Outside of the Foreigner (or English-Speaking) Bubble

This is the third year that I’ve been working at this private Chinese school, and I had a moment a few weeks back that ended up like a Chuck Norris roundhouse to the face.

I was spending time with our Father above, and it struck me how I don’t personally know that many teachers and staff at our school. When it comes to meals and time outside of the office, I tend to float close to those within the Foreigner, or English-Speaking, Bubble. (Both are worth mentioning since there are many Chinese nationals at our school who can speak English, and it’s quite easy to stick with them as well to remain comfortable.) Recently, I have thought back to the beginning of the year and the first day of work when the new/returning teachers were introduced. After we were greeted and applauded for our embarrassing speeches, the head of our Foreign English Department encouraged the whole staff to sit with us foreigners, say hello, and to “not be afraid to get to know us.” This video is on repeat in my head, but it’s one that I won’t probably click the ‘Like’ button for.

I can’t help but think time and time again about how I don’t know the people in the same building that I work at. Granted, there is a lot of staff, but why am I so comfortable with just sticking with those who I know? Why am I not willing to get to know others? Chinese… oh yes, there’s the language barrier. That can be solved. Try using it, failing and improving while getting to know others. Ask questions about the language and culture, and get the personal thoughts of another (believer or not). Stick with the Chinese food, even if it is fish filled with bones. It takes a lot to do some of these things in order to speak with nationals whom I don’t know, but it’s deeply satisfying knowing that it’s the Holy Spirit’s conviction pushing me to sit with them, speak with them, build a relationship, and watch them chow down on squid. (Maybe that last part isn’t true… hmm.)

What about the other English-speaking relationships? Well, I don’t ignore them, but the time does seem to go by better with those that don’t know English at all. Yes, I maintain these relationships in various ways, and the one with my wife is going great. (Speaking of… if you haven’t read Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage,” I’d strongly suggest it. Wow, do I have so much to learn…)

I say all of this to say… if you work in China, America, or wherever, and you don’t know the people around you, have you considered getting to know those around you without seeking to be heard? Or do you think they should be the ones to ask the first question, to take the initiative, and to get to know you? Have you considered going outside of the bubble you may have around you?

Not Ready, Still…

Have you ever had times in life when you encountered a similar situation as before, but this time you knew how to respond? Wait, I don’t mean déjà vu. I mean the key being that it was majorly different than the previous experience. Indeed, this is what has happened at least a few times recently. I have found myself walking away from a conversation or dilemma saying to myself… “I’ve been through this before.”

Working at a school in China before was much harder those first two years. I saw so many things I thought were wrong. There were procedures and people I wanted to change, and I also thought more and more that I wouldn’t end up well professionally. What has not been the same this year though has been simply me.

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I’ve been pondering this the last few days, and it won’t leave my mind. (Thank you, Father.) The time back in the US last year was huge, crucial, mind-blowing for me. I have been on a few short-term trips to other countries to serve, teach, whatever the mission was. But long-term living is definitely not the same. I don’t mean this in a negative way for short- or long-termers. Short-term trips can be very beneficial and eye-opening while long-term scenarios bring relationships, fruit, and life. Therefore, I had never received any training for living overseas with other foreigners in an environment totally of another culture. This truth hit me after unknowingly self-examining myself last year and realizing almost all of the reasons I wanted to leave were selfish ones.

When I discovered that I was the source of all this tension built up inside and in the atmosphere, it helped in order to offer it up to the One who would care and listen to anyone seeking a Savior. There are still times, here and there, that I find myself mentally revisiting where I used to be. Thankfully, I am saved, and thus, I can rely on Him to not just save me once but daily. The following are a few verses that have assisted me as of recent. (underlining mine)

Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.  *Proverbs 4:26-27

Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.  *Proverbs 5:5-6

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.  *Proverbs 5:21-23

Am I now 100% ready to take on the field of work, family, friends, etc. here in China? No, never. That’s the beauty of it. None of this life is to be lived on our own. And for the professional part of things, I’ve joined some organizations and blogs so that I can grow. I was just too blind by my pride before to see these were possible.

*Proverbs just do something to the mind, and when connected, to the heart as well.

