Today’s story comes from Ruth. She and her family are religious workers in China.
Christmas in China is just another day out of the 365 in the year. People go to work, students go to school and everyone carries on with their life with no knowledge of the Baby who was born 2000 years ago to bring them Peace, Joy and Hope. Our family of four living in Beijing – William, Ruth, Marvin and Marshall – has created our own traditions that center around ways we can share the Christmas Story with those around us.
This will be our fifth Christmas in China and over the years, the stores and online sellers have capitalized on the marketing efforts of Christmas and so it’s easy to find Santas, tinsel and lights adorning malls and “Christmas Sales” offered everywhere. The Chinese music market also got in on the fun and I just have to laugh when I hear “sleigh” mispronounced by a popular singing group who proudly sing out, “Oh what fun it is to ride in o one-horse open SLEE!”
Our family is often asked questions about the holiday season and people are eager to participate in a “real’ American Christmas. This time of year is a huge time for our ministry as we have several parties all during December and even into January! We invite everyone we know to hear about a baby named Jesus who came to earth to save the people from their sins and bring us into right relationship with God. At these parties, we can gauge spiritual interest and then we follow up with those who had a lot of questions or who seemed particularly moved by the Christmas Story.
Christmas was also the catalyst for one of our family’s main ministry areas – our son’s preschool! Four years ago, when Marvin started preschool, we offered to come and share the Christmas Story. The preschool agreed and off we went to share the message of Jesus’ birth with 60 preschoolers in Chinese! We weren’t sure it was the most successful adventure we’d ever undertaken, but we were asked to come back for ANY holiday and suddenly, we had an open door to go and share the Gospel with the preschoolers and teacher as, what do you know, every holiday we could imagine can point back to Jesus!
Now Marvin is in first grade while Marshall is in his third year at the preschool, and Ruth now goes once a week to teach an English Language and Culture class to the students. She uses Bible stories as a foundation for these classes and has been able to openly share our beliefs and faith with the children, their families and the teachers. A teacher herself, she leads a monthly training for the teachers and the main principal keeps opening the door for her to share the Gospel with the teachers as she will tell them, “It is because of Ruth’s faith in God that she has such kindness and love for our students and our preschool. We need to learn from her faith.”
We love the opportunities for ministry this time of year – William hosts a team of college students who help him go around our huge city sharing the Gospel during this special time of year and they help Ruth host all of the Christmas parties – but of course we miss our families and the special traditions that are not a part of our lives here. We’ve created our own traditions and one is that on Christmas, we open our home to many of our expat friends for a Family Christmas Celebration where we all come together on Christmas Day! We sing carols, share about our Christmas ministry, talk about the Christmas Story and celebrate together that Jesus knows what it’s like to leave the comforts of His home and go to a new land to a new people who are seeking the Peace, Joy and Hope only He can bring.