Okay, now I know you’ve all been holding your breath. So have I actually, but I finally did it. My blog is now officially up and running and privately hosted at nofrolicking.com. All future posts will be there, and this will be my final blog post here. I hope you enjoy, and now that I’ve gotten the basics of the site complete, I can focus more time on writing. But really there is a ton more I want to do on nofrolicking.com, but one step at a time right? Please tell all your friends!!!! And your constructive criticism of the new site is welcome, as I REALLY NEED some feedback on it, what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to see, and what you don’t care to see. Thanks to all who have been following me here and God bless!
Recently I’ve felt burdened for the homeless and beggar community here in Shanghai. There is enough of them where it breaks your heart a bit, and there’s even more rumors flying around about how you shouldn’t help them out because they either have money already, or are trying to rob you somehow, just to name a few. I often hear that the beggars are part of bigger network of some sort of mafia-esque type business, and all the money just goes into a pool, and eventually back to ‘the man,’ sort of Slum dog Millionaire style. Others say that the poor are not actually poor, that they have nice homes and things, educated children, and that it’s all an act because that is their full time job, and they are pros at it. Still one can’t be a a little saddened seeing someone filthy on the street, begging for money. But here’s what angers me. The other day I went to my usual bus stop to catch the good old 108 bus I usually take to work. Upon approaching the stop, I see there is an older man lying down leaning against the tree next to the stop. Now trees in Shanghai have a base built around them on the ground, usually some metal grates or stones, and this is often where people will toss trash and let their dogs do the business. On top of that, right next to the tree was a garbage can which had filthiness written all over it due the surrounding area never really being cleaned. There he was, dirty, rocking back and forth, looking like he was in some severe discomfort. He had his own bag of trash next to him; homeless people here often sift through the trash for recyclables as means of earning money. I have a minute to think as my bus approaches, do I help the guy out? Here comes the bus, Jesus said to help the poor, moment of truth, do I give him some money? Some food? Some water? What would you do in this situation? I’ll give you a minute to think about it ………………………………………………………………………………………………… As my bus came to a stop, he sat up, seemingly no longer in terrible anguish, pulls out a pack of smokes and lights one up. I lost a majority of the pity I had for the man. Was he really poor and needy? I have no idea, he sure had me convinced though. Now I hold no judgment against smokers, but am I wrong to withhold my money from this guy? I’d love to hear what others would have done in this situation, what would you do? I guess I’m called to love him either way, so YES, I am wrong. Thank goodness we have Jesus.
While it seems there is some truth to many of the rumors, it’s truly one of those things that is hard to discern, and no one has a really good answer about what to do when one encounters the common homeless beggar. Most often they are ignored, as if they don’t exist. I’ll admit it, I’ve done it too. It certainly wasn’t the right thing to do, but it’s so easy to justify to one’s self : “O, he’s really not poor, it’s just an act……that is if the rumors are true……and they are……to some extent…..but are they true for this guy? or gal?” I’ve been praying for discernment in this area lately, and for good reason. The Bible is abundantly clear, if not emphatic, that we are to help and bless the poor, the widows, the orphans, in any way we can. Want some conviction? Here is some served up on a silver platter:
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 25: 41-45
Ouch, stings a bit. The stance I’m currently holding and trying out is that when someone asks me for money, I will ask them if they are hungry. If they say ‘yes,’ I will seek out some food for them. I’ve had the opportunity to try this several times, and believe it or not, most people turn me down as they just want my money. I’ve had some very wild and mixed reactions, once by a guy whom I believe was possessed. He literally freaked out when I offered to accompany him and buy him some food. The evil saw the light. But it just goes to show you, beggars can be choosers. Last week I met a guy outside of a restaurant asking for money, and did my routine, and to my surprise he accepted my offer. We walked a few blocks, chatted, and we found a convenience store where I bought him a bunch of groceries, hopefully that lasted him a few days. I had a really good chat with him, found out he had diabetes (becoming more and more prolific here in China) and couldn’t work. He had a house to stay in which I was happy to hear, but very little family to speak of to help him out. He also told me he made about 20 RMB a day begging, that is about $3 US. You can do the math. He was only about 40 years old, and I enjoyed helping him out, even if only a little bit. I wished there was more I could do…..of course there was, and is. He thanked me for the food, and I told him not to thank me, but to thank Jesus. He knew clearly what I was talking about, so I pray that thought continues to resonate in his mind.
