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. The only thing I had figured out how to make at that point was pumpkin bread, so I came home and baked a loaf for the elderly men and women who usually sit outside my apartment building, chatting the afternoon away. After looking up the words for “pumpkin” and “bread,” I took the plate, went outside and offered each person a piece. Every afternoon after that, I said hello and goodbye to the same group of men and women, and every afternoon, they giggled at my lack of ability to speak the language.
Later, on one of those afternoons, one of the elderly women from the usual social group came running up to me, throwing her hands up in the air and motioning for me to stay put. She ran to her house, then came back with a few bottles of lotion from the U.S. She kept shoving them at me, and for a moment, I thought she wanted me to keep them. I thought it odd because I had never met the woman, but as I looked at one of the bottles, I finally understood: It was in English, so she couldn’t read it. I used a translator on my cell phone to explain how to use the lotion, and she was so excited and thankful.
Little did I know that because of sharing a loaf of pumpkin bread and later helping this woman with translating, word had spread around our apartment complex that a foreigner lived there. One curious woman wanted to know more about this foreigner, so she sent her son around the complex to find out more.
One day, as we were entering the apartment complex, this woman’s son approached us and asked, “Are you the foreigners my mother has been telling us about, and do you know Jesus?” We thought, “What a strange question!” but told him yes, we’re the foreigners, and yes, we follow Jesus. To our surprise, he said he and his mother are also followers of Jesus. He said, “You were so kind to give my mother and her friends pumpkin bread, as well as give her friend lotion advice, so we had to know who you were.” Since meeting this family, we’ve been able to partner with them in sharing the Good News in our city with those who have never heard about Jesus.
Please pray that believers in China, both foreign and national, will remember that God uses even small acts of love to bring His children together. Pray also that this local brother and his family will unashamedly share the Good News with the Hui people around them who have yet to hear about Jesus!