It was now Sunday morning and I knew where I wanted to be. Meeting with the saints that meet as a family in a small rented room in Guangzhou. The meeting place was very near my hotel and this was the third year in a row that I have met with the same group.
The church here knows me and have welcomed me very warmly. As always, I waited for Zhang Zhifu, or Jeff, to meet me in the hotel lobby and walk me over to the meeting place about three blocks away.
Jeff was actually a classmate of mine when I went back to pursue my MBA. His wife, Li Dan Hong, or as we know her, Dani, was one of my favorite (and best) students from my principles of communication class a few years back. Dani was born in China but moved away when she was about 12 years old. Her parents moved to Belize City, Belize, a place where I have traveled to ten times since 2005. Outside of the United States, I have done major mission work in two foreign countries, Belize and China, and Dani was from both!
Jeff and Dani met at Harding University where they were both became Christians. They were each baptized before they met each other. Soon after Jeff’s baptism they met and started dating. Jeff was a lawyer in Guangzhou but had come to Harding to get his MBA. He finished his MBA a year or so before Dani finished her under graduate degree in nursing. Jeff came back to his home town and started practicing law while Dani finished her degree. I had met Jeff two years earlier in Guangzhou when I came to town and he came to get me for worship. That day we Face-Timed with Dani back in the states. The next year I met with both of them here. They had married and were now settling in to their new normal in China.
Jeff and Dani were very active leaders in the church and were very anxious to share their faith with whomever they could. Knowing that, the year before I had enlisted their help in traveling with me to Foshan so that we could meet a man that had asked me to tell him more about God. I did what I could but my Chinese just wasn’t sufficient to help him. I introduced Jeff and Dani to him and they took over the study.
One of the many things about this loving group of people that I so admire is that they all try to go to lunch/dinner each week after the Sunday meeting. This week was no different. There was smaller group than normal but some of the same people I have met with each of my three years attending this family meeting.
Some of the family that I met with was Noah, Jonathon & Sarah (a married couple), Adam, and of course Jeff. These were all of their English names. I’m usually pretty good at remembering the Chinese names, but today was a bit of overload and I felt good about remembering their English names. Unfortunately, Dani was not able to meet with the group on this day. She had recently taken a job as a private tutor, teaching English to children. That skill set is in high demand in China. Most families that are educated and somewhat well-to-do all want their children to learn English and they are willing to pay pretty good money for that service. Unfortunately, because of work and school schedules, this is often done on the weekends. Dani was working today so she was not with us. I really missed seeing her.
Other than Jeff, Jonathon and Sarah had the best English, and they remembered me from last year, so I spent more time talking with them then I did the others. The previous year I had fun with their two teenaged children, bantering with them at lunch. They were not with us either… I told their parents to make sure they knew I missed them and to give them my warm welcome.
It’s a really sweet group of family members and I am so glad that Jeff and Dani was able to connect with them after they returned to China as new believers. I plan to meet and worship with them every time I am in Guangzhou.
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Steve Shaner, also known as Xie Yeye, is a professional story teller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.