It was a significant fear that I would go to China and not have any sort of Christian fellowship or growth-I view both things to be quite important- and I knew a year without them was dangerous, lonely, and regressive. I prayed about this. I had many friends pray about this. Through it all, mom was saying, “God would not call you to China to let you waste away.” I believed this, but I was getting nervous as the days were passing by and I still hadn’t seen one (1) church or met one (1) Christian. God had made it clear to me this summer that the Church was alive and well in Shanghai (and, by extension, China), but I wasn’t seeing it.
It was when I started thinking about summer (which for me, meant Camp Deer Run) that God started moving. “Remember Annie from Shanghai?” I felt He was saying (she was-is- an American living with her family here and Deer Run camper; she served as an immense resource/wonderful friend this summer as I prepared for my time abroad). “ASK HER FOR A CHURCH!”
So I did.
And long story short, I found myself sitting in the pews of Abundant Grace church this past Sunday, during which I jotted down the following notes on the ways in which God was clearly present in this discovery.
I am currently sitting in Abundant Grace church and I could cry. [Don’t worry. I did. This is current me, BTW, just popping in for some commentary.]
1. I didn’t think I’d find the church. But I heard you say, “When you seek me with all Your heart You will surely find me.” So I was like, “What the heck. I don’t remember the name of the church, I don’t know what to do because the bus stops randomly and I have to walk, ok, ahh. I don’t remember how to get there.” So I get on one of the buses & am freaking out but it stops right in front of the church. [How did I know this? Lots of stained glass and a sign for an event that they advertised loudly on their website.]
2. I wasn’t even that late!
3. The song they were playing when I walked in? “Step by Step,” a classic camp song. [Honestly I’ve never heard this song anywhere else but camp. It was God’s way of saying, “You’re in a good place.”]
4. It looks like how Heaven will be. People of all kinds all worshiping together with babies running about. [Body of Christ for real.]
5. It’s really focused on prayer. The opening prayer was really long & so real. [I realize length doesn’t qualify a quote real prayer unquote but you should have heard this guy. He didn’t just open with, “Lord, bless this service.” It was this man exhorting God to be present, to heal members of the congregation, praising Him for what He’s done…it was incredible.]
6. They just prayed over the offereing. WHAT?! So awesome.
7. The sermon series, starting today, is “Once Upon a Time.” Again, WHAT?! [I like fairy tales, Disney, etc. This was a big deal. Furthermore, it’s focusing on God’s kingdom and kingship, and the fairytale-like love He has for His people. Um, yes.]
8. The woman I sat next to was named Winnie. Another sign! [It’s an affectionate term for Lake Winnipesauke, where the camp I work at is located and a way God once again said, “You’re in a good place.]
9. It feels very tight knit. Very authentic.
10. I just added this one in now. It’s a gospel-believing, Jesus-first, we-believe-in-God-the-Father-Almighty kind of church. No sketchy, watered down faith here.
I realize that no church is perfect, but I feel that right now this is perfect for me. The experience was so invigorating after such a long time between my last corporate worship (camp) and this one. I signed up for a small group, which I’m excited about, and the significant commute will not deter me from enjoying such a great gift. God. Is. So. Good.
I am learning to never take for granted the ability to openly praise God, the easy access to churches and fellowship groups, and those Christians whom I consider dear friends. With places of worship so rare here, it’s so understandable why foreigner believers view Christ as a precious jewel.
Lastly, I just want to thank you so sincerely for praying that I would find a place of worship and fellowship. God heard you, and I am so grateful that you petitioned Him on my behalf.
I am writing all this nonsense not only to let you know that God is answering your prayers but also because I felt convicted after reading this verse today:
“I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.”
Who am I to keep God’s incredible works to myself?
Tell me of the good God is doing in your life.
Until next time,