I have a new article today on China Source [‘Waffle House of NW China’]:
I have a new article today on China Source [‘Waffle House of NW China’]:
Yesterday Desiring God posted another of my articles: ‘Your College Degree & a World of Need’
Here’s the link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/your-college-degree-and-a-world-of-need
Or you can read it below:
Your College Degree & a World of Need
When I entered college at Oklahoma State University in 2001 I decided to study Mechanical Engineering because I liked math and physics. My junior year — which was also around when I became a believer — I decided to change to Aerospace Engineering. I was a pretty good student and graduated with a 3.8 GPA. OSU had a respectable Aerospace Engineering program. I was a part of the first place team in the national AIAA Design, Build, and Fly Competition in 2005.
But while most of my classmates ended up working for companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, or NASA (some of them literally becoming rocket scientists), when I graduated I left behind the engineering scene and moved to China. Many folks thought I was crazy to leave behind such a good job market for engineering in the U.S. to go teach English in China.
But that was what the Lord had in store for me. In 2005, I had no idea how long I’d stay in China. Now I’ve nearly finished ten years of teaching English. I have completely forgotten all math and physics that I learned in college. I’m always excited at the end of each semester when I can use my math skills by making clever math equations for putting students’ grades into Excel. That’s about the extent of my mathmatics now, though.
But I have never regretted forsaking a high-paying engineering job in the U.S. to be a low-paid missionary in China. I wouldn’t say that I wasted my skills or education by not ever getting into the engineering world. I’d agree with Paul’s words: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. . . . [And I] count [past worldly status and successes] as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).
There are some significant practical ways that my engineering background helps me as a missionary. The first is with language learning. Studying a foreign language is very similar to studying math or physics. I had to pay close attention to details when I started learning intricate Chinese character writing. But I loved it, because that same attention to detail is needed when working out differential equations or gas power problems. And there are rules in learning a language, just like there are laws and equations that explain our universe.
Also, the hours I spent each day studying alone and working out engineering homework problems in college gave me a needed patience and work ethic for language learning. When I began studying Chinese, I found that I could sit at a desk from about 6:30 in the morning until noon and write Chinese characters over and over without moving a muscle or being distracted or bored. I thought that was normal until I saw other Americans trying to do the same thing, and they’d often already feel bored after forty minutes. It would actually energize me to study Chinese for hours on end.
And on top of the benefits of helping me learn Chinese better, my engineering background has helped me by equipping me with the skill to solve problems. Most of my classes required that I constantly utilize problem-solving skills. In other words, I have a problem in front of me. I can make a logical guess about how to solve that problem. If that doesn’t work, then I have to think hard until I come up with another logical solution. And then I’d try that out. And I’d repeat that over and over until the correct solution or result was obtained. This process is the basic foundation of all engineering.
And this is a big part of our lives as missionaries. Living in a foreign country — regardless of how long we’ve been here — there are constantly problems and obstacles that come up in our lives. Maybe the electricity or the water is suddenly turned off in the apartment. Maybe all grocery stores in the city no longer carry crunchy peanut butter. Maybe we’re teaching the Bible to locals, and the police start knocking on the door.
We need to be able to solve such problems in a similar way as solving physics problems. We must think of logical solutions and give them a try. And if it doesn’t work, then we’ll try something else. And we’ll keep moving forward until we get to the right end, the solution or goal. Of course, problem-solving is a part of life, whether living at home or abroad, but it’s just more complicated in a foreign country using a foreign language.
Paul talks about “the grace that was given to [him]” (Galatians 2:9). One way that God’s grace has been on me is how much of the learning I had in high school and college, mostly as a nonbeliever pursuing the American Dream, really prepared me for the mission field.
I have some exciting news!
You can view my second Desiring God article published today: ‘The Day I Dug my Daughter’s Grave’.
I never imagined digging the grave of my own daughter.
The day of her funeral was cold and rainy. It seemed appropriate for what we were doing.
My wife, daughter, and I were driven far up in a mountain by a friend and his family. The place was remote. We couldn’t see the horizon in any direction; all we could see was the top of the dirt road we drove up. And no one else was in sight.
With my friend’s shovel, we dug a grave, he and I taking turns.
The dig was solemn and silent, and the ground was soft from the rain. I couldn’t help but think about the missionary John G. Paton (1824–1907), who buried his wife and child with his own bare hands, both of his loved ones dying young.
