Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reflection - the mission

Most of our lives are like the laundry hamper - as soon as you get one load done and put away, you lift the lid and there is more. Certainly in the church, the culmination of one sermon and service was immediately followed by preparatoin for the next one. Even our mission trip to Costa Rica was a small piece - like 6 layers of cement blocks - of a project that continued after we left and we never saw finished. So any project that has closure is most welcome.

In this case 60 teachers took time out of their summer vacation from teaching JH and SH school to improved their spoken English. Virtually none of them had heard English from a native speaker, although the Chinese begin teaching written English in 3rd grade. We were the only Westeners in Jingdezhen the 3 weeks we were there and, from the way we were greeted as a novelty, I think longer than that.

We had to sum up what we thought we gave to the teachers and we chose: Encouragement. Never having heard English, there is great reluctance to try to speak it, especially with a Westerner. At the initial interviews, many could hardly answer "What is your English name?" and "How long have you been teaching?" By the Closing Ceremonies they were putting on skits and singing as well as talking to one another in English. Their confidence that they could communicate in the Foreign Language grew for every one of them. For the JH/SH students we saw, it was a rare chance for them to hear native English and also learn about our culture from real Americans, not the movies or news. For the hotel wait staff...well, they learned "clean glass" which I really think will be helpful some time.

Then we had to choose a word for what we recieved from the experinece: Fulfillment. Not achievenment or accomplishment, because all we really did was talk and listen. There was some rudimentaly subject matter - I taught history and geography as well as dating, relationships and daily schedules. Each time I told them what the US was like, they had to discuss and tell me in English what the Chinese equivalent was. Wow - I learned a lot! The novels I had read about China over the years were correct - or not. But this was real.

And my personal Last Word: Gratitude. For Western Toilets and clean drinking water and free expression and opportunity for self betterment. And to Grace Lutheran for the financial and prayerful support for the trip. And to my family for the constant communication that linked me to home. And - always - to Bob for recognizing and loving the call to make a small difference in the world that extends for me beyond the pulpit.

August 7, 2008

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