The emotional and spiritual preparation during debriefing has involved teaching, goal setting, and three topical studies from the Word on fear, choices, and trust. A last session will be tonight, where I will assign approximately 27 sections of the Word where the Father encourages His people to obey, and which is followed up with a promise. It’s good stuff. As I write, the team is engaged in a quiet, three-hour reflection time. Some of the questions are, “what have you done well this summer?”, “what things didn’t you do well, and what would you do differently?”, “what have you learned through your experiences this summer?”, and make a list of the things you are thankful for. Many students are hunkered down at one of the many coffee shops (there are four Starbucks within a 5-minute walk) around the hotel happily journaling away.
How would I sum up the summer from a Trip Leader perspective? I think four words would describe a good portion of our work: reality differed from expectation. It’s always that way in some shape or form, but this year it was much more pronounced. Going to Fuzhou on the front-end of the trip meant a smaller turnout. Whereas in previous years we had 100+ Chinese attend our summer camp there, this year it was closer to 40 or 50. However, this gave us opportunity to spend more time to get to know each person, and flexibility to send small groups of team members to do work in outside locations, such as the three-day camp for the migrant children. It was a good work and I was pleased, but we didn’t see as much spiritual fruit as we have in the past and some students were disappointed they didn’t have an opportunity to personally share with the Chinese.
ShiShi was a challenge of a different sort. If you’ve kept up with my updates, you’ll know that our team was given 280+ Chinese students that the school wanted us to teach English to. We had been scheduled to work with 8th (going into 9th) grade students, but the school switched it (without notice) and we were given the 7th (going into 8th) graders instead. The difference? I was told by a teacher that in 7th grade the students get English only one class per week (and most of that is spoken in Chinese), but 8th grade students are required to have an English class each day. The difference is incredible. The verbal skills and vocabulary comprehension is so much greater, and means you can have an actual conversation (short and basic, to be sure) vs. a class that simply stares up at you uncomprehendingly when you ask them how their weekend was.
How did the students do from my perspective? Well, I would dare anyone to walk into a classroom of 27 thirteen to fourteen year-olds, who barely understand a word you are saying, and then try to keep them from being distracted while teaching them a different language! But our team did it. And I am so amazed. This was a formational time for our team, and I think many of the China family grew up in a new way as a result of the pressure, stress, responsibility, and opportunity that was ShiShi. They found they were far stronger in the Father than they ever knew. And that is a gift beyond price. They were tested, and were not found wanting.
Sure, I would have liked it if each China family member had deep and meaningful spiritual conversations with the Chinese students, but that’s not in our hands. We are simply to be obedient to go, and look for opportunities to communicate Christ in any way possible. Sometimes it’s by our words. Sometimes it’s by our actions. And other times it’s by our love. I can say without hesitation that our student’s loved the Chinese in their classes.
Interestingly, almost half of the China family initially signed up for another team. But because of cancelations (Australia and Sierra Leone), or their first choice teams being full (Scotland and Uganda), many signed up on China as their second choice. It may have been their second choice, but it is my conviction that the Father chose each student and staff for this team and simply re-routed those He wanted.
This year’s work was immeasurably harder than in previous summers, but the team was up for the test. The individuals He brought together bonded together unusually well; they encouraged, supported, and cared for each other. And they poured their hearts out into the work. They may not have seen a lot of tangible results, but I think that in the day they finally arrive Home (and may that day be very, very far off) the Father will refer to this time and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I would like to wrap this up by saying a word to the moms and dads reading this last update. Each and every one of you should be proud of what you son and/or daughter has accomplished in China this summer. I am. Every team member did a great job and, as a Trip Leader, I couldn’t have asked for more. And you can trust me in this, because after 37 years doing this, I think I have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about!
For the China family,
PS – We leave for the airport at 03:30 tomorrow morning (or late tonight), and we will so you all soon!
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All dressed up for the acrobat show.
Riley giving her individual report to the team.
I don’t know why, but I’m a bit reluctant to try this dish. It looks okay, but there’s just something about it’s name…