Strangers and Pilgrims

During my first two months or so in China, I lived in three different cities and in five different apartments or hotel rooms. As a girl who has had the same home address for more than twenty years, I found it difficult to adjust to being a stranger and a pilgrim. I know we are here on earth only for a short time, and we are not supposed to send our roots too deep. However, knowing the truth and joyfully accepting it are not the same thing.

For the first four weeks or so, I was “settled” in Dong Gual, a nice, fairly modern city in southern China. My first hotel room did not have a private bath, so I shared the hall shower facilities and Asian-style toilets with the others on our floor. Later, I was moved to a room with a private bath and a Western toilet.

After those four weeks of summer camp, three of us lady teachers watched the other thirty-some teachers ride the bus away and leave us alone. I wasn’t too worried because we had a temporary job and a place to stay until our full-time job began in a city nearby. About two weeks later, my feeling of security vanished when we were told that, the next day, we would be jobless and basically homeless. There we were – three ladies in a foreign country with few friends, no direction, dwindling finances, and no idea what to do.

We were immediately given an opportunity to go to another school for a couple of weeks. We were placed in a nice hotel on the campus of our new school where we felt as if Big Brother were almost a physical presence in our lives. After a few days, we moved to a bare apartment with a shower I could not operate. (I used the knee-high spigot on the wall for a sort of sponge-bath.)

Feeling rootless is not comfortable, and I am thankful that my life has not remained that unstable for the past four years. But all the time that I was complaining about sudden changes, life being out of my control, and having to hand-wash my laundry, my Heavenly Father was blessing me “exceeding abundantly” above all I could as or think. My relationship with Him grew deeper, and He gave me many opportunities to talk about Him. I built relationships that still give me opportunities to point people to Him almost four years later. I learned to survive in a place with an extreme language barrier. I learned Chinese much more quickly than I would have in an easier environment. He broadened my horizons, giving me a wide variety of experiences that helped me better understand the culture and the people. When I consider the blessings I received, how can I complain that I am a stranger and pilgrim in this world?


Written by Julie Myer. This article was published in the Summer 2006 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine.
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