Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vice President Biden visits Mongolia

Because we don't get to hear the news very often here we were the last ones to realize that Vice President, Biden was here in UB yesterday.  Last night after a long days work we were taken out to dinner by visiting dignitaries from Inner Mongolia along with the President of MIU, his wife and a few others from MIU.  As we were driving to the restaurant we noticed policemen lining the streets about 20 feet apart on both sides down the road we were traveling.  We were just passing Chingas Khan Hotel (the nicest hotel in UB) and I commented that there must be someone important here because of the policemen.  The President looked at me and said that VP Biden was visiting UB today and said, "You didn't know?"  When I shook my head, he laughed uproariously. Boy, did I feel stupid!

Anyway, this morning, as I was getting ready for work it suddenly went quiet.  Quiet where we live is unheard of so I looked out our "window with a view" and noticed no traffic.  Looking further I noticed the policemen again lining the streets and the traffic way down the road stopped.  Because we live close to Chingas Khan Hotel I figured out it must be the VP coming down our street.  So I ran to grab my camera because I thought - this will be a great picture!  Before I could get the camera in place they were already coming.  4 police cars, about 5 black cars, and 3-4 RV's which looked more like mini-buses.  Below you can see some of my very uninteresting pictures!

Which black car is Biden in?

Your guess is as good as mine!

Is it this one?

Not this one

Maybe these?

Here is the surveillance van

More dignitaries

Here come the entourage of people which follow the VP

Lastly, the lone policeman pulling up the rear!
So what do you think about the security here?  My comment was what can a bunch of policeman do lining the road?  Do they have guns?  Didn't appear to be any.  They were all just standing there looking bored!  Maybe they don't need much security here.  As I was watching it all happening I was also noticing the local people.  Was there any interest in what was going on?  Not much really - hardly anyone blinked an eye as these things were happening.

About 5 minutes later another entourage of cars came down the road again with a police escort.  The only difference was that they didn't stop traffic.  So who were they?  The press?  Or maybe it was the real VP in a plot to fool the terrorists!  

So what was he doing here anyway?  Apparently, "Mongolia wants to develop its mineral wealth but needs outside help, with firms from neighbors China and Russia, as well as from the U.S., Australia, Japan and Canada looking to develop projects. Last month it picked U.S. mining giant Peabody Energy, China's Shenhua Group and a Russian-Mongolian consortium to jointly develop the Tavan Tolgoi coking coal deposit in the Gobi Desert."  "There have been reports of secret discussions between the Mongolian, Japanese and U.S. governments on storing nuclear waste in Mongolia, but the country’s government has denied this." 

There were however, some protesters which met him and said, "'Hi Joe, No Nuclear Waste, Go Home!"  

Here are some photos of his trip here
That large wrestler is probably the winner of the Nadam Wresting Competition

Eating Traditional Mongolian Food in a tent
Anyway, he's gone now!  So that's the end of that!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Perspective, God’s perspective changes things. “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) He will impart to us wisdom, understanding, comfort, help, advice, peace and change our perspective.  This evening was dismal, discouraging, troubling; full of doubts and fears and insurmountable mountains which threatened.  I remember that scripture, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help, my help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

For me, it’s the clouds outside our 6th floor bay windows; the Light in the cloud, the glory of the Lord transcending to my heart.  How they speak to me as I sit mesmerized by their beauty, their changeableness, their translucent colors.  And then in the quiet contemplation He comes and speaks and out pours my heart.  It is so good to talk with the Lord!  His words are so sound and full of truth.  We can live in His words and as they are spoken they are life giving.  Somehow all perspective changes, things which were troubling, murky and impossible suddenly become clear with the light to the lead the way. “With God all things are possible!” Yes, with God ALL things are possible! 

He usually begins with, “Do not fear my child, I AM with you!”  That very word roots me again to Him and I sigh in thankfulness.   What a friend we have in Jesus!  The joy of being understood, loved, and lifted up by His words of truth and life.  “Will you trust Me?” This word usually comes at some point in the conversation and once again I am cast upon the Lord in faith once again.  He always brings us to faith, which works through His love, and we find ourselves on solid ground once more.  

