Being able to participate in church services was a must as Brad and I considered our options for this year. When we voiced that concern last spring to Mei and Mr. Embree they assured us Sundays off. We were thankful and excited about getting back into worshiping with other believers, especially English ones. (It's tough for me to stay focused when I sit through a whole service in a different language.)Then we got here and realized we WERE the English speaking believers in Daye. Our little school was actually still hoping that we would be able to teach on Sundays since that is one of their busy days. Should we have made Sundays off such a big deal?
At 7:45 (125 people?) the piano player started accompanying the congregation on their sole hymn, taking the music leader by surprise. He flipped around to see what was going on behind him. I guess he didn’t feel his people were ready. A few
Around this same time we met the evening’s preacher. Since he’s an English teacher at a nearby high school, he came to chat with us for a second. He’s been part of this church for 20 years (this specific building has been here for 13) and is a volunteer preacher on a monthly basis. He said he used to teach Chinese, but about 20 years ago he started to teach himself English, and has been teaching English to high schoolers ever since. His English was actually pretty good – impressive! He then excused himself and went up the stage to prepare for his 8:00 start.
I seized the opportunity of a minute sans Chinese/English conversation to snap a picture. The music leader started talking to the congregation. Apparently he was alerting everyone to our presence. As I lowered the camera after not finding a suitable scene, I noticed Brad waving. I wondered to whom he was waving and looked up to see everyone turned and staring at us. Nice. The congregation turned back around. A boy about 4 on his grandpa’s lap, in a row close to us, started blowing kisses to Brad. Brad blew kisses back. The boy returned the kisses again and then giggled. His grandpa laughed, squeezed him in a hug, and curled him up on his lap.
The minister started his sermon. The music leader came to the pew to the left and in front of us, smiled at me, and sat down. The minister acknowledged his two non-Chinese speakers by calling out in English the text of the sermon. We quickly flipped to Matthew 15. The orange giver - gatekeeper had been sitting all along one row behind us to our left. She leaned forward and peeked at my Bible. “Yingyu, English,” I replied. She repeated my words and smiled and then pointed in her Bible to the number 11. The music leader, sensing that something was going on behind him (that most likely needed his attention) turned to be involved in our conversation. I pointed to chapter 15 and said “she-woo (15).” The leader nodded and smiled. The woman waved her hand and went back to pointing at her Bible. She then leaned forward and turned my Bible pages back for me to find chapter 11. She pointed to chapter 11 and smiled. The music leader grimaced at her, waved his hand in front of her face, and helped my pages find their way back to chapter 15. She sat back and turned ahead a few pages in her Bible. Having figured everything out, we all leaned back in our separate seats and finally started to listen.
Jenny had situated herself directly in front of us. Every now and again she turned around and translated as best she could. “Faith is built on God’s Word which is good and right…’Lord help me’ is a beautiful prayer from your heart…Pray from the heart and spirit. Worship from the heart and spirit… Love, hope, believe.”
Love, hope, believe.
Here’s looking to many more Sabbaths off from work.pictured above: bearer of the keys is the sole gentleman, next to him is the gatekeeper, me, jenny is in the front in the short-sleeved sweater over the black and white shirt, jenny's daughter (English name = Sophia) is next to her.