Archive for ‘Beijing, China’

Bethel Week 8 – What would be the song we sing to them when they’re in need?

7 Commentsby   |  07.30.11  |  Beijing, China, Uncategorized

It’s Saturday afternoon at Bethel.  Sam walked by at lunch today and reminded me that tomorrow is my last day.  I love how good he is at rubbing things in.  I love that kid. :) I’m trying so hard to process right now.  The last two months (and especially the last week) have been hard and exhausting, but they have also been my greatest joy and some of the most fulfilling times of my entire life.  I’ve taken this song as my theme for the summer:

What would be the song we sing to them when they’re in need?
Would it be an empty Hallelujah to the King?
Turn down the music
Turn down the noise
Turn up your voice oh, God
And let us hear the sound
Of people broken
Willing to love
Give us your heart oh, God
A new song rising up

And I think that’s the best way I can explain it.  This summer I have been surrounded by music.  It has been my gift to these children and their gift to me.  I can see how the songs I have taught them have brought them such joy, helped them to open up, and given me an opportunity to show them that they are loved and that someone (and Someone) cares for them deeply.  I have always known and believed in the power of music.  I have always known that I love music, but this summer I have seen it in a different light.  Music is my life.  There is no doubt about that, and I have often made these words the cry of my heart in the times when life has grown chaotic and busy, unfulfilling and stressful, the times I have wondered what it is I’m doing and why.  This summer has shown me that God heard those cries.  He has turned down the music and the noise and taken me straight to the heart of it all.  He has given me a little bit more of His heart.  He has made me more and more willing to love truly and deeply, even though that love so often brings me to tears.  I’ve sung a lot of songs to those in need this summer, and by God’s grace, it was not an empty hallelujah.  A new song is rising up in me.  I am going home broken as a jar of clay, and yet God has filled my words and my songs.  The things that seemed so important to me are suddenly not.  The reason I sing is now so different.  Everything that I do is an opportunity for God to move.  Everything in my life is about God equipping me to better serve Him.  Every moment prepares me so that God can use me to give gifts to others.  Everything is deeper than it appears, and I am making a choice to see that.  At least, I am right now.

I pray that I will remember that throughout the next school year and for the rest of my life.  I pray that I will remember the faces of these kids.  I pray I’ll remember Qing Lian and Le Dong and Pan Pan and Vincent and Ming Ming and Michael and Fukai and Li Long and Miao Miao and Rongyuan and Rhi Zhiu and Lily and Tracy.   When I have to deal with busy work and write reflections on teacher observations and practice my music and deal with rough voice lessons and face my imperfections, I pray I’ll remember that God uses it all for something more.  I’m a mess.  I’m not perfect, but He works through me in ways I can’t even fully grasp.  God has taught me that this summer.  He orchestrates everything for His glory.  He is forever faithful, forever true, forever good, and forever gracious.

God has broken me and softened my heart this summer.  He has taught me on a deeper level how to love.  He has given everything in my life new meaning, all because of these kids and all those who serve them.  I know what I want my life to be about.  It’s funny because I thought this summer would solidify my calling.  I thought I would go home knowing exactly what God wanted me to do, but in reality, I have no idea.  I know He’s called me to Love and to serve.  I know He’s called me to music and to share that gift with others so that He can work through it. But I don’t know exactly what He’s calling me to do.  I’m okay with that though.  Because it’s not about what I do or what my actual job is; it’s about my heart and Who I’m following and opening myself before Him to be poured out as a drink offering.  It’s about living given over.  It’s about being broken and willing to love, really love, no matter the cost.  It’s about giving the orphan a home and feeding the hungry and being faithful in the mundane tasks and loving little kids and loving adults who are a total mess.  It’s about singing songs to those in need and letting God fill them up with His Spirit of Love and Caring.  And we are all in need.  We all need to see God, every child and every grown man and woman.  We all need to feel God’s love.  We all need to sense and learn His joy.  We all need an embrace and an outlet.  We all need songs to sing.  And as I enjoy my final days with these kids and try and process all that God has done these last two months, before I get on a plane and go back to my “real” life, these words ring in my heart and bring me comfort.  And I hear the voices of the Bethel children singing them, and I know that they are true, and though my eyes are full of tears, my heart is peaceful and full of joy, for God is faithful, and His grace is sufficient for me.  These kids will be okay.  Even as I face the struggles of trying to leave these kids (like Michael who told me he wanted me to stay for a thousand million years and never go back to the States) and readjusting to life back home and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life, I know I’ll be okay.

