On February 8th we received a noisy offering designated for the mission of Hugh and Teena Anderson, here is the thank you letter we received. Hugh was our Regional Presbytery Executive.
Dear members and friends of First Presbyterian,
Greetings from China! The sound of your noisy offering made it all the way across the world to Chifeng, Inner Mongolia where we are teaching. Thank you for your gift and for your moral support. It is fitting that a congregation in a college town has sent us a contribution for our work teaching English in a college setting.
As Pentecost is approaching with the church’s emphasis on the outpouring of God’s Spirit, we want to send you a first look at the mission article we are preparing for distribution by the Presbyterian Church.
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. [John 3:8] The word pneuma used in this passage can be translated as wind, spirit and breath [life itself]. The following reflection is on the interplay of those three meanings as experienced by Teena in our work here in China:
The yellow sun shines brightly on the gray cement blocks of our seven-story apartment building. The wind is coming straight off the Mongolian grasslands and whips around the sharp corners of the surrounding buildings. It carries with it a whistling tune of days gone by when the wolves howled and the Mongolians tended their sheep. I am getting ready for my eight o'clock Oral English class here at Chifeng College in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia. I cram my books and lesson plans into my shoulder bag. As I head out the heavy metal door of our apartment, I lean into the sharp wind that cuts into my winter coat. I hail a taxi and tuck myself into a seat built for a person much smaller than my 5 foot 8-inch frame. I tell the taxi driver in Chinese but with a Chifeng accent "Please take me to the East Gate of the college. The East Gate is located at the end of a long narrow street filled with vendors selling meat, fruit, and vegetable from their carts. Pedestrians and students on bicycles force the taxi to slowly weave its way down to the school gate. Tiny shops lining the street carry everything a college student could possibly want thus giving the street its nickname: Happiness Street.
Arriving at the Educational Building, I push aside the heavy, quilted pads hanging over the doorway which block the wind from entering the building. I climb the steps up to the fifth floor where my first-year Mongolian students are waiting for me. These students are the first generation from their shepherding and farming families to go to college. Though descendants of Ghengis Khan, who eight hundred years ago created the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world, they are now a minority living in an autonomous region in the Peoples Republic of China. The Mongolians live on the grasslands where wild horses still run free, where farmers try to make a living from the land, and were shepherds living in yurts roam the vast miles searching for fresh grass for their sheep. These proud people are sending their children to the city to get an education in order to have a better quality of life. The Mongolian students, however, are at a disadvantage. Their mother tongue is Mongolian, a language that looks like curly q’s when written on the blackboard and sounds like a melodious tune sliding off their tongues. They then must learn the Chinese language when they attend elementary school. So English is not their second language but their third. Some have had a little English, but many are being exposed to the language for the first time. This class has me desperately searching through the Internet and my teaching files for anything that will help me to raise their level of English. I'm even having a hard time just calling the roll and getting them to respond with “Here!”
They are looking at me as if I were from another planet. We are each asking ourselves the same question: what am I doing here? There are seven boys and twelve girls in this class. When I look at them I see confusion on their faces. I am the first American they have ever met and the first foreign teacher they have ever had. No wonder they look at me as if I were an alien.
I discovered there is one boy in the class who has never had any English before coming to college. We struggle to understand each other. He looks at me bewildered, not knowing what I am saying. He is hesitant to participate with the other students in class. What to do? I decide to play a game. Sitting in a circle, the class numbers off one through nineteen. One student stands in the center and calls out two numbers. The two students with those numbers must exchange places with each other before the student in the middle can take one of their seats. The students get excited with the competitive nature of the game and forget that they are learning English numbers. The best way to learn a language is to have fun and forget you are speaking English. I happen to look over at my reticent student and was surprised to see him break into a smile - the brightest smile I have ever seen. I am completely gratified with that smile. The class is soon over. The trip home is laced with a continuous wind that whips my scarf into the air so I tuck it tighter around my neck. I thank God for calling me to this windy city and for the opportunity to bring a smile of understanding into the lives of these young Mongolians. They now realize that English isn't so difficult and that a foreign teacher can bring a breath of fresh air into understanding a language that crosses the globe.
Evelyn Underhill writes in her book The Soul's Delight that "we are the agents of the Creative Spirit in this world. Real advance in the spiritual life, then, means accepting this vocation with all it involves.” It means an offering of life to the God of life, to whom it belongs; a willingness - an eager willingness - to take our small place in the vast operations of God’s Spirit. This is an apt description of how we see our lives working with God’s Spirit in this wind-swept portion of God’s world.
We would like to invite you to be part of this work of God’s Creative Spirit. Please continue to hold our teaching in your prayers. Feel free to share our story with others. If you are so led by the Spirit you can support our ministry through a financial gift. Thank you for partnering with us.
Thank you again for your financial support. God’s blessings on you as you continue your ministry and mission in Ashland, Oregon.
Hugh & Teena Anderson