My Palm Sunday

My Palm Sunday yesterday was so vastly different from years before, as it was for so many of you across the States and around the world.

While many  were engulfed in unbearable sadness, exhaustion, worry and fear of what the day would bring, others of us (such as those in my small town) awoke from a good night’s sleep.  We held onto a sense of safety in our homes and community as life promised to go on almost as usual.  News swirled around us of a seemingly unrealistic, unimaginable situation outside our city limits but one which is definitely there.

My mom and I have been mindful of the struggles of others.  As Christians, we have been joining in prayer with other faith-centered people on a daily basis.  This same can be said for our Palm Sunday yesterday, one which we have not celebrated together for 26 years due to my placements overseas’ .

What did we do?

We began by listening to our online message from Pastor Bob Sabo via Facebook.  Bob is seeing us through this time of upheaval with prayers, devotionals, emails, discussion topics and scripture readings.  We are so fortunate to have Bob as our spiritual guide to lead us through this challenging faith journey we are all deeply embedded in at the moment.

After our online worship service, our next morning venture was to look for good Palm Sunday music.  My mom (former choir director and retired music teacher) and I searched on Youtube for some uplifting new music by modern-day composers.  Here are three of our favorites.  Hope you enjoy them as well!

 

Marshall First UMC invitation to take palms

After enjoying our Sunday anthems, it was time to leash our Chinese immigrant rescue, Little Bridget (or Miss B) for her morning walk. This included a swing by the church where our Palm Sunday took on a celebratory air and one of uplifting hope.

Last week, our more creative parishioners relayed to us all that palm branches would be placed on the church steps.  We were to swing by at any time during the day to pick up our palm.  We could then wave our greetings to Christ around town before carrying our branch home with us.

When my mom and I arrived with Miss B, it was rather late in the morning. Over 1/2 of the branches had been taken already but there were still plenty for us to choose from.

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At this point, our extended mother-daughter time together was somewhat tested as I was determined to record this on my cell phone.  My mom is not a fan of pictures.  She has little patience in having them taken or taking them herself, which does cause a bit of tension between us whenever I request a photo shoot.

My desire to memorialize this special day via photo and video had mostly to do with my Chinese church choir members, my college students on WeChat (the Chinese equivalent of Facebook) and my website.  Sharing these Christian traditions with others, Christians and non-Christians alike, is an important part of my life. Since I am not in China at the moment to share in person, what better way to do so than through different forms of media?

I won’t say my mom took up the picture task I assigned her with exuberant enthusiasm, but I will say she did a marvelous job of doing so.  Thanks to my mom, I have the below, which I already compiled in my WeChat moments with explanations of what this day means for Christians.

Many of my students and colleagues checking my WeChat postings are already giving positive and “So interesting!” feedback, not to mention my Christian brothers and sisters in the choir.

Of course, Miss B  had to be featured in the visuals as well.  She hasn’t yet been in America a full year.  This was her very first Palm Sunday.  If we’d had worship in church, she never would have been able to participate.  Yesterday, we made sure she had her special Palm Sunday moment along with us.

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Sharing our day together

We next made our way around town. We headed down main street and turned to wind our way along residential streets. Swinging and swaying our palm branches while Miss B trotted along,  we met quite a few walkers along the way.  People were out like us, enjoying a gorgeous spring day and all the flowering trees it had to offer.  We distanced ourselves but made sure to greet one another with “Happy Palm Sunday!”  “Blessings!” and “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Even with distancing, we can still show unity and togetherness.

Being Grateful

Before closing off our outing, we took time to be grateful:  Grateful we were together, grateful we were healthy, grateful to have our church community,  grateful for living in a caring, small town environment and grateful to watch our country and her people come together with such determination and compassion in this time of need.

We placed our palms in our front yard Easter display, stood back to admire our efforts and headed back into the house to enjoy more uplifting music coupled with personal reflection time on this very trying, yet blessed,  Palm Sunday.

From Marshall, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn), peace for your Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

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Palm-Passion Sunday in China: A year ago today

The news from my friends in Luzhou and larger cities in China was encouraging:  Primary and secondary schools across China are starting up classes on April 8.

But as in America, large-scale gatherings are still not an option.  Universities and colleges, whose students come from all over the country, are still continuing online teaching with students asked to stay home. This mandate likewise includes places of worship such as churches, mosques and temples.

One of my former students, Ding Yanbing, gave me this report on WeChat after I asked if there would be Lenten services in her area of Sichuan province.  She is a choir member in her hometown church.

