Monthly Archives: January 2016

Chinese Students

It has been a fun, humbling, rocky, wonderful first semester of teaching.  My students taught me so much and laughter helped pave a lot of the bumps in the road.  Here are but a few stories.

From the first day, one student in particular would always stay after class to talk and his quotes and commentary on life were simply hilarious.  Students themselves were my best teaching tool, so at my request he would sometimes offer me suggestions and then proceed to tell me, “But Teacher Anna, you’re the man!” This same delightfully quirky student would always bow to me before leaving.  Traditional ancient China still lives on.

Kathryn had to tell Edison to scoot closer to me. He left a good foot between us haha.

Sometimes language can cause funny situations.  I had one student who came to me to tell me that another student would not be in class for several weeks because “she broke her ass.”  Um, what?  And what do you say to said student when she returns?  Asking them about their rear end just doesn’t seem appropriate.

Texting students is also a normal, great, and efficient means of communication.  Until in your haste you accidentally send a winky face instead of a smiley face to one of your young male students.  It’s amazing how one little emoticon can change the whole meaning of “Nice to meet you too!”

One time I gave students an assignment to finish as homework and told them they were welcome to go ahead and leave whenever they were finished.  They sat and stared at me.  About five minutes later, I repeated the same thing.  They still sat and stared at me.  Finally when the bell rang I repeated my directions and asked if they understand and they vigorously nodded.  It made me want to sing Semisonic’s “closing time, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

Because I taught all freshman this semester, their general shyness and lack of confidence in English made it sometimes difficult to truly forge connections.  However, one of my student would frequently stay after my class ended at 6:10 (my stomach was always growling at that point) to talk for a little bit.  This same student had the curse of technology trouble when she was trying to do a presentation for class.  When she stayed after, she began crying and could not be comforted despite numerously assuring her that I was not at all upset, her grade would not be affected, and we would come up with a solution.  Trying to move past somewhat of a language barrier and see if there was something else provoking this onslaught of tears, I asked if she had been very busy the past week.  She then proceeded to tell me about a party she had gone to where the boys drank a lot and she drank some.  A teaching moment, but where do you go with that statement?  I thought she was going to tell me about test woes not weekend activities.

For Thanksgiving, I asked students what they knew about the holiday.  Chinese students have some difficulty pronouncing the ‘th’ sound and often make a ‘s’ sound instead, so when one student responded with ‘thanks’ I heard ‘sex.’ “Anna, get your mind out of the gutter!” some of you might be thinking but my mind started to instantly race with how to delicately correct him…maybe he’s confused this with Valentine’s Day….fortunately he repeated himself twice and I heard “thanks” the second time around.

Also, I would highly recommend investing 20 seconds of class time to show your students the “Scary Car Commericial” YouTube video.  If nothing else, it will liven them up for bit.


Another time I got a Chinese student to text my class group in Chinese on my phone pretending to be me.  Maybe not the most professional move but certainly a fun one.

Teaching Chinese students has been a wonderful mix of teaching adults (well kinda) who have childish delight simply because you are a foreigner and therefore new and exotic.  Don’t get me wrong, Chinese students still show up late for class, text in class, cheat in class, and fall asleep in class, foreign teacher or not.  Yet the awe factor that comes from having blue eyes and very pale skin makes it unique teaching experience.

Taking numerous pictures with your students is part of the job description.  



Light and Truth

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. 

Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.

Then I will come to the alter of God, to God, my greatest joy.  

I will praise You with the lyre, God, my God.

Psalm 43:3-4

Dear readers, let us pause and think about the power of these words!  How incredibly blessed we are as New Testament believers.  We can see the very fulfillment of this psalmist’s plea in the form of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When the psalmist ask God to send His “light” and “truth” we know as New Testament Christians that Jesus Himself has said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and He has also claimed “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

Thus from our post-cross experience, we can see the answer to the psalmist’s plea to God to send His light and truth found in Jesus Christ.

This leads us to a second important truth in this Psalm: Jesus Christ is the One who must lead us to our God.  Jesus has said that “no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  We cannot come to the Father on our own.  We cannot come to the Father with only our best friend.  We cannot come to the Father with only our spouse.  We cannot come to our Father with only our mother or father.  It is ONLY the light and truth found in Jesus Christ that will lead us to our God.

Next the psalmist tells where He ask of God to send His light and His truth to lead him.  He asks to be brought to God’s holy mountain, to His dwelling place.  “Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place” could read as “Let Jesus bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.”  And here we uncover a third truth.  Our plea for God to send Jesus to lead us is so that we may meet God ourselves.    We do not ask for Jesus to lead us into a Costco warehouse of spiritual and material goods that we can pick and choose what we deem best for ourselves.  We simply ask God for Jesus to lead us to God.

Another important nugget of truth found in these verses is that our God is our joy and our greatest reward.  Because of this truth, Jesus can lead us to God from prison walls from hospital beds from abusive homes and from these dark places we can find our greatest joy.  Coming to God, our greatest joy, is not dependent upon our circumstances.  Hallelujah for this!

From these verses we discover that when we come to the holy mountain, the dwelling place of God, we then proceed to go to the alter of God.  The psalmist and Old Testament readers would have been well aware of what an alter entails more so than the 21st Century Christian.  An alter is a place of sacrifice for the purpose of worship.  Sacrifice consist of pain and blood for the outcome of pure worship.  So not only does the psalmist plead to be led to God’s mountain, he also asserts that once he is in the holy dwelling place he will not come for any gains for himself but rather to sacrifice to his God.  The psalmist is willing to undergo death and pain because God is his greatest joy.

The result of sacrifice at the alter of God is praise to God.  How often we might think that if we sacrifice to God He will then reward us but how false that view is!  Our sacrifices are never meant to made for a future reward in mind but with the intent to purely praise our God once we have surrendered what we hold fast to.

