Author's Note: If you followed Amber's and my China blog or talked to us about the trip for more than five seconds, you've probably already heard this story. It's our favorite to tell. In the spirit of Christmas, I'd like to tell it again. Even if you've already read/heard it, enjoy it again. Thanks! <>< Katie
There are exceptions to every rule. The exception to what we could and could not teach in China was more of a loophole. We were not to teach religion that was very clear. We were to teach the English language and American culture. In that was our loophole: Christmas, an American holiday.
One day we taught the secular version in the form of a Christmas party where Santa delivered Christmas presents, we ate candy canes, and we sang Christmas carols. Never have I worn sandals and kapris to a Christmas party before. Neither have I ever helped host a Christmas party in August. Welcome to China.
The following morning, Curt and Vernon were to teach the real Christmas story using a reader’s theater script.
First period had been dismissed when Vernon ran into our classroom, script in hand.
“We didn’t finish,” he said breathlessly. I was not sure if he had run from the hotel or from the classroom next door. “Will you finish it for us?”
Jori and I graciously accepted. The lesson plan we had stayed up all night revising had flopped first hour anyway. Jori revised our lesson again while I skim-read the script.
The sixteen-person class of college students and English teachers took their seats in the horse-shoe we had set up. I prayed silently and began asking them questions about where they’d left off. Jesus had been born and the magi were asking Herod where they could find this new king.
I summarized the remainder of the story being relatively brief since we had another lesson to teach but not so brief so as they could have missed the point. Then Jori and I welcomed questions. This was one of our more talkative classes but we were not in the least prepared for the forty-five minutes of questioning that followed. We ended up scrapping our entire planned lesson to answer their difficult questions.
What happened next?
Why did God choose Mary?
Was Jesus a king?
Joseph was king, right?
Where Mary and Joseph his real parents?
Jesus was killed, right?
So Jesus is a god? What do you mean there are three gods?
How do you believe something you don’t understand?
Does God still speak through dreams like He did to the magi?
Did Jesus talk to special people?
Was Jesus rich?
How do you (as Christians) make decisions?
What is faith?
We were flabbergasted. So many questions don’t have pat answers. While I spoke, Jori prayed. While Jori spoke, I prayed. We both quoted scripture and read directly from the New Testament. So many questions were directly answered by the Holy Spirit speaking through us.
As soon as the class left, Jori and I joined hands and prayed until tears filled our eyes. It was an incredibly humbling experience we were excited to share with our mission team at lunch.
But God wasn’t done.
Two periods later the same students were in a class co-taught by Amber and Juanita who had no knowledge of what happened earlier. They were teaching the five love languages and discussing the love language of giving and receiving gifts. Juanita held an empty gift back and asked the students what they most hoped would be in the bag. Money, food, books, and jewelry were the most common answers. One girl said she wished a Bible would be in the bag. Amber was immediately on the edge of her chair, anxious for the end of class.
Everyone on the mission team had been given a New Testament in Chinese and English to give away. Immediately, Amber knew hers was for this student, Monica. As soon as class was over, Amber approached Monica to ask if she was serious. Monica confirmed she was serious about wanting a Bible, so Amber handed her the New Testament. As per Chinese customs, Monica refused to accept the gift. However, Amber insisted, and Monica got misty-eyed when she accepted it with a huge smile. She was so grateful and so excited! Amber also connected Monica to a woman who attends the local church.
Once morning classes were over, we sought refuge in a classroom to wait out the rain. To Juanita, rain means that God is near. Before heading back to our hotel for lunch we were able to piece together the puzzle and allow God to reveal Himself to us. It had been a rough morning of team disunity yet still the Lord used it ways beyond what we ever imagined!
We were all grateful for loopholes and exceptions. We could not teach religion but we were permitted to answer all questions honestly. We were not permitted to distribute religious materials, but we were able to gift Bibles if the student directly asked for it. Above all, we were grateful for God’s prompting through the necessary loopholes and exceptions to be able to openly speak about Him even in communist China.