom as He leads.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Into My Cocoon

You know how caterpillars go into their cocoons and do not emerge back into the world until they have transformed themselves into a beautiful butterfly? Well, this week I have become a caterpillar. Only it is not myself that I am transforming but instead all my lesson plans for the upcoming weeks. Yes, I have become a recluse much to my dismay!
This week is the annual Harvest Festival and so we have been given the entire week off from teaching. Almost all the foreign teachers have left the city and are traveling around China and other parts of Asia. However, I decided to spend this week working on lesson plans and studying my Mandarin. I know many of you are shocked beyond belief because I have always been one to pick social activities over work. I mean we are talking about the girl who stayed at Late Night Cafe "studying" until 5:00 am the night before her big Statistics Mid-Term just so she could hang out with friends. However I knew that if I took off this week and traveled I would feel very overwhelmed when I got back. Then I would then need a vacation from my vacation. So my goal by the end of the week is to have at least the next month of lesson plans figured out and to have mastered Chapters 1&2 in my Mandarin book.
There has been some play amidst the work this week though. Saturday I gave my apartment a much needed makeover (well just my den) and painted it! It is truely amazing what a little coat of paint will do. It already feels homier (not really a word) and I think it has motivated other teachers to paint their apartments as well. I am also going to try my hand at making homemade applesauce tonight. I was really craving some, but you can't buy it here. So we'll see how domestic I can be and hope it turns out somewhat edible.
My big prayer request this week is for the time I will spend with the other foreign teachers who stayed behind. I have had 2 guys ask me over for lunch on 2 separate occassions and I know this will be a great opportunity to share about my love for God and how He brought me here. One of them was in my apartment today and noticed that I had bible verses displayed on the wall. He read them aloud and then asked if I was a Christian. I know he isn't a believer and my prayer is that I can be bold in speaking if the opportunity to share presents itself (which I am sure it will). Ephesians 6:19 has been my prayer for this week, "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel."

Thank you all my brothers and sisters back home and truely "I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3

Monday, September 25, 2006

Week of Firsts!

First class, first dental visit, first time to a new church! Yes, I had a great week with a little bit of scary put into the mix. First of all, my classes last week went very well and I had a great time getting to know all my students. They all picked English names, as is a tradition here for the students, and it was funny to hear the different names they came up with. Some of them wanted really wacky names, which weren't names at all but verbs and random objects instead. I had one guy who wanted to be Seafood and another girl who wanted to be called Bone. I strongly encouraged them to pick a real name, and after some serious persuasion on my part they agreed to change it. The only difficulty I have had so far is the unwillingness most of them have to speak out in class. I got very frustrated today with one of my classes because they weren't participating at all and I took it as laziness and lack of attention. After class I had one guy approach me and tell me that he along with some others are fearful to speak out in class because they are afraid they don't know the correct answer and will be humiliated. I know this will be an obstacle that I will have to help them overcome, but at the same time I want to be sensitive to their feelings of insecurity. My goal throughout the year is to help them feel safe in the classroom both with each other and me, and hopefully through time they will feel more comfortable speaking in class.
My dental visit last week wasn't quite as thrilling. Many of you may remember the agonizing trouble I have had with my tooth since June. Well, I finally got very fed up and just couldn't take the pain anymore. So with some help from Don, I got a translator and took a little trip to the hospital. In a nutshell, I must have a root canal which will take 4 hospital visits. I have completed the first 2 visits and will actually have the root canal in two and a half weeks. I am somewhat frightened because I have heard that the Chinese believe a little pain builds character and I don't think they numb your mouth as much as they do in the States. Well, thank you very much but I think I have enough character and would rather have the drugs! However, it really isn't up to me, so I guess I will just have to put myself in their experienced hands and trust that everything will be alright. The bright side to this adventure is that I got to meet 3 students (one of which is very close to my age) who acted as my translators, and they will probably go with me again on my next visit. I know that God has used this tooth problem to open the possiblity of new friendships, of which I am very thankful!
Yesterday Dee and I visited the other Christian church in the city. It was a wonderful time of worship and for the second week we have been able to use the Pinyin hymnals that we got. Pinyin uses our alphabet to spell the Chinese words, so it makes it easier to read. I know people around us were probably laughing hysterically to themselves because we completely butcher the words, but the important thing is that we are trying and at least now are able to participate during the worship time. After church we met three girls from Indonesia who were sitting next to us. They are studying at the medical university here in the city and are also new to China. We gave them our phone numbers and they seemed excited to get together with us sometime soon. I am thankful for the new people I have met, and pray for continued opportunities to meet and get to know the people around me.