I thought that stories of digging graves for loved ones were only for missionaries from centuries ago. Things like that didn’t happen anymore. But I was wrong. That very thing was happening to me.
With the grave dug, and struggling through tears, I said some words about our small daughter, giving thanks to God for her life. Then we had some prayer time together. We lowered her casket into the grave. I filled her grave with dirt. We put a flower and rock on top of the gravesite. It’s a gravesite we could never find again, even if we wanted to.
My repeated thought was, “Is this really happening to us?”
Ann Mei is her name.
It was around this time last year that my wife Lynne was five months pregnant. Up to that point her pregnancy was going well. Three years earlier she had a healthy pregnancy and delivery with our daughter Joy. We planned to deliver our second child in a local Chinese hospital with only Chinese-speaking doctors and nurses, just as we had done with our first daughter.
But the Lord had other things in store for us.
At five months pregnant, my wife, one night as we were getting ready for bed, told me that something strange and alarming seemed to be happening with the baby in her belly. We took a late night trip to the emergency room at the local women’s hospital. They did an ultrasound and concluded it looked like a miscarriage was imminent for us.
We were stunned.
So we waited at the hospital. We prayed that the Lord would save the baby’s life. Our close friend came from a nearby city and told us about a Swiss doctor she knew in the neighboring city. This doctor wanted to help our family. She’d heard about our situation, jumped into an old beat-up ambulance and rode it four hours to arrive at our hospital around midnight. We all loaded into the ambulance with the Swiss doctor. We arrived in her hospital around four o’clock in the morning, none of us having slept a wink on the cold, bumpy, and brutal ride.
Later that morning, the Swiss doctor performed a surgery to try to save the baby’s life. The surgery seemed to work the first couple of days. We sent messages all around the world for people to pray for us. And we know that they did, probably many of them praying with tears.
But it was not the Lord’s will to save our baby’s life.
My wife’s fever showed she had an infection from the surgery, and the doctor said it would be harmful to my wife to try to keep the baby any longer.
Ann Mei was born shortly after. She was very undeveloped, and only managed a few shallow breaths before she passed into eternity. Certainly not how we’d planned her life, but the Lord took her away according to his perfect timing.
We named her Ann after the first wife of Adoniram Judson (1788–1850), missionary to Burma. Ann Judson had also died at a young age. And we gave our daughter the middle name Mei, pronounced like May, which in Chinese means “beautiful.” She was a precious child made by God’s hands. So we wanted to honor her life by giving her a name and taking pictures with her. Our dear friends made a nice casket for her, and a couple days later I was digging the grave of my own daughter on the remote mountainside in northwest China.
Looking back at all of this, I’m so thankful for Ann Mei’s life, and that God had us honor her life by giving her a name, taking pictures with her, and having a proper funeral service and burial for her. So his mercy was on us in our great time of distress to properly honor and remember Ann Mei as a precious child made by him.
I thought about the psalmist’s words, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13–14). God had been stitching her together perfectly cell-by-cell deep in the womb. Her life was not a waste. Her life wasn’t a pregnancy in vain. No, her life was exactly as long as God wanted it to be. It was an honor for my wife to be pregnant with Ann Mei for five months. And it was an honor that we could witness the few seconds of Ann Mei’s life outside the womb.
Some may think that Ann Mei didn’t live long enough to qualify as a real life, a real person worthy of a name and a casket and a funeral — but that would be wrong. The duration of my life, and your life, and the life of my daughter are all roughly the same — a few short breaths in comparison to the eternity ahead.
O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Psalm 39:4–5)
My sixth post on ChinaSource.org was put up today. It is titled: ‘Encouraged by a Chinese Missions Group’.
You can view it here: http://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/from-the-west-courtyard/encouraged-by-a-chinese-missions-group
Or view it below:
Recently I have learned more about a missions group in China. Because of security issues and not wanting to bring unwanted attention to the group, I will not include any names or locations in this article. In fact, I will be quite vague. I hope the readers can still get some idea of the efforts of the Chinese house church to effectively send out Chinese missionaries. The Lord is working in big ways to mobilize Chinese Christians to reach the nations.
I’m sure there are many similar groups around China that I don’t know about, but I know of one particular missions group that has sent out no small number of missionaries. Most of their workers are serving in Muslim countries, even in closed countries where missionaries are not allowed to serve openly.