I can understand the words of scripture “in a twinkling of an eye”, or “in a moment” – how perspective can change just like that, by being enlightened.  What transformation! What was just impossible is suddenly very possible and very probable!  With God ALL things are possible!  Hallelujah!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fight the Good Fight of Faith

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontus Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, and blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.”   (I Tim. 6:12-14)

Jesus also witnessed Pontius Pilate’s confession of him saying, “I find no fault in him at all.” (John 18:36-37).

“The confession in the presence of many witnesses” – how many testify of your life that you have fought the good fight of faith and have and are laying hold on eternal life?  Does the testimony of your life confess this?  Paul speaks to Timothy to keep this “commandment” without spot, blameless.  

What is the good fight of faith?  To believe in Him! (John 6:29)  Why is this a fight?  First of all everything to be received in God is done by faith – by faith we receive the promises – justified by faith (Romans 5:1); sanctified through faith –Acts 26:18 – we stand by faith (Romans 11:20) – we walk by faith – (2 Cor. 5:7) – saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8); made righteous through faith – (Romans 10:4,9-10) – God reveals Himself to us through faith (Romans 1:17) and without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb 11:6)

The scriptures speak of the “work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:11-12). There is the work of faith (doing the will of God) and the work of faith (abiding in faith- believing Him- through many temptations). So, you see the importance of fighting the good fight of faith! It is imperative for our spiritual life that we remain in faith believing God for ALL things. The temptation that comes to us from the world, the flesh and the Devil, is that I can do it myself (independence); or the temptation that these things are impossible; or the temptation that God is not real or the scriptures are not true.  

Paul spoke to Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, to lay hold of eternal life and to keep this commandment without spot and blameless until the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

The scriptures say that 3 things abide….faith, hope, and love.  Faith is a gift from God and it is living, vibrant, active - not just a set of beliefs - but being engaged in the demonstration of living every day and every moment by those beliefs in relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Paul said at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

To all of us who remain, let us fight the good fight of faith and keep this commandment without spot, blameless.  For, God will not fail to have a witness in the earth until His appearing; and we are those witnesses who confess a “good confession” before all men.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

China's Three-Self Church

Today we visited a Three Self Church in China.  A Three-Self Church is the government accepted church in China.  There were probably 500 people in the building which definitely looked like a church building complete with arched windows with a Cross on the outside.  I was very interested to attend a church in China alongside other Chinese Christians.  Foreigners are not allowed to attend a Chinese church in China unless it is a Three-Self Church.   We were the only foreigners in attendance and as we walked in heads turned and as always the staring began.  We sat midway through the hall and while people were filing in slowly an older man probably in his 80’s was preaching to a dozen people seated a few rows ahead of us.  I asked our host what he was saying.  He was quite forceful in his speaking and he went on for about 15 minutes.  Our host told us that he was the Pastor of the church and he was preaching on how to be saved.  After some time he asked the people if they wanted to receive Jesus.  About 8 hands went up and so they were asked to come to the nearest row to the Pastor and pray a prayer with the Pastor.  The Pastor would say something (all in Chinese) and they would repeat it.  This went on for at least 10 minutes.  People were standing around staring at the people making sure they were repeating the words.  At the end the Pastor put his hand on each person and prayed for them.  One of the people did not pray the prayer and the Pastor put his hand on the man’s head and asked him, “Why didn’t you pray, when will you pray with me?”  A few ladies in one of the rows said they wanted to pray the prayer and so the old Pastor went about the process all over again.  Afterwards they all filed out and I asked our host where they were going.  She said he was taking them to a room to teach them about Jesus.  This was our introduction to the morning service.  

The Pastor standing to the right

Afterwards the singing began.  Many of the people are new to the church and so the choir director stood at the front and began to teach the songs to the people.  She would sing one verse and ask the people to repeat it and did so for the entire verse till the people could sing along.  They also had 2 large screens at either side of the podium in the front of the building and on those screens were the musical notes with the beats and the words in Chinese.   There were not pews like in US churches but a row of seats with no place for hymnals or Bibles.  The people own their own song books and Bibles and bring them each Sunday or borrow them as they enter the building.  When the people had the song down, they would sing the entire song together.  We knew two of the songs, one being, “Stand Up For Jesus, the other being “Amazing Grace.”  It was good to see people of all ages in the church but mostly older men and women though I did see young people there also.  After they sang a few songs in this manner it went quiet for a period of time and then a bell gonged about 5 times.  During this time the Choir came to the front of the stage (about 30 people) in white robes with blue sashes.  They sang a very lovely song which I could not recall hearing before.  When they sang I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst.  It was lovely.  One of the young women came and read something in such a dramatic way which touched me.  She was an excellent orator though I had no idea what she said. They sang a few songs and then went back to their seats.  

