1.) Pick your battles. If the satisfaction of winning an argument is all that is to be gained from pressing an issue, it is hardly worth the damage that the tongue can cause. By God’s grace, I somehow managed to apply that truth in certain circumstances back in Georgia. I’m quite certain that just a year ago I wouldn’t have had the sense (or the maturity) to keep my mouth shut! Praise God, it seems that sanctification is actually happening!
2.) The Lord’s hand is not shortened. Two stories illustrate this:
While in Georgia, Anna and I unexpectedly reunited with a long-time Chinese friend. Her mother, in whose home we were often guests, was visiting her from Wuhan. Both in China and in Georgia, Anna and I shared not only our life with our friend, but the truth as well. After talking with them, we learned that although we hadn’t had any contact with our friend for over two years, God has continued to fill her life with believers who’ve added salt and light to her life.
Also, I went back home to find that a good friend of mine from high school had been radically saved, as evidenced by her zeal to know God in prayer and in the Word as well as by her evangelistic fervor. It’s always so refreshing to see yet again how God can make someone into a totally new creation!
3.) Eating deep-fried everything with extra sugar for five weeks can drastically change one’s physical appearance! (And one’s ability to climb the stairs to one’s fourth floor apartment!)
4.) I never get tired of the beauty of Savannah. I live in one of the largest, most dynamic cities in the world, but Savannah captures my imagination unlike any other place I’ve been to.
5.) There’s hope yet for God’s church in my little hometown. There are certain stereotypes that come to mind when one thinks of a small town in the bible belt. Sadly, most of them are true. But the established and the comfortable had better watch out when a few willing servants, called by God, end up in the pulpit of several area churches. Before you know it, the pure unadulterated gospel is being preached all over the place. And what’s even more miraculous is when all those pastors, because of the same Spirit residing in all of them, come together in unity, rather than keeping a safe distance to protect their “territory.” That’s exactly what I witnessed in my hometown this summer. While I was there, I was privileged to attend the weekly breakfast meeting of about ten area pastors and youth pastors at a local cafe. It was great to see the unity, the transparency, the friendship among these men. It was exciting to see that they all saw themselves and their congregations as the collective church of Jesus, rather than the heads of separate little nation-states with a loose alliance with one another. God tends to do amazing things when people start living out His Word like that! I’m excited to see what’s in store.
6.) Five weeks isn’t very long at all. We intended to see many more people and do many more things than we got around to. Before we knew it, we were doing last minute packing before making our way to the airport!
7.) When you leave a place, things don’t just pause for you until you come back around again. After being gone for a year, I found that my little brother now dwarfs me, even my youngest cousins are now teenagers, one of my older relatives passed away, my old job is gone, my church in Statesboro is gone, the cafe two doors down from my apartment is gone, and many of the people I knew have moved or currently have plans to. In a few years, Statesboro will be totally unrecognizable to me, and I expect that I’ll have almost no ties there at all.
8.) God’s kindness brings me to repentance – even on vacation. For the first two days of our getaway in Savannah, I intentionally pushed aside any opportunities to share the gospel or to represent Christ at all. I was on vacation. I was staying with my wife at a charming bed and breakfast in my favorite city. I intended to get lost in the atmosphere of the place: the elegant design and decadent food and drink, eclectic shops and art galleries, the stunning architecture, enchanting gardens, and mysterious, haunting memorials. And I wasn’t going to risk getting involved in an uncomfortable situation that might ruin my dream vacation! Couldn’t I just have this one weekend? Well, by the morning of our last day, I was feeling a mixture of conviction and guilt. Both the comforter and the accuser were bringing the issue to the forefront. And thankfully, the Spirit won out. As providence would have it, one of the least of these came to me asking if I’d buy him some food. And I got the chance to show the love of Christ to him. To bless him with a meal. To listen to him and pray for him. To think that God would entrust me with such a thing to do, such an opportunity to be a blessing and to honor his name, after my utter insubordination… There is no end to God’s amazing grace! It cannot be exhausted! Needless to say, this kindness that God showed to me, at just the right time, was enough to melt my heart and bring me to repentance. I’m glad He went on my vacation with me!
9.) Goodbye never gets easy. I know the old adage: “it’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later.” But whatever words one uses, parting ways with our families and traveling to the exact opposite side of the world is no trivial thing. And though it wasn’t as heart-wrenching this time, and the tears of mothers and sisters didn’t fall as heavily, it was certainly one of the hardest parts of our time in Georgia.
10.) Shanghai is becoming our home. As great as our trip to Georgia was, as wonderful as it was to see the loved ones we’d missed so much, this feeling came over us when we opened the door to our apartment. It was that unmistakable feeling that one has after having been on a marvelous, yet exhausting holiday to some far off place. It was that feeling that comes with a sigh: “I’m home.”