I have found it very difficult to talk about China . I have mixed emotions about the experience, the people, the culture (but not the food- the food was FABULOUS.) Regardless of where my head is, I know I need to write a final update of my time in China and what's coming next in the grand adventure called Life. (It's only 2.5 pages on microsoft, but on here, it looks so much longer... SORRY!)
As most of you know, the first semester was pretty bad. I taught Grade 2 (juniors in high school). Students did not want me there and did not listen. I felt like a failure as a teacher and as a missionary. When you can't make friends/build relationships AND you can't help them improve their speaking and listening skills, you pretty much feel like a worthless person. To add to this, on October 14, I rescued a small kitten from the road and named him Roo (as in Kangaroo) because he liked to be carried everywhere inside my shirt. On October 18, I woke up and found him dying in bed next to me. The memory of this horrific morning still makes me tear up. I will never know if I did something or if he was sick, but after only 4 days of bonding, my little kitty died in my arms and I had to burry him. Depression set in.
There were several highlights though, including my birthday, the visit of my facilitator Ann Wilson over Thanksgiving, and Christmas when several students (surprise surprise) came to church. I also made a few good friends in grade 2, and I reached out to a couple of the teachers. One of the teachers took me to a local dance class with older women (health and exercise dancing, not performance) where I met the woman who later became Chinese Mom. I looked forward to dance class (3 days a week) and lunch with my Chinese family. (Mom, dad, 3 brothers, grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousin DoDo.) I especially enjoyed this time because I was NOT just "the foreigner." I found a few true friends in Stelle, David , Mrs. Emma , and all the Pink Ladies (dance class. We wore pink spandex. There are pictures and video for those who dare.)
In January, my sister's marriage suddenly (and very unexpectedly) ended and I flew home for the winter holiday to be with my family. In China, winter holiday is set to accommodate expected severe weather and the Chinese holiday Spring Festival (new year and lantern festival) which was late January to the end of February. I was disappointed to miss these infamous celebrations, but I was homesick and needed to be with my sister. I spent nearly 3 weeks eating all the western food I could stand and watching LOTS of English TV- just because.
Much to EVERYONE'S surprise, I did in fact return to China as promised to teach Grade 1 in the spring semester. I was not excited or looking forward to it. If I hadn't signed a contract, I wouldn't have gone back, but I felt obligated to keep not only my word, but the word of Volunteers for China . In my situation, I really was an ambassador for my country AND Christianity. But grade 1 (sophomores) was the polar opposite of Grade 2. They were excited to learn English, they loved their time with me, and they were good students- did their homework, studied for tests, and participated in class with little reservation. Events such as show and tell and the English Only Party (the last day) were a huge success. Thanks to some very generous donations that were mailed to me in China or given to me while I was home, I had a lot of success with my English is More Library and English corner. When I had office hours, students never came because it was during their afternoon rest time. I quickly learned that NOTHING gets in the way of the afternoon nap. But I did have students who wanted to meet in the evenings for dinner or on Sundays. I was FINALLY able to connect with my students. In May, my Chinese family also got a small dog, named Hua Hua . He was just a puppy but I fell in love with him. Chinese family kept trying to give him to me, but because of the long hours I worked, he stayed with Chinese family and I visited him everyday. I reached out to the 8 sisters at Changzhi college- 8 girls who share a dorm room and major in English.
As for China , I did have to contend with 8 weeks of snow on the ground, which has once and for all proven that I was meant to live on the equator, and constant attention as "the foreigner." This is what made me really want to leave- and never go back. Constantly, 24 hours a day, being starred at like you're a space alien with purple skin. I was rarely introduced as a teacher of friend, but only as a foreigner. I was often asked to dinner only to be ignored because the person only wanted to be seen with me. Living the life of a celebrity is NOT for me. (Some of you may not believe that attention loving Laura craved the blessing of anonymity, but it's true.) My good friend, Stelle, often liked to go shopping with me, but she once told me, “Not today, Laura , I can’t stand the way people stare at me when I’m with you, and they always ask me questions about you. I just can’t do it today.” There were days when I couldn’t do it either and I just stayed home. The language was also VERY difficult. Once I started meeting with Chinese mom everyday for lunch, I was able to chatter on pretty good in the local dialect. However, my Chinese was never “good”- only understood. I can say this, though- I could get in a taxi, order food, go shopping, and handle emergencies without a translator. All of this hard work on the language is going to waste now except when I write my Chinese family some simple phrases in Chinese or when I go to my favorite Chinese restaurant and they challenge me by making me order in Chinese.
