Land That I Love?

Leaders meeting felt a little sleepy last night. Nothing like a good study on the ordinances of the church to wake everyone up! I was told this by mentors before I came, but I didn’t realize how important it really was. Even the most basic truths, the ones that we’ve heard a couple billion times, must be presented with a super-dose of excitement. We have to realize how amazing these truths are all over again and show this thrill to a new generation of Christians. If it’s boring to you, you can be sure it’ll be boring to them. So, needless to say, I tried to convey the ordinances as the biggest celebrations the church could ever throw. Which they really are, aren’t they?

Yesterday, before I taught at the Bible study, I went for a quick walk around our neighborhood to get geared up for the lesson. Plus, I really want to be familiar with every part of this city. So I thought I’d walk a few blocks away from our Bible study house and come back. And the walk proved once again that almost any snapshot of China is, in western eyes, completely bizarre and unrecognizable.

Our house is in a fairly nice part of town. Right next to one university, not far away from a second and a third. But that doesn’t stop the weirdness. On one corner, there’s a garbage heap. Actually a hundred-foot long row of garbage heaps. Somewhere in the heaps are dumpsters, but the stuff is past overflowing. The recyclers (less environmentally-minded than economically-minded) are digging through the heaps, dissecting and collecting anything reusable, anything resellable, or anything recyclable. They’ve got cart-dragging bicycles and they’re filling them up.

On another corner, there’s a group of twenty-five or so elderly women doing their Chinese shadow boxing/dancing routine with a boombox blaring some traditional music. The weather is freezing, and it’s already been dark for quite a while. But their exercise routine is quite disciplined. Apparently, the further you stand from the boombox and the leader, the less you know about what you’re doing.

And on the next corner, a pig is being butchered. We’re not in farmland. We’re almost downtown in a huge city. Wasn’t sure I was really seeing what I was seeing, so I tried to casually walk in a circle around the scene. Hard to do inconspicuously, even if you act like you’re talking on your cell phone. First I thought the pig must already be dead, and they’re just now gutting it. Wrong-o. The thing squirmed underneath the 2X4 that one guy had leveraged on top of him. Two other guys were busy slitting its throat and bleeding it into the gutter.

And the next corner features around ten middle-to-older aged men huddled around two other dudes playing Chinese chess on the sidewalk. I decided to watch for a little while. They all yelled at each other to make room for me. I didn’t understand completely yet (I let a student teach me how to play after Bible study later that night) but it was pretty obvious who was winning.

Yeah, it’s not quite America here. But it’s an amazing place to live.

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