shining on a lampstand

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Great is thy faithfulness

After a whirlwind last few days, our classes have finally come to an end. We have been repeatedly touched & humbled by the lessons we’ve learned from the people we’ve met. I’m sure your resident team member will be telling you a lot more about each individually amazing experience we’ve had. Thank goodness we have some snapping-picture-lovers on the team; their records will remind us of more than we can ever put into words. For example...

In a traffic peanut butter! No AC, so we all got out for a refreshing breath of slightly smoggy air. Our driver talking with E, who holds his Sichuan fan in true Sichuan fashion.

The ladies with their lady fans!

Farmers selling their ware. Can you imagine walking on the scorching hot black pavement all day carrying those yokes in bare feet? There were many of these.

A class photo with our lovely students :) We will miss youuu!

One extra-amazing thing which stood out to all of us on the team was our ability to bond tightly together and work smoothly to accomplish what we came here for, which was to show love to our students. 8 people whose ages include the 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, AND 60s…backgrounds from teaching to nursing to IT worker to students…I do not believe there could have been any way for us to get along, much less become such good friends, without a supernatural love-force behind it all. So thank You for being so good to us. Each one of us has played a critical role at some point during these past 2 weeks (esp. you, E...though you left early, your spirit & story impacts more than you can imagine)... and I cannot begin to count the number of times things just “came together” no problemo because one or another of us happened to have brought the right thing in our luggage without knowing when and why we’d need it. There is no other way to explain the energy & joy we have in our hearts every morning when we wake up after only 6-7 hours a night. It’s all Him!

On Thursday night the whole team was able to visit the home of one of our students. His mother is a doctor, and you can see the Luzhou Medical College from their living room window. Throughout the evening, we talked about the 2 vastly different education systems for our 2 countries and about the stress of national examinations. My heart cried at hearing (and witnessing a little) how every student in China is unjustly reduced to a meagre number on an examination paper. They face the reality of that number determining the course of the rest of their lives. That puts unbelievable amounts of stress on these young people, and you can see it in their priorities and sometimes on their faces. As “short-term foreigners,” of course we are powerless to make changes to such a system… but hope is not lost, because we have thankfully had chances to plant seeds that will point such a stressed teen/adult to the ultimate comfort and security.

Yesterday was our last day of teaching, and we are now back in Chengdu for the weekend. We acted out a (shortened!) typical Western wedding, which was very well-suited for our 2-week-long theme of “love.” And when we were saying our goodbyes, exchanging emails, collecting anonymous survey forms, and receiving letters and gifts… that was when we realized how much the students really did absorb. Quite a few comments were along the lines of "Thank you for teaching us about love" or "You have shown me what it means to care for students, and it has inspired me to change my style of teaching."! Gratias, Dios! As we shared during debriefing today, our hearts have truly been stretched and strengthened with love for this country and her people. We hate to go so soon, and a part of us will always be with these people we've met & connected with. But we thank him for what he's done this time around, and we trust that the work, while unfinished, is not in vain. There will be next times, because the good shepherd will not give up on his lost sheep... so our team looks forward to continuing along the paths he has placed before each one of us, and will continually seek to remain in the centre of his will. He has been so good to us.

The steadfast love of our father never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning, new every morning!

Great is thy faithfulness, dear father. Great is thy faithfulness.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

We love our students!

It's been a fun two weeks and we're starting to love China even more and it is definitely hard to say good bye. Here are some pictures of our students this morning at our last teaching class.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

joy like a fountain!!

It has been a busy past few days building up relationships with our students/friends, with officials, with hotel staff, with long-termers, etc... plus we are learning so much about how China and her people operate. Quite the eye-opener for many of us, especially the younger CBC's!

We are saddened to learn how much pressure all students and workers face on a daily basis. People are constantly on the edge, afraid of losing their jobs or failing the next exam. It is common for a school day to be 11 hours long, and for students to start studying for next July's exam right now! Yesterday, our teaching topic was Health. We talked about stress and ways to relieve it. In my own group, we talked about how hard it is to relax when the rest of your life depends on a few marks. I lamely told them to try not to worry so much because you can try again next time...?! They laughed. :P Our students are very sweet and quite a few are very open to the idea of there being a God. In fact, when asked about ways to deal with stress, one student said, "Sometimes I pray." Wow! They are thirsty.