Through many dangers toils and snares
I have already come
‘Twas grace which brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
   

 

Bethel Weeks 5, 6, and 7 – In the Hands of God

6 Commentsby   |  07.20.11  |  Beijing, China

The kids are taking exams right now, so I have quite a bit of time to simply think.  The last couple of days I’ve just wanted to sit and weep.  I’m looking at the faces of all these children.  I’m going through all these pictures.  I’m processing all these memories.  I’m preparing to go home.  And I’m struck by how messed up the world is.  I love these kids so much.  They are all so beautiful and so full of joy and so valuable… so special.  They are smart and funny and each has their own precious personality.    They are children of God.  They are God’s little boys and girls, and they have become my babies too.  They have stolen my heart.  And my heart breaks because I can’t save them.  I don’t know what’s going to happen to them.  Some will be adopted and will find great homes and be loved.  But what about the rest of them?  What about Michael who is one of the smartest, most talented children I’ve met, but only has two more years before he can no longer be adopted?  What about Guo Guo and Hannah and Sam and Christina?  What will happen to them?  What opportunities will they have?  Yes, they are in a great place here.  They have people who care for them.  They are learning and growing.  Bethel is not a perfect place – it is run by humans – but it is better than so many here in China or around the world.  What happens when Bethel can no longer care for these kids?  What happens when they grow up?  And what of the thousands of orphans around the rest of China?  What will happen to them?  How broken and messed up is our world that these precious little ones who deserve everything have so few opportunities?  Everything in me wants to sweep all of them up and take them home with me and love them, but that’s impossible.  There’s only so much I can do, and that makes me feel so helpless.  I feel so small.  I wonder what difference my coming and my going really makes.  I want to be able to rescue them, and I can’t.  And so I pray, and I try to place these precious children in God’s hands, remembering that He loves them more perfectly and deeply than I ever could.  I trust that, even though this world seems a mess, though so much feels broken and hopeless and unfair, that does not mean that God is not still sovereign and in control.  I will live to be available for however He might use me, and I will pray that He will cause others to rise up as His instruments to bring these children a hope and a future.  I can’t save them all, but my God is sovereign over all.  And so, as my time here nears its end, I learn a different facet of faith.  I came here in the faith that God would use me and take care of me, that He would give me strength and keep me safe and help me to serve well and to find contentment and joy and peace in Him.  I came exercising faith that He is my Supreme Provider, and I would stand in awe and live for Him.  I will leave exercising faith that He is the Supreme Provider for all, and I will stand in awe and live for Him and trust Him to provide for all those I so deeply love.  Yes, I am coming face to face with the Supremacy of God and my need to place everything in His hands.

I have no doubts that I was supposed to be here.  I believe that God used me to accomplish something.  I believe that God accomplished things in my heart I can’t even put words to yet.  I believe He has sealed in my heart (as if He hadn’t done so before) a passion to serve Him, to live for Him, to give everything over,  to one day adopt and to do my part to make a difference in this situation, even if for only one child.  And I know that these children will be okay.  I know that God is good and capable of all things.  I know He has brought and will continue to bring the right people to make a difference here.  I think of the new Beijing Project and the fact that the kids will be moving on and attending the Blind School in Beijing.  I rejoice in the continuing work of Bethel, imperfect as it is.  I rejoice for the chance to have been even a small part of this mission.  More than anything, I rejoice in the glory and majesty of God, our Savior.  It is so easy to get discouraged over the fact that all of this is just one drop in the bucket.  It is easy to feel defeated, to feel like the enemy has won, but these are lies!  They are lies from the pit of Hell.  Jesus conquered the grave.  He conquered sin, and He conquered death.  Our God reigns victorious.  We are not defeated.  The brokenness will not be forever.  And so we continue to move forward in faith, allowing ourselves to be used of God, because He can make a difference and bring cleansing and healing to this broken and messed up world one drop at a time.