So what is the right answer? I haven’t a clue. It’s definitely not black and white, yes or no. Send me your feedback!
In other news, Shanghai has really been growing on me. Opportunities for everything abound. God continues to give me chances to minister and bless people in the city, although He has blessed me far more here than I ever could bless others. That’s usually how it goes, isn’t it? God is good. I also had the amazing opportunity to lead worship last night at a monthly event called “Outpouring.” It was a big deal for me, as I’m not a great guitar player, and even worse of a singer. But overall it went well, and I’d like to do it again. It was also a big deal because the speaker was a guy by the name of Wayne Hildsen. Pastor Wayne has lived with his family in Jerusalem the past 27 years bringing the Word. Some of his insights were amazing, and the ministry he helped create there has grown exponentially over the years, and I see him as playing a significant role in what the Bible prophecies about all of Israel turning to the Lord. It was extremely encouraging and really mind blowing hearing about his ministry and the miracles God has provided for him to be in Jerusalem. For example, it’s really hard, in fact impossible to get a residence visa to live in Israel if you’re a foreigner, yet he and his wife receive one every year. As far as he knows, he’s the only one in the country to have one, and hasn’t heard of anyone else ever having one, especially now as it’s becoming harder and harder to get visas there. Anyways, awesome stuff, one of those “you needed to be there” sort of moments.
In other news, hockey is going well, our team is 2-1-1, if you want to follow the Broncos, check out this site: http://www.icehockeyshanghai.com/ It’s got an interactive toolbar on the left where you can see the league standings, and even some of the scoring stats, I think made the list! Actually I’ve had a slow start, but last weekend I blew up, scoring a pair of goals and nabbing 3 assists, for 5 total points on the night, earning ‘Star of the Game.’ Likely the first and last time I’ll get that honor, but we’ll see. I’ve also met a few other believers in the league which has been real encouraging, who knows where it could go. I’m also going to be a bit more active helping the league with some PR stuff, writing, and some photography (I hope) in the future, so I’m excited about that as well.
All in all, God is good, all the time.
First off, sorry for the long absence. I’m currently working on a private blog, which ‘should’ be new and improved, however it is taking infinitely more time than I thought it would, being as I have to learn some computer programming basics. When it’s up and running, I will keep you posted!!! Get it? Posted? Pun intended. Anywho, without further adeiu:
Many here in China know that Shanghai was the host of the 2010 World Expo, which just wrapped up October 31st and lasted six months, kicking off in May. This is a multi-billion dollar event where countries around the world come to and build a pavillion showing off their latest and greatest. The Shanghai Expo was the biggest one ever, featuring nearly 200 countries and playing host to over 70 million visitors during the 6 month event. The Expo site was built on the south side of the city, covering a massive 5.28 sq km (that’s a lot of space for a big city), unfortunately displacing almost 18,000 families…,YES families, as well as moving 270 factories and all their workers .
