This month I am doing a series on my favorite China moments over the past decade. These are in no particular order. However, this one is kind of a hodge podge of favorite holidays and celebrations from over the years. You don’t have to read this all in one setting, but perhaps sitting with a pumpkin spice latte as you are reading will provide a comfy atmosphere. I do this in honor of our own American holiday coming up in just two days. Much to be thankful for as we look back and are reminded.
Christmas Pageant and Movie
We had a script and tryouts and rehearsals. For three months our students practiced for this Christmas production. The guy main character, Tony, wore my dress. In the play he was running from the police- and during his disguise and hiding he heard from someone the Christmas story, which was acted out on the side stage as it was being told. Around Christmas over 300 students and department teachers packed into the auditorium to see the production acted out by their classmates and produced by their foreign teachers. A couple years later we made it into a movie. “Hark!”
Easter Scavenger Hunt
Our family of students invited their friends to this Easter party. Everyone was divided into groups and was sent out on a scavenger hunt. They had to find things like a nail and rope and dice and an empty jar. Then they were brought back and while eating snacks they were told the significance of each of the objects they found as related to the Easter story. But, it wasn’t the foreign teachers who told them the story, but their peers and Chinese friends who told the story. Really cool.
In the spring we had an outreach for students in which each of our friends brought at least two of their friends that they were being intentional about sharing life with. They wrote down their three friends’ names on cards weeks previous and would lift them up on a regular basis beforehand. Then they were all invited to a party. We hosted a Hawaiian luau and introducing Mexican dancing and pineapple bowling. Because Mexico and Hawaii have everything to do with each other 🙂 🙂
Every Christmas involves some kind of performance by the foreign teachers. The Chinese idea of a “party” is to invited everyone to sit in an auditorium, and performance after performance is displayed. Students and teachers will spend hours upon hours preparing for these performances- both with routines and music, as well as with props and costumes and backgrounds.
The foreign teachers were compelled to also participate. Because we don’t really have any dancing talent (looks more like bumbling around on the stage looking like fools), we always opt for something else. At least we always gained points because we had cute kids, but that was about it.
This particular year we decided to act our “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and then singing some carols. (In the spring for the graduation party we decided to sing “Friends Are Friends Forever”- mostly as a joke to ourselves). Of course I was in charge of making the props. Reindeer antlers were easy, bells for the sleigh were relatively simple to find. However, then I decided to make a chimney. Because what story is complete without Santa coming down the chimney? At that time a certain teammate and I weren’t particularly close. We liked each other okay, but because it was such a large team we really hadn’t gotten to know each other all that well. She came by my apartment while I was attempting to make this darn chimney out of cardboard. We finagled with the prop and tried to make it stand upright. But, the poor chimney kept falling over. Our pathetic attempt at a chimney suddenly had us laughing like I hadn’t laughed in a very long time. Tears were streaming down our faces at our pathetic chimney. I don’t remember much about the actual performance, but I do remember that Kat and I bonded that day.
Spending Christmas with orphans of northeast China. Enough said. 🙂
For the Love of a Turkey
Our city didn’t have much western products. We did have a KFC, but we didn’t have things like peanut butter and margarine. We certainly didn’t have turkeys. But, there was something about having a turkey at Christmas that would be extra special for us. So, my team leader- bless his heart- traveled three hours north by train to the provincial capital. He then bought a turkey at the large import store and then basically sat with a frozen turkey in his lap on the three hour train back. When was the last time it took you a full eight hours (six hours roundtrip, and then the trek to the store) to get a turkey?
We also didn’t have ovens. Not in the traditional way that most Americans think of as ovens. We basically had glorified toaster ovens. We hacked that turkey in four pieces, and cooked one piece in each of the apartments’ toaster ovens. And that was our meal. Turkey was never more appreciated as it was then.
The next year we opted to go to the local supermarket and just get a chicken.
In 2009 we had a Thanksgiving “Carnival” with students. We had an awesome group of American teachers who were in a one-year teaching program who came just for that weekend. Some of them were thinking of staying in China for the long term and wanted to come to our campus to see the impact that was happening there. These girls were rock stars, because the carnival could not have happened without them. There were different booths- bobbing for apples, learning some western dancing, turkey hand crafts, etc. We even acted out a goofy rendition of the story of the Mayflower followed by a more serious section on what we were sincerely thankful for (giving the Father honor that was His). Of course, we made a prop of a large ship and pilgrim hats. A people-sized turkey was cut so that students could put their faces through the head for a photo-op. We certainly had a lot to be thankful for.
On another team we did a similar thing for Halloween. Carnival booths were set up and students participated in games surrounding pumpkins and fall festivals. Students were mesmerized while one of our teachers showed them how to carve a pumpkin. A lot can be said of the darkness and the gunk in our lives that He pulls out and places a light inside.
Stones of Remembrance in Kashgar
The Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”…and Joshua set up at Gilgal twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan and said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers ‘what do these stones mean?’ tell them ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground…the Lord your God did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4).
So, there in Kashgar in 2008, a small gathering of faithful laborers took up stones and placed it on our “Gilgal altar”. And we remembered one by one the things God had done for us there in that desert place.
Christmas in the Hospital
The year our team spent Christmas in the hospital with a student. Stay tuned for the next blog to hear more about this story. You won’t want to miss the story of the amazing way God intervened!