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Returning the Blessing


So many people from Western countries head east to countries like China with the noble desire to give and bless.

That's what I did 22 years ago, setting out from England to China with a clear sense of calling and the blessing of my church.

The snag is, when you respond to such a calling you effectively turn your back on friends, family, church, etc. in your home country. And often when you do look over your shoulder it's in the hope of receiving something whether in the form of such things as prayer, financial support, encouragement or a package full of treats from home.

Some years ago it struck me just how one-way the flow of blessing was from people in the UK (and USA) to me, then from me to people in The East. I wanted to somehow create a two-way flow and bring a backflow of spiritual blessing from East to West.

Just a few months ago I began to do this, having written a 48-page full-colour illustrated MiniBook Insights from Outside: Reflections from Mongolia, China & Siberian Russia (my work sometimes takes me beyond China north to Russia and Mongolia).

According to what readers back in The West are already saying about the book, it is proving to be the blessing I had hoped it would be. One lady back home said "It's very inspiring. It is so encouraging that I have read it several times already. It really makes me think about my own attitude to situations and it challenges my perception of things."

The reflections in the book describe some of my encounters with foreign culture and how they impacted me. Each reflection ends with a simple biblical point that injects the encounter described with meaning and blessing. Eight of the twelve reflections feature China.

Here's an extract from "Illusions of an Ice Cream Van":

It's a hot June day. I'm walking along one of the main roads of the city of Kunming when I hear behind me, blaring out increasingly loudly, toy style renditions of tunes such as "Happy Birthday to You", "Oh My Darling Clementine" and "Jingle Bells." I turn to discover a water tanker warning people of its lumbering approach as spider-leg jets of water spray the road dust down from the sides and rear of the vehicle

People who travel and live abroad will inevitably be exposed to unsettling circumstances. However, even if you stay in your own country you are likely to face them there too not only due to immigration, but also to the blossoming of a myriad of subcultures within your own general culture.

What unsettles you? What shakes your sense of normality? Do you step into each day confident that the Lord is ahead of you, ready to meet you in all the situations you will come across? Scripture seems to indicate that we need to actively set Him and see Him ahead of us.

I have set the Lord always before me I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8 and Acts 2:25 (NIV 1984).

I had thought that the book would mainly benefit people who have some kind of connection with other cultures or who encourage/equip others to relate across cultures, but it seems that anyone can read it and find it to be a blessing.

Maybe you would, too!

Mark Alexander

Kunming, China

Image credit: Kunming, by JjKang Li, via Flickr