Christmas, 2019: My former student, who lives in Meishan, sent me this photo of herself outside her church.

“The government forbids large-scale gathering.  We haven’t worshiped for more than two months.  We just worship online, using our phone apps, but that is not convenient for the old who can’t use smartphones.  They are eager to go to church to listen to God’s word and worship together.”

In her town, illiteracy among the elderly is quite prevalent.  Those who grew up in old China didn’t have the opportunity of education which Chinese students have today. (The same can be said  as well for the senior citizens who go to my big city church in Luzhou.) She went on to write, “Many old Christians who can’t read the Bible express their appeal to recover worship at the church.  And there’s no cases in Meishan for may days now. Pastoral workers are trying to visit the old Christians, several people at once.”

Luzhou Protestant Church:  Still continues online

In Luzhou, services for Palm Sunday and Easter will likewise be canceled this year and continue online.

I remember the Constant Love choir practices a year ago as we prepared for our Lenten season anthems.  All of us were so excited, and humbled, with our upcoming songs of both solemness for Palm-Passion Sunday and then joyfulness, a week later for Easter.

In the choir room, we diligently prepared for our upcoming anthems for both Passion-Palm Sunday and Easter.  Here we are praying before donning our robes for worship.

Weekly rehearsals centered around our processional and the waving of palms as we entered the sanctuary.  Our deep purple robes, worn once a year, had been cleaned and pressed.  Early that last Sunday in Lent, we arrived at the church an hour early, at 7:30 for warm-up and practice.   At 8:15, we donned our Lenten garbs, each of us helping the other straighten and smooth our white satin stoles to look uniform and respectful, in honor of Jesus.  Our palm bearers led the way with the cross following behind.

Our Palm-Passion Sunday last year was  deeply meaningful with first jubilance at Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, then heartfelt mourning and remembrance of Christ’s death on Good Friday. Rather than have a single pulpit message, our pastors chose instead to share in a different way.  The entire service was composed of Bible passages read aloud by all our church leaders: Pastor Liao and her husband, Pastor Zhang; young Pastor Zhao and also Pastor Li.  There were many tears shed by all present as Christ’s death was dramatically interpreted through words and video displays on the church power point screens.  Liturgical dance by our more talented members pantomimed Jesus’ crucifixion.  Such a powerful two-hour worship left us filing from the church in reflective, spiritual quietness.

Today’s Palm-Passion Sunday

Our Palm-Passion Sunday cross at the Luzhou Protestant Church last year

Last year, our Palm Sunday anthem was  耶稣给你平安 (ye-su gay nee ping ahn), Jesus Give You Peace.  I leave you here with the lyrics, Youtube video and translation below.

这世界虽有苦难,                        Jesus has suffered
主耶稣是避风港湾;                    He is a safe harbor

他要给你,                                     He will give you,
他要给你平安,                             He will give you peace.
源源涌流不断。                             The source is constantly flowing

(Chorus)
耶稣,耶稣给你平安,               Jesus, Jesus give you peace
耶稣给你真正平安,                   Jesus give you true peace.
深深在你心里,                           Deep in your heart
源源涌流不断,                           The source is constantly flowing.
哦!耶稣给你平安。                   Oh, Jesus give you peace.

I send you blessings this day of Palm Sunday.  Hosanna in the Highest!  May Jesus give you 平安 (ping ahn), peace.

Posted in A Message of Faith, A Visit Home to Marshall, China, coronavirus, Luzhou, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, The Chinese Church, Travel, Visit To The States | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Palm Sunday: An informative, fun video for both young and old alike

This is a huge “thank you” to James Southworth, my hometown church’s youth director at Marshall First UMC.  He is posting kids’  lessons for those who are interested.  This is the latest, a bit of a Smothers’ Brothers  take but with a religious twist.  Much appreciated!

Enjoy, all, and here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn), peace, for your weekend and Sunday.

Connie

 

 

 

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Longing to return to China: My WTWO Channel News Interview

Overseas English teacher awaits return to China

Posted in A Visit Home to Marshall, China, coronavirus, coronavirus situation in China, Coronovirus Situation, Smalltown American Life, Tales of China, Travel, Wuhan coronavirus | 1 Comment

Faith Grows

A few posts back, I reported that we had a house finch who built her nest in our front porch wreath.

At that time, we discovered three tiny eggs  tucked deep inside her oval home.

But it seems our little one, known to us as the Finch of Faith, has been very, very busy.  She now has six!  