Prayer Requests:
**My students
**My teaching (both lesson planning and actual teaching in the classroom)
**Relationships with other foreign teachers, Chinese staff, and others I have met
**Continued Spiritual Growth

Monday, September 18, 2006

New Adventures!

Yummy fish eyes!!

"I'm not too sure about this!"

Well I know the question burning in everyone's mind right now is "How was your first day of teaching?" Fabulous! But first things first.
Last week was fairly slow and was the last chance at relaxing and being a couch potato that I will have for a very long time. On Friday, the other members of my China team gathered together in Nanning. There were 14 of us total and we had a busy weekend filled with both business meetings as well as times of sharing how God is at work in various places throughout the country. It was so great finally being able to put faces and personalities with the names I have seen in emails. The most touching and memorable time during the weekend was Friday afternoon. We spent several hours listening to each person share what God has done in their life over the past several months and then spent time in prayer for that person. It gave me a chance to hear about each person's ministry as well as know specific ways I can be praying for them.
On Sunday after church, we went out to eat to a restaurant with private dining rooms where we met with the pastors from the 2 churches in Nanning. I ate all sorts of new food, including the fish eyes that are probably grossing some of you out by looking at the pictures! They actually weren't all that bad. They were somewhat powdery and chewy, which made them a little difficult to swallow. I will probably not make this a part of my regular diet, but at least I can say I have eaten the eyes of a fish!
Today began my first day as a college teacher (sounds so grown up)! Teaching 18-20 year olds is very different from the elementary children I am used to. I had a wonderful day and really enjoyed getting to know my students. One of them did have to tell me to speak slower and I know that will be a daily struggle for me. I can already tell that I will be spending more time lesson planning than I ever have before, but I know that is what it will take for me to be a great teacher.
I have received so many heart warming emails and want to thank each of you for all your prayers and encouraging words. I want to assure each of you that God is at work in a mighty way in this country. Doors are opening and hearts are becoming more and more receptive to Him! Continue to pray for the Chinese people who have a heart for Him and are striving each day to share His grace and love with their countrymen. In closing I want to share a verse with you that I came across this week during my quiet time. I am currently doing a study on the Epistles and read a verse in Ephesians that is so familiar to me, yet speaks to my heart in a different way each time I read it. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10
Know that God works in a special and unique way in the lives of those who are His children. Be encouraged by this verse and know that God is at work in you and all around you and has a very specific purpose for your life. It doesn't matter if you are 8 or 88, He is still at work and has paved the way for you to fulfill the ministry He has for you!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lessons, Jioazi, and so much more!

Alright this could be a long one, so get ready! At the beginning of the week, I got my bike from the school, and I just love it. I ride it all over campus and even to the grocery store which is right outside the front gates. I was actually able to find one that was tall enough for me and had a little basket installed on the front. Dee and I were riding through campus and I told her that I felt a little like the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music. Then I burst into singing, “Doe a deer, a female deer.” We have had a great time exploring both on and off campus since receiving our bikes. However, riding it can be frustrating sometimes because there are virtually no traffic laws here. Well, they’re here; it’s just that no one abides by them. There is not a single stop sign on campus and when leaving campus, I feel there should be a big sign that says “Enter the city at your own risk.” I feel a lot like Frogger (from the old Atari game) whenever I venture off campus. I am frantically trying to dodge cars, buses, bicyclists, and moped riders without getting flattened like a pancake. (Dad I know you’re probably feeling anxious as you read this, but don’t worry. I always remember to look both ways before crossing!)
On Tuesday, Dee and I began taking language classes from a woman named Bunny. We will have them twice a week for an hour at a time. There is so much to learn, and it is all very exciting! The most complicated thing about learning Mandarin is that there are 5 different tones and most words have different tones to mean different things. For example, shi means yes, I, and ten but the meaning is determined by each tone. I can tell it is going to take a very long time to be able to communicate effectively, but I know the effort will be worth it.
On Thursday we had grade level meetings and I volunteered to be the coordinator for Listening and Reading. I don’t know exactly what the entire job will entail, but I know it is a pretty big responsibility. Primarily I will be in charge of putting together the semester syllabus, mid-term, semester final, and attending weekly meetings with the other coordinators. I volunteered for this position mainly because none of the other teachers felt comfortable doing it, but I also knew it would provide me with valuable experience in a leadership role within the school.
On Friday, a group of six ladies from the States came to visit for the weekend. They are from various cities in the southeast and they came to observe the church in China and its various ministry opportunities. We had a wonderful time fellowshipping and laughing all weekend. On Saturday night we got together at Don and Karen’s house (they are the couple who I am working with here at the University) and had a Jioazi party (they are like dumplings). We all sat around making them and then eating, and eating, and eating some more!! Later in the evening a group of Chinese students came to visit and mingle for about an hour. The students were all English language students, some of whom studied their first 2 years at SCIC (my college). One of the girls (June) was absolutely full of life and animation and she just talked and talked. She actually reminded me a lot of myself when I start telling stories. Anyway, she began telling me all about this English teacher they had last year at the SCIC who was beautiful and all the boys loved her because she was young. They were all sad because she did not return for this year. Then June looked at me and with lots of enthusiasm said, “You could be the next superstar!” Dee and I looked at each other with surprise and we both burst into laughter. I’ll let you all know whether or not I actually become a “Superstar!”
This morning we traveled to Angel House which is a home and therapy center for children with Cerebral Palsy. It was amazing to see the work that was done with the children and how functional some of them are because of this program. We spent a few hours taking pictures with the children and watching them in their therapy sessions. They were so precious; you couldn’t help but smile when you watched them.
Overall, it has been a wonderful week filled with exciting new activities! This coming week will be filled with lesson planning and last minute preparations. I become more excited each day about this upcoming school year, and I know that God has amazing things in store for the months to come!