Overall, I feel my time in China was a success as a teacher and a missionary. I took over 50 students and friends to church on Easter weekend and gave away more than 100 English/Chinese Bibles, and more than 20 copies of the Jesus movie and book, also in English and Chinese.
Beginning in October, I was teaching Sunday school two Sundays a month at the local church (legal, registered body of believers). I kept the lessons pretty simple, but while I was home on holiday I read Lee Stroble 's Case for a Creator, which inspired me. In the spring, I began a series on Apologetics- why do you believe what you believe. Not only was this successful with the youth and children, it was also requested by the church as a whole. I loved answering their questions and diving deeper into their faith. I am currently working on more lessons to send to the church to continue their studies, and we're all looking for Stroble's books in Chinese. Thanks to my church, Wedgwood 's, generous donation, I was able to purchase A LOT of teaching material for the Changzhi church. That's probably the hardest thing to find in China , even in the Christian bookstores- books ABOUT the Bible and how to teach it, especially to the children- because those are harder to get approved for publication. Bibles and Christian art or knickknacks is easy.
My original plan was to stay in China until the end of August so to tour the country (see something other than my small town) and enjoy the Olympic atmosphere. However, due to finances, the political atmosphere surrounding foreigners, and constantly changing plans with family and friends, I just decided it was God's way of saying I needed to be at home. Leaving proved to be the most difficult task. The last day of school kept changing so I wasn’t able to give away the gifts/rewards to my students as promised, and then summer school was canceled in honor of the Olympics. (Almost $2000 worth of gifts were left on my desk with a note about who got what.) Unfortunately, my last day in Changzhi was a NIGHTMARE. I had stayed up all night the night before I left working on my final reports. Early the morning I left, the electricity went out, so I had to go across town to finish printing and copying my final reports for the school. (1265 students who did 5 homework essays each, wrote me personal goodbye letters asking for responses, and most completed the group presentation project where they taught me about China in English equals two weeks of 10 hour days of grading.) Then, that copy and printer shop's only printer broke. I decided to take everything with me to Beijing , copy it there, and mail it back to the school. Then, I went to pick up the one souvenir I really splurged on- a photo book with photos of me in traditional Chinese dresses. You can view some of these photos on my myspace page. I spent about $500 on these (USD) and they came out WRONG. The photographers sent the unedited photos to the printers, not the ones I had approved of- and they couldn't change it in time before I left. Nor would they refund it. I was in tears- had no translator- and ended up rushing thru my final goodbyes rather than visiting friends as I had planned. I was in tears, my Chinese family was in tears, and the dog was just quickly handed off without much of a goodbye. Hua Hua had come to live with me for the last month to do some puppy training while he was teething (Chinese family wanted to get rid of him, but I stopped them). He and I became quit the site on the town, he was such a good little doggy. I wanted to bring him home to America, but the airlines have rules about how big they can be if they fly in the cabin (under your chair) or if they go as cargo, it can't be hotter than 90 and it was WAY hotter than 90 in Texas in July! So, Hua Hua ended up staying in China . I loaded up on a bus and headed out to Beijing completely exhausted and wishing I had just 3 more days in China .
Beijing was only for one full day, and it was nice and relaxing. I was able to easily finish my reports and mail them off and then I found the local Christian bookstore to stock up on some good souvenirs for family and friends. After that, and with nothing else on my to do list, I just wondered around Beijing . I didn't have a guide or translator this time, so I had some unique adventures with getting taxis, ordering my last meals in Chinese (no western food, I told myself.), and seeing some of the sights. The next morning, I was ready for the long ride home. So, I returned to the USA on July 15 emotionally and mentally exhausted.
