I spoke with one of our leaders in Colorado a few days ago and she said she'd been checking the blog, waiting for my words about the trip. I told her that the space of the trip, the faces and stories felt sacred, words of honor seemed difficult to find.
Our first day in China we walked through the streets near our hotel, it was early on a Sunday morning. We wandered through a park where a group of elderly Chinese ladies had gathered in the cold to sing. The icy air seemed to amplify the sound of their voices. As we walked I noticed all the people gathering in the park to exercise on the equipment we would only find in a gym in the states. (of course we had to try it all out for ourselves!)
After our walk we attended church, where everyone stopped at the door to show their passport or id card. You could only enter if you were an "ex-pat" in Beijing. The congregation was made up of many different nationalities. It was fascinating and touching to my soul. The Beijing International Fellowship Church was truly international. I was acutely aware as I sat in my seat that my world is very small in the pew I occupy in Kalamazoo on Sunday mornings, but on this morning I was part of something grander and more epic. The message included these opening words from the Pastor, "I don't have to explain the reality of the spirit world to most cultures, save westerners". His words were timely, and I noted them. My week would bear out the truth of what he said.
We visited the Forbidden City in the afternoon and then ate Peking Duck for dinner.
The next morning we departed for the conference center and the seminar began at 2pm. Twenty one participants and 3 translators gathered in the meeting room for our first session.
As we settled into our small groups I wondered how we would bridge the cultural gap and the language barrier. We were dependent on our translator to relay our words, and the words of our group members. It was a bit laborious on day one to say the least. At the end of the evening each member of the group Paul and I led had shared of their abuse as we worked our way through the "typical types of wounds". I prayed as I fell asleep that night for God to work miraculously and surprise us with how He would show Himself.
Day two brought the initial unfolding of the stories and my heart ached as the stories of abandonment, betrayal, sexual abuse, physical abuse and deep wounding were spoken, many for the first time. The faces of my group members became more and more familiar, although their Chinese names eluded me! As day two came to a close we had encountered our first battle with evil as it was working to shut down any chances for freedom. We would battle with evil many more times, including the breaking of agreements like I had not seen in the US.
By the start of day three my prayers for God to work miraculously were being answered and my heart had a growing connection to each person in the group. Our group was working hard for one another and taking risks, including role plays...with translation. I will not forget sitting and listening as Paul role played with three different people from our group, listening to them speak in Chinese then listening to the translation into English and then Paul responding. It was amazing.
On Thursday a bright, sparkling and sassy woman in our group spoke about the week feeling like a dream. Her eyes filled with tears as she talked about how sweet the time had felt, but her growing awareness that the week was coming to a close and she would have to return home to reality. She wanted to shut down and use her anger to push all of us away. As she was talking I looked down at my wrist where my silver Brighton bracelet dangled with the charm "dream". I remembered the day the bracelet arrived in the mail for me, a day when dreaming was so important in my life and friend sent me something to help me remember to dream. I slipped the bracelet off and knelt before this lady and put the bracelet on her wrist. The translator told her what it said and her eyes met mine and she said, "Shi Shi" (thank you). For the next day every time I looked over at her she was running her fingers across the charm.
Friday brought our closing time and the groups all exchanged words. Our group ran long and the words shared were creative and lovely. I had mine written in Chinese on the back of my heart from the week. One participant gave me a photograph of her family and asked me to please not forget her, and would I remember to pray for her.
I will not forget any of them. Their stories are etched in my heart, and their faces burned in my memory. I returned changed. The theme of living with more simplicity was again spoken into my life, even more profoundly that during my times in Europe. Gratitude for my story, for my husband, for my children and for God's lavish love of me washed over me again and again. The sacredness of each persons story and journey continues to hold a large part of my heart.
Ultimately, I was changed during my week in China, because I am continuing to be changed by His love.
Sandy Burdick forwarded this video to me a few days after we returned. I cried as I listened to the words, they felt so reflective of the week and of my heart.