My mom did a little research on house finches. She read the female deposits two to six blue-white eggs that hatch within 12 to 16 days. The young fledgings fledge (a verb meaning “to acquire the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity “)  11 to 19 days after hatching. The pair usually produces two broods in a season and often returns to the same nest.  So perhaps we’ll be seeing another family of birdies after these have hatched and taken off on their journey into the big, wide world.

How exciting for us!  Promises of new life to come is just what we need now.

Here’s to our Finch of Faith.  May we see one another through, from the worst of times to the best of times.

From Marshall, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn), Peace, for your day.


 


 

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“Do you need masks? I can send them.”

Chengdu Vet, where many of my rescues have received medical care,  is Dr. Wang’s clinic, which she shares with her husband, also a veterinarian.

My text messages this morning came from my veterinarian friend, Dr. Wang, who is located in Chengdu, Sichuan Province’s capital city.  Over the years, she’s helped me with numerous animal rescues:  giving me discounts, mailing me canine or feline medical items I needed in my city, Luzhou (4-hours away by bus away), advising me on animal treatments and even helping me place some of the dire little ones I  picked up off the streets.

In her clinic, Dr. Wang examines rescue Chihuahua 小美妹妹 (Little Beautiful Sister).

In fact, it was Dr. Wang who helped me with exams, vaccinations and final export papers needed to bring my Chinese rescue, Bridget (Miss B), to America for adoption by my mom.

Dr. Wang and Bridget

Dr. Wang helped prepare Bridget’s health certificates for her flight with me to America.

Our relationship is a strong one, and one which I greatly treasure.

Dr. Wang (Center), her daughter (left) and myself in the waiting room of Chengdu Vet

Her note came after I sent her a picture of my mom.  We were walking Bridget, our Chinese rescue, around Marshall.  The sun was shining, the flowers were blooming, the air was fresh … Our carefree attitude, and exposed faces, surprised and concerned her.

This photo of my unmasked mom, walking Miss B around the town, worried Dr. Wang.

“You and your mother must wear masks,” Dr. Wang wrote with obvious distress. “Do you have them? If you want masks, please let know.  It only needs 15 days for me to ship them to you.  I have already sent to my friends in Germany  and the UK. And I can send more, to give to your neighbors.”

I love Dr. Wang.  She is so sweet.

To wear or not to wear?  That is the question

Fortunately for me, I have a small supply of surgical masks which my local doctor gave to me 2 months ago before my return to China. That return didn’t happen when US airlines canceled all flights to that country. Since then, I have held onto my protective gear “just in case.”

And it looks like “just in case” has arrived, not for my jaunts back to China but for my jaunts around Marshall.

After weeks of the experts telling us that wearing masks was not highly recommended, the word is starting to circulate that perhaps they are.

In China, masks during the epidemic were mandatory:  masks a must to enter supermarkets, banks, airports, bus stations, taxies and public buses.  Masks to walk the streets.  Masks to visit those in the hospital.  Masks even to be close to elderly relatives or friends.

China’s mandatory requirement to wear masks quickly emptied warehouses around the world to meet the demand.  In America, our nation was generously sending masks to China to help with their efforts to halt further infections. Even Chinese relatives living here were doing the same, ordering massive amounts of masks to mail to their loved ones overseas.

U.S. experts report:  Masks help

Now we Americans find ourselves short of masks, with front-line healthcare workers in the thick of things desperately begging for more and more protective face gear.  The public, however, was not urged to wear these, and so we didn’t.

That looks like it will change.

New findings are discovering that face masks do help to cut down on infections.  I read one report out of China which based findings on several individuals who had spread the virus on to others.  A single person had entered a long-distance bus without wearing a mask and had infected 13 unmasked people, some of which were 15 feet ahead of him, not the 3-6 feet which has been suggested as a safe-enough distance.  It seems the particles expelled remain floating about in the air for up to 30 minutes.  On the bus, 2 individuals were wearing masks and they were not infected.

Although the research is still sketchy at best about COVID-19, wearing face masks seems to be of great importance for those of us who are asymptomatic.  We might have the virus yet not know we have it as signs aren’t showing.  Incubation period seems to be about 5 days, during which time we feel fine.   We can protect others by making sure we aren’t spreading it about in public places when we go shopping, mail letters, pick up drive-through food or, in passing, come near others while doing our limited outside activities.

While all are at risk, the elderly are especially so.  Having them wear masks just for their own protection is likewise considered a vital measure in curbing contamination.

As for those who are indeed sick and know it, it is highly recommended a mask is best.  Even those who are sick and quarantining themselves at home, isolated from family members in other parts of the house, should definitely consider wearing a mask due to the long-lasting surface and air life of the disease.