Bethel Weeks 3 and 4 – This is the Life.

1 Commentby   |  07.03.11  |  Beijing, China

I cannot believe I am halfway through my time here at Bethel.  All I can say is that it has been the greatest blessing I could have asked for.  This is the life!  Not just because it’s a dream come true and I’m living at an orphanage in China constantly using the gifts God has given me to love His precious children and glorify His name, but because He is teaching me how to love.  The words of Paul are making more and more sense to me: I could have so many things and do so many things, but if I have not love, I have nothing.  And I do love these kids.  I love their teachers.  I love sharing my passion for music with them.  I even love those really rough days when I have to cry out to God to give me creative ways to teach them and for patience and joy and strength.  And those are things that I can take back with me when I have to return to “the real world.”  I can purposely try to live a life of love and worship.  I can continue allowing God to use me however He sees fit.  I’m already beginning to realize how hard it’s going to be to leave this place and go back to America and my crazy life at school, but I have faith that God will see me through it and teach me to continue living Love, no matter where I am.  But for now, I still have four weeks left at Bethel and I plan on enjoying every minute of it!  Life is good.  God is good.  His children are precious.  Anyway, let’s see if I can remember some of the best parts of the last two weeks, which have totally flown by!

We recently started having “Letter Class” with the preschoolers.  We cover a letter each day and do activities that focus on that letter.  Each letter class includes “Silly Songs with Stephanie,” the part of the class where Stephanie comes out and sings a silly letter song.  :)  It’s been so much fun.  I really enjoy the chance to learn from these amazing teachers, and the kids are, of course, precious.

B was for bubbles.  The the kids (and their ayis) all had so much fun with the bubbles.  I love seeing the joy in these little faces!

June 25th was my 21st birthday.  What a joy it was to get to celebrate it in China!  My friend Marie and I went to the Temple of Heaven to celebrate.  It was beautiful.  My favorite part was meeting this little girl.  We asked her mom to take a picture of us, and this sweet girl decided that she would join us.  I didn’t mind a bit.  When the little girl realized it was my birthday (I was wearing a tiara for the picture) she gave me one of her princess stickers as a gift. :)  Precious!

Favorite picture ever!  The highlight of my day is always going to the kids houses to sing with them.  I can tell they really enjoy it, hopefully as much as I do.  I think Fukai and I were singing “Here Comes the Sun” here.  Their new favorite song is “Big House” by Audio Adrenaline.  :)

These are some of our precious children, their teachers, and two other volunteers.  They were all invited to the Hilton to learn how to cook.  The kids had a great time.

Okay, last picture and best story.  The little girl next to me is Qing Lian.  She’s new to Bethel and just recently started going to classes with the rest of the kids, so she’s been pretty quiet and shy.  She’s only recently started becoming close to me, and she’s really coming out of her shell.  To her, my name is not Stephanie but “Doremi,” since her favorite song to sing is “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music.  On Friday, at the end of Letter Class, she was sitting near me and started singing “Do a deer, a female deer.”  I tried to quiet her down, but before I knew it, she was right next to me singing away and the whole class had joined.  We finished the song, but she started again, so Fang Laoshi, the headmaster, had her stand in the middle of the circle and sing for the whole class.  She was singing straight to me though.  She did such a great job, and it was so nice to see her building up confidence and courage.

Week 2 Update – All You Need is Love

51 Commentsby   |  06.18.11  |  Beijing, China

Things are definitely speeding up for me here at Bethel. Our volunteer coordinator returned from vacation, which meant more work for everyone, and I was thankful for that. Aside from my piano and music classes I now teach English every day (in which the kids teach me more Chinese than I teach them English!) and work with one of the kids, Sam, on his walking. It’s been a joy to get to minister to him in that way. I’m trying to teach him that he is a strong, confident man that’s capable of great things, in hopes that he’ll begin to believe that part of his identity, despite his horrible background. It’s truly the definition of enCOURAGEment. I’ve also gotten to spend a lot of time just running around and playing with the kids. It’s exciting to see them getting to know and trust me.  It’s also neat to begin to see all of their different personalities.