But we have also learned so much from them about hard work, friendship, and caring. Please ask father that they will continue to wonder about the source of our unrelenting joy. One student asked MM yesterday, "How come you guys are always so happy?"

There are only 2 days left with our students, but we KNOW seeds are being planted. So thank Him for that! Tomorrow night we may go to another student's house for dinner. Please remember! Thank you always for your thoughts. :)

The place we went to on Sunday.
Looking over grocery ads! Mmmm....Canadian food!
Acting out the Christmas story!'s one of the write-ups I promised in response to "What did you think of the Christmas story?":

This is a very old, beautiful story. I believe in G. I always think that someone is looking after us. Each time before I have an exam, I said to myself, "If there have some really difficult questoins that I really can't answer. Then give it to G and follow my heart." It's happiness to have something to believe in. When I think of JC, I feel less lonely. He's the most beautiful thing that G give us.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ahh the Yang Tze River....

Sunday was very relaxing. We went to the place we usually go on Sunday morning leaving the hotel at 8:30 am. The local building is located in an older part of Luzhou. We met up with our long term staff and went to lunch with them after the meeting.

After lunch M, T, and C went back to rest at the hotel. E went with two of the staff and the children and enjoyed a boat ride on the Yang Tze river. It was a fun relaxing time because on the river there is a nice breeze which is a blessing on a hot day. The trip cost 1 yuan each way which is very cheap.

Along the way E's batteries for his camera died so he and one of the staff decided to go find batteries for the camera when we arrived on the other side. We tried at one place but the batteries at that place did not work. The lady selling us the batteries was kind enough to give our money back and also told us where the nearest supermarket was. We walked about a half a block down the road and reached the supermarket and were able to get the right batteries.

On the way back we recieved a call from the other staff member. We joked that we were kidnapped and that he had to save us and pay for our release. E had a fun time with the staff walking back. On the trip back on the boat E tried his camera but the memory card had an error and so he was unable to retrieve picture from today as well as a nice movie clip of a boat on the Yang Tze. E learned a lot from the staff especially about patience and dad's peace.

Although the pictures was lost the experience wasn't and E was able to build a friendship with the staff member who is a Yi person from south west Sichuan. E was quite amazed at his new friend, not only was he willing to serve but he speaks 4 dialects: Yi, Sichuanese, Mandarin, and English.

We got off the boat and met up with the other members of the team at the mall. E hung out with the staff member who helped him with bargaining for a new memory card for his camera and also some music cds.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

fellow travelers...

More pictures from our (huge) collection for your enjoyment:

Part of our night class. There are fewer students (almost 1:1 student teacher ratio sometimes!) but love to talk about anything and everything. A few nights ago we had a conversation with a student about "The Da Vinci Code" movie, which she had seen! We have also invited some individuals to join us tomorrow at the place we usually gather on Sunday mornings.

Today we had the honor of hanging out with some of our students - they invited us to go shopping with them! (For the record, the boys spent more than the girls!!) It was great to just hang out with them and even share a home-cooked meal. They are very kind to us, and both parties are quickly picking up some English/Mandarin (more on the English side...) :)

Oops, the business centre is closing down now... time for bed and more to come!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

the true meaning of LOVE

At last, I have a chance to tell you a bit about our hectic (but enjoyably so!) schedule over this past week. It is now Friday afternoon, and we are looking forward to a nice stretch of relaxation before diving back into week 2. In fact, we just came back from.... *drumroll..* MCDDONALD'S!!! :D Auntie E was the one who suggested it, too! What a "treat"... we love trying the new stuff, but for once, everyone was estatic about homestyle Mickey D's and we all came out full & smiling. :)

So here is a typical day for the 7 of us:

