I was reading in Oswald Chamber’s Utmost for His Highest while I was in China. On July 6th, under the title “Visions Becoming Reality”, Chambers talks about how “God gives us vision, and then takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision.” Then on July 7th, under the title “All Efforts of Worth and Excellence Are Difficult” Chambers says: “Thank God that He does give us difficult things to do! His salvation is a joyous thing, but it is also something that requires bravery, courage, and holiness.”
I was on a sleeper train from Zhengzhou to Beijing while I read the July 7th devotional. It was late, but I put down the book and cried out to God. The summer had been good so far, but I longed for greater things. I wanted more vision and I wanted difficult things to do.
A few days later, I arrived at a camp to be on staff. I loved it. The entire camp was run out of an apartment complex. Everyone lived there together. Despite being an introvert, I loved the community; sleeping a room away from my other staff members and eating meals with them and even brushing our teeth together. When we were in Wuhan, it felt like our ministry stopped when we went to our hotel, but here it started the moment I woke up. I have heard people talk about “incarnational living”, living so that others see Jesus in you, and this was it. Most of the Chinese staff and translators were not believers and they got to watch us every day, to see how we lived, and especially how we loved the orphans that came to camp. There is great power in Christian community.
We had four weeks of camp. The second week started out great. On Thursday, we even got to baptize two of our Chinese staff and one translator in the pool. I was really filled with joy, but so quickly that joy was zapped out of me. About half of our staff was sick and one volunteer was so sick, she had to be sent to the hospital and eventually back to America. The kids were really naughty this week and found ways to annoy us, especially when they realized that they had to go back to the orphanage. Two of the kids even got in a fist fight. They didn’t really mean to, but at supper they were spilling their food and water. I was pretty frustrated at this point, but I could handle it and I was still strong. Then I spilled my own water bottle all over the floor, and for some reason, I couldn’t handle it all anymore. I was my own worst annoyance. I felt defeated.
Then, I heard that one the girls of staff, Lily, her brother had just died, being hit by a drunk driver.
I know that what I felt was in no way equal to what Lily felt, and I wasn’t even sick. But because we were all in that community together, when other people were sad, I felt it and it weighed on me. That night in my journal I wrote “I didn’t expect the valley to be like this. I expected it to be in a certain way, exciting, a challenge to overcome, difficult, but rewarding. Like lifting weights hard. The valley is not like that at all. Instead it is sorrow and I know the way out, but it seems out of reach. Working harder doesn’t help. When I do get out, stumble out, there is no satisfaction or accomplishment. I don’t feel the growth. The only way I can endure is faith in a good God.” I didn’t expect sorrow to be like this, but this was an answer to my prayer and God was refining me.
I didn’t magically ever feel better, but God worked through it all. He worked in me to trust Him. And everyone around us got to see how Christians grieve with hope. And throughout the rest of camp five more people gave their lives to Christ. Praise to our Father!
My favorite part of camp though, was getting to baptize Evan. I didn’t do much, but I was there when Evan decided to give his life to Christ. God had been working in his life and he was so intrigued by the love of God flowing through those of us who believe. After he gave his life to Christ, he wanted to get baptized, but we couldn’t go to the pool, so Evan’s volunteer, Seth got to baptize Evan in the bathtub as I said “Sheng fu, sheng zi, shenglin” (Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit in Chinese). There was something about that moment that was so right. I don’t know how to adequately describe it, other than that it was the power of God moving in China, and I got to be a part of it.