Once home, the look for work began. I had wanted to teach swim lessons again, but because I didn't have time to advertise my early return or even lessons for August very well, there just wasn't enough of a response to warrant my living in Denton . So, I took a job working as the assistant manager at a local clothing store, Dots. (I love this store!) It was only part time though and I continued to pray about what to do. I applied to be a teacher with the Fort Worth ISD, but all the positions were filled. It just so happened that I went back to Kelly Services, the temp agency, and within 2 weeks they were able to place me as the front desk/facility coordinator for Nike Golf in Fort Worth . This is THE facility where Nike makes all its golf clubs and custom fits them for players, as well as research and development. I look at beautiful golf courses and have a pretty easy, no stress job that mostly consists of event planning, answering the phone, shipments and delivery, and massive amounts of unrestricted internet use. Not bad. The job is only contracted for a year, so in a year, I'll see where I am, but working full time for Nike and part time at Dots, I am finally feeling financially stable. I will live with my parents for the next year, until I find work that will be longer term. I'm beginning to save for my first big car purchase (my sister left me her old car which isn't even suitable for charity) and then I'd like to look into buying or building my own home. Working and saving- that is my life right now. (Well, for the last two weeks you could add Olympic junkie to that list. Go team USA !)
China was a real shock to me- emotionally and spiritually- and for now, I think I'd like to take a break from the mission field. It's hard and I'm not full of the love and grace required for that kind of work. PEOPLE bother me more than anything, and I found myself, everyday in China , struggling against unexplained anger outbursts and depression. I'm home, working, and doing some deep soul searching. What does God want from me? Where should I work and live? What is my purpose? I'd still like to travel the world, but maybe short term missions or just as a tourist. I still like the IDEA of helping people and improving their lives, I'm just not sure I have it in me anymore to carry through. I have three different offers to go to Africa as a missionary, and I really thought that’s where I’d be going next, but I just don’t know WHERE God wants me. I’m going to sit and wait for God to speak. I'm waiting on some answers and trying to be obedient in this time of silence.
So, please keep me and China in your prayers. I am happy to tell you more about China and my experience there, so feel free to ask questions. I also have a lot of pictures on my myspace page as well as all my blogs from while I was there. I am working on transferring this from myspace to my “real” webpage www.RoseSoul.com so that everyone can view it without any problems. (Myspace sometimes requires that you be a member, and other times people can get in and view with no problems. Go figure.) Thank you so much for your love, prayers, and financial support while I was gone and now that I am home. God bless you all!
I have completed one semester of teaching English in China and, after a month holiday at home with my family, I am now heading back to teach the second semester. Serving Christ and others in China is awesome, wonderful, a dream come true. TEACHING is, well, not what I will be doing in the future. Ever. Anywhere. This is a summary of my first semester and a list of prayer requests and needs as the next semester begins.
At first, my students were extremely excited to see me walk into their classroom. I was teaching grade 2, students age 15-16 years old (the equivalent of 11th graders in America.) I had 18 classes each week with 70-75 students in each class. (Yikes, I know, but I adjusted quickly.) These students had a previous foreign teacher, Chanoa, also with Volunteers for China. Chanoa and I are very different in personality and teaching methods. The students, overwhelmingly, preferred Chanoa and made no attempt to hide their dissatisfaction with me. As I found out, my class is not a "real" class, in that the grades I give are not factored into their overall GPA. In addition to this, spoken English is not on their college entrance exam (only written or grammatical English.) The students had no incentive to participate in my class. When they found out I would not be only playing games, but also doing exercises, reading stories, having group activities, they quickly lost interest. On the one hand, they begged me to do things like in America and not just do lectures with students taking notes like in their Chinese classes. On the other hand, activities like Show and Tell were completely disregarded for being different. I asked each student to keep a notebook and write to me once a week. I asked them questions like What's your favorite movie, what's your dream, do you like my class. They were not graded on grammar or even content, only on completeness. This was the only way I could build a relationship with my students because of time limits and the fact that there are SO many. Out of 1265 students, I received 183 notebooks. Total. Several of them were brutally honest, saying things like I hate your class, I don't want to be in your class anymore, and go back to America and let us study. I gave 2 listening tests as well, more for my benefit and self evaluation than theirs. Only 700 took them. (And my listening tests were fun- it was listen to a song and write in the missing word to the lyrics. And they chose the band I played!) I felt like such a failure, a joke. There were other disappointments, like when I didn't get to participate in Parent Day (their version of report cards but it's done in person) or when my classes got canceled so students could have an extra PE class.