As luck would have it, some former students of mine from my college teaching days up in Hebei province were recruited to work at the UAE pavilion, and I’ve been able to connect with them during their time here. I got the chance to attend the Expo on two occasions, and because of my ‘guanxi’ (guanxi is Chinese for ‘relationship,’ but is more frequently used to describe one’s connections or ‘hook ups’) with my ex-students, I was able to get VIP access everywhere we went. This may not seem that cool, but if you saw the lines for A) trying to get into the Expo B) trying to get into any of the big pavilions, you would quickly change your mind. A ‘slow’ day for the Expo was around 300,000 people, with many days topping 700,000 in the last month, including one day when they hit the 1 million mark. So we got to jump all the lines and go right into all the pavilions the my friend, Rena, had arranged. I distinctly remember getting the evil eye from the patrons at the South Korea pavillion, as we jumped in front of some who were likely waiting for hours. Some pavilions had a 12 hour wait!!!!! People would go there and wait all day just to get into one pavilion! The best ones of course. Other smaller ones, countries like Morocco, Algeria, etc., you could often times get in without much waiting. The common theme that many of the countries were showing off was 4-D films. What is that? Well its like a 3-D film except with the addition of the 4th dimension, got it? No, actually it was a 3-D movie that also included elements such as real rain and mist, fragrances put into the air to smell like fruit or flowers, wind blowing on you, strange things built into your seat that would pop up and molest the bottom of your thigh when you least expected it, and a little whip that sits between your legs at your calf and blows around imitating a snake. It was actually pretty cool, lots of pavilions did something similar, and I think we have some big changes in the way movies are going to be marketed in the future. Now for some pics!
This was the sign above the metal detector at the security checkpoint. I love these translations. On one hand, I don’t know why they don’t just take 2 seconds to ask a foreigner if the English is correct or not. I’d do it, just ask! Especially for an event of this magnitude. But on the other hand, if they did that then all the translations would be correct and I wouldn’t have any funny signs to post on my blog……..so we’ll just leave it be.
Rena and I outside the USA pavilion, rocking my Jct. 122 shirt. We jumped in front of the ‘several hour long wait in line’ cuz we’re VIP’s of course. Cheers to Rena for hanging out at the Expo on her day off of working at the Expo.
A former teacher I worked with up north in Hebei who was from Algeria also was working at the Expo, and her younger brother (above), also from Algeria, was in town so he tagged along with us. I forgot his name but he was a cool guy to hang out with and he was the center of attention everywhere we went. Every 5 seconds someone wanted a picture with him…..he was way more popular than me. I think I only posed for 5-6 pics all day with strangers, but he must have been pushing 100.
Our VIP group inside the Morocco pavilion.
The China pavilion, its way more massive than it looks, and of course the most popular.
The Malaysia Pavilion.
Tim, Michelle, Rena and I outside the China Pavilion.
Other stuff: Ministry, faith, spiritual life and beyond.
I’m starting to get adjusted to life in the big city. I got the subway figured out, and I’m meeting lots of new people. Pray for deeper relationships, as almost all of my relationships here are less than 2 months old. Answered prayers: Lots of them, first off, teaching is going much better. I’m not pulling my hair out each day. The kids are starting to respond and respect, and its gotten to the point where I actually enjoy it most of the time. I have a cool schedule: 1-5 T-F, and 8-5 on Sat, and Sun & Mon off. Please pray for discipline in my time, and using it wisely for God’s glory. Some days I get lazy and sleep in……not the best use of my day. Secondly, my former landlord, whom I had a chance to share the gospel has been coming to church with me for the past 3 weeks. She doesn’t believe but clearly the Lord is working in her heart, so continue to pray for her, and thank you for those of you who have been praying. Also pray for more opportunities to share the gospel here in Shanghai. Thirdly, my church small group is really awesome. A solid group of people and they have really sincere hearts for Jesus. Pray that we continue to grow and reach out in unity to this community. God has really provided the community that I was praying for. Fourthly, I’ve been praying for opportunities to lead worship and have found myself being asked to lead a few sessions. This is a big step for me as I’m not a strong vocalist at all, but I feel a strong desire and be challenged in this matter, and worship through music has truly become one of my passions. On Nov. 17 I’m going to be leading worship for an event that’s sort of a bigger deal, bigger that what I’m used to in small group studies. So please keep that event lifted up in your prayers. Lastly, well there is no last one really. I could go on and on about how the Lord has provided for me here, sustained me, brought me down and picked me up, so all you need to know is that God hears our prayers, our requests and supplications, and answers them. In his timing, sometimes it’s soon, other times we wait upon the Lord.