This missions group is sending out their workers in teams of at least two families. By going as a team they can encourage each other in the work and spur one another on to endure and bear fruit among the local people. They can be accountable to one another and help lift up the other’s eyes to focus on Christ when discouraged.
The missionaries make a five-year commitment to stay in the country where they are sent. They are required to spend the first couple of years in their new country doing full-time language study. The missions group doesn’t want their workers to move to these Muslim nations and serve among the Chinese who live there. That’s what many Chinese Christians have done who have been connected to Chinese churches in China and have moved to Muslim nations to work. Rather, this group wants their workers to reach the local people. The only way to do that is to learn their language and dive into their culture.
After two years of full-time language study, the missionaries get involved in work that can provide them a visa to stay long term.
All the needed financial support for the missionaries comes from house churches in China. They intentionally do not accept any financial help from overseas Christians. They want to be financially independent from foreign Christians—which I think is a great idea. The Chinese house churches are responsible for raising all the funds needed for the missionaries. So far the Lord has provided abundantly for this missions group financially— they’ve been able to raise more than enough funds.
To be considered as a missionary candidate, first the person goes to a missions training center for a couple of years. Once finished at the training center, the person does an internship in a local house church. After a year or two, if the person is still interested in serving overseas, he or she can apply with the sending agency. Previously most of the missionaries who went out had very little education, but now the sending agency is trying to require at least a college degree from applicants. This will help them greatly both in getting a work visa and being able to master the local language.
When I heard of all this, I was so excited to hear the amazing things the Lord is doing through this group. They are not only training the missionaries and providing the finances, they are also putting great effort into helping them thrive on the field and seeing fruit and transformed lives among the local people. I pray that they can set an example for future efforts by the Chinese house churches to effectively send Chinese missionaries to reach the nations.
Our prayer for these missionaries and other leaders in this group is: “… that [they] may bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might,” Colossians 1:10, 11.
In the past month I’ve started to get back into running again.
In 8th grade I was on the cross country team. And while I was a freshman in college, I would go on very long 6, 8, or 10 mile runs during the summer.
But since then, I’ve really done no kind of long-distance running, including my ten years living in China.
But at the end of last semester we had a physical challenge among our team’s guys. I ran a very embarrassing and out-of-shape 18-minute 2 miles.
After that, I’ve vowed to improve on that for our spring physical challenge.
So beginning in March I’m trying to run about 30 or 40 miles per month. I keep track on Nike+ and our guy teammates have monthly competitions.
At first my body hurt like crazy, but now it’s slowly getting used to it.
And I’m really enjoying running again. I’ve been running right along the Yellow River most of the time. Quite relaxing.
Certainly I’ve seen how much regular physical exercise can help or hurt us in the ministry. If we have none, our bodies will often break down, we’ll be tired always & our bellies will grow. But if we have regular exercise, our bodies stay healthy, we have more energy to serve Him, & we can have a stronger body.
In December I sent in my PhD [Intercultural Studies] application to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School [TEDS].
I thought probably only if I got a decent scholarship would I end up going there to do the PhD at all.
I really wasn’t expecting that to happen, & was happy to continue living in China.
But a few weeks ago I received an email from TEDS saying that I’d been offered the 2nd largest PhD scholarship they have, which covers 2/3 of the tuition for two years spent on-campus. And I must begin this fall.
I’ve had to pray for guidance on this over the past few weeks. It’s not what we planned, but it seems the Lord has opened a big door for us to do this.
After our two years in the U.S., we’d plan to return to NW China to continue in the ministry here.
“I know, O’ Lord, that a man’s life is not his own. It is not for man to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23)
My article that was posted a couple weeks ago [titled ‘Thoughts on Theological Education for Chinese Believers’ – click here] on China Source was referenced by another writer Brent Fulton on China Source in his article titled ‘Beyond Theological Education’. Click here for Fulton’s article.
Brent Fulton is the President of China Source and author of China’s Urban Christians.
On March 1st I turned in the final draft of my manuscript. I also had to fill out two questionnaires to turn in to the publisher Wipf & Stock.
Now all my writing should be officially done.
I just need to wait for a few months until the book is ready to be published.
An unbelievably moving video of Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams giving a gospel-centered 7 minute eulogy after his wife’s tragic death.