6:30am - rise & shine! a new day has come...
7:00am - team devotions
8:15am - breakfast (chinese-style, of course)
9:00am - at school, ready to begin! We introduce topics in a big group and then split off into smaller classes according to English skill levels. So far we have done lessons on Food, Travel, Banking, and Christmas (more about that below). Next week is Wisdom, Shopping, Health, Sports, and Culture (--a Canadian wedding...someone is getting "married"...!)
12:00pm - lunchtime!
1:00pm - resting/prep for lessons/internet usage time (this is the hottest time of day ... around 39 degrees C every day. They will not officially say it is 40 degrees because that means people get the day off!!)
3:30pm - team meeting for reflection on lessons and planning for coming lessons
6:00pm - dinner
7:30pm - teaching to the doctors, nurses and public health bureau officials (repeat morning topic)
9:30pm - sometimes seeing the city at night, sometimes home to rest
10:00pm - personal devotions
11:00pm - (sometimes!) zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...........

E: our thoughts are always with you & your family. This morning, we taught them our theme song (all of you who read this must ask your team member to sing for's beautiful. Called "The true meaning of love", in mandarin, based on 1 Cor. 13). MM told our whole class about your story and why you are not here with us. Many students were moved by your love for China and your dad's love for the same. They loved the song, especially because we had just finished teaching them the Christmas story...a story ALL about love.

We have had amazing conversations with some students about the meaningful things in life. For example, while talking about banking and money, we asked "what can money buy? What can't money buy?" Answers to the second question were profound... "Life"..."Happiness"..."Joy"..."Love"..."Destiny"..."Freedom"

During "Travel", we talked about places to visit, and Tibet was mentioned. Discussions about Buddhism and religion in general ensued. Today, the advanced class wrote paragraphs about their personal response to the Christmas story. Reading those papers moved me greatly...most have not heard about the true story at all, and said they "felt peace" upon hearing it. Perhaps I can type up one of those responses soon.

Finally, please talk to Father about some of those who humbly serve us:
*our driver, Mr. Hu (requested by the school principal to ship us whereever we need...a great guy);
*a man we have dubbed "Joseph" (he LOVES his new name!) - he's the Student Director of L. Med. College and our gracious host
*our hotel staff: waiters, bellboys, maids... since this is the hotel for "guests of the government," I guess it's not usual for people to acknowledge their existence. But we love smiling to them and saying "Ni hao!" If possible, it would be great to hold some English classes for them too in the short time we have left...!

Miraculously, we have just now been able to open this actual website and read all your comments! Thank you for your words of encouragement, both here, over email, and on the phone. Though we may not have time to reply to all, know that it makes a world of difference. :)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

in His arms again

Greetings once again from China! We are now in our end location of Luzhou, Sichuan and classes have been going for 3 days. It's been an amazing experience so far and there are a ton of stories to tell for every minute (many of which have been recorded via camera, of course!). The picture to the left is our team sitting with one of the many random Chinese people who come right up to us to practice their English!

The One Upstairs has been more than good to us. We believe that all that has happened here is a direct result of his plans and his sovereignty.
Last Sunday, our team was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of E's father. She returned home straight away to be with her family and we've been missing her smiles and encouragement ever since. That's right - although she herself had to endure the waiting and worrying, it did not stop her from being a real ray of sunshine to the rest of us. His love truly shone (and still shines!) through her. E, we are continually lifting you and your family up before the throne, and if you read this, we hope you can too.

Although it was an upsetting phone call, it could not have come at a better time. Before the call came, we were all sitting in a van together and had stopped at the Chengdu airport to pick up some doctors who were to come with us to serve in Luzhou. We were learning some Mandarin *uplifting* songs which reminded us of His everlasting love and His care for His people. The whole team was sitting together and the car stopped in the parking lot (reception would have been unstable otherwise). When we heard, we were able to pry & cry together... then, the man in charge of the portion of our organization in Sichuan came on board as well. He was able to house E and another team member (who just happens to be very close to E's family) at his residence in Chengdu and then arranged for her quick transportation back.

How many coincidences can happen at once?
We trust that He knows what He is doing and why He is doing it. We will continue to serve, whether here or in Canada, and lift up His name because of His undying faithfulness.
E, we miss you and love you; though we only knew you for 3 days, you have made a crucial difference to how we view this trip, how we relate to each other, and what we do here. And even so...He loves you more. :)

I have written a lot here and time is precious, so we will put up a few pictures to tell some of our story!

