Our time in China is drawing to a close and I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I can't wait to leave behind squat toilets (or trenches), mystery meats with lots of bones, and poor air quality for my poor asthmatic lungs, but I have so enjoyed all of the various experiences that I'm sad to see it end. We've gotten to meet with a lot of high level officials and religious leaders, learn from John LeMond and Peter Shen about all sorts of interesting cultural and religious things, see fantastic sights, try new foods, and have gotten to know each other intimately. I mean, when you squat next to somebody, you feel a sort of bond, I think.
Professor Chen, Sichuan University Institute of Religious Studies
One of the big themes we've talked about is surrender. Beau made a post about that and it's come up daily for us. When the traffiic makes you cover your eyes in terror and you don't know what you're eating, you have to either become a ball of anxiety or say: "Okay, God! Whatever!" I think we've mostly gotten to the "whatever" place, but I think there are some important underpinnings within this idea.
Dr. Latini gave a little impromptu sermon on Philippians 4, talking about ways to be content in all circumstances. The first way to do this is prayer and the second is to focus on good things: "Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable--if anything is exellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." I take that to mean we endure our trials while thinking on what is praiseworthy, but endurance is something easier discussed than done for me. When you have blisters and you feel like you're freezing to death, endurance can be tricky, but I think something else that enables us to endure is trust. Trust is also not always easy, but think about what the Bible says about trust. Jeremiah 29:11 says: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to help and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Enduring and thinking about the good things to come is one thing, but you need trust to be able to really believe that the good and noble and beautiful and lovely things will abide in you eventually, and knowing the unending love of God facilitates that. Love never fails, declares 1 Cor. 13. Prophecies and tongues will cease, and all things end, but faith, hope, and love remain, and of them, love is the greatest.
Professor Chen and PhD Students
That's really been the theme for me. It's in the way that the religious leaders from different faiths develop friendships, and it's in the hospitality of the church people who welcome us and feed us, and it's in the guides who take time from their busy schedules to show us around, and it's in the late night chats between roommates, and the shared experience of a husband and wife. It's what connects the body of Christ from two very different places and what builds us all up so that we can serve. This trip has shown me God's love through the smiles and work of the people, and seeing that allows me to say, you know, it's okay if I have to squat or if I don't feel good or if I want an easily identified cheeseburger, because there is something incredible at work and that is something worthy of praise.