Nanchang Chronicles—Day 7

post date: February 24, 2008

Speaking at the Nanchang Fellowship


This morning I spoke to the English-language fellowship in Nanchang. They meet each Sunday morning at a hotel in the center of the city. Two years ago only 6-7 people attended. Now they usually draw 50-60 people. Most are Americans and most are English teachers serving with the English Language Institute of China. Some of them live almost an hour away. As far as anyone knows, it is the only English-language service in a city of 3 million people. When we were in Beijing several years ago, we attended the Beijing International Christian Fellowship, a large congregation (over 2000) meeting in various locations. The fellowship in Nanchang reflects the fact that there are far fewer ex-pats in this city.


The service itself was almost like a large home Bible study. I had been told that they often didn’t start right at 10 AM because people like to mill around and chat since this is the only time during the week when they see each other. Today Josh made an announcement that we were going to start on time because we had a guest speaker (me) who had a plane to catch. After people found their seats, we sang three or four worship songs. I could immediately sense the depth of heart of those who attend. Sunday is an oasis of Christian fellowship for these servants of the Lord. Just before the offering, a man stood up and said that the financial condition of the fellowship remains strong. Then without any fanfare, they passed around blue cloth bags.


When Josh introduced me, he recounted the story of how God had called him to China a few years ago and how he came, as he said, "on a whim," and how God used that first year to change his life dramatically. Then Nick spent a summer in China and Mark spent two years in China, meeting and falling in love with Vanessa along the way. Because Mark taught in Nanchang last year, many people in the group remembered him fondly. Finally Josh said he was glad about today because "I love to hear my dad’s voice." It is the finest introduction I have ever received.


After my message on Proverbs 3:5-6, we headed back to the campus for a final meal at Leah’s favorite jiaozi place. I think we ate there three times this week. Then it was back to the apartment where we gathered our bags and waited for Mr. Li to pick us up. Several of Leah’s students came by to say goodbye and wish us safe travels.


Our trip to the airport turned out to be an adventure, in part because of the weekend traffic. The airport is located outside of town and on the other side of Nanchang from where we were staying. We left the campus at about 1:15 and didn’t arrive at the airport until 2:10. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2:35 PM. In America we would be toast, but Josh kept saying, "This is China. Don’t worry about it." We rushed to the ticket counter, checked in, got our boarding passes, ran to security, hugged Josh and Leah, trying not to cry as we said goodbye, walked through security where I got stopped because the guard wasn’t sure about the handheld hole puncher in my computer bag but he let it pass. Then we hurried down to Gate 7 where boarding had already begun. Would our bags make it? As we walked down the jetway, Marlene said, "Look!" We saw a man hurriedly driving a luggage cart toward the plane. It had four bags on it–our four bags. We made it on board with seven minutes to spare. The plane took off three minutes early.


Tonight we are in Shanghai, sometimes called the "Paris of the East." We are staying at the brand-new Meilong Shanghai Holiday Inn Express. Next to it we discovered a very upscale shopping mall that is so new that many of the shops are not yet open. We ate supper at the "Flaming Fox," a sports bar that has been open for three months. We sat on high bar stools, ate onion rings, and watched a replay of the 1997 NBA Finals where Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls defeated Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz. At one point they were playing Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York." I told Marlene it doesn’t get any better than this–we’re in Shanghai, at a sports bar, watching MJ and listening to Frank Sinatra.


It’s been a very good week–and today has been very exciting. We started in Nanchang and ended in Shanghai. Tomorrow we visit the city and Tuesday we head for home.

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