Getting the Idea

Remember when I said I had “an idea” about China and the progression it is making? Turns out I was right about the idea, but I still have only the slightest clue about what is happening in our midst. As the pictures below depict, urbanization is proceeding within our city of 8 million. Don’t worry, that’s small for cities here. Mind you, as you are reading this, the state of Indiana alone has 6.5 million. That’s right, just take out the hills, corn, and beans and put everyone in the quarters of say… Indianapolis. That sounds sufficient for the shoulder-to-shoulder contact happening daily outside of our living quarters. At times, it’s a blessing to be an extrovert.

It seems to be the future possible humiliations and my personality, or the fact that I have lost so much Chinese in the last year, that I have been asking Father to give me courage to chat with more nationals than I did previously. Well, don’t you have to talk to nationals there? No, I don’t have to if I don’t want to. In fact, pointing, Chinglish, and other non-verbals could work just fine. But it’s in the little moments that I am taking advantage of joyfully speaking Chinese with nationals, acquiring more vocabulary and growing as a person. A couple examples: 1) I see a young woman with a baby, ask how old the baby is & if it’s hers, and tell her the baby is cute. Then smile. 2) I ride a taxi (only occasionally because of the price), inquire about his family & work life, and we grind out our mutual understandings about each other’s cultures.

I have come to the conclusion within the first week of being here that if I assume, that’s all my beliefs will be based on, and I shall have no true idea of how the nationals or expats may ponder in China. The intention is to get to know the people, where they come from, and where they are going (whether it be literally or within their dreams). With so many quality discussions so far, I intend to probe further with more penetrating questions into the Chinese mind and heart. I want to speak with the bus driver, the child walking along the road alone, and even the construction worker on his break. Sure, the accents may throw me off initially, but that shouldn’t stop me. Heck, I’ll just be using my phone’s dictionary a lot more, but it will be worth it. It is through this explanation that hopefully you as the reader may understand why so many random topics might be brought up here. Thus…  Continue reading

Love or Lust

Last Sunday, the pastor at our local church started a two-sermon series on Pornography. This was the intro with some meat (Scripture), and this upcoming Sunday will be more substance with application. Thankfully, the pastor hinted to the parents prior to starting, that if they didn’t want an interesting conversation with their elementary children on the car ride home, to take them to the children’s ministry now. Indeed, several families rose up and led their little ones out of the room because a topic that is an “elephant in the room” for some was about to be confronted.

In growing up, I don’t remember ever discussing pornography with my parents. And I don’t blame them at all for my past. I wasn’t ever shown a magazine, but the chains of the computer and TV screens, along with some music, was where I was enslaved. I will say that some of the situations that our pastor brought up Sunday morning were things that I did a long time ago as well. Yes, I’ll own up to that. I will share with you what I have done, but more importantly, I will proclaim to you how God has changed me, my desires, my mind, my heart, and the belief of what love is. Let’s journey there…

As mentioned in the previous post, God has done a lot of work in me through Solomon and his Proverbs. In fact, between the two sermons that our pastor will have on Pornography, June 5th-7th will occur. This means that Proverbs 5 was today, and the other two chapters will happen the next two days. I was stoked today in connecting that, and thus I became excited beyond belief for the work that God could do through me if I continued to humble myself. It is in reading these proverbs that a lot of dialogue, usually more this time of every month, happens between God and me on the topics of lust and love. Do I want to love Him and others or do I want to lust after the things of this world, including sexual temptations (1 John 2:15-17)? Do I want to bring death or life to my eyes, ears or heart (Psalm 101:1-4)?


These prayers are not reactions to any temptation that has happened today. They are prayers that happen almost daily and especially at the times that I am tempted to think of, look at or listen to something that I shouldn’t because of wanting to be more like Jesus. This reminds me of a story once told by another pastor while I was in college. He spoke of how he was assisting in the revival of a church once, and an older man went to the front because of the sexual temptations he was giving into. He broke down and was weeping when the pastor of the local church there empathized with the man and said that “we are all human, we all fall short” (Romans 3:23). This was when the man, flooding the alter with tears looked up and said, “Yes, we are all human, pastor, but Jesus was human, too, and I want to be like Him” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I remember, being in high school, college, and even during my first two years of marriage, trying to rationalize why not to give into a specific sexual desire. It was then that God hit me in the face, sometime in the second year of our marriage, and told me that no thinking was ever going to save me from temptations like He could (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). Since then, every sexual temptation that has happened, praise be to God, has been surrendered to Him. And I strongly agreed with our pastor last Sunday when he said that every resistance against the devil with the power of God will make your relationship with Him that much stronger (James 4:1-10).