I keep telling myself I did a good job, made adjustments, listened to student feedback on how to engage students, and at the end of the semester, the students who gave me a chance improved their English and enjoyed my class. I learned a lot as a teacher as well. Culture does come into play, but so does maturity. They love stories and so I would tell stories, using sound effects and voices. (At the end of a class, when students burst into applause, you know you got them.) The principal and the other teachers constantly praised me. In the past, foreign teachers only played games and had fun, I had written lesson plans, visual aides, and made use of ALL classroom media. I even had class outside when the weather permitted. Overall, there are 4 opinions on how my first semester went- mine, the administration's, the students, and God's. Guess what gets the most weight in how I will view this semester in 10 years.
I also started an English Corner. It took a LOT of work, but we finally got it on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during the students free time (recess.) It was optional and as I constantly told them, THAT is where they could have one-on-one time with me, ask me questions, and learn about American culture. The goal was for them to practice listening and speaking in English in a relaxed setting. Monday was Culture Day- where I might bring in an item to discuss, such as money. We would learn songs, dances, nursery rhymes, ANYTHING I could think of. Wednesday was Question Day. Students were to come prepared to ask me questions, personal or about America. Then, I would ask them a related (if not the same) question about themselves or China. Friday was Game Day. I'd bring in any and all American games for students to learn and play while using English. We had Uno, Twister, Pictionary, Scrabble, Truth or Dare, Honey if You Love Me, and Conversation Cards. Attendance at any given English Corner was always a surprise- sometimes none, sometimes 100. Towards the end of the semester, English Corner was almost entirely made up of Grade 1 students. Grade 2 wanted nothing to do with me. I enjoyed English Corner very much. I felt more like a friend of the students than a teacher.
I kept daily office hours. The entire country takes a siesta- a rest after lunch. However, because I never felt MUCH of a need to nap (although there were times), I stayed in my office in case students wanted some extra time. with me. I was available to help them study for tests, go over vocabulary, or just have a conversation with. Only a handful of students ever came, but I was always there. Just in case. I used that time to read my Bible and write Sunday School lessons.
In November or December, I realized that students see English as a requirement set down by their government 30 years ago. I wanted them to realize that English is so much more. As I told them, language is the key to unlocking a culture. So, I started an English library, all collected on my desk. (Their actual library is void of all books except text books. The library is for studying purposes only.) I made up a sign and a list of basic library rules. I named it the "English is More" Library, as in English is more than grammar, tests, and homework. I wanted them to ENJOY English culture. I was able to find several English classics and even some modern ones that had Chinese translations on the opposite page. I have everything from mysteries to Pride and Prejudice. I have many Chicken Soup for the Soul books and a Chinese/English version called Beautiful English. I have children's books (such as I'll love you Always) and books on tape of movies like Braveheart. I have a few general magazines, Reader's Digest, and Guide Posts. I added A TON of books and movies while home in the States, including Prince of Egypt, the Fighting Temptations, and books by C.S. Lewis and Lee Stroble. I was not able to meet their number 1 request for the library, and that is Harry Potter in English. They read it in Chinese, and LOVE it, but they know part of a story is lost in translation. I'm still accepting books, magazines, movies, and music for my library. I have over 150 items available for students to check out, many of them provided by my friend Curt Vaughn. His mother is a first grade teacher and sent us their reading books. Though they are obviously for young children, my students eat them up because they tell stories in simple, clear English. Students are always there, ready to check out books, during lunch and dinner. I enjoy talking with the students about what they would like to read and making recommendations. We often talk about the stories when they return items. Maybe I'll be a librarian...