The choir
 A young woman came to the platform and read from Matt 28:16-20 and then we all prayed for a time.  Again another woman came and began to speak from the scriptures.  She must be an assistant pastor or a pastor.  There are many women pastors in China.  My host said she spoke on the Kingdom of God.  She spoke for some 45 minutes or so.  It was all in Chinese so we didn’t understand any of it.  However, directly in front of us sat a child of about 6 years old who was very fidgety but was very entertaining.  However, this little girl with a boy’s haircut was getting annoying to everyone around her; standing up, sitting down, bothering her Mama who did absolutely nothing.  The older woman in front of this child would turn around and say something forceful in Chinese.  The child utterly ignored her.  Then the elder woman next to the child would slip the child a candy.  The child would stand up again and irritate the lady in front to the right and she would turn around and glare at the Mother and say something sharp to the child who never paid her any attention.  The old grandma next to her would say something quietly and smile and this went on for some time.  The child became more and more fidgety as time went on and suddenly a hand from behind me thrust a piece of candy towards the child and the girl sitting next to me passed it on to child.  My host also from time to time would scold the child and the girl sitting next to me also.  So you see, it is true in China as Mrs. Clinton once said, “it takes a village to raise a child!”

I forgot to tell you the Mother of this child turned to my host and asked if we knew Jesus because if we didn’t she would teach us about Him.  Our host smiled and told her we were believers.

A couple of times during the service the whole congregation said aloud what I thought might be The Apostles Creed or something of this nature.  One might think it strange at the way they spoke the words which to a Westerner sounded loud and militant.  But we must remember the culture of these people. Being subject to communism all of their lives, whatever they do they do with a fervor which is typical of the Communistic party and their approach.  

The meeting soon ended after another song and prayer and then everyone filed out of the building for the next service.  I think they must have at least 4 services beginning from 7 am through noon for there are many people who attend this church.  Think about it – 500 or so at each service – that’s about a congregation of 2000!  

My impressions – even though this church is controlled by the government there is opportunity to hear the gospel and the word of scripture, scriptural songs and hymns, and there is the Spirit of the Lord which was definitely in their midst.  It was lovely to be in a large congregation like that to see firsthand Chinese Christians together in one place.  There was no opportunity for individual participation or real worship together in song – it was mostly learning songs.  However, there is no fear in teaching others about Jesus or fear of speaking out.  They speak with determination and force which can be a bit intimidating as I watched the one man praying the prayer and several people hovering over him making sure he said every word the Pastor said.  However, the Spirit of the Lord can work in any setting and sometimes just hearing the word of scripture whether in song or in the reading of the scripture one can be enlightened or quickened by the Spirit.

Our friend Hairaa (on the right) and her younger sister

The front of the church

As you can see there were many people in attendance!

We, being the only foreigners in the building, were sure to stick out and as we walked out of the building towards the street an old man walked up to Richard and shook his hand and handed him a paper in Chinese.  Another group of young people stopped us on bicycles and asked us in English if we had just attended the church.  They had also and we started a conversation and when they learned that Richard was a Pastor they were very keen to learn more of the Bible.  We arranged another meeting which went very well. So overall it was a very good experience.

