Sunday Half a World Away

HBO-Asia isn’t any good. Just trust me on this one.

Luckily we’re not here to watch movies, but rather to take in real-life experience and today was no disappointment. Our coordinator invited us to attend a local church service (pictures, below). I was especially excited about this because we would have been worshipping at the same time our CRCC family was, only half a world away. It wasn’t to be though as we learned that church was cancelled due to the ice storm in the Portland area. Oh well, at least this way the next time we’re at church we’ll get to hear Pastor Dave’s sermon live instead off the website! (Did you catch that Dave? I’m hoping you can do the sermon you prepared for this weekend, next weekend.) We’ve been watching the weather forecasts on the internet. Looks bad, but should clear up soon…hang in there!

The church we went to was the Shamian Christ Church right on Shamian Island near our hotel. We arrived about 10 minutes prior to the church service and found that a previous one was just letting out. It was wonderful to see so many people streaming out of the church! After the building was cleared, it was our turn. We sat in the back (because we had a squirmy baby) and were very touched by this gathering! It was a simple service, with five worship songs (three in English – “Beautiful Jesus,” “As the Deer,” and “Shine, Jesus, Shine”), a bilingual sermon (Chinese and English focused upon God’s salvation through Christ), a time for testimonies (there were three), and an invitation to become a follower of Christ (three in the congregation took this step this morning). Being so far from home yet completely at home brought tears to my eyes. Is this a picture of heaven? I think perhaps that it may be.

It’s no secret that I’ve never really liked “Shine, Jesus, Shine” because I thought of it as over played. But today was another story for me. The song, sung beautifully and with heart by this gathering of about three hundred, is a song that God’s love will shine forth in this nation. What a prayer. Perhaps the Good News of Jesus will spread into China from this multicultural commerce point just as it did in New Testament times.

While there we purchased an English/Chinese children’s bible for Abbie. Then we talked with our coordinator about her experience in the Christian community in Beijing. She said the church we were in today is a state-registered one, which she thinks limits what the pastor can say regarding the PRC. However, the situation here is probably “freer” than in Beijing. In Beijing such churches may have their sermons reviewed by the state before services. Two registered churches exist in Beijing and together they draw thousands each weekend for services. Our coordinator doesn’t attend either of these, but instead is an active member of a local house church. There, as she said, “the pastors can say what they want.”

The rest of our day was very nice as well. We did a little window shopping but didn’t purchase anything. The funniest part was the reaction we got from almost every shopkeeper when they looked at Abbie: Amazement! They couldn’t believe how BIG she was. We were even asked if she was “on a special program in the orphanage.” This made us laugh! It is sad though comparing Abbie to so many of the little ones here in the hotel. We met a father today who’s daughter is Abbie’s age but is literally half of her weight. We’re so glad that she was taken care of.

After shopping a little, we took our coordinator out to lunch – her choice. And guess what she chose? Chinese food… Oh well. It was pretty good, just becoming routine. I chose an authentic Szechwan deep fried chicken dish (you know those red pepper flakes you see in your Chinese food sometimes? Well, imagine a dish that is 1/3 chicken, 2/3 red-peppers) and survived though my stomach is still gurgling a little. When we got back to the hotel I took Abbie out for a walk, which she decided to enjoy. She motored around the halls of the hotel with one of those “Hey, I’m keeping my balance” kind of grins. After we did this for a while we found a group of new parents and their new children playing. Abbie did great interacting with the other kids. This was fun to watch, but the best part was when she’d give me a million-dollar grin and run into my arms after meandering away to grab a toy. She’s starting to like me! To top it all off, we ordered great takeout from Danny’s Bagels here in Guangzhou. Their menu makes my eyes light up…

As I like to sign off of these entries a happy man, I’ll end there. Can’t wait to see you all, it’s getting closer all the time!

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Shamian Christ Church near our hotel.

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Inside the church we went to today. This was five or so minutes before service began. By the time it was in full swing, standing room only was the situation in a building that could pack in three hundred!

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Looking southeast, through the window of our room.

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“Hey Daddy…you want to give me that camera?”

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