Back in China 5
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Sundays in China mean less traffic than during the week. You can ride the bus to the local fellowship with a pretty good chance of getting a seat. I say local fellowship as if there are several to choose from. Not so; all the foreign Christians, if they attended, went to the same one. I know, that would never fly in America, but it is amazing how one can fellowship with all types of believers when there is no option to meet with only the like-minded.
The TJ fellowship meets in a dirty, tacky, old auditorium in a travel college. When Joe and I would sing on the worship team, we often found nails and wires on the floor and walls respectively, and lots of dust on the stage curtain. There is no official pastor, but different men take turns teaching, sharing, or talking, depending on whose turn it is. We come from all kinds of denominations, but somehow it worked most of the time. For example there were the charismatics from New Zealand, the medical students from Africa, the Korean English teachers, the Americans of every age, and the occasional drifter who just wanted to be with other foreigners. This hodge podge was here out of necessity; but it showed me that the Body of Christ could worship together even if they did not share all their beliefs.
Sometimes there were some rather wacky folks, and you didn’t quite know what to make of them. For example while sitting there today I recalled Canal Lady. Every week at the end of the service she would quickly jump up to share her prayer requests. Tianjin had a very dirty canal that wound its way around the city. Its waters were full of sewage and trash, and its banks were in similar shape. It had a bad smell year round, (duh), but especially in the summer. As Niecey Nash would say, It was a hot mess! Canal Lady as we called her had decided that God had spoken to her about the dirty canal, and how we should pray for its clean up. I thought, good luck with that one Canal Lady. Sometimes I would even get annoyed because others had need for prayer that seemed to be more urgent. Someone’s child needed a cleft palate or club foot operation. Someone else’s Chinese friend had cancer, or was in trouble with the authorities for holding Bible study. Some of the African men had not seen their families for one year. You get the picture. But Canal Lady persisted week after week to ask for prayer for the canal clean up. Some of us silently prayed for the Canal Lady to give up this impossible dream. However a few months later, the Chinese government decided to clean up the canal, and we were all surprised… except Canal Lady. That was when I quit sorting out the prayers in terms of the possible and impossible. “And because these zany dewey-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes, impossible things are happening every day” (from Cinderella). And the more cynical types such as myself are learning to keep our mouths shut and pray. I don’t know if God enjoys these moments as much as we might, but I still smile when I think of it. You got me good that time Lord. Review Rule # 5. Don’t Be Quick to Judge.
The Ribs Place or Shuo Guo Li
When Joe was on his look-see trip to China (without the fam), a few of the families took him to the Ribs Place, and he has never found a place that he loves more than it. They cook pork all day long out back and bring out platters of melt in your mouth bbq pork, with the best sauce you ever tasted. Of course we also order the corn and the garlic broccoli, but the pork ribs are to die for. We went after church with a few friends, and I thought of all the times we had been there with our kids, without our kids, and with many different combinations of friends. It is funny how food can be such a comfort when you are away from home (or when you are home for that matter). God made so many delicious things to eat in every country, and gave people so many creative ways to cook them. Of course I am not broad minded enough to partake of roasted rat stuffed with sweet potato. But that’s just me.
“We’re Not Allowed to Tell People They’re Fat”
A friend’s son had met one of our China team members who was a bit portly, and his first comment after looking up and then down was ““we’re not allowed to tell people they’re fat” to which our friend graciously replied something polite such as “Nice to meet you too, Kendall.” We are however allowed to tell people they’re thin, and in China almost everyone is. Sunday night we were waiting for an old friend and had quite a time people watching. We noticed that there were no fat people to be seen, except an occasional chubby middle schooler. (Is that time of life just heinous in every culture I wondered?) The thin people however all had quite a variety of fashion sense. For example, in the twenty or so minutes that we sat outside, we saw young women dressed like vogue models, prostitutes, and Hello Kitty groupies. Others had mismatched hippy ensembles, sweet little girl dresses, homemade outfits knitted by Grandma or mom, miniskirts with fishnet stockings, go-go boots with dark hose, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s styles, and lots of anklet nylons. The Chinese are not only not slaves to décor, but they are not slaves to fashion, and nothing exemplifies that like the nylon hosiery anklets worn by every age female. They make perfect sense; they provide the protection from blisters that socks give, but are less bulky and are almost invisible. Ok, everyone can see them, and they look funny at first, but if I lived here long enough, I might be convinced to try them for comfort’s sake.
As far as fashion goes, in China anything can and is worn, and no one cares. I cannot imagine for example a Chinese saying to their friend “What’s up with the flood pants?” as we hear in America. I recall the first time I heard that particular expression; I was in elementary school. I had enough intuition to know not to wear my own pants too short, but I had no compunction to point out that others’ were. I became aware of how easily one can be made fun of in my American culture, and thought that from now on, I would have to be on guard or the fashion police would comment on my attire. That is a lot of pressure for a 6th grader.
It continues past middle school I am afraid. I had a big white down coat that I wore in Tianjin, (ok, it started out white and turned dark gray pretty quickly), and it was not high fashion, but it was the only coat I ever had that kept me completely warm and cozy. However I was called the Big White Marshmallow, and other names that happily escape me now, and was constantly asked by others with a smirk “You’re cold, huh?” To which I always replied, “Actually, no.” I never understood why people cared what I wore and if I was in their mind, over bundled. Leave me alone fashion police! I am over fifty now, and really don’t care if you approve of my wardrobe. If you persist, I am going out and buying some of those nylon hosiery anklets just to annoy you. And I am going to wear them with a blouse and skirt that don’t match, AND have kitty cats all over them.
Rule # 9 Worrying about what others think is a waste of time and energy.