As Chinese New Year is approaching, I am reminded how holidays are memory joggers. Good or bad they return to remind us of previous celebrations or gatherings. Birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings (October and November), Easters, New Years (no matter what month), and all the various and changing national holidays. Each year is different for me, with a surprising incident bringing a China celebration to mind. This year it was a random picture of a chicken hanging by its neck in a local Asian market in Southern California. I laughed out loud as I remembered one of my first years in China when a school leader showed up at my door holding a lifeless chicken by the neck. “Please cook this in the American way for our school Thanksgiving party.” Not only was I unsure of the “American way” to prepare it but I was totally unaware of a school party.
Whether or not the school initiated a gathering each year, my team and our friends would host some form of the celebration. Lonely ex-pat colleagues were known to practically invite themselves. In the school year, around November, some familiar food and any semblance of a tradition can look comforting, I guess.
One year the teacher with the biggest apartment opened her home for the day. We crowded in as many foreign and Chinese friends as we could. The table was full with many contributions: KFC, fruit salads, mashed potatoes, quail eggs, vegetable dishes, steamed buns, and roasted peanuts. My personal favorite was and still is the sweet potatoes slowly roasted over coals in big metal barrels and sold on many street corners.
When everyone had arrived, someone suggested we all make a circle and each share something we were thankful for. My Chinese friend, now standing next to me, had seen this in a movie and thought it was touching. To my surprise no one groaned or requested a pass. The responses were diverse. Gratitude was expressed for being invited, it being Saturday and no class, a mother that sent money, a faithful and loving God, a big weight loss, good health, and divine help in learning Chinese.
I wondered what my friend was thinking as she held my hand and listened. We had talked for hours about faith; mine and her grandfather’s. I unashamedly eavesdropped as she turned to the foreigner next to her.
“Are you a Christian like some of them?”
“Goodness, no,” he quickly replied.
“Sorry if that was a rude question,” she said nervously.
“Don’t worry, I don’t care,” he whispered. “But if you ask one of them, they won’t like it. They think you should be able to tell.”
She looked puzzled and their short exchange ended. She and I had many more chats, and though I never saw the young man again, his words touched us both deeply. My friend wondered what he had meant, and I pondered over what could “be told” by my life.
Jesus gave us his measurement for the mark of a Christian. (Francis Schaeffer’s book by that name is an excellent read!) Love one another.
I have sadly lost touch with so many of my Chinese brothers and sisters. I wonder what their daily challenges are in being known as his disciples. Yes, this holds true for all followers of Jesus, in any country. The Bible makes it quite clear this should not surprise anyone.
ChinaSource has included many articles in the last few months that give us specifics on what believers particularly in China are facing. Many concern places perhaps familiar to readers of these blogs. What if we took those articles as prayer lists? Remembering the individuals, the churches, the cities mentioned, as they live to be known as disciples of Jesus.
Here are a few articles to read or re-read and pray through:
Back in China
by Erik Bürklin, October 23, 2023
Challenges notwithstanding, the resilience and unwavering faith of the Chinese church are awe-inspiring. God’s grip on his church remains unyielding, and amid adversity, a vibrant faith continues to thrive in the hearts of believers across China.
The Church in China
by Erik Bürklin, September 7, 2020
The author discusses five key ways in which TSPM churches are having a positive and eternal impact on Chinese society. Although controlled by the government, these churches continue to faithfully serve their Savior knowing that, ultimately, Jesus controls everything.
Taking Our Pain to the Cross
by Laura Yang, January 8, 2024
Bringing our pain to God is an act of profound faith. Believers in China who experience trauma can be encouraged by the truth that God will never leave them or forsake them. He is with them in their pain, and they can trust him through the sorrow.
Securitization of Everything
by Peter Bryant, December 13, 2023
Churches and individual Chinese Christians have felt the impact of this shift to greater emphasis and concern about security. Unregistered churches and groups are seen as threats affecting societal and cultural security. Any foreign connections are seen through a security lens as a potential threat to China’s stability and healthy development.
Image credit: Header, Unsplash+; Sweet potato seller, courtesy of the author.
Barbara Kindschi has been privileged and challenged to teach English in China, Myanmar, Laos, and most recently, Mongolia. Her classes have been filled with undergrads, professors, accountants, hotel employees, monks, government workers, and beauty pageant contestants. They continue to be both her students and teachers as she now tutors online. Barbara …View Full Bio
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