Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Got an email from Shannon today. She sent me an article she has written describing her experience with BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). I have been very interested in the extraordinary growth of Christianity in China, and and this is a fascinating personal story that gives just one example of how this historical phenomenon is playing out in the lives of millions of Chinese believers. This is actually the third installment in a series of articles the first two of which Shannon said she sent me, but which I did not get for some reason. But never mind. This one is the most important, I think.

I and the BSF
__what I have learned from BSF
After spring festival vacation, my husband's work schedule in the afternoon was changed from 12:00-6:00pm to 12:30-5:30pm. Even he still needs to work for extra time quite often, but at least I can bring David to his office which is very close to where we live after 5:30pm.

In the evening of the 21st February (Tuesday), after I fed my son and brought him to my husband’s office, I went on the way to BSF evening class with an exciting heart. I was thrilled to see many Chinese sisters in Christ even I didn't know any of them. There were about ten women at the introduction class and I was told that was the average number each Tuesday. It was about 11:00pm when I got back home. However, I didn't feel tired at all.

Since then, every Tuesday becomes a big day for me. I enjoy the discussion group and the lecture so much that I don't want miss even one class, just like Ms. Kay, Ms. Margaret and many other BSF sisters have experienced. I agree with Ms. Wendy (our teacher) that it is easy to get addicted to answering the BSF questions. I often get struck by some new thoughts and encouragements from answering the questions, the group discussions, the lectures, and the notes. I feel like a deer drinking from a rich water fountain to satisfy the deep longing in my soul.

I remember clearly about what I have learned from James 1:1-18(lesson 26) "consider the trials you are facing a pure joy" because it changed my attitude to my current life so dramatically. In question 3: “using James 2:6-7 with 1:2-4, what kind of trials do you think the Christians to whom this letter is written were suffering?” “Well, Christians always have trials, persecutions, etc. But what specific trials the target audiences of James were suffering?” I checked carefully with James 2:6-7 and 1:2-4: 2:6 “yes, they have to face slander, lawsuit, prejudice, etc. But it seems James was emphasizing something behind these facts. He mentioned ‘the poor’ quite often. So, their main trial was: poverty! I didn’t think of this before even though I am very familiar with this scripture.” I kept going to question 4: “(personal) list some of the trials you face because you are a Christian and your response to these trials.” “My trials now? As a fulltime mom, I don’t have a harsh boss like I did before.” I joked to my self. “Then what is my current trial?” Suddenly, a word just struck me: “Poverty. Right, Poverty! Since I don’t work, my husband’s humble salary just can narrowly cover our daily expense. We have to be frugal on everything, such as renting a one-bedroom apartment while many of my old friends or classmates own more than one or two big houses. What is my response? I don't want to accept that. Sometimes I don’t understand why God let this happen. I even complained that why I didn’t marry someone who can make more money sometimes. Obviously, this is not a biblical response. ”I shake my head. “What is the right response then?” Verse 1:2-4 just jumped into my eyes: "consider it pure joy, my brothers, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." “A pure joy?!” God spoketo me so clearly and definitely. "A pure joy", not complaint, not reluctance, but “a pure joy”, because it is only a "test of my faith", and the purpose is to “develops perseverance”, is to make me “mature and complete.” The almighty God arranged this trial for me on purpose! My heart suddenly became to delight. “Yes. Lord, pure joy! just like when I got the visa to study in the U.S. nine years ago! Pure joy! Because of your divine plan and will for me!” I smiled and laughed, even wanting to sing and dance, to thank and praise! Lord, you are so sweet. I love my poverty! I feel so happy about my poverty!!!”

I can’t forget that day. I can’t forget that feeling: I feel so happy about my poverty and happy about my other trials such as daily chores, limited time and energy, continual stomachache, leg ache etc.

I couldn’t go to BSF study on 24 April because of my husband’s extremely big work load. And the following Tuesday fell right on the Labor Day vacation. When I finally managed to come to BSF again two weeks later, I just felt so eager to hear God’s word through BSF study. When I got the question (I tried but couldn’t get the questions online) from the group leader, I couldn’t wait to read. “How some physical suffering you have experienced has helped you to change your priorities?” “Physical suffering? O, lord, why did you ask me this question? You know my painful stomach and leg ache since David was born. And they are getting worse and worse. It even hurts more on Tuesdays because I have to do many things in a hurry before 5:30pm. It was so painful that sometimes I even doubt if you really love me. I often feel my life is so fragile and I might not have too many days in the world. That is why I just want to do something really important and meaningful such as studying God’s words, raising my kid by myself, etc.” I signed. After a while, the discussion went to question 17:”when you suffer as a Christian, what comfort will you take from verse 10(1Peter chapter 5)”. I turned to there and began to read: "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." “What, God will restore me? He will make me strong? Himself will do so?” I couldn’t believe that. “No, it’s impossible. This scripture is only a general or a spiritual comfort and encouragement. How can my poor, old, corrupting physical body be restored?! Oh, no! He of course can do that...” That night, I was reciting this sentence all the way back home, sometimes feeling a great assurance, comfort and encouragement and sometimes experiencing great doubts. I don’t know if or how God will heal my physical weakness (especially my stomachache) and make me physically strong. I just want to pray that God continue guide me to focus on His words!

