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