(From the husband)Tang Sheng-yi
What gifts to bring?
Those who live, study or work abroad often care very much about their hometown in China. Whenever they plan to return home, they think about the relatives and friends they are going to meet, and cannot help but be very excited. They would then begin to consider the gifts they want to bring home, and the topics of discussion with their folks. Of course, the top choices are often the vast variety of health and dietary supplements. The fresh air and beautiful landscape characteristic of overseas countries are favorite topics. And yet, to us Christians, what is the best gift we can bring homeward? Can we carry it? How do we bring ‘God’ back to our homeland?
Abandoned son, Norland
If one goes to an Internet browser and type: ‘Chinese orphanage’, one will discover there are hundreds, even thousands, of orphanages in China. In the economically prosperous Guangdong province alone, there are 47 orphanages. What is remarkable is that most of the orphans went to orphanages not because they lost their parents, but because they were abandoned by them. How sorrowful!
Twelve years old Norland lived in a small village in an island off the coast of Guangdong. His father worked many years in a place with poor environment and was diagnosed with lung cancer; he died three years ago. Faced with a medical bill of over a hundred thousand Yuan, his mother chose to leave their home, abandoning little Norland.
Norland has a good-hearted elder cousin, who took him into his home. From then on, he became isolated, autistic, and his grades at school fell precipitously. Some people would come and say to him, “Your dad is dead, and your mom does not want you!” He would lock himself in his room and cry.
When my wife and I returned home this year (2007), we made a special trip to see him, and tried to counsel him one-on-one. We talked with him, and held him on our laps. When we were about to leave, he said to us with pleading eyes, “Uncle, auntie, when will you come back to see me?”
We saw Ching-ching in an orphanage, 14 years of age, a fair-looking and strong young lady. She is talented in sports and has won a second class honor in a national competition. She likes mechanics, hoping to become an auto mechanic in the future.
When we were in the orphanage that day, she took a piece of artwork she created herself and walked briskly towards us. “Uncle, here is a painting I drew, for you!” That was how our conversation began. When she was born, she has congenital hermaphrodite syndrome, and was reared as a boy before she was 9 years old. Since then she has had an operation and is now a pretty teenager.
She desires to live in a different place when she grows up, getting tired of others saying things behind her. “But I am so unsure about my future!” She hopes to connect with the outside world.
When I told her, “You should study well so that you can get into a college”, she held her breath and opened her eyes wide, as if she is saying, “How can this be possible? Why is it that no one ever thought highly of me?”
This was the second time we came here as volunteers. Last year was our first visit, and the orphanage had some reservations on our taking photos; but this year they were fully open, and even accompanied us to visit newcomers. Before our departure, the president said, “I hope we will have more cooperation projects in the future!”
In our hometown, there are many Norlands and Ching-chings who were forgotten by the society at large; all we did was to provide a tiny bit of help. Yet this tiny bit of help became the focus of our relatives’ and friends’ curiosity: “You came from thousands of miles away, and it is really not easy to make such a trip; why work on this time-consuming and emotion-draining effort?” “But this is about the eternal love of God!”
Yes, other than the eternal love of God, what else can we bring back home?
The author came from Mainland China and is an orthodontist living in Seattle, USA
What Can I Bring Home?
(From the wife)
Other than gifts and gospel pamphlets, what can we Christians bring back home? This is a question I ask myself every year. After graduating from the seminary two years ago, I kept asking myself, where can I apply what I learned from evangelical theology?
Every year I returned home with an evangelistic fervor, and every time I felt defeated. Even my step-father, with whom I spent a long time sharing the gospel, still refused to believe, got tired of arguing with me, and tried toavoid the subject.
The other family members whom I led to the Lord also began to doubt: what does the gospel have to do with our practical life, and how is Jesus’ love making an impact on society? In their views, Christianity is still a foreign religion that has little or no influence on their lives in China.
The father’s tears
While I was frustrated by my inability to influence, my husband was fired up in the work with the local orphanage and youths in poverty, and work together with his past classmates, colleagues and government officials. On the dinner table he shared with excitement his passion and told me he wanted to make friends with two of the poorest kids in our village. I did not share his enthusiasm; if we do just that, how long would it take the reach my evangelizing goal, which is my sole purpose?
In the beginning of this year, I returned home to visit. My husband returned a few weeks later, and he gave me a long ‘to do’ list: make arrangements with the orphanage; find children in poverty; seek out specific kids to make friends; etc.
With the ‘to do’ list in hand, I did not have spare time to share the gospel with my family. Every day my aged parents saw that I was busy making contact with co-workers and government officials; making arrangements for people to go serve in two orphanages; going to the country looking for children in poverty; I was fully occupied, and my actions aroused the interest of the local TV station and newspaper.
Surprisingly, my parents were quite interested in my activities, which became the discussion topics at the dinner table. On the day I was to go to the countryside to see the kids, my mother got up real early and gathered a bag of clothing, took out some food from the refrigerator, and asked that I take them with me. My step-father was willing to be the middleman for transferring letters from our children friends to us: their principal will give them envelopes and stamps to mail their letters to my parents’ address, and he in turn send them to us.
My husband and I brought some Christians, his past colleagues and friends to serve in the orphanages for a few days; soon it was time to pack up again to return to the States. The day before we left, my step-father was finally touched by the love imbued in our faith; he wept.
In the process of serving these orphans, we had opportunities to join with the local churches and believers to form ‘care group’ fellowships. This gave us a closer interaction with the local co-workers, so that we got to share and know each other better, and together we experienced God’s leading and provision. When we saw our old friends, classmates and colleagues, we also had opportunities to share God’s love and Christian value more naturally. Through what we did, they got to understand the influence our faith brought us in our value, our family and the society. They saw first hand how Christ’s love motivated us to reach out to those suffering from being marginalized by the society.
Sometimes I would think, is this relevant to evangelization? When can we preach the gospel to these kids who are physically handicapped, learning impaired, mobility limited, bodily abandoned, and emotionally injured?
At the same time, I know the hearts of these children are like dried up sponges eagerly thirsting for love and care. As born again, faith instilled and professionally trained overseas students, when we return to our homeland, do we ignore these children like uncaring strangers, or boldly shoulder the responsibility to evangelize through caring?
Maybe we cannot achieve too much, but we must be able to support and care for one or two children living in poverty in our hometown. Let us offer a little of our time, and in practice pass on Christ’s love to them.
For today’s overseas believers who return home to visit, this has to be the evangelistic task. Every year we return home we can exercise this duty. I often think about something my husband said: “We may not be able to make these children understand the gospel. But many would understand what we do, and seek the source of true love.”
The author graduates from a Baptist Theological Seminary in New Zealand; she currently resides in Seattle, Washington State.
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