Come Over to My House, Come Over and Play

“Come over the my house, come over and play”

A quote from a favorite childhood book. Children from all over the world saying the words “come over to my house.” It’s a beautiful image of friendship, crossing cultures, global unity.

I was a stranger and they invited me in.

In Santa Cruz, Bolivia, A six year old boy of a twenty-one year old mother whom he called sister held hands, in his other hand he grasped the fingers of a tall American woman. Jenny is his sponsor through Compassion International. We followed as he lead us down a dusty road full of roaming cattle, horses and chickens. When he arrived as a small brick house with a tin roof he whirled around and waved his hands in joyous excitement. “Este es mi casa!” “This is my house!”

A six year old boy in the spirit of thanksgiving invited friends over to play. At the beginning of our trip in Bolivia with Compassion International, we were told that we would represent all of the sponsors. What I found was a six year old boy representing Christ.

Skip ahead a few weeks. I’m a stranger in a foreign land. I live at a University in China. A local group of Christians invites my room mate and I to dinner. And Afterwards into their home. They are thrilled to hear we have been praying for them. In China it’s expected you bring a gift if you go to a person’s home. We came empty handed. Yet they welcomes us with open arms. The child sang and danced for us, the grandmother served us fresh fruit.

They new nothing of me and welcomed me anyway.
I was a stranger and they invited me in.

What we have big or small we still have to offer to the work of The Lord. And when we come empty handed he makes no scene over it.

Come over to my house, Jesus.

Until The Whole World Hears

While China is widely considered nonreligious I have actually seen a lot of religion being practiced in Shanghai. I’m savoring a lot of those experiences until after I visit the Muslim quarter in Xi’an next weekend. So be expecting a more detailed post about religion in China. The last two days I’ve visited a Jewish museum, a Buddhist temple, and an global Christian Church.

Attending Church in China was one of my goals for this trip. I’ve spent my whole life hearing about ministry, mission work, and the church in China: everything from the Lottie Moon Christmas offering through the International Missions Board to Gladys Aylward’s ministry to orphans during the second Sino-Japanese war. My first Chinese teacher was a woman from my church who had become a believer when she first came to the United States with her husband.

My second Sunday in Shanghai I went with Christy and we met a Chinese lady at the subway stop. With her we traveled a few stops down and then walked a few streets and arrived at some apartment complexes. On a 7th floor apartment Christy and I worshiped with 2 American businessmen and 15-20 Chinese. The teachings were in Chinese of course. Luckily one lady translated some of it for us. Learning about Babylon and the exile in Chinese is not an easy task (thank God for the Chinese app on my iPhone). We sang traditional hymns in Chinese and listened to a visiting pastor from Hong Kong.

There is something really inspiring about walking into a room full of people who are dedicated to the same thing you are. I hope everyone has had this experience. There is something really incredible about walking into a church because when you enter a true sanctuary it does not matter if the building has a roof, if there are people flooding out the doors, if you watch the pastor on a screen from another room or campus, or a community center in the tall mountains of Bogota, if you’re sitting around a campfire, on the floor of a conference room filled with teenagers, the balcony of a cathedral in New York City, pus, if you’re in a 7th story apartment in Shanghai, or a Chinese church building in Pudong. A place of worship is found in the people and Christ offered a family, a home, and a meaning which was eternal. When people are dedicated to God that is a very true thing.

After about 3 weeks in Shanghai I’ve become familiar with the subway stations, a bit more familiar with the language, and more confident with my ability to navigate a large city. Before I left for Shanghai Pastor Jim Miller and his lovely wife Audrey, gave me contact for her brother and his wife who started a church here in Shanghai. I managed to locate the church which is quite a ways off one of the subway lines in Pudong (across the river). I began to get really excited about going to church this Sunday. I spent about 2 days listening to Air1 and singing at the top of my lungs. I knew this church would feel like home.

I took the Subway from the Jewish historic streets and got off on 云山路。 I began following my walking directions and quickly realized I wasn’t quite sure where I was. There was a mother and daughter who seemed to be staring at me for an unnecessarily long time, so I asked them where Hong Feng Lu was, I tried to clarify their directions and then I continue walking. About one block later I asked some auto repair men for directions, when they didn’t know they took me inside their store and I finally one person had heard of the road. He directed me towards the same direction. I wasn’t sure how far to follow the road so I ask 2 or 3 more times. By this time I was really deep in prayer that God would have me there by 3pm.

Just when it seemed no cab was coming, I managed to flag a taxi Chinese style (without any “hei cabs” the people who aren’t really taxi drivers who often offer rides). I arrived at Abundant Grace at exactly 3pm.

I walked into a gorgeous building with stained glass and a red cross at the front (I found out later is actually owned by the Chinese government and the church rents the building). I had my passport handy, I had no idea if the admittance into the church would be hinge upon my proof of being foreign (technically you are supposed to be foreign to take part in the church because it is run by non-Chinese).

I was surrounded by Chinese, Americans, Australians, Africans, Malaysians, and I’m sure others all worshiping the same God. It was the first time I felt at home here in Shanghai. The Church’s tagline was “Do what Jesus is doing: each of us, every day, everywhere.” Matthew 18:20 says that when two or more are present in Jesus’ name then he is there with us.

