Saturday, June 19, 2010

The "glamour" of international travel

I haven't blogged in a couple days. (By the way, thanks for everyone's comments on facebook about my last post, "I Don't Know What to Expect". I didn't realize how much those thoughts would apply to the last two days. Maybe I shouldn't have written that- it feels a little bit like God is saying, "Let's see if you really meant that.")

After we wrapped up our training in Beijing (which went great. God is really doing some amazing things in this country), we were scheduled to fly to Xian on a 6:30 PM flight. We had to check out of our hotel room at noon, so we got to the airport around 2:00 PM. Here's what the next hours looked like:

2:00 Arrive at Beijing Airport. learn that our flight was going to be an hour late.
5:00 Learn that our flight will be 4 hours late.
6:00 Told that our flight might not be going out at all
10:00 Learn that our flight will be leaving at 12:10 AM
12:30 AM leave for Xian (after 10 hours in the airport)
2:30 AM arrive Xian
4:00 get to hotel in Xian (notice that, due to jet lag, I'd been GETTING UP at 4ish the last few mornings. All of a sudden, I'm going to bed at 4.)
7:00 Get up to do training after 3 hours of semi-sleep.
8:00 Start a day of training. I guess God gave us supernatural energy, because our team was awake, focused, and things went very well.

Meanwhile, Julie is having a MUCH WORSE time, trying to come join me in China. Here's her story:

12:23 PM- Scheduled departure from O'Hare
5:00 PM- ACTUAL departure from O'Hare. That meant that she missed her connecting flight in Tokyo, and ALL OTHER FLIGHTS TO BEIJING THAT NIGHT. That would mean that she would also miss the connection to Xi'an.To compound it all, her phone wouldn't work in Japan, so we're not able to discuss all the changes that needed to be made. United fed her and got her a hotel room, but her flight the next morning would cause her to miss her flight from Beijing to Xian. I had to rebook that (but we couldn't really discuss this...). As far as she knows, she's going to arrive in Beijing, where she can't speak the language, can't call anyone, and has already missed her flight. Total sense of abandonment.

8:30 AM (After a good night of sleep for both of us) I decide, "what the heck, I'll dial Julie's number. There's no chance that my US-based Verizon cell phone will find it's way back to the US network, and then be able to locate Julie's phone in Japan, which isn't working anyway. But I'll dial it anyway."


Julie (sounding confused): "Hello?"
Mark: Heeeeeyyyyyy!
Julie: Mark!?!?
Mark: I can't believe this is working!!!

I'm guessing that people in the Tokyo airport wondered why Julie was doing some sort of primitive tribal dance of celebration. My dance was in the privacy of my hotel room, so I didn't look quite as silly.

We talked for a few minutes, and I gave her the flight information for Beijing. She'll have to navigate a few hurdles in the Beijing airport, but I'll be meeting her at the Xian airport this afternoon at 5:30.

I'm married to a wonderful woman. She's been pushed to the brink a few times on this trip, but she's embraced an "Amazing Race" mentality, and is seeing this all as a crazy adventure. But we will BOTH be really glad when we lock eyes in the Xian airport.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I don't know what to expect

I’m flying to Xi’an this afternoon.
I’m not sure what to expect.
We’ll be training another group of TNTers.
I’m not sure what to expect.
Julie’s getting on a plane this afternoon in Chicago, coming to join us in Xi’an
She’s not sure what to expect.
After I’m done teaching, we’re going to spend a week being touristy. We’re excited, but..
We’re not sure what to expect.

That’s not how we live most of their lives. Most days, we roll out of bed, knowing pretty much what to expect. We know what our drive to work will be like. We know what we’ll be doing most of the day. Sure, there are surprises. But even the most of the “surprises” leave us in our comfort zone. They’re familiar.
• We run into unexpected traffic…but we’ve seen it before.
• There’s an unexpected development at work (or school, or at home)…but it’s not usually we’d never even DREAMED of… (or had nightmares about)
• Sometimes we are faced with unexpected opportunities…but they’re rarely outside the realm of familiarity.

We’ve been studying Genesis this week. Most of the people in Genesis DIDN’T know what to expect.
• Noah obeyed God, but he didn’t really know what to expect.
• Abraham left his homeland, not even knowing where he was going.
• Adam and Eve met each other, not knowing what to expect (and this has never changed in marriage relationships, even to this day…)

But they trusted God. HE knew what to expect. And that was enough for them.

When do the GREAT things happen in life? Usually when things happen that we don't expect. How many “normal” days change our lives? Change the world?

And yet we spend most of our lives trying to avoid the unexpected. Trying to plan everything out carefully. Trying to avoid the uncertain…the unstable…the uncomfortable.

I wonder if we’re sometimes effectively planning to avoid greatness.

What if we lived our lives with an attitude of “I don’t have to know what to expect, because God does…and that’s good enough for me”? This is not an argument against planning- it’s just a thought about our willingness to step into the unknown.

Just thinking out loud…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Be*j*ng, Day 2

I had my first full day of teaching today, and it went really well. More about that another day, because today I'm thinking about freedom...

1) When we go the room where we're doing the training, we go in a few minutes apart. In this part of Be*j*ng, a group of several foreigners would raise questions. And a group of Chinese nationals meeting with them would seem a little odd, too...
2) We have to keep our voices down. It's probably not a big deal, but you never know who might notice if voices could be heard out in the hall...or outside the window.
3) A few hours ago, I tried to get on facebook. Didn't work. I tried to get on my blog. Didn't work. I don't know if it was government control, but they tell me that they have periodic interference like that. Every other site was working, except for ones that really encourage self-expression. Hmmm.... (oh, wait...I couldn't get on the Peotone Baseball site to check the standings for Ben's baseball team....they're in first place!)

I'm thankful for a country where we can worship freely...and we don't have to "keep it down"...and I don't have to worry about the government censoring my facebook account. Maybe the Ch*nese worry that Farmville is secretly a capitalist conspiracy...

I'm still recovering from jet lag. My ability to write deep, thoughtful, and insightful blog posts is a little foggy. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Be*j*ing Day 1

I arrived this afternoon around 3:30. Immigration line was long (more than an hour), and then I got a taxi. My driver and I wandered through the streets, looking for a hotel that he wasn't familiar with. Finally got here- ready to kick things off tomorrow. We have a great team of trainers, and an AMAZING group of TNTers here. I'm so sleep-deprived/confused that I'm not going to attempt to write coherent reflections tonight. I hope you'll check in regularly for the next couple weeks, to here what God is doing.