I was told that the study was going to close in May and there were only a few lessons left. However, it began to become more difficult for me to attend the class. On 15 May, my husband called me at 5:00 pm to tell me that I couldn’t bring our son to his office because he got a lot of work to do. I have to say ok. But then I added “there are only a few lessons left. I really want to go. Let’s keep praying. I guess I can be a little bit late.” At 5:30pm, I called my husband and he was still not sure when he could finish work. I kept praying in my heart while playing with my son and other kid at the playground with Bible and BSF materials in my backpack. At 5:45 pm, I fed my son at a nearby cafeteria. At 6:15pm, I got the call from my husband: “You’re finished? Thank God!”

Next Tuesday is on 22 May, the same thing happened. Trying to find someone to look after my son, I asked a granny whose granddaughter often plays with my son at the playground. The granny was hesitating because she was not sure what to do if my son cries hard when I am absent. I was trying to explain to her that he could be separated from me. Just at that time, I got a call from Niuniu’s mom who was at another playground with Yuanyua’s mom and their four-year-old girls(I mentioned them in I and the BSF 2). We didn’t contact each other for a while. “I’ll go there soon and will have to ask you a favor.” I happily brought my son to where they were in less than five minutes. Having briefly told her what help I needed, I left my son with them and came to the study.

That evening was our last BSF lecture. Again I got a lot rich and sweet spiritual food. Our group discussion went to question 14: “From Acts 27what character traits did Paul reveal in the crisis amidst panic-stricken people?” Other sisters spoke of trusting God, obedience etc. I am surprised that nobody mentioned “leadership’. “I think Paul revealed the character of leadership.” I said, and then I added, “Christians are supposed to help and lead those who don’t know the way to life. Actually today’s seminar is about ‘leading others.” When I finished speaking, I somehow felt something different in my heart. “Lord, are you calling me to lead others?” I asked Him. Then the discussion came to question 16: “How might Paul’s entire career and the way God called and helped him influence your relationship with God?” “Well, I’ve been praying for God’s calling on me since last lesson when the teacher called us to give out what we’ve learned from BSF. Paul writes ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ and he lived a giving life, but I just found a big stronghold of selfishness, stinginess and narrowness in my heart that keeps me from giving. I found out deep in my heart I don’t want to share with others about what I have from God, just like my little son who doesn’t want to share his cookie with others. I need to repent before God.” Finished speaking, I sincerely asked other sisters to pray for me.

I of course attended the “leading others” seminar and listen attentively as I did every time. We practiced homiletics on Mark 1:1-8 in a three-person-group. The content is “John the Baptist appeared as prophesied, preaching a baptism of repentance and preparing the way for Jesus Christ.” The lesson is “every Christian prepares the way for Christ in one way or anther” The application? “O, Lord, are you speaking with me again? You asked me whom should I snatch and save out of the fire through Jude verse 22-23 in BSF lesson 30. You told me it is more blessed to give than to receive. You let Ms.Wendy asked me in the class last week ‘have you ever thought of leading a small bible study group’…what do you want me to do, Lord?” “Of course, Share the Gospel!” a clear voice said in my heart.

“Share the Gospel!” I suddenly remembered the first seminar I attended this year; Then I remembered the second one “Homiletics”, I love it so much but found it so difficult; Then I remembered the third one “Personal Quiet Time”, I began to practice the Bible study method with my husband since then; then I suddenly found I homiletics was not as difficult as I thought, but a lot of fun and exciting, exactly like “play a puzzle, game or crossword puzzle”(from the handout of “Homiletics” seminar)! I can do that, if I practice more and review all the BSF studies this year during the break!

And then I remembered how brother Eric suggested to me to have a bible study group among my mom friends last year and how I think it is impossible (I and the BSF 2);I remembered that I began to attend a mom’s fellowship with an American sister who is the teacher of my son’s little Christian kindergarten( Thank God! We found this Christian kindergarten in April by His grace and love. For those who pray for my son to be able to hear God’s word, I know you are thanking God as I am doing now. Thank you, my dear sisters in Christ!); I remembered a Chinese sister in that group told me that I was so suitable to lead a mom fellowship; I remember that the leading brother in our small family church suggested me to have a try in this direction. It just seems that God is speaking to me through every scripture and every people toward the same direction: Give! Serve! Share! Lead! Start! __ for the moms that God put around me who don’t know Jesus Christ yet!

I was overwhelmed!

Why me? Why me? Lord, why do you choose me, such a humble, poor, fragile women to be one your workers and servants? I don’t know. But I also do know. It is because your glory, your love and all the ardent prayer from your beloved daughters in the BSF.

And my answer to that glorious calling is the song, which rings over and over again in my heart:

I love to tell the story
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and his glory,
Of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
Because I know 'tis true;
It satisfies my longing
As nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story,
'twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love.

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