Tuesday, April 8, 2008

March 2008
Hello Friends,

I know that it has been several months since I have given you all an update, but I wanted to wait until I was able to be back in the States to write. I wanted to have the freedom to share more of what has been happening. It was really refreshing and rebuking. It was refreshing to freely discuss spiritual things with friends, and also eye opening to reveal areas that needed polishing. It was so great to be in a “real church building” and to be able to freely and openly go to worship.

During winter holiday, I was able to visit Beijing for 10 days, and I also spent most of the break with one of my students Angelina (Wang Chien) who lives in Yin Chuan (Northern China). I truly believe that God has orchestrated our friendship. My heart is truly broken over her lost soul. I thought that I cared about people who weren’t saved, but I have learned being in China surrounded by ”lostness” that you don’t love someone until you are their friend. I met her friends and family, saw where she grew up, and somewhere in Yin Chuan the boundary of teacher and student turned to a friendship. We have had many discussions about the Bible and God and many times one conversation is 1 step forward, and the next conversation is 2 steps backwards. One day, while at the Emperor’s Buddhist Temple after we saw everything, we sat down on a bench in the temple and talked about Christianity and Buddhism. That was the most frustrating conversation because I felt that I needed to “win the argument” and “say all the right things”, but at the end of the conversation, God convicted me that no matter what I say He is the one that opens the eyes of the heart.

Living in a “closed country”, there isn’t the freedom to share openly with everyone you meet your faith. Being a witness means time—and a lot of it. Once trust has been established, then one is able to share a little bit, but at the same time, being a Christian comes out in daily life and philosophy here. One of the hardest things about being a Christian is that the Chinese see it as the “western” way to heaven, but that Buddhism is the “eastern” way to heaven. While Christianity is so hard for them to accept, they readily accept evolutionism even though it is a “western” idea. Also, because of China’s history of foreigners forcing change here, it is a delicate balance sharing and not demanding.

This semester I am only teaching my Oral English students at the University. I have 3 classes that I have really enjoyed getting to know. My students are so sweet, and we have so much fun. I have the best job in the world! My boss at the university is also my leader here in China with B.M.M. The relationship with my co-workers is fun and relaxing. There are ½ Chinese teachers and ½ foreign teachers.

After this year in China, I will be attending Calvary Baptist Seminary for a graduate degree in Bible. Since being here, I am also seriously considering getting more training in education and E.S.L. (English as a Second Language).

I remember one time when missionary Earnhart said in one of his letters “to be flexible on the mission field is too rigid, you need to be fluid.” After living here, I am finding that is so true. Many required meetings, dinners, etc… have been relayed last minute, so being fluid is a continual process. Time is also a subjective thing. While most things start on time the importance of ceremony makes many things last longer than it seems they should.

I have learned to appreciate communication (ie: understanding a language) and with that to be more patient with people who are trying to learn English in the States or here. While I understand the idea of many conversations putting into words what I want (and the right tone!) is much more difficult than I imagined it would be. I am just grateful that I have books and other translation tools, while many that have come before had nothing.

Another thing I have learned is that obedience is so important to God. I have been reading in I Samuel about King Saul. Many times he would mostly obey or “had good intentions” but in chapter 1? God tells Saul that he rejected him because he wasn’t a man after God’s own heart. Since Saul didn’t obey, he wasn’t able to have his son be king, and more importantly God’s spirit left him.

Learning how to pray for other missionaries has been another thing I have learned. Sometimes you feel so alienated from accountability; there is the temptation to just let the small things slide, but living a biblical life means that the principles stay the same no matter what country one is in. A missionary struggles to read his/her Bible, the language and cultural differences, loneliness, and diet. I’m not writing this so that you will pity me, because I love it here, but I also want you to know real life issues that we go through every day.

Five women have been saved this past year. It has been exciting to see them grow. Two women who were saved just before our arrival were baptized, and it was the sweetest time of testimony. Nancy is a girl who was recently saved; her father was very angry when she became a Christian. Please pray for her father to be saved.

Two newer Christians (both women) were both recently married to unsaved men. Please pray for them that they would be godly wives and that their husbands would be saved. One of the girls was dating before she got saved, and the other newly saved had an arranged marriage. It is so heart breaking for them to ask prayer for their husbands to be saved.