I do attend a legal, registered Christian church near Changzhi. (About 45 minutes by bus in a small town called Lu Jia Zhuang.) After about a month of just attending, I was bored and unable to understand unless my friend, Brother Li, translated. I offered to help in any way I could. I was quickly assigned to teach Sunday School twice a month- once to the youth and once to the children. Brother Li acted as my translator. As the teachers plan their own lessons- they have no pre-prepared materials- I was allowed to do or teach anything I wanted. Each week, I taught one simple English song with hand motions, taught them the title of the lesson in English, and then we would read the Bible verse in Chinese and have the lesson. My lessons always had lots of history, language references, and the verse within the context of the passage. I also had lots of application activities, and always a devotional or a story that illustrated the point. At the end of class, I would hand out paper and crayons or pencils for them to make a reminder of the lesson that they could take home and share with their parents or friends. We had Love God, Love People; Are you a Victim or Alive; and Prayer. (3 lessons in 3 months.) After the first lesson, Brother Li and his wife had to go to Beijing. His wife had been in liver failure for a long time, and her health suddenly became critical. She was taken to Beijing to await a liver transplant. Just before Christmas, they received their very own miracle- Brother Li gave part of his liver to his wife. HE was the match. Both are doing fine and recovering well. In his absence, a student from the medical college filled in as my interpreter, with some help from the high school students who were also English students. Though not ideal, we all eventually understood. I have a 2 part lesson ready just before Easter entitled Why are you a Christian, focusing on apologetics and having them defend their faith. I have students who are there because their families are Christian and have been for generations. I have others who are the only Christian in their family and know nothing other than what their friend shared with them at the time of their conversion. I really stick to the absolute basics and let the Spirit guide me in how deep to take it.
I was also able to participate in their Christmas program. There was a college Bible study that wanted a play in English. I wrote several short plays, but in the end, they chose Three Trees. One of my all time favorites. It was WONDERFUL. The Saturday and Sunday before Christmas Eve, I took more than 30 students to church. I had talked about Christmas in class, along with Chanukah and Winter Solstice. In addition to reading THE Christmas story and explaining all of it, I talked about a Western Christmas. I invited them to come learn with me about what it was like to celebrate Christmas in China. The students really enjoyed the Saturday program, full of songs, dances, skits, and a short sermon. Sunday was less impressive and all songs, though just as insightful into the culture and the meaning of Christmas. On Saturday, the Pastor saw my group and invited them into his office for a chat. Though I didn't understand the words, I knew what he was saying. He knew this might be the first and last time any of them ever stepped foot in the church. He told the entire story and each student was given a New Testament. Many students want to return again, as their studies allow.
GOD is at work in China. To be honest, religion in China is different than I thought. Growing up, I'd been told there is no church, there are only a few Christians, the police are watching everything. In preparation to go with the legal Christian organization Volunteers for China, I learned there are LOTS of legal churches, millions of Christians, and the police are only concerned if you step outside the bounds of the law. It's not free like in America, but it's not the picture the Voice of the Martyrs paints either. The truth lies somewhere in-between. It's something that is hard to explain and that I don't full understand myself.
When I arrived, being the foreigner on parade 24/7 was cool, it was like being a celebrity. I waved at passersby, had my photo taken by lots of strangers, and even signed an autograph or 2. But, after a while, I just wanted to go get a bite to eat, or go shopping, or mail a letter home, and the constant attention was sometimes more than I could handle. As winter approached, I found myself hiding in my apartment and only venturing out when ABSOLUTELY necessary. There is a beauty I never appreciated that lies within the bliss of anonymity.
My language abilities quickly stalled as I seemed unable to remember basic vocabulary. I had a semi-tutor (a 9 year old) who gave up on me. My students continued to try to help, but most Chinese don't want the foreigner to learn Chinese, they only want the foreigner to teach English. Or take a picture. Or buy something REALLY expensive. hehe. I have rededicated myself to becoming passively conversational in Chinese. I can’t stand not being able to communicate clearly!
I have eaten so many wonderful foods, and no, I don't know how to cook them or even say them. I just smile and eat up. Until about November, I had no Western food, as I didn't know where to go. My diet was, and still is, seriously lacking in dairy products. Other than that, though, the food has been wonderful and I eat my fill at every meal. I lost a good 10-15 pounds walking everywhere and carrying heavy things up and down the stairs. I gained it all back, though, while home. Bummer!
Some things I just can't get over- like the lack of real heat when it's 10 degrees outside or the constant spitting. Other things, like personal space or over friendliness is just the norm for me now. I'm learning, I'm adjusting, and hopefully, I'm not offending anyone.
In October, I turned 25. It was during the weeklong holiday for National Day (China's birthday). I had more than 75 people come, mostly students. We played games, sang songs, ate cake, and took lots of pictures. To this day, I am humbled at their generosity. I received many EXPENSIVE gifts, and some had no names. I received things I will treasure forever, but more important to me is the memory of a successful party with lots of new friends. It's one of the greatest nights of my life, truthfully.
