Saturday, December 27, 2008

East Asia Update #4

Last night we had a Christmas party with some Chinese brothers and sisters. We ate some pizza, played some games and had a great time of sharing what the Father has done over the past year. It was humbling to be in the same room with people who are walking with the Father through various trials and sufferings.

One young lady told us about how when she became a sister, all of her roommates treated her very badly and stopped talking to her. In this culture, that can be a very painful thing, as relationships are very important and harmony among friends if valued. Nevertheless, she kept taking them before the Father, and now she is reading the Book with several of them. Several of the sisters shared their testimonies and it was encouraging to hear how they are growing in their faith.

I woke up early again this morning and had breakfast at my usual restaurant where I eat dumplings each day. Now the dumpling lady doesn't even ask me what I want, she automatically knows and gets the dumplings ready when she sees me. Speaking of that, I began thinking today about the amazing bargain I am getting on my breakfast.

For example, each day I eat 20 dumplings for breakfast. Some people lose weight when they come to Asia, but unfortunately, I think I am gaining several pounds. I am fatter than ever so now I can fit more dumplings in my belly than any other time I have been here. OK, that was free. Anyway, I get 20 dumplings for 5 RMB, which is about the equivalent to 0.80 cents. In America, dumplings in a Chinese restaurant usually cost 5-6 dollars for 5-6 dumplings. As I was eating this morning, I began doing the math and was amazed at the deal I am getting. What I am eating for 0.80 cents would cost around 20 dollars in the U.S. I suppose that is why I feel like I need to bloat myself on dumplings everyday. I won't have this luxury back home. I wonder if I talk about food too much?

After breakfast, Laurel and I went to meet Stephen to buy tea. We had a nice taxi ride around a beautiful lake, and through some older sections of the city that had very Chinese architecture. We had a good visit on the way about what the Lord has been teaching us this week. Both of us feel that it has been a spiritually encouraging trip.

Next, we met Stephen and took another taxi to a tea market with several tea shops. Anyone that knows me knows that I love tea so this was an exciting place for me. After looking in every shop, we decided to buy some tea from a merchant that Stephen's uncle knows.

After finding his shop, he led us to a back room and we all sat down. He then proceeded to pour us some tea and we made small talk for a few minutes while enjoying some fresh jasmine tea. It was a neat experience because he seemed to know a great deal about tea and he gave us samples of each tea he told us about. We were in the shop for over an hour drinking and discussing tea. In the end, we bought 3 kinds of tea that we will take back to Louisville with us. So, if you are in the Ville and you want to try some of our new tea, just give me a call and you can come over for a sample.

Unfortunately, since we spent so long buying the tea, we didn't get to talk to Stephen about the good news. Nevertheless, we hope to see him at the coffee shop early next week and if it is the Father's will, we will visit with him then. Even though we didn't get to share, it was nice spending time with him. He helped us a great deal with our tea purchase.

Next, S&J took us to an area of town where there are street food vendors to eat lunch. It was fun because the street was so crowded and there were so many kinds of street foods to eat. After lunch, we went to some Christian book stores to look at books. It was a long afternoon of walking and shopping so we are all tired this evening.

Yesterday, I walked to the world's longest/largest walking street. I have never seen anything like it. I think that I could spend 12 hours there and not make it to every shop. It was amazing. To get there, I had to walk down a filthy alley with many makeshift shops selling everything from clothes to rocking chairs. It was really dirty and there was even a section with rivers of raw sewage flowing down the street.

The reason I mention this is that there are thousands of people who work and live in this area. For the most part, they are very poor and live unbelievably difficult lives. As I was walking, I was saddened by the fact that many of these people have probably never even heard the name Jesus. There are thousands of foreigners who come to East Asia to spend their lives sharing the good news with people who might otherwise not hear. However, the vast majority of foreigners concentrate on reaching students, business men, and other people of influence in this society. Very few foreigners, if any, would be willing to plant themselves in such a poor, dirty area to share with the lowest class in this society. I was saddened as I prayed for these people because they are not a group that is targeted for sharing the news.

Actually, as I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that foreigners are probably not the best people to share good news with the "alley people." Foreigners would not fit in if they lived in an area like the alley. The would stick out and draw too much attention to themselves. As I walked among the people, everyone looked at me and probably wondered what in the world I was doing there. On the other hand, other Chinese people were there buying things and walking and no one paid any attention to them.

As I was walking and praying, I came to realize again just how important discipleship is in the ministry here. As Chinese people begin a relationship with the Father, it is crucial to teach them how to share the good news and pray that the Father would give them a burden for people who have little access to the truth. I think that it is the Chinese who, for the most part, must reach other limited access Chinese people, like the ones in the alley.

There are SO many people in this land who have NO access to the good news other than a personal conversation about the truth. Even though there are many workers in this country, the need is as great as ever. The gap between the poor and the rich is becoming greater and greater, so the workers here must remember to teach new believers why and how to share the good news. Churches must reach out not only to people they are comfortable with, but also people who are the hardest to reach.

Please continue to pray for Laurel and I as we are here. Maybe we could even encourage some of the brothers and sisters here to take a walk down that alley and pray and look for opportunities to share. Pray for this country because so many people will NEVER EVER have the opportunity to hear the good news. Millions of people have no means by which to hear the truth. Anyone who can casually pass over the "man on the island scenario" has probably never been outside of the United States. It is hard to think about what will happen to so many people who have never heard. How will they hear, unless some of us go?

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