How We Got Here

kaohsiung_taiwan

I haven’t written yet about what our family has been up to since our deportation from China. So thought I would give a little update. We’ve been in Kaohsiung, Taiwan over four months now and are about two months into a new church plant. I never would have imagined in January of 2014 that I would be planting a church in Taiwan in December! All thanks to God whose wisdom far excels our imaginations! Here’s a little breakdown of how we ended up here…

Taiwan came up in the ‘what next’ conversation almost immediately after finding out we would have to leave China. They speak Chinese, after all! Plus, it would keep me in the same time zone as the guys in China and let me more easily continue their training. We visited Taiwan for a few days on our way out of China to get an idea of how life and ministry would be different here. It wasn’t long after arriving back in the States that we decided that Taiwan would be our destination if we could not get back into China.

But we weren’t quite ready to stop trying. A few months our expulsion, my friend and I thought we would make a trip through China on our way to Taiwan. We bought a ticket that had us stopping overnight in Shanghai. This seemed like a good experiment to us, since American citizens can now stay in several Chinese cities for up to 72 hours without a visa, provided they are en route to a third country (and not back to the country they flew in from). While we might be denied a visa if we applied formally, I thought we might be able to get rubber-stamped in for a visa-exempt entry. We had gotten new passports since being kicked out and significantly changed our appearance. If we could get an uneventful entry and exit recorded on our new passport, we could maybe apply successfully for a visa to return to China long-term. Plus we could go to Taiwan in the process and get set up for our families’ move over.

I was pretty nervous the whole flight over to Shanghai, but it really kicked in once we were taxiing up to the terminal. But it was exciting to be back inside the borders of China again! The plane reached the gate and everyone was crowding the aisles with their bags waiting for the doors to open. It seemed to be taking longer than usual. Finally, my friend and I saw a couple police officers coming down the aisle wading through all the people. They came right up to us and asked to check our passports. Once they were sure that we were who they were looking for, they led us back through all the people and off the plane (the other passengers must have thought that we were either really important, or really in trouble!).

They led us all the way up to the immigration counter – well, more like to the desk at immigration where they deal with the unusual cases. No one was saying anything to us, but there were three or four police officers around us the whole time. After looking at our passports for a while, they sent us to a room off to the side of the immigration hall. They motioned for us to sit, then searched our carry-on bags. Then they left us sitting in there with our little police escort for half an hour or so. The looooongest half hour of my life, for the record! I just kept thinking, how on earth did I think this was going to work?! Some desperate prayers were uttered.

Then they sent in another little group of officers who looked at our passports and tickets. One finally asked us about our travel plans. I told her we were just passing through on our way to Taiwan. She told us to have a seat and wait. They left the room. A while later, an older officer told us and our escort to follow him. He led us into the baggage hall, told us to get our bags, and took us through customs. About that time, one of the younger cops told me that we were going to be sent back to America.

The police then took us back upstairs to the departures hall and up to the Delta counter. They told the girl behind the counter to put us on the next flight to the States. The next flight was about to take off. There was only one more leaving that day, and we only had a few minutes before the gate closed. The police insisted that we be given seats. A couple minutes later, the officers had our boarding passes in hand. They walked us through security, to our gate, and down the jet bridge. Only when we reached the door of the airplane did they hand us back our passports and set us on our way (though, oddly, the flight attendants came and got our passports from us once we were in the air)! A little over an hour after landing in Shanghai, we were back in a plane back to the States!

While two 13-hour flights in 27 hours was one of the more uncomfortable experiences in my life, I was so thankful to be out of that situation! Though we were of course disappointed with the results of our trip, it seemed that the wisest course of action was apparent. We would begin making serious preparations to begin working in Taiwan. Maybe our trip was a stupid idea (it sure seemed like it to me that day). But we wanted to be sure how absolute our ban was. Glory be to God, who through Christ makes us victorious, even in loss and our own deficient wisdom! We praise him for the years he gave us in northeast China, for the work that continues there (will have to do another update on that sometime), and for the opportunity to be his witnesses in another place where many have never heard.

On Christmas we held the first service for a new church plant here in Kaohsiung. Since then we have seen many visitors and had the chance to share the gospel with many who had never heard it before. This has been a special labor for me already, because I am continually reminded that it wasn’t my choice to come here. My plan was to be in northern China until I was dead! It reinforces very vividly that each opportunity to give the gospel to an unbeliever here in Kaohsiung has been divinely ordained. We have been providentially brought here for the sake of certain individuals – some of whom we have already met! I’d ask you to pray for them as we continue to tell them of the Savior who paid the price for their redemption and arranged for the steps of his messengers to bring his good news to them.

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One Comment on “How We Got Here”

  1. Nerezza February 8, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    Hi, I’m a first-year university student from the UK. In September of 2015, in typical God fashion, He flipped all my plans upside down and told me to go to China. I have no idea why or for what (slightly terrified), but I felt inspired to look up blogs of Christians from China. Could you tell me what it is like in China for believers (especially around the Shanghai/Suzhou area if you can)? I’m working my way through your posts – they look really interesting! Thanks.

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