Our team, the Gentlemen Broncos are officially 1-1 for the season. I have yet to score a goal, but I feel one coming soon, I’m definitely due after being robbed a few times. So far its been a lot of fun, and I’m starting to get to know a few guys on the team. Our jerseys look amazing, definitely the best souvenir a hockey fan could hope for. I will keep you posted on this as well, but please keep us in your prayers, that God would keep us safe, keep us from losing our tempers, and that I could be a light in that setting.
If you have a bit of time, and want to see something very similar to what I experience every day teaching Chinese kids, then check out this documentary. It’s about a teacher giving kids the chance to have a democratic vote and choose their class monitor (leader of the class). Everything is almost identical, except we don’t have elections in my classroom. But I think most of you would find it really interesting, maybe a bit shocking, who knows. Nothing on it surprised me, but that’s because I live it everyday. Watch and let me know what you think!
Here is a composite view of Shanghai from my apartment’s balcony on the 25th floor.
That’s all for now! More to come! Lot’s more. Pray for the new site, as I really hope to use it for ministry purposes, to get a bigger reader audience and reach places only God knows about! I love you all and thanks for you prayers, they are truly making a difference here!
These last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster, hence the lack of attention to my blog. But I hope (fingers crossed) to finally move my blog to a private host soon so I can do more with it, and try to get into more regular posting as I get into a routine (hopefully more interesting postings as well).
So what’s the deal here? Well Shanghai doesn’t seem to have much of the good ol’ fashioned Chinese hospitality I’m used to. It’s been quite an adjustment. Last week I was informed that the landlord of the apartment I was staying in didn’t want a foreigner staying there as it was ‘too much trouble to deal with.’ I didn’t get the full story, but it was something to do with the fact that she didn’t want to pay the extra taxes on her rental: IE: the powers that be probably don’t know she’s renting this place and since I’m a foreigner and must register with said powers that be, it could be cause for suspicion. After days of apartment searching, trying to be frugal and save a buck, I’d found several suitable places, only to be turned down for similar reasons. Needless to say I was rather frustrated after spending all my free time looking at countless rooms and apartments, often with false information. Not too mention knowing the fact I was going to have to pay a 35% commission again on a new place. Anyways, one of my co-workers, Fabian had been commuting to our school from People’s Square, which is a giant park right in the center of the city. It is THE center of everything. There was a bus right outside his place that goes directly to the school we teach at (which is strange as our school is no where near much good public transportation) and it took him about the same time to get to work as it did me, even though I live 4x closer. So I went and had a gander downtown, and found a few really nice places. More expensive of course, but for a bit more money you get an infinitely better place to stay. I paid the extra cash and got an amazing flat on the 25th floor of a high rise. I’m a block from the subway, and 10 minutes to People’s Square, where almost everything in Shanghai IS. I have a Chinese roommate, Ben, who is cool, and seldom around. I have my own balcony off my room, and a full kitchen that Ben never uses. Seriously, the fridge wasn’t even plugged in, and there’s not even a chopstick to be found in the whole kitchen. His bedroom has a private bath, and my end of the apartment has it’s own bathroom as well. It’s a really amazing place, I’m really lucky, actually blessed is definitely the better word to use. The living room is shared, including the big screen TV, and the 2nd balcony looking south with an amazing view of People’s Square and the rest of the city. Check out a few pics of the view:
These two are from the balcony in my room, first one looking north, and the second one looking west with the river below.
View from the living room balcony facing south, with the park a few blocks away. You can barely see the trees because of all the buildings, but it’s there!
View to the east, you can see the top of the famed Pearl Tower on the left.
Night shot looking south towards People’s Square out the living room.
