Wednesday, March 9, 2011

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”

As we plan our overseas trainings, we experience that over….and over…and over

A couple examples:

  1. The day before I left for China, I got an email from the coordinator of that ministry. He wrote to tell me that we were moving our training location. There wasn't really an explanation at that point- merely a vague reference to "security issues". That made me a little nervous.

    Apparently, the Chinese "Politburo", a major leadership group in the Chinese Communist Party, was meeting in the same part of Beijing as we were. Some of them were even staying in the same hotel as us. When you're working with underground church leaders, which function outside the law, sharing a hallway with the Communist Party is not a good thing.

    We had "planned" the training carefully, but our plans didn't work out very well…

  2. "When you clear customs and get your baggage, call Henry. You can catch a taxi to the Huaqing Hotel, and Henry will meet you there."

    Those are pretty normal plans for when I arrive in an overseas airport. Sometimes, I'll be picked up by a driver. In this case, I've been to Beijing before. The taxis are pretty easy. I had the name of the hotel written in Chinese characters on a piece of paper, and I could simply show it to the taxi driver. Sounds easy, right…?

    Problem #1- Regardless of the assurances I had received from Verizon Wireless, my phone didn't work when I tried to call Henry. I realized that I could call the US on my phone, but the call to a Chinese phone wouldn't go through. Same with the 2nd call…and the 3rd…and the 4th (are you sensing a pattern?). No way to let him know that I was there…

    I decided to go ahead and catch a taxi to the Huaqing Hotel.

    Problem #2- When I showed the hotel name to a taxi driver, he had no idea where it was. Same with the 2nd driver…and the 3rd…and the 4th… (are you sensing a pattern here?). I was relieved when the 5th driver knew where it was. I threw my bags in the back of his mini-van, climbed into the back seat, and asked, "How much?" (Naturally, I spoke in English with a badly contrived Asian accent, as if that would help him to understand…) He responded, "600". 600 Yuan!?!? That's about $90! I was desperate, but not THAT desperate. I got out of the van, retrieved my bags, and prayed that I would find another driver who knew where the Huaqing Hotel was. On the 3rd try (8th overall), I found a driver who seemed to know where it was. He said 100 yuan. $16. I can live with that.

    That was really encouraging, although Henry still had no way to know that I was there. About a mile outside the airport, the taxi driver made a call on his cell phone (presumably to ask for directions). He sounded confused. He sounded equally confused on the 2nd call…and the 3rd…and the 4th (are you sensing a pattern here?).

    Miraculously, I arrived at the Huaqing Hotel. No Henry. I tried to explain the situation to the ladies at the front desk. No luck. Tried to call Henry again. Didn't go through. Same with the 2nd…3rd…4th

    I sat down in the hotel lobby. I was in China, with no way to contact anyone. I could call the United States, but it was 2:00 AM in Chicago. No one in the office. I began to wonder how long I could sit there before I had to do…something… I was a non-Mandarin-speaking American, in China for activities of questionable legality, sitting in a hotel lobby filled with Community officials. I had no room, and no way to contact anyone. "Toto, I don't this we're in Kansas anymore"

    Miraculously, Henry walked in the lobby door less than an hour later. Not knowing whether I had even arrived at the airport, they had decided to check the hotel and see if I was there.

    That was about 24 hours ago. This last 24 hours that have gone seamlessly. No more problems. Our plans are working perfectly. But wait a couple hours…something will happen. I'd be freaked out by this kind of thing, but I keep reminding myself that my plans don't really matter.

    God's plans matter- and they work out just fine.


    1. That we would stay "under the radar", and that nothing would interfere with the training.
    2. That my mind would be clear, as I continue to adjust to the time change.
    3. Thank God for an effective first day of training, and good relationships with the people we're training.

1 comment:

  1. Mark, I'm keeping you covered with prayer. It seems that you never know when some other wrinkle in (your) plans may emerge. (It kinda was going that way the first few hours!) I'm giving thanks too for God's continuing provision for you and those you are serving.