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Sunday night ‘Good Life” study group a blessing…

23 Apr

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“…the situation is the answer to prayers we have had for years: send us those who are interested in the Bible and let us grow with them as we study together..”

We had a new experience….a Sunday afternoon and two Chinese ladies with no English knocked on the door…when we let them into the apartment, one entered the bathroom and read some numbers off a water meter…the other lady recorded the amounts and told us we owed  345 yuan  ($55.51) for hot water, for three months. The surprise? They showed us the amount on the paper and held out their hand, with the expectation that we had the funds to pay the bill on the spot. And, yes, we did 🙂 At no time in my life has anyone appeared at the door for a utility bill and asked for cash on the spot.

I mentioned earlier that the government has turned off its provided heat in Beijing on March 15, and since it was free, it is missed…but it is still 40-42 degrees at night and windy and cold in the 55 range during the day, so we need heat in the apartment. We were told just today that they also are slow about providing it when winter approaches, watching the calendar instead of the outside temperatures, so we can expect to use our indoor heaters and blankets in mid-October and into November.

Our temperature reached 81 degrees April  13, after being in the 45-55 range for several weeks, reminding us that spring is just around the corner. It was a high of only 57 the next day but on the 16th warm weather returned…I wore a short sleeve shirt out for the first time in 2013 and was quite comfortable. We have seen a lot of sunshine and it has been windy, too, but that clears out the sky and makes for beautiful days.

Our students are seeing slight changes in their schedules, with school reaching its halfway point … more tests and beginning to make plans for the summer. Terry will miss classes while we are in America but will finish on July 5, with a good break till the end of August. We expect to see some travelers during the summer and know some LST teams will be here as well. We are especially excited to get some new students when the follow-up commences.

We were found on our internet website by a young believer, who was looking for a study group in her area. We have begun a Sunday night study of “The Good Life” from Ecclesiastes…and it has grown from the original three to five, plus Terry and me. We are blessed with interest from several ages and the situation is the answer to prayers we have had for years: send us those who are interested in the Bible and let us grow with them as we study together. 😉

I am studying with a business finance professor who drives to the study each week…until this week, when he learned that since his license ends in 1 or 8 he cannot drive on that day for three months. They use a number system to limit the cars each Monday—Saturday, cutting down on traffic and pollution. Needless to say, it can become inconvenient if you have plans on the new day you cannot drive.

March Madness has come and gone…I won one group and finished second to my grandsons Brinson and Aiden in the other men’s bracket…picking the most winners (38 of 63 for 86% against all others in the nation) but I had picked Indiana to win it all and the Brothers Alliance had correctly picked Louisville (my birth place, by the way).

We head to America soon, with plans to visit our Moms on the way into the country, and then settling in for our grandson’s birth in mid-May and visiting with our families there. Terry’s has family in Denver and I have several in Nashville/Murfreesboro/Chattanooga, Tennessee area. I was able to book two one-way flights on Southwest for less than $85 when we head to Fort Lauderdale area from those two sites, so we have been blessed. Of course, we have plans to use ‘buddy passes’ to get from Beijing to the first cities we will visit.

Since the latter weeks of January, I have been working on a special project: editing the World Bible School correspondence courses to get them to the fewest possible words with maximum teaching available. John Reese, who was part of the Inter-Mission group that came to Beijing last summer, recruited me for the task. For the most part, the first two courses were already in great shape…will proceed to others as time allows.

My oldest student, Philip, was able to return this week after traveling out of town for three weeks and spending two weeks with his mother in the hospital (she eventually died). He brought a new student, Gavin, and they were both enthusiastic about the Luke 12 lesson on worry. “This is a good lesson for us,” they both volunteered at the end of around 80 minutes.

We will probably move to a apartment closer to the language school when we return from our break in America…it will save Terry 7-8 hours a week of subway travel and some money, as well. We’ll also look for a convenient Sunday morning meeting place. Two of our ‘regulars’ will be gone by the end of the summer; one teacher is moving to another area of China and another is taking a year’s assignment through the hospital. They will be greatly missed and will certainly make our Assembly look different 😦

Greetings— Ken and Wei Retzer were able to come to worship in person along with their young son, Kenneth. Because we knew in advance they were coming I was able to prepare a class for Kenny. We just went into the next room. He is an eager and bright student. We had a lot of fun.

The same day we had the opportunity to worship with a Chinese group that meets north of us. It was good to sing in Putonghua again. They are dear, faithful brothers and sisters who enjoy being together and are hungry for the word. The lesson Gary presented was so good.

