Sunday, October 19, 2014

Joining the Body in Shanghai

Sunday morning. Our day starts early, as we prepare to get out the door by 7:30 AM. Some days, it works. We've packed the night before, everything goes smoothly, and we have time to spare. Other days - dare I say most days - it's a little more, well, rushed. Breakfast dishes stay on the table, we're printing chord sheets and stuffing food for Hadassah's lunch in the bag as we scramble into our shoes while Hadassah bangs on the door...

But it's worth it. This is what it takes for us to join Christ's body in Shanghai to worship together.

After the first few months of disappointing Sundays, not feeling at home where we were going, we were connected with an international, English-speaking church very similar to what we left in the states. Christ focused, cross centered, Bible believing, reformed, Baptistic, family friendly, Sovereign Grace and Getty singing... there are many great adjectives to describe our church, but that isn't what you think of when you gather with them. You see a group of people that love Jesus and love each other - and it shows.

From day one we felt at home, despite having just spent 1 hour and 40 minutes riding the subway. Last month we made it official, becoming members. One more step that made it clear that this city is home now...

We meet in a Sheraton hotel. Definitely the most posh place I've ever met in for church! This church started in a living room, but as it's grown to about 50 members with 30 children plus more visitors, they needed a larger place. ;) The children are another reason we felt right at home, especially coming from our previous church in Iowa, because there are a LOT of children, including at least 10 ages 2 or under!

Ryan intentionally seeks out people to talk to and works to learn their names. I get the "spark notes" from him later, as I'm usually busy walking Hadassah around (through Ryan is great to take turns!), because we've learned her coping mechanism for being over-tired (since her nap on Sunday morning is either quite short or non-existent) is to walk. So we walk the halls often, talking to people as we can. If I can get in a conversation, I'm often turning in circles are Hadassah runs around me holding onto one of my hands. ;) It can be exhausting, but often I'm grateful for the distraction and yet conversation starter my little one is, as I find it harder to get to know everyone new yet again. I'm working on it, though, and have been very blessed by a few ladies who take time to seek me out to talk to me and ask how I'm doing.

As we prepared to move over here, I prayed specifically that God would give us a church body in which Ryan could continue to use his gift of music. He often led worship in Iowa, and played guitar nearly every week. He was willing to let that go, but I knew how much he enjoyed that outlet. It didn't seem possible (most churches have their music people already) but God provided! The guy leading worship at our church is excited to have someone else to come alongside, play with, and have lead when he's traveling.

It means we take a taxi now, which takes us under half the time (just 45 minutes!). We'd already been taking a taxi back home, to get Hadassah a nap a little sooner, but the cost of it - the equivalent of $20 one way, verses just $1 for the metro - made it seem like too much of a luxury to do both ways. But with Ryan needing to get there early to practice, and the way it makes the long day easier on us all, plus the fact that this is our only weekly transportation expense... we gave in and enjoy our taxi rides. Hailing taxis, though, gives us interesting stories on their own! ;)

Almost everyone else lives very close to the church, meaning getting together during the week is pretty much impossible. We love to host friends in our home, so this has been one negative aspect. But, it frees us to use most of our "company time" to be with our neighbors and co-workers, and the warmth of people on Sundays has almost made up for it. We nearly always go out to eat with a group after church, after staying 30-45 minutes after the service to fellowship. Today our pastor's family had us over for lunch, providing a relaxing home and a pack 'n play for Hadassah to nap in. Last month the worship leader and his family had us over on Saturday for supper and to stay the night. Others have offered lunches and overnight accommodations. One lady even traveled the long distance by metro to our home - at 34 weeks pregnant none-the-less! - to bring us supper! So this seems to be a season more to receive than to give in terms of hospitality, though I try to bring something I've baked to give out when I can. :)

We're always tired by the time we get home in the mid afternoon. Take today for example : by 7 PM, both Hadassah and Ryan were asleep; she, because she skipper her morning nap, and only got 1 1/2 hours at best at someone else's house in the afternoon and he because he's had a long work week, catching up on missed hours while his parents were here. I'm up for a special skype session with the folks camping back home, but bed is definitely where I'd be otherwise! But, again, fellowship with the body of Christ is worth it. We are so grateful to have found that fellowship here, and to be still remembered and loved by the bodies we've been apart of in America.

Thank you, Lord. 


  1. This is Helen-
    You are blessed to have such a great church!

  2. So glad you found a place "to belong." It's such a blessing to find a church to call your "family" while you are there. :-)