Please pray that God would send more men to our church. There is only one consistent Chinese man that comes currently. Chinese men are very dictatorial, so the fear of “losing face” and control often makes them uninterested. 75% of Chinese Christians are women which makes it difficult to give a group over to natives.

Thank you for your interest, prayers, and support. I appreciate the love that you have shown me. Thank you so much for all of the personal notes, letters, and gifts. I will try and reply to each one a.s.a.p. 

Only His,
Sarah Evans

P.S. Please use discretion with this information. Also, please do not use any religious words when writing e-mails and letters for personal safety and the safety of others. Thank You.

Also, please do not e-mail this letter to anyone without my mom’s permission.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's Been A While...

Hello Friends,I didn't realize how long it has been since I have given you all an update. *sorry* I hope that things are well with you all, and are enjoying Autumn. :) I love how pretty it is, but then the inevitable WINTER brrrrrr. It feels like it has been winter here in Kunming the past few weeks. Instead of Spring City it seemed more like Seattle. One blessing though that came was that the school finally installed water heaters in our apartment! If it was overcast at all the water would take about 1/2 an hour to heat up and it might be lukewarm. The weather has warmed up slowly and the sun has been out all day today. :) My Oral Englishstudents have been giving their first big oral project in class so I have been busy grading all of their book reports. Some of them are rather humorous (when they probably aren't supposed to be). My writing has gotten worse from grading so many papers, so forgive my typo's. :) My business class seems to be one step forward two steps backwards with our progression and behavior. Sometimes I really struggle with how to help them since their English is so poor, and my Chinese is even worse. Some of my students 2 weeks ago invited me to climb the Western Hill with them. There were about 13 total that came and it was a lot of fun and completely exhausting. We climbed the "hill" first and then we had lunch in a small village on the hill. After lunch the boys said that they knew how to get to some other mountains called the Dragon's Mouth so then we climbed and climbed and climbed, when I stopped my legs were shaking at the end of the day that is how much we walked and climbed. I seriously don't think I have ever walked so much in my life, and I have done quite a bit of walking. Just as we were walking down the main road to catch the bus it started raining, so it was perfect timing. It was a very beautiful day, and I had a wonderful time getting to know more of my students. This past week my roommates and I started taking a Chinese class from one of our co-workers. We are still learning the 4 tones and sometimes it is really difficult to hear the difference in the tones. I am getting much better at understanding conversations even without knowing the words which is helpful when I am shopping at the market by myself. It is much harder to understand prices, etc.. because they speak a dialect and not Manderin. Normally I just give them some money that seems about the right price and then it is ok. Last night we had a party with some of our co-workers and some friends. We had a scavenger hunt in the village, bobbed for apples and had a lot of fun. This Monday the students in our dept. will have drama's that they will perform. Some students asked me to be in a play they had written, but their friends didn't think it was funny, so they changed it. The play was about 2 foreigners in Bejing during the Olympics. It was really funny actually, and I couldn't get though the play with a straight face. I learned a lot about Chinese culture from the play, and also the Chinese Mascots for the Olympics which are called Friendlies. The names of all the animals when you put them together say Welcome to Bejing (or something along those lines). A group from the States that my boss knows will be coming this week. I am excited about meeting everyone, and hearing some more English. :) Have a wonderful daySE

Friday, October 5, 2007

Life and it's craziness!

