Ten years ago this summer, we moved to China- 10 people, each with two seventy pound suitcases, a carry on bag, plus rather abundant “personal items”. We almost made “The Beverly Hillbillies” look classy! Our luggage contained everything from a frying pan, to bath towels, to spices, to silverware, to toys, to bleach. Yes, bleach. All of that goes to show that we really had no idea what was available in China and what was not. I admit to taking a lot of static for the bleach in the ten years between now and then. A confessed cleaning product freak, I couldn’t imagine living where my house wouldn’t smell clean! Neither did I imagine what a spilled bottle of bleach would do to my wardrobe, the spices, or the luggage. Sigh.
Doing the math on the above, we arrived in China carrying over a ton of “stuff”, schlepping it across the borders from Hong Kong into China through sheer muscle, determination, and stubbornness. Almost ten years later, we have enough “stuff” to fill an apartment and most of our muscle has either moved out or atrophied. (Why is it that stubbornness isn’t as easy to get rid of as muscle?) We have lost all three of our parents who were living when we moved, but we have added three daughters-in-love and four grandchildren, with a fifth on the way.
We’ve learned a lot of things since we’ve come to Guangzhou among which is that we can buy bleach in China. We’ve learned to find comfort in the smell of rice cooking in the rice cooker. We’ve learned to carry tissue packs in our purses at all times. We’ve learned to appreciate the melody of Mandarin Chinese spoken around us with its musical tonality. We’ve learned the economy and joys of public transportation. We’ve learned how to use squat toilets without sacrificing our footwear. We’ve learned that chopsticks can fix almost anything. Most importantly, we’ve learned much more about the sufficiency and beauty of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Since He is the preeminent One, we want to give Him glory in our first home page blog post.
We came to Guangzhou expecting that God would use us here- and we hope He has. But much more than that, we have seen Him use China in us. Leaving behind the things we know and moving someplace totally unfamiliar in language, culture, and living conditions is humbling. Gradually selling one’s house, then selling one’s business thereby losing one’s stable means of support is unsettling. Having children living half a world away is heart wrenching. Yes, and we praise God for all of those things! There is a lot to be said for having some of the props knocked out of our lives. Is it easy? No. Is it comfortable? Nope. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have no place else to go.” Peeling off comfort in layers, does cause us to recognize the frailty of our flesh and to appreciate our sovereign and powerful God who is the same yesterday, today, yes, and forever.
One of my favorite Scriptures passages is: 2 Corinthians 4: 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. … 16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Unlike the early disciples, we are not being delivered up to death day by day! But in small measure, we have experienced some hardships we had not previously faced. These things have helped us focus our gaze on Christ, to meditate on the eternal rather than focus on the temporal, and to see the beauty of the Lord more clearly. And those are very good things.
Therefore, when people ask us what the most amazing thing God has done since we moved to China, we say that He has shown us that His grace is, indeed, sufficient, and that His power really is made perfect in our weaknesses. As many who have gone before us, we have found Jesus faithful, able, and enough.
We still have a lot to learn about God’s faithfulness and about China; there are certainly many things I’ll never understand about both. So far it’s been quite a journey! We’re very glad we came and are looking forward to seeing what God will teach us in the future. Who knows? Maybe He will even help us to understand why our neighbor yells like Tarzan every evening!