By far, my favorite part of this trip has been singing with the kids.  Every night we go to their houses and teach them new songs in English.  These are always very fun, inspiring songs.  One night we taught them “All You Need is Love.”  Oh, you haven’t heard music until you have heard a bunch of children singing “Love, love, love… all you need is love!”  It has blessed my heart tremendously, because of the deep truth of that statement.  The kids have officially started to associate me with music and singing.  Whenever I’m around, they yell, “Stephanie!” and then begin singing the first bars of “All You Need is Love,” or “Tomorrow” from Annie, or “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music.  On Friday, one of the girls asked me to sing “Amazing Grace” with her.  She knew every verse.  It was beautiful.

I wish I had the time and space to talk about everything that I’ve witnessed God doing here.  How He’s showing me true joy in the faces of these children.  How He’s teaching me that it’s not about me, but about His glory.  How He’s teaching me to pray and to feel compassion and love like He does.  How He’s proving that the most important thing I can do is open my heart each day so that He can pour into me and then I can pour out, trusting that as I do, HE (not I) will accomplish all He intends.  I wish I could tell about how Faith is taking on new meaning to be as I walk around this school praying for the plan and the future I believe God has for each of these children, but can’t see yet.  God is just so good!  There are challenges to be sure.  There are moments ( a lot of moments) when I wonder what on earth I’m doing here, how I could possibly have anything to offer.  Some of my lessons are struggles, and it’s humbling.  Still, God is love, and all you need is Love.

Week 1 Update

6 Commentsby   |  06.10.11  |  Beijing, China

I figure the easiest way to give the highlights of my first week here at Bethel is with some of my favorite pictures.  So here goes!

I received a very warm welcome from the other Bethel volunteers on my first day.  We rode into the nearest village on this motor bike to have dinner at one of the favorite local restaurants owned by a very sweet lady we affectionately call “Grandma.”  The food was delicious and I enjoyed getting to know the people I will be living, working, and playing with for the rest of my time here.  The other volunteers are from all over the world: France, Holland, Canada, and a few interns from Harvard.

After one day of work, we all took off for a weekend in Beijing.  It was quite the experience, like I talked about in my last post.  One thing I didn’t mention is that I learned to navigate the Beijing subway system.  The girl in this picture with me is Crystal.  She proved to be a lifesaver for me.  We had a very interesting conversation one day on the way home from Beijing.  She randomly asked me what I thought about God, and I answered her as honestly as I could.  She went on to tell me about how China is an atheist country and very few people ever hear that there is or even could be a God.  She told me her story of how she realized there must be a God because of how things seemed to work out in her life.   She said that it couldn’t just be coincidence.  There had to be a greater power and plan at play.  Still, she said she had not made a decision on what she thought about Jesus and Christianity.  That conversation offered so much insight into the culture here and really got me thinking about the value of the Hope and Purpose that we find in knowing God.  These are thoughts that will keep me busy for awhile.

These are called Black Eggs, also known as Hundred Year Old Eggs.  These fermented eggs were by far the most interesting food that I have tried so far.  They were actually really good!  The meal that I had these at was more significant than the food though.  At this meal, I witnessed a true act of generosity.  As the girls and I were heading into town for dinner, one of the maintenance men stopped us and asked if he could take us out.  It was Crystal’s last night, and he wanted to share a meal with her.  After a great meal, where I gained a lot of insight into how things work at Bethel (both the triumphs and challenges faced by this ministry) we got up to pay.  Shin-shifu insisted on paying for us, though!  This was really touching to me because it was a 100 RMB meal and he makes about 1200 RMB a month.  Such a gift!