It's been a while since I've really updated people on my life (ummm ok so like maybe a couple of weeks... but soo much has happened, it seems much longer!!! like about 2-3 months)A couple of Sat. ago I went with my roommates, and several co-workers to climb a mountain near our school. This mountain has a natural spring on the top, so many village people take empty containers to fill when they reach the top... so there were many elderly people passing me and some of the rest of our group as I am panting on the side of the road... *embarrassing!* At the top of many mountain's here are Buddist's temples, so we looked at them (really wish I could get a pic. to show, but it is disrespectful) and some of my co-workers are Buddist so we just started asking them questions about the different icons, idols, etc... some of it was fascinating and saddening... Many just believe Buddism so that they will be rich, whatever you want -you pray to that specific Budda. The more I head about it and learned it seems it can be a manipulating belief. They only pray to get riches, wealth, happiness, etc... So then my co-workers asked us (foreign girls) what we believed, so we just talked about life etc... the down the mountain. Then we went with Laura (another teacher in my dept.) to her husband's restaurant outside the back gate at school. They serve the Yunnan noodle (which is the boiling pot of water or broth, with meat, egg, and vegi's added and it cooks in the bowl and then you add the noodle, mix it up and eat it.) I was sooo hungary I ate the noodles and a huge dish of fried rice... yum I started teaching a freshman class a few weeks ago, and it has been rather interesting... I have more guys than girls in the class which is a switch from my English courses. I only have 3 boy, and in my Business English class it is mostly boys... wow!!!! It has been a while since I have connected with freshman boys... emphasis on the boys! I feel like I am with junior highers which is rather interesting. One class period I caught 2 of my boys with a play station in class... dun dun dun!!! You ain't seen nothing yet! It is rather frustrating because their English vocab is very poor, but they know grammar. This can be confusing and difficult because they know how to format the sentences, but they don't know what words to put in the sentences... fun times. Mid-Autumn day was a few weeks ago, and everyone spends time with their family looking at the moon and eating mooncakes. It is a time of reflecting and thankfulness. Mooncakes are a small round pie dough consistancy with red bean, meat, or vegi filling... umm I just ate the dough and threw out the filling (but don't tell). I was invited to two parties, my Freshman class had a party (which they are proficient at) so Jeana and I go since we both teach this class, so there is Karoke, fruit, nuts, and mooncake. We are looking at everyone uncertain of what is happening since it is happening in Chinese and we don't have anyone to tell us what's happening. Anyway we end up playing muscial chairs, and all the losers have to sing, dance, or do something... lol Well I won the game, but Jeana was at a loss as what to do, so we just sang a disney song... only we couldn't remember half of the words, but the students loved it anyway. :) Then we were trying to sneak out since we were invited to another party... anyway didn't happen and we had to give speeches before we left. Wow!!!! I think I will have mastered the art of impromtu speaking before I leave. :) lol Then we went to the other party, where they wanted to give us more food.... and then our hostess explained Mid-Autumn day to us, etc... This week is National week, so we get a week off of school to "remember" when China became a Socialist Republic (don't really get that.. but that's how they describe it) anyway all of the foreign workers in Kunming were invited to a huge dinner which we found out we were required to go the day before. It took almost an hour to get there we sit in the lobby (the point of the dinner was the mix and mingle with other foreigners.... yeah, so there wasn't a whole lot of that happening...) then it is time to go eat dinner in this huge banquet room with the most amazing sparkling crystal chandeliers, we hear a few speeches and then dinner is served... ok another humiliating Sarah moment- (chopsticks have a different feel depending on how much of a plastic coating or just a raw wood). I do better with the raw wood as opposed to the plastic kind... yeah so being my normal clumsy self with extremely plastic coated chopsticks... I am dropping most of the food, but the Chinese who were from our dept. were struggling too... anyway the head waiter comes up to me and asks me if I would care for a fork or a knife. I was like WAAAAHHH I'm really not that bad at using chopsticks. Later in the meal we were given a toast from the head people who are related to the foreign business/experts... our whole table then gracefully slip out. On Monday I went with 2 of my students, Angelina and Astor to a lake a couple hours from Kunming. It is the second largest lake in China (I just never remember the name!) We left early and get there around lunch time. There were small fish all fried with spices... I couldn't eat it... ewww fish head, brain, black beady eyebals looking at me, etc... so I finally ate the fish except the head. Then we go out to the lake and are in a raft just floating along...then I just sat in the shade while Angelina and Astor went on another boat. It was so great just to sit and almost sleep in the shade. After dinner we walked along the coast and had some really good conversation about life and various things. The next morning we climbed all over the mountains took pictures and just took in the beautiful scenery. It was a wonderful relaxing time! :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Update 4

Hello friends,
The past several weeks have just flown by so quickly. It seems that I have been here for so long, that I have always been here.