When people all have the purpose to worship God their hearts are in line with his heart, so when you meet them you can know very little about them but you immediately recognize their same hope, passion, compassion, struggles, and humility for Jesus. We all have identified ourselves in the same way: as sons and daughters of God the Father. We all recognize the same savior: Jesus, the son, our husband and kinsmen redeemer. We’re all dressed in the same clothes–the same spirit, we all match because we’re all wearing the Holy Spirit and adorned with the heart of worship. We all have the same intercessor, The Spirit. We all have the same High Priest. We all have the same Daddy.

I’m so touched by being part of the family of God. I’m so blessed to be part of the church. That I can feel at home because I worship the same God and my God is in the Appalachian mountains (my “hilly billy roots as Mamaw said”), he’s in Lexington, he’s in Bogota, he’s in Shanghai. And the Spirit of God will dwell in the hearts of anyone who is willing to let him in. The Spirit of God feels a lot like hope, a lot like joy, a lot like peace, a lot like passion…

It’s the passion that makes me sing and dance, it’s like a rush of excitement, like tears and shouts for joy, like a burst of something I can’t explain, like my voice will never be able to project loud enough or strong enough to express what I mean.

I had a short conversation with a Chinese girl I had dinner with last week. She asked about religion in America, she said she saw people in movies going to church and singing and it looked like so much fun. I told her it was. I told her I went to church every Sunday and sang because I love God so much and I love to sing about everything he has done.

And I’ll say I love praising God in churches with no roofs so everyone can hear, I love praising God from 7th story apartments with open windows so everyone can hear, I love praising God in crowded cities so everyone one can hear, I love praising God on Sunday mornings, and listening to the Christian radio stations, and when I’m surrounded by all these other kids he’s adopted…. ADOPTED  as his own kids. I was a slave and he set me free! I was a sinner and Jesus picked me as his bride. I was DEAD and he brought me back to LIFE! This is for real! And I am willing to sing it not just in church, but as the rhythm of my step as I walk down the street. I’m willing to see it in every smile. It’s the hope, it’s the peace, it’s the passion and the joy.

And I will sing until the whole world hears. There is something amazing about realizing how big God is, that it’s so much more than your home church, he is working all over the world, and to experience God in another culture, another language, another way of doing church is incredible. It must have been Brother Andrew’s obsession with attending churches where ever he was, despite the strict laws in place behind the iron curtain. It’s edgy, it’s real, and it’s so much bigger than us. The more I travel, the more people I meet, the more places I see, the more I realize how glorious God is, the more I realize I just can’t fathom how glorious God is.

Place your heart in the hands of the Father, let him clothe you in righteousness and the Holy Spirit, let Jesus put mud on your blind eyes and then wipe it back off. He’s still wiping off my eyes to see all the gifts of our Daddy. What it really means to be part of a family, part of the international GLOBAL church. People are looking for that Utopia, the global village… that’s God’s plan too. To reach the NATIONS. To reach us. In our everyday lives. It seems whenever I’m having a really hard time God sends along a small child who smiles at me… I have to smile back… it’s like a smile from him. Butterflies are like his kisses.

In Chinese the word for soul mate means someone who plays the music of your soul. I want to play the music of his soul… his spirit. I want my heart to feel what his heart feels. I want to hold his hand and walk through life in the Spirit. In fact, I really like the Beatles song “I wanna hold your hand.” I like to sing it to God. Sometimes when I’m scared, I feel the presence of God come around me, I feel him hold my hand.

The passion of Christ was for us. We must have passion for each other… and for him. He is my passion. He is my obsession. He’s my everything. My heart will sing no other name: Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Appalachia and Shanghai

I’ve spent much of my life dreaming of leaving Appalachia and coming to China, primarily the cities. To not talk with a Kentucky accent, but be purely bilingual with clear tones and pronunciation. To avoid listening to bluegrass music. I preferred 12 Girls Band, and traditional Chinese folk music to the sounds of my hometown. Growing up in Berea and dreaming of Shanghai I was immersed in my own culture while studying the other. These past few days I have found myself immersed in the culture of Shanghai while professors from the Appalachian Studies program at the University of Kentucky have been teaching seminars on practically my hometown.

It’s a little surreal. Berea and Shanghai both are. Berea is hard to explain, they love crossing cultures, being liberal hippies, everyone is vegan… they all like mandolins, banjos and everyone has been part of the Festival Dancers… which I was part of… and I was actually asked the question by 3 people in Shanghai, one from Berea and two Berea-lovers.

I spoke with one of them today– A fiddler from Clark County. I could tell he loved Berea before he spoke a word. Maybe you can just always spot someone from where you’re from. We stood a midst the Chinese looms and he asked me if I’d ever heard of Churchill Weavers. I laughed. Of course, I am from Berea. He pointed out how amazing it was that all of this had come together at the same time. I am blown away and I’m having trouble processing the two cultures I maybe know best. In many ways they’re both part of me.

I also have a lot of critique on both dialogues from both sides concerning the cross-cultural communication. So I guess it’s good that I’m majoring in both. I also possibly found a senior thesis already.

I’m entirely curious as to what God is up to and it’s really exciting.