4th of July in England

4 July 2012

Happy 4th of July!

We would soon be heading out to the Boathouse where our Oxford RAs are preparing for us a dinner to remember. Who would have thought that 236 years after our little revolution, the Brits would be hosting us in a little barbecue to celebrate our Independence Day? Just a little twist of irony.

But not the strangest thing that’s every happened here. I think that award goes to last year’s Oxford program students Trey Ramsey and Alycia Graves teaching the Chinese students how to do the electric slide, after they’d helped us celebrate the 4th of July — a holiday they’d never heard of before.

I love these multicultural interactions. 🙂

Will have photos later!


Lay It Down!

9 November 2011

Michelle & our 99-yr-old Grandmother

My cousin Michelle is a talented writer and world-traveler who has a heart of gold. I read “Lay It Down!” on her blog earlier in the week and asked her to guest-blog here today. 


“Can I have a volunteer? I need the strongest person in this room to come up to the front.”

People craned their necks to see who would answer my challenge in this East Asian Fresh Start seminar. Finally a grinning young man in his early twenties strode forward. He told me his name was Chen. Handing him asmall water bottle, I asked, “Is this heavy?” Chen shook his head. “It’s very light,” he insisted, hefting the water bottle in his hand. “So do you think you could hold this bottle for a long time?” I prodded. “Sure! No problem,” he grinned confidently.

“O.K. Please hold this water bottle in your right hand and stretch your arm straight out to the side.” Chen followed my instructions, as everyone in the group watched with interest. “Now stand there and hold that bottle until I say you can stop.”

Then I began to tell my story of getting burnt-out as an English teacher in Asia a few years ago. Little irritations kept building as I attempted to push them down, not acknowledging how they were affecting me. After a few minutes I paused my story to check on Chen. “Are you still doing OK?” “Yes,” he assured me, but it was a bit more strained. “So you can keep going?” He forced a smile. “Of course!”

I continued my story, but stopped again after a couple of minutes, alerted by the audience that Chen’s arm was starting to lower. “Keep that arm straight!” I reminded him. He reluctantly complied.

A few minutes later I paused my story once more. I could tell by the expression on Chen’s face that it was getting more and more difficult to keep his arm up. “Is the water bottle getting any heavier?” “YES!” he replied quickly. “Do you want to continue holding it?” I asked. Chen shook his head. “Would you like to put it down now?” “Yes!” he said gratefully.

Relieved, Chen put the water bottle down and rubbed his aching arm and shoulder, to the cheers and applause of the audience. “So what do you think is the lesson of this exercise?” I asked him. “Something that doesn’t seem heavy at first can become heavier and heavier the longer we hold on to it!” Chen said with conviction.

Are you holding on to small hurts, little irritations or minor disappointments? Mild frustrations can lead to depression, burnout, or explosive rage if not dealt with! Don’t keep holding on to those things that steal your joy and your peace. Lay them down! Give them to Jesus! He wants to give you peace and rest in exchange. Begin to pour out your heart to Him today.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT) 

A Multicultural 4th of July

4 July 2011

WELL, the highlight of the day was probably watching Trey and Alycia teaching the Electric Slide to the Chinese students and some British ones during our 4th of July bash this evening (see photo).

Unfortunately, I’m still working out some things with my new camera (acquired late June 2011) so whereas I’d been taking beautiful photos that were too large to upload to this site, now I’ve swung in the other direction where the quality is suffering. Hopefully by tomorrow the problem will be fixed and I can start sharing more of these action shots with you!

What a great day. Started out with Trey being late for breakfast (he was then mercilessly teased about it taking hours to fix that mop top of his). I gave a brief devotional on “Why are you here?” and then we walked as a group to class. The day started out overcast but then the clouds broke through and it turned out to be absolutely gorgeous.

At the top of St. Aldate’s street, we divided into the “coffee” and “no coffee” groups: coffee headed off to the Starbucks on Cornmarket and the rest went directly to class. Since our group is rather small this year, we have the privilege of being on the main Hertford College site — something we’ve been desirous of for about seven years now — and in the President’s Lodgings, no less. The classroom looks like a museum, and actually they’ve just added tables and chairs to the president’s beautifully-appointed sitting room. There are original pine floors, Regency furniture, framed antique prints, and windows that give onto Catte Street and the world’s most celebrated library, the Bodleian.

We’re definitely in the heart of Oxford this year. Last year was nice, we at least made it to Oxford’s liver or kidney, but it feels really great to be in the heart and hub.

This afternoon we had the Welcome Tea with scones, clotted cream, pastries and sandwiches and we actually had an Oxford don join us and give us the Hertford College greeting. Again, such a great experience to be able to talk with him and find out more about what goes on here. This year — I think because the HC staff got tired of having to handle dozens of cameras! — they’ve hired a professional photographer to take a picture of the group sitting on benches, with the Bridge of Sighs in behind. That was probably a good idea.