I also had a Christmas party and invited the church along with EVERYONE else I knew. At my party, Pastor Wang read the Christmas story, and explained it, all in Chinese. Many church members made friends with my students, non-school friends, and various other people, inviting them to come to church anytime. It was such a wonderful Christmas. I had planned a gift exchange, though at times it was very confusing. In the end, Pastor Wang walked away with the Bible I had included! Oh well.
On October 18, I had the worst day of my entire life. A few days before, I had prayed for God to provide me with a pet. That very NIGHT, I found an abandoned kitten on the side of the road. He was crippled and unable to walk. I named him Roo, because I took to carrying him in my shirt pockets like a Kangaroo. The morning of October 18, the day I had planned to take him to the animal hospital for a check up, I woke to find I had somehow hurt him in my sleep. He was still alive, but unable to move. I called a friend for help, and held him close to me, sobbing (wailing) and petting him. He died before she could come. I don't know what I did or why God allowed it to happen. I was in tears all day as I tried to teach my classes. My friends, Emma and Stelle (fellow English teachers), did their best to comfort me. Emma was the one who told me to not be sad, that my cat was in Heaven with Jesus and felt no more pain. I buried Roo under a tree near where I found him. The overwhelmingly guilt and the constant questioning of what happened ate away at me and depression set in. I tried to fight it, I tried to hold my head up, but that on top of the severe weather, no heat, no hot water, and my students loosing interest fast, I felt alone and spent many days alone in my apartment, crying.
In November, Ann Wilson (co-founder of Volunteers for China) came to Changzhi for a week to set up the summer programs and to check on me. We enjoyed a very wonderful Chinese Thanksgiving dinner and I met many of the other foreigners living in the city, working in other places. There is another foreign Christian there, she is from Kenya. We are making fast friends. Mrs. Ann also showed me where to get delicious American style pizza and smoothies. It's expensive, it's a long taxi ride, and it is worth it. I go once a month, on payday. I sit alone, listening to the pianist play, I watch the people outside the window, and I sit back on the couch (their version of a booth), and enjoy dinning alone. (All other meals I take in the dinning hall.) Having her there, staying in my apartment, helped to alleviate the worst of the depression and turned my heart to the joy and hope of Christmas. We decorated and wrapped gifts and enjoyed watching Disney's Narnia. She also addressed my discipline problems and teaching concerns directly with the Principal.
Also in November, I joined a dance class for adult women. It's basically a dance class for fitness. We do Chinese ballet, cha-cha, modern, hip hop, and a couple of undefined ones. My teacher is also the mom of one of my students, and she took to calling me her daughter. She is my Chinese mom. I have 3 Chinese moms, a dad, and 3 brothers. When we perform- which we've done twice- we wear pink spandex tops, black spandex pants, white shoes, and green eye shadow. At our last performance, right before I left, they made me sing a solo in front of a large crowd. I'm no singer! I sang the chorus of Third Day's "Don't you Know God's always loved you" and ran off the stage. It was bad. But, my teacher presented me with a really NICE winter coat. One with a hood and that went past my knees. When I bundle up in it, I look like an Eskimo. It's also bright red, which makes me easy to see when I walk home at night. Her husband is a chef and he is trying to teach me how to cook. Oh, and none of them speaks English. It's entertaining. At times, I just couldn't handle it, I just didn't want to be bothered to be put on display, but her genuine love and concern for me won me over and now I've practically moved in with her family. They love to go to church with me, and several members of the dance class have also gone. Every night, one of my brothers is waiting to walk me home. There's been an increase in muggings lately, especially of students having their money, cell phones, and MP3s stolen and then beaten up. I don't mind the company.
My health has been AMAZING. Except for the weather change, restless sleep, and depression taking its toll on my sinuses and respiratory system, I have had perfect health. No intestinal problems, no heart problems, NOTHING. And, antibiotics are over the counter and my respiratory/sinus infection cleared up.
