Friday, June 3, 2011

Beijing, part 3

Thursday was the last full day in Beijing, and it was full!  In the morning we were finally able to have a meeting that had been scheduled twice but postponed.  It was well worth the wait, and after meeting we understood why the previous appointments were rescheduled.  Our guest who we met at Myron’s office is connected with every aspect of the situation in China related to religious freedom and current situations.  As we said afterwards, we could not have had a more insightful briefing from a more knowledgeable and influential source.  There is much happening in China at the moment related to religious freedom in the larger context of seeking to maintain social stability.  Much has been reported in US and world news sources about one church’s decision to worship outside when their facility was closed to them by their landlord and a facility that they had purchased was  not made available to them upon its completion.  It is a very complex situation with a long history involving a number of parties and disputes.  Currently, five of the church’s senior leaders are under house arrest.  This has ramifications far beyond one church and it is occurring at  a time when any sort of “instability” is viewed with great threat.  Our guest offered background, insight, and possible ways forward for this and other non-“state” churches (churches that are a part of the TSPM, the state-organized and sanctioned Protestant body in China).  It was a fascinating meeting that transitioned into a lunch honoring our guest for his work and his time.

In the afternoon, we traveled to visit the Apple Tree Kindergarten, a private preschool, kindergarten, and center for homeschoolers in China (what a concept!).  Run by Hannah, the principal, and her husband, Max, Apple Tree’s goal is nothing less than to change the foundations of education in China, by being excellent examples of education using the morals, ethics, and values that are found in Scripture.   It is not a Christian school, but it does not hide the Christian faith of its teachers, and offers after hours opportunities for people who are interested to learn of the faith that is the underpinning of the school.  Max and Hannah’s passion for education stems from their love of their own three children and the desire for them to have a better education than is available through other channels.  The homeschool coordinator (a Ph.D. from Harvard in education) seeks to equip parents in quality education, and many families are seeking opportunities like this for their children.  Many parents, even non-Christian ones, are seeking ways to send their children to the U.S. to go to Christian middle and high schools, even living with host Christian families to do so.  Amazing.  Max and Hannah both have advanced degrees, but their love of children and their deep faith stand out most of all, even in the face of some adversity, such as Max being removed from a role of authority in a fellowship.  The reason: they had a third child, which is against government policy.  And it was a foreign worker from the US who urged this “discipline!”  I was embarrassed to hear this.  They also host teacher training for other schools, and summer English camps.  Volunteers can come from the states to help, and do!  What an encouragement this time was!

Our final meeting of the day was with a very good friend of Myron whose ability to interact with us on the theological needs of China’s believers was as insightful as any we have received.  Daniel is not a theologian, but a lawyer.  Yet he has studied much himself.  For example, he told me he prefers the English translation of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion over a Chinese one because the English translation lets you hear Calvin’s heart, but the Chinese comes off as more academic.  That is an insight I couldn’t even relate to, having only read them in English!  Daniel’s final words to me were to pray for his church, and pray for his fellow believers there.

We had a great dinner together, then headed “home”—the Blumenstocks to their hotel/apartment and Myron and I to his apartment, to start packing for our trip to Hong Kong.

[By the way, I let Myron read these posts for accuracy, and he was very concerned—that you might get the idea that we were eating “high on the hog.”  Well, to tell the truth, we have eaten a fair bit of hog—Doug Swaim, you would be the most popular man in town here, just like at home Smile), but our meals have generally been very inexpensive, especially compared to what you would pay at home for them.  And, any additional expense incurred has been to keep my very USA-accustomed digestive system, shall we say, peaceful.  Don’t want to border on TMI, but you get my meaning.]

Friday was our travel day, but there were a few things to accomplish yet.  Myron had a meeting with a former Chinese colleague about possible future projects (such must be continually done to secure resources for Kaifa’s continued ability to support its work in China).  Then a bit more personal work—Myron helped the Blumenstocks and me to navigate the markets of Beijing to find some gifts to bring home!

We parted ways at the market, as Myron and I had to go the apartment, pick up our luggage, and head to the airport for our flight to Hong Kong.  Unlike all other flights on this trip, this one was on time and there were no delays (unless you count our car not starting when we tried to leave for the airport—and our driver fixed it pretty quickly).  Arrival in Hong Kong meant another wholesale change in perspective, and one I’ll write about next time.