And then this evening the chef, his staff, and the HC RAs threw a July 4th party for us. It’s so cute because they did most of their research online, having no idea how we Americans celebrate the holiday. They did a fantastic job! They even made by hand red, white, and blue garlands to hang all around the dining hall! There was grilled chicken, hamburgers, foot-long hot dogs, sweet potato fries, potato salad, lots of pies and a carrot carrot, and so on and so forth. We had a great time and the Chinese students — though I suppose all of this is VERY foreign to them, I mean imagining being Chinese and celebrating an American holiday in England!! — seemed to enjoy the party, and especially the sparklers at the end.

This day was definitely a thumbs up. A ten on a scale of one to ten. Can’t wait for tomorrow when we go punting!!

My 100th Post

12 April 2011

In honor of my 100th post, I’m recycling a piece originally posted on September 8, 2010. This blog post encapsulates the passion and vision behind the PrayerWalk guidebooks and the reason for being of

Travel With Purpose: A Divine Mandate

Sunset in Beijing

Sunset in Beijing

From the beginning, Christian travel has been purposeful travel. An examination of the travel patterns of early Christians reveals that when they traveled, it was for a specific purpose: to make Christ known and to spread the Gospel message.

In our modern era, a few heroes of the faith stand out as men and women who traded everything they had in order to travel the world and tell people about Christ.

One of those heroes is William Carey, known as the “Father of Modern Missions,” who was born in England in 1761 and became a shoemaker at age fourteen. By the time he was twenty he had mastered Greek, Hebrew, Dutch and French. Carey began to realize the implications of the Great Commission by reading The Last Voyage by Captain Cook. He felt God saying to him,  “If it be the duty of all men to believe the Gospel … then it be the duty of those who are entrusted with the Gospel to endeavor to make it known among all nations.”

 “If it be the duty of all men to believe the Gospel … then it be the duty of those who are entrusted with the Gospel to endeavor to make it known among all nations.”

And Carey replied, “Here am I; send me!”

When Carey explained his understanding of Christ’s command to “teach all nations” at a ministers’ meeting, he was greeted with skepticism and jeers. One man shouted: “Young man, sit down: when God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.”

But nonetheless Carey went to India. There were no Indian converts for the first seven years but by the time Carey died in 1834 the Scriptures had been translated and printed into forty languages, leading to the conversion of many.

A number of mission organizations formed as a result of the excitement generated by Carey’s departure to India.  Soon one of America’s first missionaries, Adoniram Judson, set sail for India as well. Among the missionaries of this era was J. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, of whom it was said: “Never once in fifty years did the sun rise in China without finding him on his knees.” At Taylor’s death in 1905, there were 205 stations with 849 missionaries and 125,000 Chinese Christians in the China Inland Mission.

River Scene, Beijing

River Scene, China

Wherever they went, these godly missionaries built churches, schools and orphanages, and helped bring technological advances to those who had not benefited from the European industrial revolution. Others, like Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, helped to open trade routes while carrying out their divine duties.

Their example reminds us that we, too, must be willing to bring help and hope wherever we travel, carrying out the divine command to “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.”

For more information on how you can leave an eternal “footprint” when you travel see PrayerWalk Beijing.

Prayer Focus: China & the One Child Policy

10 April 2011

China is the world’s most populous nation with 1.3 billion people. To stem the country’s birth rate and conserve natural resources, Chinese government officials instituted a drastic family planning policy in the late 1970s that restricted the number of births in each family to only one child. This policy, generally known as the “one child policy,” is still in place today.

By all accounts, the one child policy has been effective: China’s fertility rate (the number of births per woman) is 1.7, much lower than in the U.S. where it is 2.1. The U.S. State Department has said that the law has had “extremely negative social, economic, and human rights consequences” for China.

“The Chinese government estimates that since 1979 it has prevented the birth of 400 million babies”

The extent of the Chinese government’s control and interference in family life and family planning also worries many human rights advocates. But the Chinese government and others in the international community see conservation of natural resources as a higher priority. The Chinese government estimates that since 1979 it has prevented the birth of 400 million babies and says the family planning policy has aided the nation’s rapid economic development.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that couples would respect the inherent worth and dignity of each child, regardless of gender, from conception to adulthood.
  • Pray that families who live in fear of government sanctions for having extra children will find peace in Jesus Christ.
  • Pray that Christian couples who see no other option but to obey the government’s family planning orders or become social pariah will find the courage and wisdom to do what is right.
  • Pray that despite the lack of churches, Christian training, and even Bibles, Christian couples will have an understanding of the biblical position concerning abortion.
  • Pray for the emotional and physical healing of women who have been coerced into having abortions.
  • Pray that those in desperate need of counsel in a country where seeking emotional counseling is not culturally acceptable will receive words of encouragement and wisdom from godly men and women.
  • Pray for healing for couples dealing with the effects of forced sterilization.
  • Pray that abortion and infanticide will stop.
  • Pray that abandoned baby girls will be adopted into Christian homes where they can learn about Jesus and be discipled by godly parents.

