If you are... Congratulations, in China today is YOUR day!
China’s equivalent to America’s Black Friday takes place on November 11TH, also known as, National Singles Day (because nothing says single like all those 1s! 11-11). I did not buy anything, but I celebrated by attending a local expat singles event this evening. #singlelife
Tianjin & the VIDA Retreat
What I loved about VIDA was that it felt like a mini-summer camp experience. It was student led and full of traditions, loud singing, bad dancing, and the freedom to be completely yourself. Yet, the heart VIDA was about giving students an opportunity to learn more about what it means to be a Believer and followers of the Father.
Throughout the day, student and adult leaders shared pieces of their lives and how the Father has taught them. Topics included “Goals and Revelation”, “Study and Prayer”, “Friendship and Accountability”, and more. I was touched by the honesty and vulnerability that was presented by EVERYONE at VIDA. As a table leader (along with another teacher from Tianjin and two student leaders), our group was made up of students from 3 different schools. We learned all about one another when participating in all sorts of activities, competitions, and simply worshiping together. We spent the entire afternoon on Saturday, as a group, taking turns sharing our stories and p—y—g for one another. This meant getting deep and getting real about our fears, failures, struggles, and doubts. THIS is what fellowship is about, sharing as brothers and sisters with no judgement and no “quick fix” cliché answers. I was so deeply moved by the stories I heard... and I experienced some healing and hope in the stories I shared.
After returning from VIDA, I have two goals: I want to ask the Father to use me to encourage and keep watering the seeds that were planted at VIDA. I also really want to continue investing in relationships that are built for vulnerability and openness. Life is messy, you know? Life is messy because humans are involved. I truly believe one great privilege we’ve been given on earth is the ability to open up, listen, and struggle TOGETHER. We are not alone in our walk. We are not alone in chasing after the Almighty. I want an HONEST FAITH sharpened by HONEST FELLOWSHIP. A number of students shared on the final day of VIDA, that though they may not personally know JC yet, after their time at VIDA they knew they wanted to learn more about Him. I am on my knees for these beloved young people as they seek LIFE.
Other highlights of the weekend included getting to help the student leaders practice their skits and pantomimes for a special program on our last night. Whenever I have the opportunity to be involved in theatre, I truly feel in my element. I’ve been missing it so. Helping with practicing/directing at VIDA made me so excited (and nervous) about my directorial debut as the Drama teacher next semester!
I also LOVED being with high school students again. I don’t miss teaching high school – [okay, I’ve since rethought this statement and it’s kind of a lie… I miss teaching British literature something fierce because the whole world knows that NO ONE LOVES BRITISH LITERATURE LIKE MS. MANNING!] What I’m trying to say is that while I adore teaching middle school and wouldn't trade it for anything, I do miss having relationships with high schoolers. This weekend was an awesome way to get to know some of our students, as well as youth from schools across China. What a blessing to have been given the opportunity to pour into students of all ages during my time here!
My only complaint about VIDA… Tianjin’s air was NOT kind to me. Tianjin is considered an unspoken a first-tier city (though it is registered as a second tier city), it is the sixth most populated city in the world (while being the fourth largest in China) with over 15,000,000 people living there. This city was the first time in my 12 weeks in China that I could literally TASTE the air pollution. When we arrived the AQI was over 200 (which I am told is on the low end for Tianjin). The air was thick and dry causing me to get painful nose bleeds almost every day. Not fun! It was a reminder how blessed I am to live in Qingdao! Qingdao's location between the mountains and the ocean means that we have some of the ‘cleanest’ air in China. You can imagine how extremely grateful I was to arrive home after the long weekend.
Recent Successes & Praise Reports
Thank you all!
A Thousand Words
Four Legged Friends
When I first met Oliver, he would bark at me and run away. He now comes running when he sees me and will walk me all the way home.
Brownlow is not a stray, he's chained up in a back hotel lot, but I know he is deprived of love. He always greets me with the funniest happy dance.
Oliver is a little shy, but he's so playful and lovable! He loves his friend Dodger more than anything. Where Dodger goes, Oliver follows!
This is Dodger. He is the epitome of a chill, master wanderer. He wasn't really into me when I first met him, but now he loves to go for walks and get ear scratches.
Next Week: Conference in Wuhan
Due to the conference though, I may not be able to upload a blog next week. We'll see! Stay tuned to find out!
A Closing Thank You
I thank my Father for you!