We entered China on a tourist visa, which meant that we had to leave China (and then reenter every 60 days. Since I was a tourist, I took a bunch of photos of the train and the passing countryside. We passed through small cities with a mix of modern buildings and very old buildings. The country was very pastoral, with human labor rather than machinery. Roads were both modern concrete highways and old dirt unpaved roads. The land was beautiful. The people were friendly.
“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 19:34
Question: How will the people treat us?
My Response: No matter how we are treated, I resolved to exhibit the character of Jesus in all situations which I encounter.
Insight: Will we be treated by the locals, as we should treat others?
Reflection: So far, we have been treated well by the people we have met – even with our communication limitations. For the most part, people have been helpful and patient. Reading the news about how we are treating the Syrian refugees in the United States, it is shameful how we are ignoring the Biblical instructions on how to behave. But I am heartened by the news that some churches are reaching out and helping the refugees. I cannot control how others behave but I can control how I should behave.
— R59-04-M-01-b (Tourists) written by Ray on Jan 16, 2016.
After the weekend, we entered orientation week. We were given a range of orientation lessons. This topic stood out to me. We learned about culture shock. We learned that there are five stages:, initial country-culture shock, initial adjustment, further culture shock, and further adjustment. Culture shock happens when people move into a new environment/situation. One person said he wanted to stay in stage one (initial enthusiasm / honeymoon phase). We all laughed it off. But the more I thought about it, I asked why not. I came to the conclusion that I can stage one if I place total trust and faith and obedience in God. That I know that He is in control, that His plans are for my good. That I needed to get comfortable about not knowing everything, that I did not need to know all the details. That I needed to be wise and discerning and not put God to the test.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Question: Where is the culture shock that everyone is warning us against?
My Response: So far we are still in stage one … or we have moved into stage five very fast. We are still enthusiastic. Everything is still exciting. We look forward to seeing what God has in store for us next.
Insight: In many ways the train trip was a practice run on avoiding culture shock. I noticed that God has given us many practice tests to prepare us for the potentially larger difficulties that we would face.
Reflection: These tests are not just to find out what I can or cannot do. These tests are God’s way of showing me that I can accomplish the small things and thus give me the confidence to face the big stuff. It was just like when I was rock climbing years ago. I practiced, fail and then succeeded in making the difficult moves a few feet off the ground by bouldering or by top-roping … so that I have the confidence and skills to climb thousands to feet in the backcountry on a mountain I had not climbed before. Similarly I believe the same principle is being applied here. I look forwards to God’s testing. It is a matter of attitude. If I fear it, I will never learn and I will not be able to be all that God wants me to be.
—R59-04-M-02-a (Culture Shock?) written by Ray on Jan 16, 2016.
The artist and visual designer Yang Liu has some very informative illustrations depicting cultural differences between western and eastern society. The culture is just different – not better or worse. Understanding the differences helps to understand other people …. To respect them as individuals, each created by God in His image and so valued that Jesus came to offer salvation to each of us. Search “Yang Lui” or “east meets west”. Click here to read an article about the infograph.
Of course, these can be misused as stereotypes. I try to avoid that by practicing Philippians 2:3.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in others above yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3
Question: What can they teach me?
Reflection: We can learn a lot from others: who I am?; what is my true character?; what is my true attitude?; what is my true feelings?; what to do? what not to do? I just have to keep an open mind to God/Jesus/HolySpirit.
— R59-04-M-02-b (Pictograms) written by Ray on Jan 16, 2016