This past Sunday I got to see 2 sisters get a "quick bath" in the dunk tank.Mt 28.19-20 It really was an incredible experience for me- it was absolutely amazing to see how precious everything was to them.

After English Corner on Thurs (which is a time that the English Major students can talk with the teacher's in an informal atmosphere) I got to talk with 2 of my students for about 5 hours. It was an incredibly time of connecting, honesty, sharing, and openness. The students names are Angelina and Astor, then I got to go with them today to Green Lake which is so beautiful and has many ethnic shops nearby. We had lunch and then looked around some more. We then went to the walking district which has many shops, some ethnic, some modern, some western. I got to talk again to my students- with them bringing up interesting topics. They also gave me some good ideas for getting students to communicate more in the classroom which has been a slight frustration, but it is partially due to culture and the language. The culture is that the student listens and doesn't speak at all, and with it not being their first language it is easy for them to think in Chinese and silently listen in English class.

It was so sad in one section of the market there were all sorts of animals for sale, black beatles,snakes, turtles, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, etc... all crammed into little cages...I felt rather sorry for them. I didn't have too much pity on the snakes, beatles, and the scorpions though--- ick!! It just makes my skin crawl!!!

On Wed I went down town with 2 of my roommates to buy somethings that we can't get at the village outside of school. We bought 2 jars of Peanut Butter to solve the creamy/crunchy solution. We also bought a jar of Strawberry Jelly, just as we reach the school bus (teachers can ride from the Yunnan Business school to the regular Yunnan school for free--vice verca) to go back home we hear a crack... we panicked thinking it was a gift we had just purchased... We all look back and our beautiful jar of jelly is lying in the road with the bottom and the top of the glass broken... unable to salvage it and in a hurry to reach the bus, we left it... by the time the bus left it was a goey mess---- we like to look at it as a gift to the homeless animals. We later discovered that the bag had split from the weight, and out rolled the jelly. :/
I have enjoyed getting to know students outside of class. I feel some times that I am too busy now to teach with my busy schedule! Monday was Teacher's day, and also our dept.'s turn to sponsor flag raising at the school. So 7:30 in the morning with our eye's partially closed the students presented the teachers with cakes, fruit baskets, donuts, flowers, and lavender sachet's. It was really sweet of them! Then our dept. had lunch together and then for dinner the school hosted a dinner for all the the teacher's. Every dept. was giving happy Teacher day speeches etc... our dean and vice dean were not present to make a speech so we were all laughing and talking about who should give a speech for our dept. Everyone was saying no, not me... then just kidding I was like ha ha I'll do it... and everyone one was like yeah, good idea... so um since sarcasm isn't so well known here--- I think I have learned when to joke around now... so I gave a speech in front of all th other teacher's... and then the president of the school came to our table and was like your speech was too short.... AcK!!! I just want to be an invisible teacher... :) I have a lesson plan to do now! I hope you all have a wonderful week. :)

Sarah Evans

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Chinese Wedding

This past weekend one of my co-workers and I were invited by a student to attend her cousin's wedding. Here are the grand events throughout this day.

First we were picked up by the student's parents who didn't know English, but she wrote us a note explaining the day to us. We then arrive at the wedding shop a little after 10 am which is where the couple takes pictures before the wedding, and the bride gets her wedding dress, hair and make-up done on the wedding day. All of her family and friends that are female are sitting and watching her get ready. She is then finished and we go to her parent's apartment where we leave to go eat lunch at this incredibly fancy restaurant. The food was good, and we were able to talk a little with the bride's brother who knew a little English.
Then the bride leaves by 12 to go get ready for the groom. She hides her shoes which he must later find.

Then we go back to the apartment and we had to eat this good luck dish that was the consistancy of steamed play dough with a red bean flavoring in the middle. It was in kinda a vinegar caramel sauce. I choked on the first one because I ate it in bites and not whole, the next one I stomached ok, and the third one I was like forget it, this is entirely disgusting. There were four dough balls, but I couldn't eat the last one without gagging... so much for good luck :)

