My original intent with this blog was to simply keep everyone updated on our activities here in Shanghai – a newsletter of sorts. However, I’ve somehow found myself spinning out post after post of creative non-fiction, which I’m not at all displeased by, and is not altogether uninformative. That being said, I think it’s about time I sit down and actually write something that spells out what the situation is here and what we’re doing.
Anna is well into her first semester of classes, and she’s a bit swamped with work. Grading, reading, and planning describe her primary activities as of late. I am currently on the sub list at her school, and am in the process of getting on the lists at other nearby international schools. I am also beginning a “career” as a private tutor for English and Social Studies. Most of my energy, however, is being devoted to the youth group of which I am one of the volunteer leaders. There are approximately 120 sixth through twelfth graders, and there are 11 leaders, so we have our work cut out for us.
The church situation here is much different from what I anticipated. I learned once I met with our friends who head up the youth ministry that it is officially a para-church organization now. The leaders all attend different churches (and attending is the extent of their involvement in those bodies) and put most of their time and energy into the youth.
I didn’t know what to expect from the church that I thought I was coming to be a part of, but I did expect a clearly recognized body whose leadership we were under, so I was a little taken aback to learn that the situation here is much more fluid. I’ve been to a few of the churches with the other leaders, and early on, I started thinking that perhaps I’d never find the Acts 2 fellowship that I hoped for. I mentioned this concern in an earlier post.
But then, a couple of weeks ago, we went with our friends to a Saturday night meeting at an international fellowship. The praise and worship was astounding! I haven’t had such a good experience in corporate worship in a long time. There was a sense of excitement there as well. The prayer time was invigorating, and testimonies of answered prayer and of healing only added to the momentum of the petitions that were being lifted up. But the icing on the cake had to be all the talk about the core values of the fellowship, namely Acts 2! They talked about their strong desire to fit that description and to make an impact.
They did make an impact on Anna and me, and we returned this past weekend. The worship and the prayer time were just as amazing as the week before. Later, a statement was made that they shouldn’t have to go over their core values, because people should be witnessing them live out those core values, and I sensed an earnest desire from many of the people there to get to that place. I want to. I want to see the world turned upside down.
Of course, I’m quite sure that this wonderful body of believers differs greatly from me on theology and church polity. There are things – and really only two – that make me somewhat hesitant. But I cannot deny how refreshed I am after attending the service there and how worshipful my mindset is! And there is life! Even if it is only the core group, there is life, and there is momentum, and there is full faith that their Father is going to do something big. It is a wonderfully familiar atmosphere. Perhaps my nostalgia for bygone days is drawing me. Or perhaps it is simply the sense that God is starting to answer prayers that I have only recently begun to pray again as I once did so fervently.
Right now, our primary needs are guidance, wisdom, and energy, all of which come from our Father, so all of you souls with access to his throne of grace know what to do.