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June 27, 2005

Be grateful...

In a slight departure from the normal post, I received the following letter via email from my sister yesterday. She's currently travelling in China on a mission, and well, her report is colorful and interesting. It sure is nice to live in America!

Hello to all!

Here it is on Sunday at 1:00 in the afternoon, and I am at an internet cafe writing to all of my supporters in the U.S. For 2 quai or 20 cents, I can use the internet for one hour! It is totally amazing! The cafe itself is a building the size of a garage, and has about 30 computers in it. It is very quiet, and all around me are people interacting through IM's and listening to music with their headsets. This experience is very unique!

Well, our trip has been very eventful so far! We started out with our flight being delayed 6 hours at LAX. When we arrived in Shanghi, we had missed our flight into Beijing, so they carted us off to another plane which delivered us to Beijing at 3:00 in the morning Beijing time. Our flight was to leave Beijing at 8 in the morning, so we chose to hang in the airport and be spectacles for the Chinese people. Most of us on the trip have light colored hair and blue or green eyes, thus began our journey of stares, and gawking. It has been a learning experience for me, for in Western culture, we are taught that staring is wrong, but here in China, it is very common, and not impolite. It is very hard to get used to though.

From Beijing we were to fly to Kunming and spend the night in Kunming. Since our flight was delayed at LAX, we no longer had a flight out of Beijing, and spent more time waiting in the airport until the airlines could locate another flight for the 10 of us! To say the least we were exhausted after spending 27 hours in airports across the world! Upon arriving in Kunming, we met the Missionaries we would be working with, and they guided us to our hotel. The hotel itself was located in the Government district, and was very attractive--18 floors total, and very western looking (marble floors, real restroom facilities, and air conditioning). We all opted to go to our rooms to take showers, and rest. My roommate, Amie and I, wanted to go to the Bird and Flower market in downtown Kunming with the missionaries, so we all met in the lobby to begin our adventure.

The Bird and Flower market was a very unique area. The market itself is in an alleyway--with little huts/shacks lined along the roadway (walkway)--whenever a car passes through everyone that is on foot has to move into the shacks so the car can pass. There were many items for sale, and bartering is the market of choice. We were very lucky to have native speakers with us--foreigners ALWAYS are charged a higher price, and if we were to go alone, we could have been way overcharged (2-3 times the regular price). In the market there were vendors selling fresh fruit (lychees, plantains, grapes, grilled corn on the cob, sticky rice cooked in bamboo sticks, dogmeat on skewers, and plums). There were also plenty of goods being sold: pipes, Hmong clothing, Jade, Green tea, handmade pictures and jewelry. The flowers being sold aty the market were spectular. The lilies grown here are twice the size of any I have seen grown in the US, and have the most beautiful fragrance! The orchids here are a bright pink and stand at about three feet tall! The cost for this type of orchid? 100 quai--or $10 US dollars. Incredible! Anyways, the market was truly a humbling experience, for most of these shop owners only make 100 quai a week (10 US dollars). It is a very poor region.

The next morning we began our journey south to Wenchan--it was an eight hour bus ride on a steep winding dirt road. Wenchan is located 30 miles north of the Vietnam border. There are two roads into the city --one from Kunming and one from Vietnam. If you have the opportunity to search online, we drove through a very beautiful area called Stone Mountain in order to get to our destination in Wenchan. We had lots of new experiences--I will share later, but the most memorable was our new version of the restroom facilities! We have my roommate Amie losing her cookies as she approached the restrooms because we could smell them all the way from the bus which was about 300 feet away! God is really opening my eyes to see that we are so very blessed in the States. We take so much for granted.

Once in Wenchan, we checked into the hotel, and headed back out to the village where we would be serving. It took an hour to get there, and then there was a two mile hike to arrive at the school. The school children were there to greet us, and were singing "We want to welcome you, we are glad you are here" in their Hmong language.I could not contain myself from bursting out in tears. It was so amazing to see these children--about 250 of them singing at the top of their lungs and clapping. It was a beautiful and amazing sight. Most of these children walk 1 hour or longer to school each way, and work in the fields when they get home in the evening.

OK--enough for now. God had been very present here with us, and has been speaking an awesome message to each of us on our team. For me, I have been blessed with the message of "Be still, and know that I am near". The Lord's presence is here with us, and we will share his message through our actions (words are a bit tough right now) :-)

God bless you all, and thanks for keeping me in your prayers.


Posted by gcrgcr at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2005

Be Prepared...

I had a great weekend in Phoenix, Arizona for my father's graduation.

Dad had been working on his Masters of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary for around four years. He has put tremendous effort into this achievement and like many collegiate of traditional age did so while working full-time and managing other life activities.

Understandably we couldn't be more proud of him.

Graduation service was a mix of a typical morning church service and a typical college graduation. Attending a graduation is one of those times, like funerals and weddings, where listening to those speaking, you tend to really pause and reflect on your life. I found some words of the keynote speaker (apologies to him for already forgetting his identity) to be most meaningful to me.

In a nutshell - "be prepared". Without getting specific, or even getting close to paraphrasing (I took no notes) the speaker talked to the new graduates about being effective with their new knowledge.

Doing so, he said, requires being aware of that which flows into you as well as out of you. He related this point as something akin to having a 5-inch pipe inbound into you and a 10-inch pipe outbound.

We tend to give alot of ourselves to others but rarely take enough time to "fill back up". Day to day we focus strictly on the outbound. While helping others, solving problems, completing our tasks - we are either to busy or have simply forgotten to pay attention to what comes in.

The danger in not replenishing is that there will come a natural drop in quality of our output. To illustrate his point our speaker quoted Martin Luther, who said:

I have so much business, I can not get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.

Talk about being prepared! Basically he says - I have so much to do, I can't effectively get anything done unless I spend three hours ahead of time to replenish, rejuvenate, plan and strategize.

So, I soaked this message up as it was delivered to the new Masters in Theology and Masters in Divinity graduates in the room. It was only later that the religious context fell away and I realized the basic principle applies to pretty much anything you do in life. Work, business relationships, personal relationships, parenting, etc.

Ultimately it fits in nicely with all sorts of discussions about work/life balance, meden agan (everything in moderation - thanks Matt), et al.

It also scales well. Whether it be long-term business goals, short-term planning for a daily meeting, or personal interactions throughout the day - take time to quietly think things through. Focus on the outcomes and plan well - this is critical ahead of execution for quality sake. I personally will be putting this into practice to improve my execution.

In closing, Louis Pasteur summed it up well a long time ago:

Fortune favors the prepared mind

Be prepared! And may the good fortune follow...

Posted by gcrgcr at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)