I get to live here! (second year reflections on His faithful goodness)

As we drove down the mountain from Hong Kou yesterday, heading home from city orientation, I remembered another drive down mountains in China.  It was almost six years ago when I was studying in China that we spent a few days up on a farm in the mountains of Guizhou, scraping off rust and old paint and applying new paint, shivering in the frigid, humid air, crowding around tables with hot pot and cupping our bowls as long as there was any warmth in them.  Those days were not what I'd call especially fun and certainly not comfortable, but they were some of my favorite days from that first semester in China.

It was in the big dining room on that mountain in Guizhou, after dinner one night when we were sitting around playing games and talking by candle light (maybe the generator had gone out?) that I thought, I am content to be here.  Suddenly, that group felt like my people and China felt like somewhere that I lived, not just somewhere that I was visiting. 

Yesterday, winding our way down the mountain road as we came back from Hong Kou, I felt a similar realization.  I live in Sichuan.  If everything goes according to my plans, I'll live here for three years.  That's longer than I lived in Bloomington or Ohio, nearly as long as I lived at Geneva.

It's easy for me to feel a little bit of remove from claiming that I really live in Sichuan.  I am, quite obviously, not Chinese.  I don't speak the Sichuan dialect of Chinese.  I didn't grow up here.

But regardless of those feelings, this place is my home.  I get to enjoy the spicy food and regional snacks, to be fascinated by the unique culture of art in Sichuan, to fall in love with the cultural values of not rushing and of laughing easily, to be proud of the natural beauty of the mountains and rivers and trees.  I've enjoyed every place that I've lived in China for one reason or another -- but Sichuan is exactly the type of place that I would choose to live, and I feel extraordinarily loved by the fact that this is where I was sent to live for a few years. 

For as long as I'm here, I will be a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land.  Yet I'm pondering how to hold that truth in tension with the simultaneous truth that I do, in fact, live in and love living in Sichuan. 

It is a great gift to get to live in a place that I can love so deeply.  I've quoted David's words before, and they keep springing up in my heart:

You are my portion and my cup of blessing;
You hold my future.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

In this world that is my Father's, truly I have been given a beautiful inheritance.

And I think of words from a hymn, too:

His call we obey, 
Like Abram of old,
Not knowing our way,
But faith makes us bold;
For though we are strangers,
We have a good Guide;
And trust in all dangers
That He will provide.

(It was originally written by John Newton; my favorite version is this one by Nathan Partain, although it doesn't include that verse.)

...You have called Your servants 
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us courage to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that Your hand is leading us
and Your love supporting us...

I repeated those words quite frequently during my first year here, and right now it is very obvious to me that they were powerfully answered.  

He is good and faithful.


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