My finances are the opposite of my health. It took over 2 months to set up an account so I could wire money out of China to America so I could pay off my credit card bills. Though the people at Discover were so nice on the phone, that didn't change the way it jacked up my history. I had 2 American friends who were SO KIND as to loan me the money to pay off the card and then pay them back in Chinese money at the end of my contract. That's great. But, then, my sister's marriage abruptly ended and I had to fly home. In addition to owing my friends $3000, I owe Volunteers for China an additional $1400 for my air tickets and hotels. On top of that, my parents paid off the remaining credit card debt of $1000. I also spent money for things I needed in China while I was home. I'm afraid to total up how much. I'm just in that place, that I hate, where I have to give it up and just trust God. My salary isn't enough to cover any of it. I have no other way to make money. I have no plan or job offers once I'm back in the States. In 8 months, I have NO IDEA what I will be doing, where I will be living, or anything. I just know that I have been faithful since I was 14 years old to tithe. Even when I was so angry with God over my health problems and refused to go to church, I STILL mailed in my tithe. Not to sound horrible or anything, but I'm ready to lean on God's promise that if I was and continue to be faithful to Him, He will be faithful to me. I was so blessed that my church, Wedgwood, gave $500 to my church in China to let me buy Sunday school materials for them. (I just went ahead and bought it, trusting God to provide. I spent, already, $572. God will provide. This is a REAL need they have.) I try not to think about it, while mapping out a budget and doing this- asking for your help and prayers. I hate being in that place where I can't do anything except what I've been doing and I just have to trust that God will make it happen. And He is. I see Him working.
I hope you will be a part of His working. You can send money to Volunteers for China, which is a tax deduction, and if you ask, they can even supply you with the evidence of where your money went in relation to my ministry. I submit receipts to them for things such as my food, prizes for students, or items I buy for the church, and if there is money donated in my name, they reimburse me the full amount. What I have spent FAR EXCEEDS the donations I have raised. Please pray about helping me and blessing people in China. Small amounts of American dollars GOES SO FAR in China.
If you are able, I am still accepting English materials for my library. Books, magazines, movies, music- anything! I would also like to send all my students and friends Easter cards in March. I was not able to buy very many before I left as the stores had not yet received their shipments. If you are able, God would use it to bless someone I know. Hot chocolate is also appreciated. hehe
Prayerfully consider giving to Volunteers for China in my name, or thru my church, Wedgwood Baptist, or directly to me. At the end of this message is all the info you need.
One student, whose English name is Si, is a militant atheist. And yet, he often attends church with me and writes LONG letters to me in his notebook. He is very philosophical and his greatest dream is to change the world and improve his country. He often makes general statements against any and all religion, but he often cannot support his beliefs. Please, pray for him. God is working on him.
Pray for Tina, the only Christian student among 6000. I am honored and humbled to be her teacher. She is on FIRE for Christ and takes every opportunity- often the ones I didn't see- to live out her faith. For Show and Tell, she read from her Bible. When I asked students to tell me about their best friend, she told the whole class about Jesus. Amazing student.
Pray for Stephen who is 12 and is the only Christian in his family. He knows NOTHING of his faith except what his friend told him, but he faithfully studies the word and attends church with me. Pray for his family to see the difference Christ has made in him and to make it a priority to attend church with him.
Pray for Jim, a Chinese English teacher who was raised in a Christian home but stopped attending after the death of his parents. He tells me, adamantly, he still believes. Pray he lives out his faith in his daily life, especially at work, and that he takes his family to church. They've never been.
Pray for Emma, whose mother is Christian, but she is not. She says that one day she will believe in Jesus. She is thinking about it. She believes there will be many implications if she converts. In truth, I think she already believes, already has faith, and just needs to embrace the next step- public confession.
Continue to pray for my health, finances, and attitude. I am trying to excitedly look forward to all new students, most of whom genuinely like me, and the warmer weather of spring- IN APRIL. Ah! I know being an English teacher is only part of the reason God has me in China, and if it does not go well, it's okay because God has a plan and is using me for HIS glory. God is using so many things, from holidays, to the death of my cat, to the radio I always have playing (www.897powerfm.com- the Christian ROCK station.) God is at work, and I am blessed to be a part of it. Living and working and worshiping in China has been a dream of mine since I was 12 years old and first met a missionary from China. At 14, I accepted a call to follow God wherever He leads, and finally, at 24 and 10 months of age, I got on a plane. As I once wrote in a blog, this adventure in China IS my dream, even if it's not always the perfect dream world.
