Where do I begin with some of my reflections on what we have seen in China? There has been so much to observe and process that it is somewhat overwhelming. I am very thankful for the wonderful group of 7 that we have on this trip, but I am also thankful for the gracious hosts and guides that have been with us: the Rev. Dr. John LeMond in Hong Kong, and the Rev. Dr. Peter Shen in mainland China, not to mention the numerous others who have been so wonderful in leading us and looking out for us. I have felt very well taken care of during this trip so far.
I will comment on a couple of things from Hong Kong and then a couple of things from our trip so far in Sichuan province of China.
Near the end of our week in Hong Kong, we had a day where we visited a Buddhist Temple and Nunnery, and then later that evening we visited a Hindu ashram.
The Buddhist temple was probably the most peaceful place I had thus far experienced in Hong Kong. The inner garden was so beautiful with ponds and plants that appeared to have been lovingly tended. I actually found myself slowing down while I was inside, as if my soul felt that peace of that place and wanted to stay as long as it could.
The ashram was another powerful experience. For one reason, the leader, Nashita, was teaching on the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture that I had read last year on internship that I had just fallen in love with. Though it is a Hindu scripture, when I read it, I felt as if it was not Krishna and Arjuna, but Christ and Beau. Therefore, hearing Nashita teach about this story, I was very moved. One of the focuses of her teaching from chapter 2 of the Gita was on surrender: Surrendering to God, surrendering to the will of universe, and for me, surrendering to the love of Christ.
This idea of surrender has really been important for all of us here in mainland China. Here, fewer people speak English and so we are dependent upon our guide Peter to translate for us. We also have to surrender our own presuppositions about how life is "supposed to be" and what is considered 'proper". Many things are done differently here in China than in the United States (such as obeying traffic laws), and the challenge for us is to not say that our ways are better (or even that their ways are better), but only to observe that this is how they do certain things. As Dr. Latini put it, they may seen an order in harmony to things that I see as disorderly and chaotic. So, surrendering is something we are spending much time thinking about.
On Sunday, we visited a church in rural Xichong. It was basically a big shed with old school chairs. It was very cold because, like most Chinese buildings, it was not heated. The fascinating thing was seeing such a large group of Chinese Christians. When I have thought about China in the past, large groups of Christians is not something I ever imagined seeing, but it was quite beautiful. But still, very cold.
That afternoon, we went to another congregation where we simply had fellowship time with the leaders. We viewed there beautiful church, which was the first church to have been rebuilt since the earthquake in 2008. It was so wonderful to hear about the faithfulness of the members and the leaders. God has really been doing some amazing things in the life of this community. While we were talking we were given plates of small oranges, freshly picked bananas, and tasty sunflower seeds. We were treated like honored guests, and their hospitality is a testament to God's love having touched their hearts.