For more information on the one child policy and government-imposed sanctions for parents with more than one child, see PrayerWalk Beijing.

10 Tips for Dining in China

30 September 2010

If your idea of Chinese food is based on the corner takeout, prepare your taste buds for a shock when you travel to China.  The food is fresh, flavorful, and usually made with great pride. It is often spicier than in the US, too, so beware of those treacherous little red peppers!

Tip #1. Remember that in China dining is about more than food. The Chinese love to eat, but it’s about more than that: for centuries sharing a meal has been an important way to establish “guanxi” (gwan-shee), or good relationships. 

Tip #2. Sample all the dishes set before you.  You’ll be seen as rude and offensive if you don’t try the dishes prepared for you, no matter how exotic or strange they may seem. If you have severe allergies, be sure to let your host know ahead of time.

Tip #3. Let your host order for you. Most American Chinese food has been adapted to the Western palette and renamed, so you probably won’t find your favorites on the menu. Be open to the dishes your host thinks you will like.

Tip #4. Eat as much as you like. In restaurants and homes, several dishes are brought to the table for all to share. The host will order for you, and there will be enough food to satisfy everyone around the table. Which leads us to the next tip …

Tip #5. Don’t balk at sharing from a common dish. This is something Westerners find a little hard to swallow (no pun intended). Using chopsticks, each person selects from the food that is placed on a large revolving tray in the middle of the table and brings it back to his or her plate. Join in.

Tip #6. Don’t clean your plate. Cleaning your plate is not seen as a compliment to the hostess in China. A clean plate indicates that the host has not provided enough food and that the guest is still hungry.  A bit of uneaten food on your plate says, “I’m so full I can’t possibly eat another bite.”

Tip #7. Praise the food. But don’t say it if you don’t mean it! Your hosts will be watching you carefully to see what you eat and how much you eat. If they perceive that you like a certain dish, they will insist you eat more of it, order more of the same, or order it the next time you go out. Chinese have great memories for such things. 

Tip #8. Be discreet if you don’t like the food. Try to find something you like and eat it slowly and consistently. Make sure there’s always something on your plate. Rice is usually safe, and with the variety of dishes ordered, you can usually find at least one or two other things that you’ll like.

Tip #9. Thank your hosts. Telling your hosts what you liked about the meal will mean a lot to them. Say, “Xie Xie! Hao chi!” If they try to put more food on your plate, cover it with your hands and decline, “Bu, bu, bu! Xie xie! Who chi bao le!” (No, no, no! Thank you. I’m full!)

Tip #10. Allow your host to pay. At the end of the meal, guests will sometimes make a gesture of reaching for the bill but, though appreciated, everyone knows that the host will insist on paying: it is a matter of honor, as paying the bill is seen as a symbol of generosity and hospitality.

One Perfect Day In Beijing

10 September 2010

The “must-sees” in Beijing are spread out over a large area. If time is short, it’s best to limit your excursions to sites in the central part of the city. Here is an itinerary for a non-stop but adventure-filled day:

Gate of Forbidden CityDawn – For early risers: Catch the flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square. (Late risers, don’t despair: there is also a flag-lowering ceremony at sundown.)

8:00 am – Stroll the infamous Tiananmen Square where the controversial events of June 4, 1989 took place.

8:45 am – Visit the Forbidden City and discover its hidden secrets.

12:30 pm – Take a taxi to the north side of Beihai Lake, between Beihai and Qianhai Lakes (Back Lakes region). Stroll around Qianhai Lake and choose an appealing restaurant for lunch. You can even eat on a boat!

2:00 pm – Stroll around Beihai Park and lake, take a boat ride, visit Jade Island and the White Pagoda (highest point in Beijing, great views of Forbidden City on a clear day).

Boats on Beihai Lake

Boats on Beihai Lake

4:30 pm – Take a tour of the city’s hutong by pedicab. Find a pedicab guide outside of Starbucks on the southside of Qianhai Lake and see if you can bargain your way to a reasonable price.

6:30 pm – Take a taxi to Wangfujing Dajie for some famous Beijing Duck at Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant.

9:30 pm – Walk a few steps to the east of Wangfujing Dajie to Donghuamen Night Market to sample some exotic fare and mingle with interesting people. Then return to your hotel for a Pepto Bismal and a well-earned night’s rest.

Want more information on traveling in Beijing? Check out