Some of you already know that WordPress (my blog website host) has been blocked in China for a year now. I was having my friend in my hometown do my postings, which is why there have been so few.
After changing my Net server to China Telecom, instead of using the school’s network, I was able to apply for a private network connection which allows me to re-route through them from China. It’s a yearly fee of $100 and for that, I can access all the sites I want without any difficulty.
So it’s back to reports from China on a more regular basis. And please check previous posts. I’ve added photos for International Women’s Day and Tomb Sweeping Festival.
Easter Sunday for our Longzhou Protestant church was nothing special.
Cherry (Wei Fang, a dedicated Christian and my student) and I met at 9 a.m.to walk to the service together. This has been our Sunday morning routine since the beginning of the semester.
Our congregation of 15 gathered on the second floor of the 100-year-old sanctuary as usual. Because there is no pastor, Zhou Ning (joe ning), our lay leader, is the one to lead prayers and hymn singing, then put on the DVD presenting the Nanning Protestant Church pastor’s message for the week. (Nanning is the capital city of this province, so this is the big city church we are getting to experience.)
These DVD’s are sent to all small churches in the area so that Christians can hear a worthy sermon from an ordained pastor. In the Longzhou church, many bring pencil and paper to write down the main points as Pastor Zhang speaks. They huddle close to the TV set, very keen on hearing the word of God and explanation of the scriptures so that they can fully understand the meaning of Christianity.
Cherry is the same and always has her notebook on hand to jot down key phrases or sentences that strike her as important.
The sermon is usually 45 minutes long. After hymns, prayers and scriptures, our service is over after 1 ½ hours. Then everyone leaves.
While I did mention that nothing special happened for our Easter service, it certainly was special for Zhou Ning. For the first time, her boyfriend came to visit her family in Longzhou and to attend church with her. Both of them met in Nanning at a 1-year theology training for Christians in Guangxi.
Finding a Christian husband or wife is always difficult for young people in China as there are so few Christians to choose from. And finding someone who is dedicated to work within the church is even more difficult as most young people want to enter the business world to make money. Working for the church brings in very little money, if any at all. Zhou Ning, in her late 20’s, was getting desperate pleas from her parents to find someone to spend her life with. It seems she has done just that with her new boyfriend.
Sad to say, the distance between the two has been great. Her sweatheart comes originally from Jiangsu Province, which is far to the East of the country. He has been there for the past 2 years. This is only his second trip to Guangxi in that time period.
With his arrival, the young couple was all smiles in church. They were quite eager to go shopping and catch up on news when we all departed.
Easter Lilies a Must
It’s not the custom in China to have lilies for Easter. For the larger churches in the big cities, the Western and European tradition of lilies has taken hold so altar displays might have lilies. But for the smaller churches, there are no such symbols to be found on Easter Sunday.
For myself, I am always keen on keeping my cultural traditions alive. After church, Cherry and I went walking back along our river road toward the college where we passed numerous little shops. One of these is a tiny flower shop where plants and cut flowers can be purchased.
Cherry already knew my US lily tradition because it was a part of our class lesson on Easter. I told her that we really should get lilies for this special day, so in we went to take a look at our seller’s offerings.
The woman had two huge containers of lilies: pink in one; solid white in the other. Each stalk had between 3 to 5 blooms, some already fully flowered while others were in their early stages of opening.
There was a great deal of discussion between the two of us and the flourist which would be the best ones. Lilies aren’t cheap in China, being about $4.00 a stalk, so best to get the ones that will last the longest.
We chose 1 white and 1 pink stalk. I handed over my $8.00 and off we went carrying our precious load back to the school.
A Surprise Easter Gift for My Student
My intention was to make sure Cherry received one of these, although she had no idea that’s what I was thinking. In this country, $8.00 is a huge amount to pay for cut flowers. I’m sure Cherry would never consider spending that on herself, nor would she be able to having so little money. Her assumption was that these flowers were for me to enjoy, especially as it was my money and my cultural tradition.
“Do you know how to prepare cut flowers to make them last longer?” I asked her when we arrived at the campus gate.
“No. I have no idea,” she replied.
“Well, then, you really need to come back to my apartment and let me show you.”
Cherry followed me home where we laid our 2-foot-long lily stalks on the table. I rooted around in the cupboard and found 2 big vases. Next, I showed Cherry how to pull off the excess leaves, cut the stems shorter and immediately place them in cool water in the vases.
“Changing the water often, every day, is the best way to make sure all the other buds bloom and the flowers stay fresh,” I informed her.
Cherry nodded, not quite sure why I was going into such detail about taking care of lilies. After all, they weren’t hers.
“So,” I said, “now we need to find them a place in my apartment. Where shall I put the white ones?”
She and I looked about, trying different areas of the room before finally settling on the Easter display of eggs, baskets and stuffed bunnies set up next to the TV.
Cherry was holding the pink lilies, which she already said she liked more than the white ones.
“And how about the pink ones? Where should they go?” I asked.
Cherry set them on the table.
“Here?” she asked
“No. The table is too crowded with things.”
She put them on my empty bookcase.
“Naw. No one can see them on the bookcase.”
“What about next to the water machine?” She meant the water cooler dispenser which most of us have in China.
“I don’t think so. I’d probably knock it over.”
After several minutes of this, it was time for me to stop teasing the poor girl and get to the point of my negativity about where to put those pink lilies.
“You know, Cherry. I think I have the perfect place.”
“Where?” she asked.
“Your dormitory room!”
There was a pause and a confused look on her face before she finally got it.
She shook her head.
“No, they are yours! You bought them.”
She tried to thrust the vase back into my hands but I refused to take it.
“You’re right,” I said. “I bought them and I’m giving them to you. Every Christian deserves to have lilies for Easter. That’s my Easter present to you. You and your dormitory roommates can enjoy them all week and remember why Christians celebrate Easter.”
It didn’t take a second time to convince her to take her pink lilies. Cherry was too excited with the gift to fight with me about accepting them and I was too determined to share with her my personal Easter tradition in America.
Of course, we had to get pictures. Cherry’s first lilies for Easter! Such a special moment should be recorded and shared.
Cherry will be getting her photos this Friday when we have class together. These she can take back with her to show her hometown church members and her family.
As for you all, I am including the photos at the end of this blog.
I hope your Easter Sunday was just as lovely and meaningful as ours, with or without the lilies . . .or, as in Zhou Ning’s case, the long awaited boyfriend!
Until next time, Ping An (Peace) from China