The team at a "traditional" Chinese house - the dwelling of our team leader's parents, in fact! Lovely people, sharp minds and very inspirational. :)

We got to visit the Panda Research Institution in Chengdu! Wonderful animals - China's "national treasure."

While there, a little boy sang his ABC's to us. Sooo cute... :D

Mmmm....fried green onion pancakes filled with meat and covered in oil... for BREAKFAST!

Crazy driving and even crazier SIGNS in China.

Sichuan HOTPOT...very popular here. Ask T about his continuous consumption of "beauty mushrooms"...

This is our classroom downstairs! MANY people, LITTLE space...the story of China. We sweat the entire time, even though there is (some) AC! We have about 75 (younger) students in the morning, 15 (older doctors, nurses) at night ... more teaching stories to come.

Cultural subtleties: notice the tall napkin? DO NOT sit there! Only for the host. The bigger napkin to the right is for VIP. The weird one across from the host is for the one who pays. Near the end of the meal, the host "speaks with his eyes" and the payee "gets the message" ;)

Our hotel faces the Yangtzee river...the lifeline of China. Just beautiful, especially with the sunrise.

Notice the poem on the sign at the Panda site? It's missing the last line... "The good L--d made them all" :)

Thank you for your continuing support... please remember our teaching schedule (very busy because of the teaching times and prep there are many materials we need to purchase here) and the students. Relationships are being forged quite quickly, some of us will be hanging out with them this Saturday. Ask him for opportunities to show His love and our care for them. This is why we are here!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

qing zai shuo yibian??!!!

Day 2: Hello friends and family! sorry we have not posted until now. We have all arrived very safely here in Chengdu before we head out to Luzhou. The population is 8 million in this city! can you imagine? It is HAWT!!! we are sticking to everything. But we got the a/c. =) Thanks to the Big Guy.

We've had a few technical difficulties with cramped planes for tall guys, phone cards, exploding hair dryers, internet trackings (can't access this webpage we just posted), flagging down taxis, hotel room keys denied, close calls traffic accidents, delayed flights, dripping air conditioners, radiation everywhere as educated by our internal radiation therapist, but.... HE is good, our problems are fixed. We are bonding very well with our fellow sis and bros, we laugh all the time. There are so many amazing stories here.

We have met a few people here who are very eager to practise English and look forward to meeting more people like that. For instance, last night, late at night when it was dark and mysterious, we were standing around in a circle waiting for our team leader and speaking to one another in English (of course), and all of a sudden, a man strolled slowly towards us while looking intently at our faces. He made his way around our small group and stopped beside E. T was ready in his fighting stance, balled fists and all. The man leaned forward and asked "Is this English Corner?" Some of you may know that English corner is an area designated in each city close to campuses for students to practise English.

We have lots to be thankful for here. If you would continue to *talk* about E's dad to your BEST FRIEND, she would really appreciate it. Currently, he is still in a deep coma but E knows that her best friend has called her to be here in China and right before her dad went into the coma, he gave his blessing for her to go. She has been reassured of her decision to come and filled with peace and joy from her best friend. So thank you for your thoughts. Please keep them up for her family too. Thanks. More to come soon!!....

Monday, July 31, 2006

ready, set, FLY!

Hello to all our friends and family! Welcome to the newborn online journal of MSI's Luzhou 2006 Teaching English team. Here we hope to be able to keep you updated on the progress of our journey as we head out to the middle kingdom for a few weeks. I think the frequency of updates will depend on the amount of Internet access & spare time!

These past few days have been filled with a flurry of packing and last-minute preparations for all 8 of us as we get ready to meet up in Vancouver on Wednesday morning. The excitement has been mounting but then, so has the apprehension...are we prepared enough?? Then again, maybe we never will be...and it's a good idea to leave room for someone bigger than us to work too.

We definitely welcome your comments and thoughts should you wish to leave them, but please remember to keep them suitable for our viewing pleasure in China. :) Thanks to each and every one of you for your support & encouragement...we would not be doing this without you!