God bless you and thank you for reading this REALLY long update/semester summary. I hope- I KNOW- so many wonderful things will happen that my next update will be upbeat and full of the joy of the Lord.
Hello to all my friends and family! This is what you can consider my first official newsletter keeping you updated on my work in China. I leave August 20 at 8am and will not return until the end of August 2008.
I will be serving in ChangZhi China at the local high school teaching conversational English and American culture to high school seniors. I was placed in this position by the organization Volunteers for China (www.volunteersforChina.org) whose purpose is to make a difference through friendship and service by finding Christian native English speakers to fill teaching positions throughout China.
Just like in America, I cannot use my position as a teacher as pulpit to preach Jesus. It is legal to be a Christian in China. It is illegal to convert others to Christianity. I cannot invite my students to church or lead a Bible study. I am restricted in many ways that are the traditional means of evangelism. However, as a teacher, I can answer any question asked without fear of legal retaliation. It is my greatest prayer that those who see my lifestyle, listen to my lectures, and participate in class discussions, projects, and celebrations will be prompted to ask how and why. And often. The school’s desire is that I will help prepare these high school seniors to attend college in America. Not only do they need to speak and understand English (which many of them already do), but they need to understand and interact with Americans. My (very flexible) lesson plans include monthly “American parties” such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter and traditional American gatherings such as birthday parties, weddings, and funerals. In being fair, I will cover as much of American culture in its entirety as possible, which will include the holidays and traditions of other religions. I need prayer to cover me because I expect much of America’s melting pot culture to raise many questions. I need to be ready, but not overly eager, to answer under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In addition to being a school teacher, I will work with the local registered (legal) church and offer an English class to adults- many of whom are Christians- using the Bible as a textbook. This will give me the opportunity to strengthen and encourage the Christians in China as well. I also hope to get involved with a local theatre company or community arts center as a volunteer, teacher, or participant. I am not limited to just the school or the church, but hope to be a fully active member of ChangZhi society. The opportunities are limitless. Finally, the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing are fast approaching. The entire world gathered together in one place with an open mind for cultural exchange and celebration of diversity. It is an opportunity to share Christ with the nations, all at once. The Chinese government is aware of this and has been working diligently to keep Christian organizations out of the Olympics. They have even begun deporting foreign Christians. (Source: Voice of the Martyrs.) Though unrelated to my specific goals, please pray for the Olympics. Our God is a great God with a witty sense of humor. It would be just like Him to let the one place (China) taking a firm stand against Him for a specific time (the Olympics) to be where the next world revival breaks out. This is my prayer. I hope it is yours, too. If you wish to reach me in China, email is best. RedRoseSoul@yahoo.com. I will have a mailing address to you as soon as possible as well. Though anything and everything stands the risk of being opened, read, and or/searched, there is no need to use code when communicating with me. Just remember, I am there as a legal Christian practicing my personal faith while I teach English. I cannot convert others or evangelize, so please remember this in your correspondence and refrain from referencing it completely. I thank you in advance for your prayers as I go out to make a difference in this world and the one to come by doing all things for the glory of God.
Luke 1:49 and I Peter 4:11.
Always, in all ways, and forever...
Laura L. Watson
† for students, teachers, and friends to be prompted to ask questions.
† for me to be ready (but not overly eager) to answer their questions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
† for the 2008 Olympics to be the spring board of world revival.
† for the Christians who are coming to China for the Olympics to have protection from any and all forces that would try and stop them.
† for the Christians already in China to be strengthened and encouraged in the Word and by one another.
†for my health and safety
† I quickly make friends and find support within the local church
† I quickly learn the language and the customs of China.
† for the logistics of moving to work out quickly and easily (setting up a bank account, turning on utilities, etc.)
† for my finances as much of my last minute trip costs are coming out of my first few paychecks. (Praise- the apartment provided by the school is completely furnished, complete with computer and internet.)
† for my lessons plans to come together and that all teaching material I will need will be found easily (teachers provide their entire classroom and all supplies.)
† for my family and friends back home (who will miss me and worry about me) to trust God and know that the best place for me is in the center of His will.
† that God, and God alone, will receive all the glory for the work being done in China.