Sunday, April 29, 2012

A self-indulgent, reflective post

If there's one thing I don't like, it's being self-indulgent.  And when I say that, I really mean, I don't like being perceived as a self-indulgent guy who makes most circumstances and events about me.  In reality, I do things for my own gain all the time, but I also think I am most satisfied when the bigger picture is before me and visible. When I am a small part of something awesome going on. I had a going away party this week with around 25 good friends from the city I live in and made, what felt like, an uninspiring minute and a half speech thanking everyone for coming and investing in me.  I'm glad it was really low key and that no one presented me with anything over the top and that no one was expecting me to shed any tears.

This post will probably end up going against all of these things.

For 4 of the last 5 years, I've lived across the ocean working with a mission I heartily agree with and am motivated by.  The 1 year I wasn't here in Asia, I worked with the Asian students at UNC doing many of the same things I do here, building movements of students who sacrificially love Jesus and want to see their peers know God.

Pretty heavy stuff, huh?  That's really what I signed up for when I came over here.  When I prayed about my decision to do this for the long haul.  These were the things I prayed for.  When I write my memoirs as an old man, I want to have stories of transformation on college campus, and more importantly, in the hearts of formerly lost students.

I'm ecstatic to get married soon and transition into life with a nicer-smelling and prettier roommate (sorry Harrison...), but part of me will certainly mourn the things I'm leaving here.  What I thought I'd mourn the most would be the memories of students fellowship meetings or Bible studies I'd led, or freshmen guys breaking down in repentance, or preaching to groups of people who have scarcely heard of Jesus.  But the things I'll really miss the most for now are found in the picture below.
That's right, eating exotic (often mediocre) Asian food in dirty restaurants with my peers.  Waxing philosophical about communism in education and venting about frustrations communicating in a foreign language where so many things are lost in translation. Complaining to waitresses that the rice STILL hasn't come out and to each other that "this is good, but it's not as good as ______ (some other exotic, slightly less mediocre place they know of)." People-watching as partially senile vegetable vendors clang on bells soliciting to wealthy cadres, still buzzed from their 3-hour long lunches.  And above all, just being normal American dudes living as pilgrims in a strange land, enjoying the company of people who "get you" in ways your friends on campus just can't.

"You come for the mission, but stay for the people," my friend said recently.  I think he was very right. The kingdom of God is like many things in the Gospels, but one of which is a mustard seed.  A small, unsightly and unimposing sprouting seed that can produce the greatest harvests.  That is to say, sometimes the things you don't expect to make the biggest differences in a Christian's life are the ones that end up making you the most committed to Jesus.  I thought it would be ministry success at first that kept me coming back for more, but in the end it was guys like on my crew and the ones who eat at dirty restaurants with me.  They've done more to encourage me in the Great Commission than any number of ministry successes I could point to as my own.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

What a difference a year makes

I don't have amnesia from head trauma and I haven't had an onset case of early age dementia. I realize the last time I blogged was almost 11 months ago. Not real sure why it's taken me this long to get back to it, but it might have something to do with a whirlwind summer last year and then being busy on skype a lot calling back to the US several times a week. But I'll give a quick update for all my faithful readers (Mom and...well really just mom) who thought this was a lost cause.

Since the last time I posted:
-Moved into a new apartment. This one is more secluded, with more construction around it, closer to campus and with about 1/10 of the water supply of my last place. They shut it off now for all but about 2 or 3 hours a day. Welcome to the developing (...kinda) third world!
-Ran through about 4 Chinese teachers. Some realized they were severely underpaid by our school. Others had other programs to enter themselves. The one I'm stuck with now has drunk dialed me twice in the last week.
-I came back to the US twice for brief stints (once to take classes and once to recruit people to our short-term program here with the company I'm with.

And really everything else revolves around meeting Karen Sharp on the first of those stints, then proposing to her 6 months later in North Carolina after my recruiting time. So now I'm back in China for just over another month. Trying to help my lovely fiancee figure out how to plan for the future from several thousand miles away and set a new course for both of our lives. I honestly don't have much work in this process compared to her so I've tried to do the easy stuff like getting a couple guest lists together, planning the honeymoon, unleashing the great power of my mom to help plan the events in NC.

Karen is, among many other things, a literary genius so I'll have to decide soon if we should make a blog together or if I should keep this my thing and let her write our prayer letters, which she apparently loves doing. I really hit the jackpot.

Hope to post more soon, especially now with things winding down and eras shifting in the next two months.