After my fifth internship ended, I flew directly to China to visit family. Prior to this, the last time I stepped foot in China was over 10 years ago. My recollections of China from that trip are: adults drinking and smoking, no children to be seen anywhere, and boring afternoons in front of the TV. As such, my natural attitude towards this trip was not particularly hopeful.

Yet this trip has been full of much growth and fruitfulness.

Isaiah 41:18-19a says,
I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wildness the [trees].

When we went back to Shandong, my one aunt shared of God’s gracious work in her life. We had the opportunity to sing hymns and pray together! China is a much harsher climate for faith, but it is the Lord who plants and He who will protect and grow. Not only so, my other uncle and aunt were also moved to seek our God. Often is it that He uses what we see as only brokenness and grief to bring true peace and joy.

Back in Beijing came the more familiar lesson of sacrificial love and patience. Each moment is an opportunity to yield to righteousness and life, rather than wickedness and death. And my heart is filled with thankfulness. Thankful for so many opportunities to grow in love, whether it be via cooking/cleaning, teaching (yet one more time) how to start a video call on WeChat, or spending time to chat rather than valuing time alone–and thankful for time with family. Communication regarding sensitive topics can bring out so much of the conflict in the flesh, and often there is such a clear manifestation of Romans 1. But truly, though we walk in darkness, we can trust in the Lord’s name and wait upon Him [~Isaiah 50:10]. His will is one of great redemption.

Further, I have gained a deep appreciation for the value of citizenship. Often, citizenship seems to have very little effect on daily life. However, in China, almost every purchase requires a 身份证 (resident identity card), which is an identification card for citizens. This includes train tickets, bike rentals, taxi calls, SIM cards, bank accounts, etc.,–under some circumstances, the proof of citizenship can be substituted by a passport and a much lengthier process. My aunt, who is a Chinese citizen, came to the train station with us and commented: “It’s so scary to take the train with you. It feels like we’ll never be able to make it.” So how much more amazing it is when Paul says,

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Ephesians 2:19, KJV

Fellow citizens with the saints in which kingdom? In the kingdom of heaven, where God is the ruler and rules with absolute goodness and justice! And not only so, of the household of God and coheirs with Christ!

So all in all–China is still brings to mind bland food, huge crowds, long meals, allergies in abundance (especially from 柳絮), and questionable air quality, but God is near and each moment so precious because of this!