The groom then comes to the bride's home with the bride's boquet and calls out to the bride's family on the balcony may I come up? and they call down what do you have for us? or something to that affect and he gives money gifts in a basket that has been let down by a string, the money envelopes are dispersed and he asks to come up again and they say no, and he comes and bangs on the door, he goes back down and gives more money, and then the people on the balcony say... how much do you love her, etc... do a dance to show your happiness, etc... so he does everything and they say so that he can come up. After wards he bangs on the front door with all of his relatives they finally let him in, but the bride is in a bedroom with the door locked, then he bangs on the bedroom door, where 3 questions are asked by the bride "Who will wash the dishes? Who will clean the house? Who will bear the children?" to which the groom replies I will... so then after a while and more words of love they let him in and he has to find her shoes which she has hidden... he gives them to her, then they have a ceremony of honor to the parents, and the parents give them money and then the couple bows and offers them a ceremonial tea. Then the groom carries (piggy backs) her down the stairs and the courtyard to the car caravan, which all the cars in the procession are decorated with bows and flowers and we drive in the city to let people know of their wedding. We then stop at the new apartment and have the same ceremony for the groom's parents.
Then we stopped at a park and took a lot of pictures. Jeana and I were in them as well--- the more people in the pictures the better the luck. After driving around all of Kunming and stopping at 2 parks to get pictures we then arrive at the hotel where we are told that dinner will be (4 pm) at 6 we tell our student that we need to leave, but she acts offended and asks us to please stay for dinner which should start soon, which we find out later starts at 7pm. So then we are at this incredibly fancy hotel waiting for dinner for 3 hours just sitting talking and laughing trying to stay awake while the family and wedding party scatter til the ceremony. Finally at 7 the dinner and wedding ceremony start. The bride and groom come forward and then a ceremony is said, honoring of parents, etc... They then take a bottle of wine and with a pyramid of wine glasses begin to pour wine in the top glass and the wine spills into the other glasses beneath it- this is symbolizing their eternal love. Then a few more words are said and the ceremony is finished. All the time the guests are eating (which despite the fanciness of the hotel, the dishes served were the worst I have had here.) We finally convince our student that we must leave by 8. Hooray we are driving back to the apartment- home never looked so good.

It was really cool to see all the traditions and how they have been passed down for so long here, and the reasoning behind all of it.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

1st Update

Wow I have only been in China for several days and I feel that there is so much to share.

I was told by the airline that I needed my invitation letter, with only 45 min left until my flight left due to some baggage rearrangement etc...that didn't leave enough time to go home and back... After landing in Newark I spent the majority of my 5 hour layover looking for a place to have my documents shipped before I left for Hong Kong.... finally after talking on the phone for several hours with various people. I was able to have them faxed to the hotel at the airport and had to go through security with a whopping 30 min left until my plane left. Fun times! :/

I met up with Jeana one of the other girls who is teaching in Newark which definately helped the 15 hour flight to go faster, but with 6 bad movie choices, no leg room, etc... there is no way to make the time go faster...

We arrived in Hong Kong around 7pm and our next flight didn't leave until 8 am the next morning... because the Hong Kong airport is on an island it is at least 30 min. to the mainland. We decided to just stay because we didn't want to shell out the money for a room, take the luggage with us etc... We definately had some fun times and couldn't wait until the tock ticked close enough to check our baggage in again. (Since we entered China and were switching airlines we had to take our luggage with us) Because of some different regulations with the Chinese airlines it took us about 30 min to check in etc...

Our plane landed around 10:30 am and we were soo happy to be on the ground for a while. ;) We were taken to our beautiful apartment which looks more like a townhouse. Marble and wood flooring, 4 bedroms, an office, nice kitchen, a washer, 2 1/2 bath-- so much nicer than anything we could have imagined.

Yesterday we did some shopping for various needs for the apartment, etc... being forewarned that most bathrooms in public places don't have toilet paper and if your lucky will have a door... but the other thing is that they are different toilets! So I had my first experience with a "squatty potty" since they installed western toilets in our apartment and in the English department at school... fun times most definately :)

the sights and smells are so graphic to the senses, at times I feel that I can't take it all in. village markets, the CRAZY traffic (where the lines and lights are merely suggestions!), beggar children, bartering system, and to top it off being a side show because of my skin, (one of our delivery men said that he had never seen a caucasion up close) :)

i have to go now, but I will be sending more updates and pictures soon.