Ah!  The reason I am here!  On Tuesday, I got to start playing with the kids.  This little girl would probably be my favorite… if I were allowed to pick favorites.  She is really shy and sits by herself most of the time.  She has major eye problems (which make her a little scary to look at sometimes) and some skin issues.  One day I went and sat with her and started singing (singing to the kids has really become my way of connecting with them… it’s a language we all understand!).  Before I knew it she was laughing and dancing with me.  Then she just let me hold her.  There are so many kids like her here.  It’s such a blessing to be able to love them!

And here is my favorite part of the week!  I thought I was coming here to do office work.  Oh, but God had other plans!  On Wednesday afternoon, the headmaster of the school gave me my music lesson schedule.  It was a pleasant surprise.  On Thursday I began my first piano lessons with the kids.  Each week I work with 9 first-time piano students from pre-k to 1st grade, 2 preschool music classes, and a chorus.  What a testament to God’s faithfulness!  I remember talking about changing my major to music education a year and a half ago.  I had this vision of teaching music on the mission field as a way to connect to orphans.  It was definitely a driving force in my feeling led to switch.  I didn’t expect it to happen so soon!  Oh, I also took this piano pedagogy class last semester, just on a whim.  It wasn’t part of my degree plan, but I told my friends I had a feeling I’d end up teaching piano at some point in my life.  Oh, I love seeing the way God plans ahead!

So there’s the highlights of my first week at Bethel.  I’m still adjusting more each day and learning to love living life here.  I’m excited to see what else God has in store!

His,
Stephanie

Welcome to Beijing

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2 Commentsby   |  06.06.11  |  Beijing, China

Well, I wish that I could say that everything has been amazing since I got here, but that’s not exactly the case. I have seen the hand of Providence as I traveled and as I have met and made pretty good friends with the other volunteers that I will be living, working, and playing with over the next couple of months. I will admit though that I was not at all prepared for the shock of this new culture, and have really struggled to take everything in, even more so because I’ve been sick for the last couple of days as I’m trying to get used to the food. The learning curve here is steep. I have been forced to learn to use chopsticks, ride a tandem bike (I never learned to ride a bike as a kid, and that’s must here, so my friends are helping me work my way up), and also use a squat toilet. Oh, and we won’t even get in to how it feels to not understand a word of the language! I’ve also had to learn much about living so far away from Community and fighting for joy and actively seeking as I wait on the Lord. I’m not sure why I thought that simply because I am following the Call, I would not have to battle fear and anxiety and cry out to see Promises come to pass. It wasn’t that way for the Israelites. Yes, God prepared the way for them, but He also left enemies in the Promised Land. We all have to learn to stand and fight and live day by day in full Dependence.

Truly, China is a whole other world. The parts of Beijing I have seen look nothing like the Olympic footage. It is so incredibly crowded and dirty in most places, and yet so clean and modern in others. I am struck by the poverty and yet astounded by the lights and the amazing architecture. I can tell this summer will teach me so much and really reshape my worldview. So far I’ve had one day (Friday) to see what Bethel and my work will be like. I’m excited that I will have more time beginning tomorrow (today is a Chinese holiday called the Dragon Boat Festival) to get into my work and get to know these wonderful kids. Each day brings more peace and hope as I adjust and wait to see what God is going to do through me. These last few days have been thoroughly humbling and I have reached a new point of dependence on God. I can’t believe how much more there is to do and to learn over the rest of this summer!

Where God Already Is

3 Commentsby   |  05.26.11  |  Beijing, China

I was looking through the volunteer handbook in preparation for my upcoming trip to work at Bethel.  As I read the timeline of this ministry’s history, I was blown away.  Here’s what I read:

ORGANIZATION PROFILE AND HISTORY

2002 Guillaume & Delphine do some research on NGOs work in China and try to find a people group that is not being reached

2003 G&D open the first house in Lang Fang, Hebei and receive 3 blind orphans from Tianjin orphanage (8 staffs)

2004 G&D open the 2nd home, care for 12 children (18 staffs)

Board of Directors Set up

2005 Opening of the 3rd home, care for 24 children (40 staffs)

Start of Bethel school (2 staffs)

