I had never seen Friday prayers at a mosque before. On our way back from a trip to another city, we decided to stop and watch as the men assembled for worship.
It was a cold, cloudy afternoon, eerily quiet, the square almost void of people. A few minutes passed as I wandered around in front of the intricately decorated mosque, looking at the buildings and attempting but not succeeding to read the characters written on the walls.
We had been in the city a little less than a month, and all I could say were a few simple phrases: “Nǐ hǎo” (hello), “Zàijiàn” (goodbye), and “Tīng bù dǒng” (I don’t understand). Needless to say, I felt pretty awkward just smiling at my neighbors as they asked me all sorts of questions, curious about my appearance and why I was there. I stood out like a sore thumb, so those questions came pretty regularly. Despite the language barrier, though, I was determined to befriend my neighbors.
Beijing’s Temple of Heaven park complex attracts many tourists each year with its buildings’ elaborate wooden architecture and meticulously kept grounds. Before the complex retired to tourism, however, it served as a place of Heaven worship, where for hundreds of years Chinese emperors performed the Border Sacrifice, during which a spotless animal was sacrifice and prayers made for protection and blessing.
I recently read a book called Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams are Delayed, by Betsy Childs Howard. While I initially read the book with singleness in mind, I soon realized that its truths apply to many aspects of life, particularly life overseas. Looking back, my journey of life overseas has been filled with seasons of waiting. To begin, I waited through several years of schooling in preparation for moving overseas. When that was finished, I waited almost five more years to gain professional experience and pay off my student loans. While I didn’t have to wait too long for a job opportunity to open up, the months leading up to my move were still filled with waiting and preparation. And now that I’m here, the waiting continues, in ways big and small.
Jordan, Emery, Amy and Mike: Jordan is a single young lady who is quickly noticed for her sweet spirit. She’s very introverted, but she does have an obvious and genuine like for people she meets. She’s gifted in learning languages, caring for people, and serving people in a way that makes the Gospel more real to the recipients. Emery is her best friend. Emery is also pretty introverted. She enjoys deep theological discussions, strategizing, and teaching. She and Jordan are both notably punctual people.
I’ve heard before that it’s not always good to listen to what “they” say, but it can also be very difficult to get first-hand experience, especially when it comes to expat life in another country, namely China. We also often hear a friend here say, “What’s true today in China will not necessarily be true tomorrow.”
When the Father called our family to China to work among the Dongxiang people, we were about as green as you could be when it comes to working among Chinese Muslims.