One of our former students said that he is reading the Bible and is addicted to it. He is asking very thoughtful questions. We love to get these kinds of text messages.

Another former student is having trouble finding “his place” in life after graduation. The “transition points” of life (moving, marriage, births, deaths) are difficult for all of us and are particularly dangerous for the young Christian. I encourage the ones that speak of it to hold tight to His hand. He knows the way. Stay in the word and in close contact with His body for encouragement and strength. We assure them it is OK to call us anytime night or day if they need to talk.

I just now thought of something. At each transition point of his life Jesus spent alone time talking to his Father for strength and encouragement.

Tonight after looking out the window at dusk and I say, “Thank you Father for the beautiful pink sunset and the rain that has refreshed the land.”

Thanks to God and Gary’s help, our schedule is working. I plan the meals, Gary does the shopping. Sometimes he starts the meal and I finish it…then both quickly do the dishes.

I study on to and from school on the subway and bus with note cards and lists. At home I study, work, study, work. The little vocabulary notes stuck up on the walls help keep the words and characters in my brain.

It takes soooo much repetition and work for me to be able to recall the characters quickly enough to write them in a sentence during a dictation test. There is no “quick fix”. Nothing takes the place of hard work. However I still enjoy it and am thankful for that.

The teacher, as well as the classmates, encourage each other.

We watched the old Jimmy Stewart movie, Shop Around the Corner. (You’ve Got Mail is the basically the same story). So much of the set reminds me of Cecil Elrod’s French Shoppe on the square in Murfreesboro, TN where I worked while going to MTSU;  window dressing, sales, some display cabinets, covering the merchandise with sheets at night, redoing sales displays. It is an old movie but I think it is well written. — Love, Terry.

China News—Qingming has a new look with the tradition of burning paper money for ancestors to use in the afterlife replaced by paper replicas of cell phones, cars and even mistresses

Cell phones, computers, houses and cars, all made of paper, will go up in flames across China on April 4, known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Qingming.

All over the country, people will go to the graves of their ancestors and light up these paper offerings to the dead, the idea being that they become real objects in the afterlife.

Qingming, which means clear and bright, is the 15th day after the spring equinox. Suppressed during the “cultural revolution”(1966-76) and reinstated as a public holiday in 2008, the festival has been thoroughly modernized by the Chinese public, with the tradition of burning fake money now replaced in many instances with paper replicas of the trappings of modern life, including everything from make-up sets to brassieres and even mistresses.

It is a far cry from the origins of the day or how it was until fairly recently marked, with a quiet prayer and the burning of some paper notes. And it is a change that has proved unpopular with many traditionalists.

“Although people also show their respect to their ancestors by burning luxury goods, villas or mistresses made of paper, I don’t think it is proper,” says Xiao Fang, director of the Institute of Folklore and Social Development at the College of Liberal Arts, Beijing Normal University.

“People impose their kitsch understanding of enjoyment on their ancestors. It is unnecessary and a waste of paper and resources. If people want to show their love and respect, it is better to do it in a very simple style, like burning spirit money and kowtowing, which are traditional, or talking to them before their tombs.”

He believes burning paper replicas of expensive items is simply vanity and a means of showing off wealth.

Though the festival’s popularity has been on the rise in recent years, understanding of its origins and meanings appears to be on the wane. In a 2008 poll of primary school students in Guangzhou, 70 percent had little idea of the festival’s cultural significance.

“The tradition of Qingming has lasted more than 2,500 years. Its meaning goes far beyond tomb sweeping,” says Xiao Fang.

It originally marked one of the 24 Chinese solar terms, which were crucial to agriculture because they told farmers when to sow and when to harvest. Qingming meant the weather was becoming warmer and it was time to plow and plant.

In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Hanshi and Qingming were merged into one day, Qingming Festival, when people would eat only cold food, sweep their ancestors’ tombs and spend time with family and friends.

“Besides paying respect to our ancestors, Qingming is also a festival of spring,” Xiao says.

“It’s a time for people to go on outings into the mountains and fields and have close contact with nature; a time to play games with friends and relatives. After a long winter indoors it’s a time for people to feel refreshed and vibrant among mother nature.”

To keep this aspect of the day alive Chinese schools plan spring outings on the day of the festival.

“For Chinese people, Qingming is an important day that shows their faith in ancestors and tradition,” says Xiao. “We don’t have Thanksgiving Day, but to some extent, Qingming can be regarded as China’s Thanksgiving Day for us to show our gratitude to our forefathers.”

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Beijing

 

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