Spring, me, Victor, Hairaa and her sister, and John

A traditional Chinese Home

Having had the rare opportunity to be adopted into a Chinese Family who took us into their home in the country town of Shan Yin.  I would like to share with you our experiences.  I have never had such an experience of overwhelming generosity and care from an Asian family as I have had in China.  We were not only honored guests for whom the family had killed the fatted calf, but we were family!  All members of the family received us as one of their own.  It all began with an internet friendship with their daughter who wanted to learn English.  After two years of correspondence we decided to visit her in Suzhou which is a beautiful city outside of Shanghai.  Within a short time she called us her American Mom and Dad. She introduced us to Suzhou and we had a delightful time visiting the city and sites while sharing with her our most treasured possession, the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and our friendship deepened.  Within a few years she told of us of her impending marriage and invited us to attend.  She even arranged her wedding around when we could come.  She had since moved to a town closer to Beijing to the city of Tangshen.  We came and attended her wedding and the next week she invited us to her hometown to meet her family and attend a second wedding there.  

Soon after our arrival we were whisked away to the family home where everyone was waiting so we could begin the meal.  We were a day late in our travels and the festivities had begun a day earlier; much eating, much toasting, much drinking, much talking and jovial conversation.  They were enthralled that we knew a little Chinese and we laughed our way through many a conversation.  They wouldn’t let us pay for a thing including our hotel room, our bus travel, meals, etc. etc.  Truly, we were family!

Shakira in front of her family home

The street on which her family lives
Let me describe a traditional Chinese home.  Chinese homes are made of yellowish brick and are very like the tenement houses in England, however, when you enter the doors which are usually Chinese red with silver half balls stuck all over them, you enter into a courtyard with 3 separate buildings, the compound being in a U shape.  Each building has 3 rooms with the largest having 5 rooms.

The front door

Looking out the main building of her home onto the courtyard.  You can see the door which leads to the street.

There were many decorations for the wedding celebration
Many people can live in one compound – up to 3 families and this is often the case. In the center of the courtyard is the well with a hose/pump from which they draw their water.  There is no running water in the houses.  There is no central heating system in the houses.  The rooms are cold in the winter and cool in the summer.  The only room which is heated is the room with the kang.  The kang is a Chinese bed entirely made of wood stretching from one wall to its parallel wall about 3 feet high.  It’s about the size of a King-size bed.   Because it is wood it is hard as a board so they put a rug down and cover it with linoleum.  The bed is heated by a coal stove next to the kang which heats the underside of the bed allowing the smoke from the coal to escape outside through a pipe.  This not only makes the bed toasty but downright hot!

The Kang - traditional Chinese bed with the little stove next to it that heats it during winter.
The kang is the meeting place for the family.  Everyone sits on the kang cross legged and they talk and enjoy each other’s company, they even eat their dinner on the kang!  The elder people sit at the back of the kang near the window while the younger sit at the foot of the Kang.

Sitting in Grandma's house in the compound.  The two ladies next to her are her daughters.  The gal sitting on the side is Shakira's sister.  Shakira is the one who got married.

The proper way to sit is cross-legged!

Shakira's mother-in-law on the left, Grandma, her daughter, and Shakira

Grandma, Wang Feng (the groom), Shakira, and her sister
The main house has 5 rooms – 3 bedrooms, a small kitchen, and an entry way.  They don’t have dressers or closets but red wooden cabinets about 4 feet high against one of the walls.  These open by lifting the lids (there are two) and this is where they store their clothes.  The flooring is cement with linoleum which looks like a fake wood floor.  This particular home is about 150 years old and only recently electricity had been added.  So they use electric kettles to heat water, electric steamers for making food.  They also have 2 burners on their coal stoves which heats the Kang in which they cook. 

The red dressers.  See the picture of Mao above the mirror?  He is still well-loved in China!
The other building which consists of 2 rooms is where Grandma lives.  She is 86 years old, is about 4 ½ feet tall, is absolutely delightful, has a beautiful smiling face but can’t hear a thing! We sat on her kang and visited with her and other members of her family laughing and enjoying the conversation.  They were all very curious about us, watching our every movement with intense interest, some trying out their bit of English, others posing for pictures with the foreigners.

The other building was used for a storage shed.  Okay, I am now getting to the bathroom.  These old homes did not have outhouses because people would just use the fields surrounding the homes to do their business.  However, in latter years outhouses were added to the homes to the front of the house and looked like little shacks.  So you had to go out of your house to use the WC as they call it.  This consists of a little room with a hole in the ground.  

It was fascinating actually being in a Chinese home mingling with so many people and being a part of the wedding activities.  How often does an American have an opportunity like this?