On top of all of this, that bus I previously mentioned has a stop about 7 minutes walking away from my new place, and takes just over 20 minutes to get me right next to my school. It’s really a great spot, and I will have much easier access to many things here, namely the fellowships I’ve found here and have been attending, as well many of the friends I’ve made. I praise the Lord for this! A great guy I met when I first arrived here, Don, prayed over me last week and told me some big changes were coming and they would ignite a fire within me. I’ve already seen the evidence of this, as I unexpectedly had to move. And it’s not just the landlord’s forcefulness that made me move, but also I felt I had to because i was falling into complacency. I didn’t really know anyone near my place because it was outside of town, except for a few Chinese ladies, and I was quickly falling into lazy habits. The morning of the day I moved, I had a LONG conversation with my neighbor and got to share the gospel with her, share my beliefs and why I believe them, as well as listen to her views as well. It was one of those divine meetings I’d been praying for, as she was someone whom the Lord had put a burden on my heart for. And we had a really great conversation, I hope to have many more like it soon. I pray that she would continue to seek as the Lord is clearly doing something in her heart, please pray for her with me.
October 1st marks the start of the annual National holiday celebrated in China. We are fortunate enough to have a full week off, and I was again blessed, with my brother Tim C coming down from northern China (He teaches in Hebei where I used to teach) to hang out and travel. Together with his girlfriend, Michelle, and another sister, Rena, we all went to a nearby city called Suzhou. Suzhou is known as the Venice of the East, famed for its waterway alleys throughout the city. It was a very tranquil and serene place, even with the bus loads upon bus loads of Chinese tourists. Right now though, we are on a train on our way to another city called Hangzhou, also famed for it’s beautiful West Lake. Just how beautiful is it? I guess I’ll find out soon. More info and pics to follow! But for now check out these shots from Suzhou:
Here’s some evening/night shots around the town.
Here is the biggest bell I’ve ever seen. The walls were a foot thick, I have no idea how they made the supports strong enough to hold it. The whole thing shook when they hit it with the battering ram.
All those little things on top are coins, and that support must have been 6 feet tall. The U-bolt holding it up, probably several feet thick, solid steel. Solid something. The whole thing just dangled there and shook when it was hit. They should have done a modern marvels episode on this thing!
And this guy made our day! He was transporting his recently purchased doors. Fortunately, they were screen doors, so he had at least some visibility……
All for now! More to come soon!
Today, throughout all of China, the Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated. It’s highlighted with piles of moon cakes, small little pastries filled with anything from sweet bean curd to a barrage of flavorful fruits. It’s sort of like getting a box of chocolates, you just never know what your holding until you bite into it. Many families get together and share greetings and wishes, and I was fortunate enough to join my landlord as her brother and sister in-law were in town for a visit, and share a home-cooked meal with them. They made some tasty hot pot, complete with fish, duck, chicken, sprouts, potatoes, cabbage, tofu, shrimp and bread; the works. It’s always fun to have these authentic cultural experiences, especially in Shanghai where there are loads of foreigners, and these situations can become more difficult to come by. I can see how it would be rather easy for a foreigner such as myself to become entangled in his or her own ethnocentricity, even in a completely foreign place like China, and spend all their time with other foreigners here in Shanghai. But fortunately, often times we experience culture here not by choice, which can be a good thing I think. For example, as I was writing this paragraph, the lady who works at the gate entrance to my apartment complex just called me and wanted to give me a moon cake before she went home for the day (moon cakes are given as gifts for Mid Autumn Festival). I met her downstairs and was greeted with not one, but a whole bag full of who knows how many moon cakes. I just bit into one, and I have no idea what it’s supposed to be, nor does the package indicate, albeit all in Chinese, any hints to what flavor it might be. Oh, well, just eat it.
Moon cake mystery filling #1
Real Chinese dinner!
Shanghai nights. The city lights were reflecting brightly with the overcast skies today, outside my landlords window.
