Monday, March 23, 2009

I come to the Tea Stand alone...

I sat down at the Tea Stand Cafe' in front of the College Library preparing myself for the Thursday afternoon English Bible Study. It had been a rough day and I was mentally tired. I had about 5 minutes to close my eyes and just relax before the class started trickling in.

Then I saw four high-schoolers walking toward me with purpose.

Oh man...

You see, living as the only american in Neipu can gain us some attention. Many times, the attention is kind of useless... the local group of kids that come to say "hi" don't really want any real conversation, they just want to have fun saying the three english words they know to the foreigner. I really wasn't in the mood for that! I was tired, I had some things on my mind, and I needed to get focused on the Bible Study that was about to start.

The two young men and two young women giggles and said, "Herro!" I played nice. "Hello," I said, and then in Chinese I asked, "Do you speak English?" They laughed and looked at each other nervously until one said, "no." Oh boy, I thought, more laughing and giggling with the foreign man. I was weary.

They spoke no English, and my Chinese is still pretty weak. But for the next few minutes I tried my best to turn this from the silly encounter with a foreigner into a more useful discussion. I found out where they lived, what they were learning in school (all nursing students in a technical high school 5 year program), and a few more items of small talk. As we spoke, more of the Bible Study students showed up... but not as many as I had hoped! Sandy came first and talked with the two girls a while... one of the College teachers that works with Sandy showed up. But really only a couple of the regular students showed up this time. I was getting more bummed.

But then the Holy Spirit poked me in the side with His rather SHARP elbow and said, "Tell them about the Son!"

I reached down to my bag for the Bi-Lingual Gospel presentation book we use, when Sandy said to me, "Should we tell them the Gospel with the Purple Book?" I smiled and held it up, and said, "Just what I was thinking." But then, I realized, there was a better way. A more productive way. I handed a purple book to one of the Bible Study students, a seeker named Ted. Ted is a school teacher in ChouJou how drives over to our study. At first just to practice english, but later because he is considering following Jesus.

"Tom," I said with a sly smile, "You tell them about Jesus." He didn't hesitate. As he started to tell the two young men about the gospel, I handed Sandy another copy of the Purple Bi-lingual Gospel Tract and said, "Have your co-teacher tell the girls about the gospel."

For the next 30 minutes, two people who just 3 months before said in class that they did not know that Jesus claimed to be God, were now telling people in their own heart-language that Jesus was God in the flesh come to take them out of the world of bowing to idols and asking for luck. I looked over Tom as he taught and Sandy looked over the girls. Occasionally we would offer some helpful illustration or clarification. It was the first time these students had ever shared the gospel and it was the first time these High Schoolers had ever heard it. In the end, the High Schoolers took copies of the Gospel Tract and a couple of New Testaments and promised to come back next week!

God's timing is not my timing any more than His ways are not my ways. He will choose to encounter you and use you where ever HE deems fit, in the garden alone, or in the cafe' crowd.

Pray for these folks. Pray that the joy of sharing the gospel infects our group. Pray that these High Schoolers return next week to hear more... and come to believe.

-In His Grip