I guess you could say that China and I, and Cambodia and I, have history.
Sorry, let me backtrack a bit–this April, I’ll be going to China & Cambodia with a team of four other really amazing, courageous, talented, and fierce women to conduct two schools of worship in Beijing & Phnom Penh. We’ll be teaching on worship, musicianship, creativity, prayer, arts, outreach; building relationships, having fun, praying, prophesying, and all that wonderful stuff that you do when you go overseas on missions / ministry trips.
I went 2 years ago to Cambodia for the first time on another missions trip, and it was awesome but challenging. Some interesting events transpired which are now mildly humorous (but not really) and at the time of their occurrence were very heartbreaking. In addition, my heart hurt for Cambodia’s recent history of oppression under the Pol Pot regime; the brokenness that is still a daily part of people’s lives was as overwhelming as their hope and determination was encouraging and beautiful. I’m interested in developing this next chapter of my history with Cambodia, and I’m hoping our love for each other will deepen.
With China, our history is a little different and a bit longer. If you want to get really technical about it, I suppose you could say that…I owe her. See, one of my ancestors was the famous Liu Bei, a general during the 3 Kingdoms period. I’m a direct descendant of him and one of his concubines, apparently. So I suppose China birthed Liu Bei who sired children who sired children who eventually sired my mother who gave birth to me. Ta-da!
But there’s another more personal reason why I feel indebted to China, why–I’m realizing more and more as I write this–I love her. Beijing, Shanghai, Changchun, Hunchun, Yanji…several of China’s cities played a pretty significant role in helping me recover from a traumatizing heartbreak in my early 20s.
My parents were missionaries there at the time. I arrived at their tiny little town in the middle of freezing winter, pretty much just a shell of a person, a walking zombie–see, the relationship that I’d just gotten out of had done quite a number on me. My loving and incredible parents decided that a few months sheltered with them and vacationing/touring around the country would do me good. And it did help tremendously…seeing the Yuan Yuan gardens, the Forbidden Palace, the Bund and the Shanghai city skyline, walking up and along the Great Wall, seeing multitudes and multitudes and multitudes of people to remind you that your pain, your world does not have to be the center and the end of the universe…I mean, this is the stuff of poems, of adventure, backpacking, dreams and epiphanies! Many of the sights I saw were absolutely breathtaking and stunning. They fed my soul and, even in the place of my zombie brokenness, China helped me write poetry during that time, helped me come to a measure of quietness and peace. I’m ever grateful to my parents and to her for that.
So, you see, the circumstances of my last meeting with China was more about what she could do for me (help me heal) than about how I could serve her. Now, God has pointed me in her direction once again, and I’m excited to give back to her some of the beauty, hope, healing, poetry, art and inspiration that she once gave to me.
As part of my preparations to go, I decided to do some Googling on China and stumbled upon one of several articles about her “lost generation.” Also known as the post-80’s, these are Chinese in their 20s and 30s who witnessed, almost overnight, their nation moving from a Maoist state to a market-oriented economy. One girl in her mid-twenties said, “Our childhood was very pure and simple,” Xia said. “When we grow up, the changes that took place happened overnight.” They are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet, therefore having more access to information, and they have had higher education their parents, albeit one infused with communist ideologies. Many of them are the only child of their parents, due to China’s one-child policy.
Though presumably having grown up with more opportunities and social mobility, one editorial said that they “suffer spiritual confusion” and have become lethargic. In response to this, a commenter posted on Sino Weibo (China’s version of Twitter), “We have four elderly people to take care of and one child to raise. Our children have no access to safe milk or fair education. High real estate prices make us homeless. We want to look up into the starry sky, but who has clouded it?”
This commenter’s question hit me in the gut. We want to look up into the starry sky, but who has clouded it? You can hear the longing, the hope and the hopelessness, the beaten down soul that desires beauty and possibility, the broken heart that hungers for adventure and for so much more than what it’s been told is allowed and possible. I think I can understand that straining to see the veiled starry sky; when I was in China last, that’s what heartbroken me felt like: suffocating but desperately trying to breathe in a limitless sky.
I want to tell this commenter that there is hope for her (or him), that there is more for her. That there is a loving and powerful Father God who has plans for her. Plans to prosper her, to give her a hope and a future. That if she seeks this Father God out, she will find Him and she will also be able to see not only the starry sky but the Heaven that is beyond it too. I want to tell her that there is a King who is like a brother and a friend. A humble and glorious King who laid down His life so that she could have an abundant and fruitful one here and for eternity.
How do I know this? How can I be so sure about this? Because that King, that Heavenly Father, walked every road to find me, clean me up, kiss me, and bring me home. He removed those suffocating veils and freed me to breathe, to dream, to create, to live.
While the passion that continually burns in my heart is to see God worshipped, praised, lifted high—and as this happens, to see His presence come and kingdom established in the heart of people and in cities; to see those individuals set free and released into their beautiful, starry, creative and vibrant destinies in Christ—this past week it’s been accompanied by a growing tenderness and compassion for China and her 322 million young people ages 16-30. Do I expect to reach all those 322 million young people when I go this April? Of course not. But what I AM expecting is that God will do something pretty amazing in the hearts of the students at the Noah music school in Beijing where we’ll be teaching and that they, in turn, will show their generation of 322 million that seeing the sky, touching that sky, is not an impossible clouded thing. Because with God, everything, EVERYTHING is possible.
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