Partnership with Children’s Hope International Social Work Committee

2006 Opening of the 4th home, care for 31 children (60 staffs)

Expansion of Bethel school (6 staffs)

2007 Move to new facility in Dou Dian

Set up of a farm (food self sustainability)

Renovation of the premises

Registration of Bethel China Ltd. In HK

Registration of Bethel China ltd. Rep. office

2008 Construction of 7 foster homes

Build second floor to adjacent building (on-going renovation)

Operations size (80 staffs)

Purchase agreement with the landlord

In 2002, one missionary couple decided to search and find out where the need was.  Then they jumped in and trusted God to use them to meet that need.  The growth of that ministry in only six years is astonishing.  To go from 3 children and 8 staff members to 70 children, 80 staff members, a school, and a farm in that short amount of time is something that could only happen by the grace of God.  God is already at work in Dou Dian, China.  How exciting it is that I get to go and join in this work!


I’m thinking about the name of our organization at school – World Wide Witness – and the double meaning of the word “witness.”  Yes, God is giving me the tremendous opportunity to be His witness, to share His love with the people of China.  At the same time though, He is also allowing me to witness His glory in the work He is already accomplishing.  I love that.  God is accomplishing mighty things.  What a privilege to be able to experience God’s work first-hand!  God doesn’t need me, and yet He is choosing to use me, to lead me, to grant me the opportunity to be His vessel, to have an adventure, to love, to serve, to experience Him and His heart.  I am so ready!

The Journey from Dream to Reality

3 Commentsby   |  04.20.11  |  Beijing, China

I added a countdown to the desktop on my computer yesterday.  41 days until China.  Somehow I don’t know whether to dance or to cry right now.  That’s the truth of it.  I go through so many different emotions every time I think about getting on a plane and flying to Beijing.  Last week, when I got the confirmation for my plane ticket, I nearly screamed, and I definitely did a little dance right there in my seat.  I have been dreaming of going to China for years, and now God is making that a reality.  I look at pictures on Bethel’s website and see the children and staff I’ll be working with, and my heart stirs inside.  I am excited for this journey, a journey that has already begun, though I am over a month from setting foot in an airport, as God prepares my heart.

At the same time though, reality is much more terrifying than a dream.  One question keeps coming back to my mind: What in the world were you thinking?! Who in her right mind decides to travel to Beijing, China by herself?!  The only answer I can give, and I hope that this is the truth, is that I am a young woman chasing after the heart of God.  I am pursuing the passion that God has put on my heart to love orphans in China.  I am running through every door God opens, and trusting Him to open those that appear to be closed.  God told me He would send me to China, and He has been faithful to make a way.  Who in her right mind wouldn’t follow the lead of such a faithful and loving God?

I don’t know what this summer holds for me.  I know I’ll be spending two months in a foreign country where I barely know how to say hello (and that I learned from a popular preschool show… Ni-hao Kailan!).  My cell phone won’t work.  I won’t be able to text or call.  There will be a thirteen hour time difference between my family and me.  I will not be able to express my faith in the ways I am used to.  I also know this though: I will be on the adventure of a lifetime. I will be chasing after the heart of God.  I will be given the opportunity to help expand a ministry whose vision is to see every visually impaired orphan in China loved and cared for.  That is quite the vision, and God is letting me join in that mission.  I am one of the most blessed young women you will ever meet!  It’s going to be hard.  I’m not fooling myself.  I don’t know exactly how everything is going to work out (a huge challenge for a classic type-A like me), but I do know that my God is greater and stronger.  He is faithful, and He loves His children.  He will not let me fall.

I have taken this verse from John 9 as a sort of theme for my summer as well as for my overall ministry: ‘”Go,’ Jesus told him, ‘Wash in the Pool of Siloam (this word means “sent”).’  So the man went and washed and came home seeing.”  Jesus told me to go.  I am sent.  So I’ll go.  If someone were to ask me what one thing I know about my summer, this would be my answer: I will not return the same person.  I’m going to come home seeing, seeing the way Jesus sees.