"How was China!?" so many people have asked in the last couple of days. And I've wanted to tell them. But I'm still trying to come up with the words to even describe it. To some I've just said, "Awesome." To some, I've said, "Crazy." To some, I've said, "Absolutely incredible." And to others, I've said, "Every single possible emotion was experienced in those two weeks."
So, four days after returning home, I still don't know if I can really tell you how the trip was. Lots of processing remains. But two things I do know: 1. God is faithful. 2. It takes a lot of love to live. Let me share a few of the highlights, memorable moments, and unforgettable experiences from this trip.
Yes, everyone always wants to hear about the crazy food we ate. But really, beyond some strange, black fungus and a chewy/crunchy squid tentacle, I have no idea what I ate. We ate our fill many times on pork, rice, chicken, rice, tofu, cucumber, rice, potatoes, red bean buns, steamed rolls, noodles, and rice. I loved the food, and really wish I could stay as healthy on it as the Chinese people do!
But we made many, many more friends as well! Because Jimmy had come to the Dandelion School for a semester in 2011, we had many deep connections with teachers and students that we had never met. Marcus, one of Jimmy's closest friends in China and the volunteer coordinator at Dandelion, became our "Papa Duck," taking us back and forth from the school, getting us into our non-English-speaking hotel, and guiding us all like ducklings during the touring. Principal Zheng was an amazing friend to us, always making us feel so welcomed, so appreciated, and so encouraged. She is an example to me in her dignity, but also her willingness to just have fun. As she would say, "Why not?" There are so many other teachers I wish I could tell you all about, like Alex, Sela, Tony, Nina, Tiger, Cindy, Selina, Vivian, and more. Each of them showed our team a wonderful love.
One of the most special friends I made was an old man named Wu Kai Jun. Just look at him. The first time I met him, we were eating a very nice meal at a hotel, and he was sooo particular about how I used my chopsticks. Each time he'd get me doing it the right way, I couldn't actually do it. So when he'd look away, I'd slip back and eat as fast as I could. It was an interesting meal. But then I ended up next to him on the bus for an hour, and quickly exhausted his English vocabulary, and shortly after exhausted my Chinese one. He showed me step for step how to write a Chinese character I didn't know, and I was hooked. He began teaching me how to write characters in the very precise and traditional Chinese method. From then on, each night after dinner with the students, I would meet him in the little cafeteria and practice characters. We didn't say much out loud, but those became some of my favorite memories on the trip. I miss that guy.
The last friend was actually not a new one! Seven years ago, Liu Wei came to stay with my family as a three-week exchange student. And now, in 2012, I was in her country. She flew from the middle of China to Beijing just to come and see me, touring with our team for two days. It was mind-boggling to see her again, and I pray that this is just the beginning of a long friendship.
We did some pretty wonderful touring. All in all, we saw the Heavenly Temple, Tienanmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall of China. Some crazy sights included the flooded streets of Beijing, where we had the worst rain in 60 years! But the images that will stay in my mind the longest are the scenes alongside the road that we saw every day; the storefronts, the one-roomed homes, the piles of trash, the man with a bicycle cart, the toddler watching a stray dog, the smells that I have yet to experience anywhere else.
We lived through what I truly believe is a miracle, a testimony of God's faithfulness. Two days before we left, we were involved in a car accident which could have taken the lives of one, if not many, of the passengers. Though there was a hit with a bicyclist and a head-on collision with another car, the greatest injuries were the bicyclists fractured arm, and irritated bad back, a scuffed up nose, and some soreness all around. I cannot stop praising God for His protection over us in that moment, and I pray that a great seed was planted in many hearts as they watched us drop and pray in our times of trouble.
"It takes a lot of love to live," Jimmy said. And it truly does. After training teachers, educating students, visiting an orphanage for the blind, and loving on many Chinese friends, I think we were all beginning to see just how much love our lives require. I'm learning how impossible it is to unconditionally out of my own meager supply. So, I'm realizing how much I need Jesus to fill me up over and over again. But I know He can, because the love He's displayed for all of us on that cross was even more than I'll ever need.
I hope you've been able to have just a taste of what our trip to China was like. I don't know if this was my last trip to China, my first of several, or the beginning of a life-long ministry, but one thing I do know. I have a faithful God, and He will supply me with all the love I need to live, whether in China or here at home.
Thank you, Jimmy, for the love you showed and the work you began.
Thank you, Jesus, for working through Jimmy's life to impact me and literally countless others. My prayer is that I can be so full of Your love that I can make an impact that even just resembles his. You know what's next, and I will follow You.