“This morning we must endeavor to ascend the mount of communion, that there we may be ordained to the lifework for which we are set apart. Let us not see the face of man today till we have seen Jesus.” ~Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Apartment Pictures

Cozy Kitchen

First Full Week!

This past week was wonderful and exhausting all at the same time! It was filled with meetings and opportunities to meet the other teachers. There are 40 total foreign teachers from various places around the world. Most of them are much older than I am, but they are all very kind and I am looking foward to getting to know them more as the school year progresses.
I got my class schedule and found out that I will be teaching Listening and Reading to entering Freshman. That is exactly what I wanted, so I am very happy about that!! I basically will be teaching Monday-Thursday from 8:00-12:00 and Friday I have one class from 10:30-12:00. Some afternoons I will have free and some will be used for office hours and English corner. There are also Mandarin classes for 3 hours every Friday afternoon. However, Dee and I are looking into taking private lessons a couple of times a week instead. I think I will learn the language faster if I am just taking with one other person, and we can choose what we learn. I will begin teaching on Monday the 18th, but will continue to be busy until then. I have workshops all this week and I think next week I will be testing the new students to determine their placement in classes.
I visited the church for the first time this morning and am so thankful that there is a public place where believers can gather to worship. The order of service was very similar to what we have in the States, however everything about the service was in Chinese. We sang familiar hymns that I was able to sing along with when I could remember the English words and I knew the scripture passages that were being read, so I could follow along there as well. At one point during the sermon, I began daydreaming because I couldn't understand what the pastor was saying. So I opened my bible and began reading from Romans 10. I got to verse 14 and just paused to reflect on what I had read. "How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" How wonderful it is that there is someone whom God has called to preach the saving message of grace to these people. In a country where Christianity is not widely practiced or accepted, there is a place where believers can gather to worship the almighty Lord. Although I may not have been able to understand the words, my heart knew what was being proclaimed, the beautiful message of our wonderful Lord.
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Outside of church building

Going to church!

Prayer Requests
* Continual adjustment to the new culture
* Relationships with other teachers (both foreign and Chinese)
* Direction on whether or not to teach additional English classes at the church

Friday, August 25, 2006

Here at last!!!

Well after months of planning, I am finally here in this beautiful country of China. I have spent this week settling into my new home and becoming familiar with the campus. It is so gorgeous and everything is so green. It feels like there are small botanical gardens placed all around the campus. The coolest thing is to go out early in the morning and see groups of people doing Tai Chi or yoga in the grass. Everyone here is so active that it is very inspiring to get up and get moving!
I have an orientation next week and will find out more about when classes start and which courses I will be teaching. I am very excited to begin preparing for class and am ready to meet my students. I have met a couple of students so far, but don't know if they will be in my class or not.
The next few weeks will be challenging as I continue to prepare for the school year. However, I know that God will continue to equip me with the knowledge and skills I need as I plan the lessons and then implement them into the classroom.

Me and Dee shopping in the market

Riding in a pedicab around campus!