This is a way of life we are not used to and may be balking to accept but it is absolutely one which is fast becoming a reality.

In Closing

Back to Dr. Wang and her message to me this morning.

“I have enough masks for me and my mom,” I reassured Dr. Wang.  “Please don’t worry.”

Text pause.

“And there is no need to pay,” she graciously added.  “It is my pleasure to keep you and your mom safe.”

From Marshall, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn), peace, and safety for your day.

Posted in A Visit Home to America, Chengdu Life: Pets in China, China, coronavirus, Illinois, Rescued canines, Smalltown American Life, Travel, Visit To The States, Wuhan coronavirus | Leave a comment

News from China brings ponderings of what lies ahead.

Triumph! In Wuhan, a parade of jubilation takes place as citizens escort visiting healthcare workers to the airport, train and bus stations for their departure from the city. The virus is now under control. All is well.

In China, the news is victorious.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million and the epicenter of the virus, is open once more. After 9 weeks of lockdown, starting on January 23, this Hubei province metropolis has survived the worst.  Virus cases petered off.  Deaths subsided. Hospital beds emptied out. Exhausted staff began to sigh in relief.

Recently, it was announced visiting medical personnel to that area were no longer needed.  A video of their exit went viral, showing Chinese healthcare workers, who had been flown in from all over the country, leaving in busloads to return to their homes as millions of citizens lined the streets to send them off.  Crowds cheered, flags waved, people bowed in appreciation, and thousands emotionally sobbed, both for joy and and for sorrow at loved ones lost.

Despite the jubilation, masks were worn by everyone, showing the vigilance which is still in effect, even across the country.

Fear of a second wave has caused China to close its borders to those abroad.  A few weeks ago, international flights continued to bring overseas’ visitors and Chinese citizens back into the country …. and the virus came along with them.

Despite the mandatory 2-week quarantine, with strict and careful swoops of passengers directly off incoming planes into quarantine facilities, hundreds tested positive for the virus.  Many showed symptoms as soon as they departed from the airplane.   Due to this, the Chinese government did what any government would do to protect its people:  Complete and swift isolation.

No flights coming in from virus hot-spot countries.  Individuals, such as myself, who hold valid visas, are banned from entering, an order put into effect on March 28.  Temporarily, foreigners coming in from outside China are having their work permits and residence cards suspended until further notice.

I personally did not expect a return to China would be possible until July or August, when I hoped my country would begin to show signs of a Wuhan victory, but at present, I fear even that is wishful thinking.  It might be a year until this calms down, to the point where China is accepting outsiders on a regular basis.

News from Luzhou

In my city of 5 million, where only 25 virus cases were reported (all recovered now), the lockdown was lifted several weeks ago after 5 weeks of “stay-at-home” edicts.  Masks are still being worn but not to the mandatory level of before.  People are traveling to the countryside to enjoy the beauty of spring. Families are now going out in clusters to  walk through parks and supermarkets, a luxury where, before, only one family member at a time was allowed to go out.  This cut down on the number of individuals who might be exposed to the virus. From the success of Wuhan and other cities, such draconian decrees seem to have been life-saving measures.

Recreation and fitness centers are slowly re-opening. Restaurants are filling with patrons, and people stuck at home for days on end are now fully enjoying the company of friends and neighbors alike.

There are also murmurs that schools in Luzhou, and all of Sichuan, will re-open after Tomb-Sweeping Festival passes.  I am not yet certain if that includes colleges and universities but the primary and secondary schools are rumored  to have students return to the classroom April 7.

My Feelings 

Of course, I am overjoyed that China has seen this epidemic through with such miraculous results and is now in cautious rejoicing mode.  What seemed doom-and-gloom a month ago, with no light at the end of the tunnel, has dissipated.  The country and its people pulled together in an unprecedented effort of unity.  Now China has  become the expert in helping other countries analyze their own current situations and react appropriately.

On WeChat, I look at pictures my Chinese students, friends and colleagues send of  their current lives.   With isolation bans lifted, the festive spirit that engulfs everyone is so apparently seen and felt in their postings.

As I said, I am so very, very happy China is on the mend and I ache to be with them.

But in America, the epidemic has hardly begun.  The virus is just ramping up, with cases and deaths rising, and major cities across the country preparing for worst-case scenarios.

We pray, we support, we comfort, and we root ourselves in place to brace for the long haul.

From Marshall, here’s wishing you have faith, have promise, have strength and, above all, stay well.

 

 

 

 

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