We planned a game night at Trinity in downtown Rochester, and although we invited various nationalities, it was the Chinese who really took an interest. There were, in fact, 15 Chinese who attended. Coupled with the 30 members of Trinity, I would say it was a first time success. Imagine the interesting fun of playing games where you are trying to communicate the rules across languages and cultures! But never mind that—everyone had a blast. The Chinese who came represented a variety of ages. There were parents, there were teens, and there were younger children. I would have to say that it was truly a blast. We played board games such as scrabble, UNO, Trouble and there were plenty of munchies available.
Of course, I would say that people normally have a lot of fun playing board games, but there was a special element there in terms of the cultural mix. So, it becomes very interesting, as you can imagine, if you have Chinese immigrants (some with limited English), playing board games that have complicated rules with Americans who know zero Chinese. So, that’s where some of the universals of the human race surface: 1) the need for community, 2) the need for understanding, 3) the need to recreate and release stress, and, 4) I would argue, the need to try to understand others who are culturally very different.
In many ways, the Chinese who came to our game night are typical of many of the immigrants who live in Rochester. Many of the immigrants in Rochester we are meeting have similar characteristics: they have been here a short time, 2) they don’t know much English or much about American culture, 3) they’re not sure how long they’ll be here, and 4) for all of the above reasons, their appreciation for the little things done for them in the name of friendship and hospitality, register off the charts! People who are isolated and lonely can easily end up with tears in their eyes (which matches the joy in their hearts) just because someone cared enough to sit down and play some silly games with them! As we think about our local community, let’s remember that for many people, including those who either work or seek help at the Mayo Clinic, even the proverbial “cup of cold water” is not a small thing.
Long Term Love Leads to Chinese Doctor’s Faith in Christ:
As many of you have heard, POBLO’s English classes are welcoming a lot of Chinese, and this is leading to real chances to share the faith. The following story is one of a steady love demonstrated over time, through volunteer teachers Rev. Bill and Connie Natzke, Starting in the fall of 2014, they taught English to Dr. Jin Wang, who was connected to the Mayo Clinic, and they helped her with her request to learn about Christ. Here is their story:
Jin didn’t have any formal religious background, but she could read and speak English. We began to meet once a week for two hours. The first hour we spent building a relationship with her learning about her, her family, her culture, and her work. The second hour was spent studying the Scriptures. We used a children's Bible Story book, beginning with creation. That was simple and yet gave many opportunities to explain English and Christian terms. She would read the story from the children's book and then we would look at it together in the Bible. We used a Bible that was written in Chinese as well as English. Then we would discuss it. She didn't question our teaching but did parrot back to us what we had said and asked if she understood it correctly. We saw the work of the Holy Spirit in her. After a while we switched to the story of Jesus' birth since we were getting closer to Christmas and then the celebration of Jesus' birth would be more real and understandable to her. We asked her if she would like to join us for worship. She was eager to go with us to Trinity Lutheran Church and also accompanied us to Bible class and many other occasions. The people and pastors were very receptive Jin, and she even attended on weeks we were not in town. We asked the pastors to e-mail her their sermon a few days beforehand so she could read it through before hearing it preached. She brought the sermon print out along with her to church so she could follow along, and then after the service we would discuss it with her if she had any more questions.
Often we would invite her to the communion altar with us for a blessing but she always declined, feeling that she was not "good enough" yet! She confided to us that her people are from the same area where Confucius was born and she was brought up to follow Confucius' teachings and always do good but she never knew how much more good she needed to do! She also felt an obligation to her family heritage to continue to follow Confucius. After the Christmas story, we continued to look at the ministry of Jesus and then His death and resurrection. We then switched to reading through the Catechism. Early on, when she started these classes Jin had told her husband who was back in China with their 8 year old daughter, that she would like to learn about Christianity and he was okay with that but not interested himself. In August of 2015 her husband and daughter came to Rochester to visit for a month. When he first came here someone gave Jin’s husband a Christian book and he read it. Then he began reading Jin's Bible, beginning with Genesis. He had many questions about what he was reading and would convey them to Jin to ask me for the answer.
We had many wonderful times with Jin over the year and with her family too while they were here to visit. We went out for meals together, had her to our home with our family and for games, took a paddle boat ride, and went to Chinese gatherings with her. We gave her a nativity set for Christmas which she cherished.
When Jin went back to China after her fellowship was over in Sept. 2015, we gave her a Children's Bible Story book to take back for her daughter, and Jin also took along her Chinese/English Bible. But would it pass through customs? Glory to God: the customs man went through her suitcase, noted the Bible, quickly covered it up, looked at Jin and said, “My sister has one just like this,” and passed her through.
In November of last year, Jin came back to the U.S. as she had to attend a conference in Chicago. She took the opportunity after the conference to travel to Rochester for a week’s visit to see friends and worship with us and to tell us, "I believe". Jin has been looking for a Christian or house church in China since her return. It has not been easy to find but meanwhile, my wife has been forwarding her the Sunday morning Lutheran Hour Broadcasts as well as the Advent and Lenten series devotionals with encouraging personal messages. Jin continues to keep in touch with my wife, calling her once a week from China and talking for an hour. The relationship continues and she tells my wife that her husband reads 15 minutes each night to their daughter out of the Children's Bible Story Book.
God be praised!