What does this practically mean then for the modern day Christian?  How can these two verses be lived out in our everyday lives?  After all we cannot literally climb with Jesus the holy mountain and dwelling place of God nor can we literally go to the alter of God.

Day by day we need Jesus and we find Him through our prayers to our Father.  Doing God’s will and standing on the mountaintop does not mean that it is easy.  Jesus Christ must first bring us to a place of sacrifice.  This sacrifice can be in the form of a future career we had planned, a person we desired to marry, a child we wanted to bear.  We come to God to give all to God and sacrifice is not painless.  Yet from the pain of these high places we then can sing praises to God and our King and our joy.

So let us embrace the upward climb and pain of the Christian life for the joy set before us!


Running with Reckless Abandon

I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T, do you know what that means?

In one word, that’s me.  However this past year has revealed to me more than ever my own lack of self-sufficiency and need for others.

As I was reading The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken, I was struck by one part which described the author’s interviews of Muslim Background Believers in regards to a certain missionary.  He asked several different ones, “What makes a good missionary?”  None were able to answer the question yet all said the same name of a missionary they loved.  When pressed to explain why they loved him so much, they said “because he needs us.  The others don’t.”

I think of how during my internship in Guam I was reliant on others for assistance getting groceries, seeing beautiful sights that were further than my little bike could take me, and for any sort of social life.  How thankful I was to all of those who went of their way for me!

Here in China my apparent need has been even greater.  Sometimes I feel like a two-year-old trapped in the body of an adult.  Basic tasks like getting groceries, going to the bank, ordering food, and doing online shopping all require help.  Yet as one Chinese student said who has given so much time to all of the American teachers, “It feels good being needed.  Chinese people don’t need me but you do.”

Ultimately, these needs reflect my much greater need for Christ every day, every hour, every minute.  Could I have survived in Guam and now in China without those people that so graciously helped me?  Yes.  But, oh what sweet blessings I would miss and how much extra trouble I would bear.  Can I survive on small doses of Jesus?  Yes.  But like the old hymn says, “Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”  Why wander in the wilderness like the Israelites surviving on manna yet never completely satisfied when we have a sweet Savior, a man of sorrows, who has died so we might daily walk in a new life with Him?

As my need is ever before me, I am reminded of God’s words to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

As humans we were never created to be independent, self-reliant, self-sufficient creatures.  That is a result of the fall.  We were created to have needs, or rather a need for the One who made us.  A need for the rest and satisfaction that can only come from total reliance and humble dependence on our Savior and His finished work.   Our needs are designed to point us to Him, the only one who can fully sustain and satisfy.  They are meant to demonstrate that no good can come apart from God because as branches dependent upon upon His vine for nourishment we “can do nothing” without Him (John 15:5) and “power is perfected in weaknesses.”  Our great need is meant as a way to glorify our greater God as we humbly admit our weakness and seek Him.    As children of God, what a privilege it is to stand ransomed and redeemed before our Father, made righteous by Jesus’ blood giving all praise and glory to Him whose hands knit us together!

Along with my realization of my need for others and Jesus this year, I have also come to see that the amount of service for the Lord is dependent upon the amount of surrender to the Lord.  He can only use what is freely given back to Him, the giver of all good gifts.  Surrender is daily and it is unconditional.  Like cliff jumping or sky diving, the hardest part is the initial letting go.

I must confess that I strongly dislike trust falls- an activity where you stand on object, a group of people link arms behind you and you fall back with straight legs into their arms.  Nearly every time I fail to fall.  It’s not because I think that the people who are supposed to catch me aren’t there.  Even though I can’t see them, I fully believe that they are behind me.  It’s not because I don’t believe they have the strength to catch me.  I know they can.  Rather it is my natural instinct to trust no one but myself that prevents me every time from falling.

My relationship with my heavenly Father has been like my experience with trust falls.    As with trust falls, I don’t struggle with it because I doubt the Lord’s presence or His strength.  Rather it is my natural, Adam-like, sinful self that rebels against trusting Him completely.  Paul writes in Romans 7:18-19, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.  For the desire to do what is good is with me,  but there is no ability to do it.  For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.”

My desire to trust God fully in order to fully surrender and walk in obedience is there, yet it rages with my natural flesh.  Like Paul, I have cried out, “What a wretched [woman] I am!”  How I want to trust and surrender and yet at the last second my natural self jumps in preventing me from doing the very thing I desire.

I have so very much to learn but this year has taught me a lot.

I have prayed to learn how to walk humbly with the Lord and have been taught that learning to walk in the way of true humility does not come with a gentle touch but with a hot, searing knife.

In fear and trembling I have approached our King and asked Him to teach me to listen to Him and like Elijah, I have learned that the Lord comes in a “soft whisper,” not the the mighty wind or the earthquake or the fire that I so dreaded (1 Kings 19:11-12).

I have learned that if I am to be able to sing praises to my King from the darkest days in the midst of storms and affliction and grief and sorrow, my relationship with Him and delight in Him cannot be rooted in the gifts He gives me but in Himself, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

This has been a year of tears mixed with laughter.  A year of pain intermingled with joy raining down.

This year the  frantic, frenzy rush of my college days has been replaced by unusual stillness.  The silence and solitude that once seemed so lonely and barren has now become beautiful.  As with any intimate human relationship, I am growing to see how the most precious, intimate times with my Bridegroom happen behind closed doors where none but myself and Him can be present.

I am reminded that being a Christian is not about what we do but about who we are.  We are the Bride of Christ.  We are His love and His desire.  May our lives reflect the beauty of this relationship!

Here’s to 2016: a year to run with reckless abandon after my Savior and to spend in careful preparation for the testing that is sure to come.