Tag Archives: China

By and large, what human beings want is resurrection without death, answers without doubt, light without darkness, the conclusion without the process." Richard Rohr

I have a confession. I did not want to go to China. If anyone had given me a good reason to stay home I would have willingly taken it. And if anyone has suggested I come home early I would have joyfully packed my bags and skipped to the airport singing songs of thanksgiving and freedom.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted to go in theory. I just didn't want to go in actual I’ll-have-to-live-this real life. It was nothing but the grace of God along with the prayers and enthusiasm of my people that got me packing my bags and on the way to the airport.  I knew  it would be a challenge and I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle it. But I also knew there was a high chance of seeing some things and learning some lessons that could very much change my life. I very much wanted the conclusion without the process of having to live through the difficult things.

Day one – “Alright, here I am. What am here to learn?” I was pretty confident that if I could figure it out as soon as possible then the rest of the trip would be much much easier.

By and large, what human beings want is resurrection without death, answers without doubt, light without darkness, the conclusion without the process.

We want the miracle of something coming back to life but without it having to actually die first. We want to know the result for certain but without ever wondering if its right. We want to fully appreciate goodness but without ever experiencing the pain. We want the end result but without having to work for it.

And right now I could add – we want the joy of risk but without the leap of faith, we want knowing that we can handle the routine of the 9-5 and slot back in to normal life (whatever that means) without having to actually do it. No, just me on that one?!

And why do we want these things? Because dealing with death, doubt, darkness and the process can all be so desperately difficult. We only have one wild life and who wants it to be filled with difficult things?

But the truth is, we never have to face any of those things alone. God is with us every step of the way in dealing with all these things and more. God prepares a feast for us right in the very presence of death, darkness, doubt - we are invited to sit at the table, in the presence of God and celebrate, even with our enemies banging on the door, baying for our blood and reminding us of our ever increasingly urgent to do lists.

O Lord, let me enter into your presence, and there taste the eternal, timeless everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my timebound anxieties, fears, preoccupations and worries.” Henri Nouwen

Is this not what it is to abide? To enter into the presence of God and let it remove all of our timebound anxieties, fears, preoccupations and worries? To keep our eyes on Jesus and abide with God through the tension of dealing with death, doubt, darkness and process.

So if, like me, you've found yourself battling through, hang tight - the table is set and the bunting is up. There's a feast prepared in your honour and God is waiting in anticipation for you to take your place at the table.

Come, have a seat, everything is ready for you.  Abide well.

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Dear former ex-friends,

Good news. Great Joy. You’re re-hired.

Turns out by the actual daily grace of God I survived a couple of months in China.

Turns out I missed you with my whole heart.

Turns out I couldn’t update my blog from China – the Great FireWall keeps out many an internet essential (Google, WhatsApp, Insta, BBC etc). And so, for your viewing pleasure, what I would have posted if I’d had a Great FireWall evading VPN (apols if you were on my e-mail list, this may be a little familiar).

Nihao Team!
I am alive. I am well. I reached China in one piece with an almost struggle free journey*.
I feel like I’ve discovered a whole new world because I am certainly not in Kansas Gambia Croydon anymore. Something that I am constantly aware of because hardly anyone speaks English and I can’t read ANYTHING – bus stops, bus routes, menus, food packaging in the supermarket, shop signs and, more crucially, road signs.
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I have no idea what these cleaning products are for. I’m just using them all on everything to cover all bases.
What with google not working out here, the maps app being in Chinese and having no sense of direction whatsoever, I’m spending a lot of time being lost/taking an unplanned scenic route and apologising for being late, again. Fortunately, I love a good wander and its mostly sunny. But if you never hear from me again I’m wandering through suburban China, marveling at how anyone can ever know where they are when EVERY SINGLE APARTMENT SKYSCRAPER BLOCK LOOKS THE SAME.IMG_20181005_133747432
Much of these past couple of weeks has been spent trying to master the art of eating with chopsticks** and trying to not get run over - there’s even a massive junction where pedestrians have to wait in the middle while the buses, cars and lorries thunder past! I’m learning lots about the different cultures and beliefs here. I’m also learning a tiny bit of Chinese. Chao sa z ma zou (how do I get to the supermarket?) Now I just need to figure out how to understand the replies. In general though, the people in this city have been amazingly helpful when they realise I don't speak Chinese. Maybe because in a city of 1million there's less than 500 ex-pats, foreigners are still a bit of a novelty in this region. I get stared at all the time and random strangers want me in their selfies.
One of the things I have been most surprised to discover is that old guys do actually fly kites in the park, people really do play board/card games like mah-jong in the streets, people really do play flutes/saxophones etc in the park, people really do some kind of tai chi type exercise outside, and people really do let off fireworks during the day. THESE THINGS ACTUALLY DO HAPPEN. It’s not just a lovely Pixar creation. Who knew?!
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Let's go fly a kite.
Also, good news of great joy – this week I went to the Import Store and bought butter and raspberry jam and cheese! ALL THE GOOD THINGS.
So other than not being able to understand anything, getting lost all the time and battling with chopsticks my life here is a breeze. As ever, I would LOVE to hear all the things in your life so do write back and tell me everything.
Till next time,
Love, peace and chopsticks x x
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*Let me tell you, you do not know despair in your heart until you’re sat on the train, at the start of a 1,000 mile trek across London through rush hour commuters to get to Heathrow airport, and you look at the floor wondering where all those pieces of plastic have come from, and then realise that yes, in fact, they’ve broken off one of the wheels of your suitcase. The suitcase containing all your belongings you’ll need for the next two months that you need to take on trains and tubes across London. The suitcase that needs to travel a million miles to China and back again. All this and you’re less than 400 metres from home. O DARK NIGHT OF MY SOUL. Forget getting to China, I didn’t think I’d even make it to Victoria Station. Mum - you were right, I do need a new suitcase.
** Before arriving here I had never eaten with chopsticks, now atleast one meal a day you’ll find me attempting to eat with as much dignity as I can muster – precious little most of the time. I have never concentrated so much on anything in all my life – not even when I’m painting my nails. I am exhausted by the end of every meal.  And if you were ever in any doubt, the best way to build friendships is to impress with your ability to get food all over you, your new friends, the table, the small child at the next table, the small dog outside, the floor and the ceiling (noodle soup *sighs*).