Things are getting better here, starting to get into a rhythm, although with these holidays my schedule gets jumbled all around. Like last Sunday I was supposed to be off, but because of the holiday I worked my Thursday schedule. And on Friday I’m working my Saturday hours, then on Saturday working my Friday hours. Then Sunday I work Wednesdays hours and so on and so forth until October holiday which begins October 1st and runs through the 7th. I’m excited for a little break, even though I only work about 25 hours a week, and have only been working 3 weeks so far. Teaching kids a foreign language is quite exhausting, if not frustrating. Although I’m starting to get the hang of it, it still requires 100% attention, 100% of the time. When I get home at 5:30, I just want to relax, like I just worked a 10 hour day or something. I am starting to figure them out a bit though; being more stern, setting up some classroom rules as well as some rewards. The biggest help came though, when I informed the students I would be talking to their Chinese teachers and then their parents if they didn’t shape up. This seemed to have a lot of weight, but still some get a tad too wild. Now I just have to follow through with my threats!
Ministry stuff: I’ve been making lots of connections here in Shanghai, actually a ton. Much more than I had anticipated, praise the Lord. I met a Chinese guy who is a pastor, who set me up with a Mandarin teacher, a good one too. And the best part is she wants to do it for free, although I’m going to pay her somehow, whether she likes it or not. I’ve also met a few people who’ve been doing the Lord’s work in the city for quite a few years now. One American guy I’ve hung out with a few times, and today we actually walked around a university near my apartment, prayed a bit and met some guys playing basketball. We took them on, China vs. America. Not sure who won, but it was a good time playing in my flip flops. Fortunately my American friend has really good Mandarin and was able to share the Word with them after we finished. He’s got a huge heart for sharing, which was obvious because everywhere we went we were given opportunities to share the Word. Mostly him as his Chinese is far above mine. Seeing him in action today really motivated me to start studying more, I think it was the catalyst I needed to start getting back into my language study. At any rate, we had a great time this morning, and I hope we can do it again soon. It was a huge learning experience, and a huge blessing, and a huge answer to prayer for me personally, as I hope to be able to work with college students nearby. So we just scoped it out a bit today, and I’m sure it will lead to lots of other things in the future. As always, we could use your prayers for God to water the seeds planted today. There’s also a guy from work who is interested in the Word, pray for him and that I could be a minister of truth in his life, and that the things God is stirring up in his heart right now would continue.
Also, the aforementioned lady who brought me the bag full of moon cakes is a believer. Not just any believer, she’s like a super Christian or something….I don’t even know what to call her. All I can say is she is extremely zealous, and for good cause too. She has a really cool testimony and some miraculous stories to tell. She’s even been arrested, relatively recently for her faith. Which makes me think of something a dear friend of mine asked me this summer: If following the Lord were illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you? (Thanks Kelsey) Challenging stuff. Anyway, I’ve talked with here quite a few times, and she just talks my face off in turbo Chinese, of which I can maybe understand about 25%. I keep telling her to slow down, but this usually lasts about 5 seconds, then right back to turbo. All the more reason for me to hit the books hard! I really gotta put in my time speaking and listening too. But she is really cool, and a great encouragement to many. Pray that God would continue to use her.
So, as you can see, the Lord is amply supplying my needs here, and things are going good. Pray that I would be a better steward of my time, and be more disciplined in my time with the Lord, as well as studying the language. I also desire to be more intentional in my relationships, as I have many new ones here. Pray they will go deeper!
All for now, signing off! Happy Mid-Autumn Festival Day!
Here is the specs for the jerseys of the hockey team I got drafted to. We are the Shanghai ‘Gentlemen Broncos.’ Not sure why the ‘Gentlemen’ part was included, but anyways it’s cool. And bonus! The jerseys are old skool North Stars colors! I was excited when I saw that. The logo looks pretty sweet, plus we get our home country flag on front along with China’s, and our sponsor, Malone’s American Cafe . The season starts next month, so I need to get in shape……for real! We have a few opportunities each week to practice and/or play shinny with all the hockey folk here in Shanghai, so I’ll have to take advantage of that so I’m ready when the season kicks off. I hope we kick some butt!