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I used to blame others, including my family at one time, for this particular struggle. The blame was also on the media, toward my friends… another source in order for my pride to continue to blow up the size of a hot-air balloon. But it took a lot of humility through humiliation for me to learn that I was the one who needed to change, and it was in my relationship with God that the change needed to happen (Side note: Pray for humility or humiliation, one will inevitably occur). I needed to surrender daily to Him and not think that a weekly or monthly prayer was going to do the job. That’s not how things roll when living as a Christ-follower. God is the I AM, and thankfully, He is with us every second of every day. He is not to be used in a consumer sort of way either, but He is to be trusted. The trust I place in Him now is because of the relationship I have with Him, and this is only by His faithfulness, grace and love (Romans 6:1-14, Ephesians 2:8-9, Mark 15:33-39).


Trust in God for freedom, and He will show you what true love is.

Seek Wisdom

Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.  –Proverbs 4:5-7

When it comes to the teaching occupation, there have been times when I have made up excuses of why I couldn’t get into our Father’s Word in the morning. At the beginning of the calendar year of 2013, I started to read through the Book, chronologically, in a year. I’m 3 months behind on the reading, but I’ve prayed about living on a checklist and that’s not going to happen with the power of God living through me. Other possible reasons that this timeline may have occurred include: studying the law of Leviticus deeper (studying the first covenant really opens your eyes to the covenant that Jesus brought with Him), reading a Proverb a day, and as of recent, memorizing 1 John with my wife. Not all of the reading or memorization has happened everyday, as these are things that I am working through right now with our Father. The one thing that I have held on to throughout this school and calendar year though is reading a Proverb everyday.

Proverb a day

When it comes to June 4th, I read Proverbs 4. When it comes to tomorrow (June 5th), I will dive into the 5th chapter of Proverbs. In the minimal time that I have made before school most of the days this year, it has been this chapter of Proverbs that has kept my striving to be more like our Father, to be more of who He made me to be. If we as children of God seek wisdom, get it, do not forsake it, and are protected by it, then we continue to live with the empowerment of God in us (1 John 4:4). Just yesterday, I was reminded where true, loving wisdom really comes from.

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding, he established the heavens; by his knowledge, the deep broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.  –Proverbs 3:19-20

How can we, the creation, doubt the wisdom of someone so great, so unspeakable, the CREATOR, in wisdom?

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Rick Warren tweeted once that “God’s tweets are called The Book of Proverbs.” For the newer generation, this may be a great way to look at them. I have been most challenged by Steve Farrar’s How to Ruin Your Life By 30 that I read a while back. The last chapter is entitled, “If you want to ruin your life by 30 then… REFUSE DAILY WISDOM.” In this chapter, Steve challenged me as a reader that if there was one thing that would help me from ruining my life by thirty, it was to “Read a chapter from the book of Proverbs every day” because “You brush your teeth every day. You take a shower every day. Read a chapter in Proverbs every day.”

In reading a Proverb every day, I have become much more aware and proactive in my seeking of wisdom and, ultimately, our Father. I thank God for the effectiveness this has had on my marriage because of the lust that has be rid of and very much not present in my mind or heart (Proverbs 5, 6 & 7). My wife has been thankful, too! I have been reminded of how lowly I am as a human (8:13-14, 11:2) but how much love and guidance our Father has for us (11:12, 17), if we are willing to take time (12:1), read His words, listen, and abide in them (1 John 2:23-25).  I have learned to be cautious when I wink (Proverbs 10:10), but seriously, keep an eye on that one (pun intended). The stories could go on of the numerous ways that a chapter, a specific Proverb, has let God convict me of who I have been, what I have done, and how I need to change. So as a brother and friend of yours, I urge you, no, I implore you to please read a chapter of Proverbs every day.

God can save any of us with just a word. Your present and future depends on it.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.  –Proverbs 19:20-21