Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beijing, part 2

Tuesday’s portion of my Beijing week began (after a rather relaxing start) with a trip to Peter’s Tex Mex Restaurant, next to the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Beijing.  We were there for brunch—which I seldom would associate with Tex Mex, let alone Tex Mex in Beijing!  We met Jamie, a Kaifa associate here to translate for ABTS work, and Joann Pittman, a China veteran, ELIC employee, and Desiring God’s China consultant.   Over a great American breakfast, Joann spoke to Jim, Karen, Jamie, and me on trends in China and how they affect ministries here (Ella quietly drew pictures of the Great Wall and other things).  Joann also discussed the rapid growth of Chinese social media and the strong and growing Christian presence there.  This may offer groups such as Desiring God great platforms for influence, and we talked about how ABTS might establish such a presence.

Following our brunch, Jim and Karen went shopping to outfit their temporary home, Myron and I went to our rescheduled appointment from Monday, which got cancelled again.  So we met up with Blumenstocks and went to see Thomas and Casey’s home church pastor.  Meeting with him was such a blessing, and he shared his heart with us.  We spent some time in prayer together before we left, asking God to bless and guide this godly pastor, his church, and others here at a very critical time.

Tonight, we dined at “Element Fresh,” a contemporary American restaurant frequented by Beijingers who want to have what we would consider “trendy”.  It was a very good meal, and a very “American” experience as our server identified herself by name, and gave the same kind of welcoming words you’d hear back in the good ol’ USA, except the grammar was just a bit different.

Then we went down to a street of shops from imperial days of Beijing, now refurbished, next to Tiananmen Square to walk down lanterned streets and past market after market.  We didn’t buy anything, but enjoyed the walk and the scene.

Wednesday continued our string of meetings.  Today it was a time with Pastor Chen, the leader of the church with which Myron has worked to bring ABTS to Beijing.  Pastor Chen has been a helpful advocate in  gaining approval for ABTS to be here.  The particular training ABTS is going to do is meant to help equip leaders for discipleship within this fast growing church, and other churches experiencing similar growth.  Pastor Chen has a great heart to see the church grow deep as well as in number, and this was a great opportunity for Jim to reestablish contact and for all of us to hear Pastor Chen’s excitement for the potential of this ministry.

Lunch was followed by the one “BIG” touring item I hoped to accomplish—we traveled to the Great Wall of China (not the restaurant, but the real thing).  What an amazing day, as the wind had cleared the pollution and haze, and Myron said he’d never seen it so clear.  This marvel of perseverance and monumental human effort can leave you speechless!  Our time was capped by a “bobsled” chute ride down the mountain!  We drove a few miles to a local restaurant (“The Schoolhouse”) for a great meal in the shadow of the Great Wall, and then traveled back to Beijing.  Myron set me up for a sequel—this time a full body Chinese massage (by the way, these experiences are so inexpensive that they are a regular experience for many Chinese).  It was—interesting.  It involved lots of pressure and more than a little discomfort; although I don’t want to make it sound bad—just very different from what most people might think of when using the term “massage.”  I liked the first one best, but could see the benefits of both (though truth be told, I’m not sold on the idea that massaging the arch of my foot will help my liver, but it can feel good).

China defies expectations and descriptions.  The old and new, the familiar and totally foreign (to me), the “way things are” and rapid change—all in the same place, and often in the same moment.  One thing is clear: China is tough to figure out (as was said to me, “If you are NOT confused, you aren’t paying attention!”), but well worth the effort.  The growth of the church has been exponential, and that means, as Paul wrote about his time in Ephesus, “a door for effective service” is opened wide.  But, as he said in the same passage, “there are many opponents.”  Sometimes, we think we know who the opponents are, but the reality is not always what is reported.  Pray for the God’s work here, and God’s blessing on His people here.