Charles (middle) and I (right) hanging out at a restaurant in China.
Today I’m going out to lunch with Chew and Charles. I get lost on the way to the restaurant. Walking around in the rain for 15 minutes on the phone as they try to explain to me where, along this strip of tons of restaurants, this one is. I can hear the, “are you a complete idiot?” tones coming into their voices. It’s not like I can read the signs either. They finally spot me walking in circles in front of the restaurant beside theirs. They wrap me in a blanket and carry me inside. Not really, just in case you were wondering. However, I was carry a pair of sneakers, tied at the laces, over my shoulder because I am supposed to meet Carson after this to exercise. It’s raining so I’d rather deal with wet feet in flip flops than wet socks in sneakers, so I carry them for later.
Charles thinks me carrying sneakers over my shoulder is cool, “Wow, so cool!”
Chew is just not impressed by me anymore, “Why are you doing that?”
Ok, time to eat. I begin to ask Charles what he believes about God as we munch away at fried pork, sweet and sour beef, and donkey dumplings.
“Everyone has their own God. Everyone needs to find their own God. But, there is only one God, the God in the Bible.”
If you’re as confused as I am, raise your hand. No one looking around. Hands all over the room. But if you’re not confused yet, just wait as I play devil’s advocate, “So how did you find your God?”
“I can’t tell you! It’s a secret!”
Ok, people, both hands up! As a matter of fact, go ahead and look around. Not a downward hand in the room. Everyone is confused now. Turns out he says that his mother is a Christian and gave him a Bible. He just never reads it and has come up with this strange view of God or gods or I don’t even know.
August 5 (cont.)
We have a couple of church plants going. One of them meets on Saturday so I invite Charles to church, “Hey, do you have free time on Saturday?”
“Yeah! Besides studying, I am always free!”
“Ok! Because we have a church on Saturday, and you should come!”
“…Ok…if I am free, I can come.”
I don’t know if he forgot that he just told me that he is free. I kindly remind him. Turns out he’s scared to come to church. He doesn’t want to find out whether this god that he has created in his mind is right or wrong. He realizes how ridiculous that is, but he’s still hesitant. Chew and Charles take me to see their dorms and we hang out for a bit. I realize it’s time for me to go so I head out of there.
About 15 minutes later, I get a text from Charles, “You know the shoes you bring you left in my dorm. Maybe it’s a good persuasion for me to see you on Sunday.”
I’m a genius. “Accidentally” leave a personal belonging with someone you are trying to get to come to church and then get them to return it to you. At church. Boom. Just kidding, I wish I came up with that on my own and wasn’t just forgetful leaving my stuff everywhere. Hopefully he’ll actually come to church Sunday then.
Before going to bed, I like to text and check up on my friends here.
Charles texts back, “I have decided that I am going to the church tomorrow and return your shoes.”
“Haha thank you! So you will only come to return the shoes? Or stay?” Just want to make sure, you know?
“Stay and listen and learn.”
Yes and score and boom.
Yesterday was Saturday and on Saturdays we have both an English service and a Chinese service. As the English service was about to begin, I was so happy to see none other than Charles show up at church! Phew, I have been missing my sneakers! Oh, and I guess it’s good that he’s at church, too. Just kidding. Other way around. I promise.
But, something inside of me cannot accept the fact that Charles does not stay for the Chinese service. I mean, his English is ok, but I just knew he didn’t get much out of it and needed to hear the message. When he left last night, he didn’t seem like he would be back.
It’s Sunday now and it’s time to kick it into high gear. Here we go. So I know I’ve got to get around Charles. And I know that today there is a visiting group of Chinese Christian college students from the south of China coming in. There are plans to go to lunch with the group from the south and then they are also coming to the church service today.
I send Charles a message in the morning inviting him to join us for lunch. He agrees. Step 1- Get Around Charles: check. However, the question still remains, how will I get him from lunch to church? There’s a big time gap between lunch and church during which, he may go back to his dorm and stay there. And his dorm isn’t extremely close to this church location.
August 8 (cont.)
God steps in on the mission and the plans change from a lunch to an early dinner at 4pm. And it’s at the Pizza Hut right by the church. Let’s take a second to address the elephant in the room. I know what you’re thinking, “Pizza Hut? In China?!” I know, right? And they serve calamari! China: 1, USA: 0.
Anyways, back to the mission. Dinner at 4pm. Church at 6pm. Eliminate time gap: check. Church is a two minute walk from Pizza Hut. Eliminate distance to destination: check.
At dinner he seems to enjoy himself with the Christian students from the south. Over stuffed crust pizza, calamari, and a mango smoothie that comes in a fancy glass (China: 2, USA: 0), I ask him if he will come to church after dinner. He thinks about it for a second, “Ok.” Yes! China: 2, USA: 1.
After church, he and I sit around talking. I ask him what he thought about the church service.
“I think I am like the man Jake talks about. I created my own god, and it is less than me. So I think that when I have some storms in my life, my house will fall.”
“So what do you believe about our God?”
“..Maybe it is too soon to know very much about your God.” So he’s not ready yet, but he says he wants to come back, which is a huge improvement from last night. And I didn’t even have to accidentally leave my sneakers in his dorm this time either.
Charles sends me a message. He wants to meet up. I ask him if he wants to go out to lunch before his class and he agrees. Score. I love mixing ministry and meals. Especially Chinese food. I love me some Chinese food. And I love me some serving Jesus so it’s a match made in heaven! Anyways, at this point, it has been a while since Charles and I have spent time alone talking about God and the Bible. He has been coming to church pretty faithfully but we just hadn’t spoken too much outside of church so I was glad that he initiated this. He tells me that he has something important that he wants to tell me. I am very curious. Are we going to eat dumplings or noodles? Oh! I mean I’m curious about what it is that he wants to tell me! Right.
I meet him outside the restaurant. He’s swinging his arms back and forth as he takes a deep breath through a smile and shakes my hand with two of his.
“So man, what did you want to tell me?”
“Uh, maybe we talk about it later!”
I can’t tell if his smile is nervous or excited but I agree and we seat ourselves at a table. I begin to strike up a conversation with him, but he isn’t very talkative today. His mind seems somewhere else. We finish our lunch and head outside.
“So,” I smile as to acknowledge the long awaited important something that called this delicious meeting.
“So…” His arms swing back and forth. Stretches his arms down. Cracks his fingers. Cracks his neck. Looks down at the side walk. “I’m a Christian now.” Eyes up to me.
That combination of words from that mouth should have exploded my heart, but instead, something inside me was skeptical for some reason. The last time we spoke at church, he barely believed anything true about God, so I was a little hesitant to believe he had trusted Jesus for his salvation. I watched as his eyes scanned my face for a reaction, so I smiled.
“Oh wow, really?”
I wanted to believe the glass was half full so I asked for some clarification, “Ok, great! So what does it mean to be a Christian?”
He still believed that everyone has their own God but now he explained that He believed that Jesus was real, too.
“So if you died today, would you go to heaven?”
“Mmm, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can know this.” Nod. Smile.
Sigh. Smile. “I’m sorry man, but you’re not a Christian.”
His face dropped. I explained that a Christian believes that Jesus is God, the one and only God. I explained that a Christian has put their faith in Him and is going to heaven because of that. He looked away. He looked embarrassed. He had to get to class. I asked if he wanted to meet up the next day and talk more about it. Looking away, he agreed. We parted ways.
Unfortunately this is where Charles’ story trails off. He came to church for, pretty much, the rest of the time I was there in the country. However, during my time there, he never did make a profession of faith. Please pray for his salvation. Maybe God will let us run into each other again when we get to the field and he will get saved!