We've come home. What's next?
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Coming back to China this time has been challenging for me, though not necessarily "harder" than in the past. It's been 2 years since I've been back to the States and we had a great time there. Without a doubt it was very (physically) tiring. There was a big stretch where we were on the road with the kids every other (if not every) day. Thank God the kids did so well. At the same time, without exaggeration, the time in the States was overwhelmingly more emotionally and spiritually positive and encouraging and refreshing than we could have ever imagined.
Did we have some small bumps along the way? Absolutely. A few people (that do not share our beliefs, do not care enough to learn about our worldview, and unwilling to have a real conversation with us about their concerns) were negative and hurtful. But, 99.99% of the people we met with on this trip went out of their way to love us, encourage us, pray for us...and spoil our kids. We're so thankful for all the family, friends, partners, and supporters that have and continue to walk with us. Leaving all of that has been hard for me.
I was also in the States long enough to start day-dreaming of "what could be". My sister and Lily's sister are now in the same place in North Carolina. How great would it be to live close to them and live life together? Lily's parents are getting older. Should we move back to the States to better take care of them? My parents are getting older as well and we love spending time with them. How great would it be if we bought a home and moved in together? I can buy my dream car. Our kids can grow up with their cousins. The kids can eat allergen-free food whenever they please. We don't have to miss so many (friend and family) life events. I don't have to raise funds and support anymore. I don't have to be criticized by negative people anymore. Etc. Etc. Etc. None of these things are necessarily bad, but deep in my gut I knew our calling was to "go home" to China.
On the flights back I continued to read and pray but never felt at peace. It was the first time ever traveling to or from Asia that I didn't watch one movie or show on the screen in front of me. During our 30-hour trip back I off-and-on read and prayed, read and prayed. Yet, I continued to think of all the "what could be's". I even started to think to myself: God's done using us in China. What impact can we possibly continue to have? China doesn't want us (foreigners) there, why do we keep pushing? What eternal work have we really done there? Are we really able to make much of a difference?
I made everything about me. I made His story about me. I made our time in China about us.
We got back and 2 days later our local discipleship group / house fellowship wanted to meet. We were so tired and I wasn't able to prepare anything so I decided for us to just eat dinner and play games. Everything was going well and we were playing our usual games, having fun, until someone said, "Can we stop playing games?" Another chimed in and said, "Yea, let's just talk."
Conversations were a mixed bag. Some superficial stuff, funny stories, catching up. Some deeper things, personal struggles, family issues. Then, one of the guys started talking about how his underground house ch0rch is going through transition partly due to the p@st0r taking a leave (because recently detained but released and needs to stay away for some time). Because of this he helped push the entire ch0rch to move towards and adopt a "p@st0rless" model that focuses on sustainability and discipleship and accountability similar to the one we were using with them (!!!) - a model that was initially taught to us. This model is especially useful here because of the p3rs3cution going on, leading to naturally smaller house ch0rches and many times no consistent p@st0r.
Lily and I looked at each other. "Whoa! That's so cool they are adopting this model!" But, there's more. A few moments later he turned to me and asked if I would be willing to help him start a house ch0rch in his home using this same model.
There's so many layers to why this was so amazing and cool for us. I won't go into it all here. I will say that as Lily and I spent that night looking back we couldn't but help realize the Lord isn't done with us yet. He isn't done working IN us...and He isn't done working through us. He is trying to tell me the story is all about Him, and we get an amazing part in His story. Are we 100% in?
Please pray for us.