Over winter break our own Megan Smolinski went on a short term mission trip to China, hear about her experience below:
Friends and Family,
I can’t thank you enough for your prayers and support as I traveled to China this Christmas. It brought me so much peace knowing that you were thinking about me and praying for me. I apologize if I haven’t been able to share about my experience with you, or in very much detail, but I hope this letter helps facilitate that. If you have any questions, comments, or want to hear more, please let me know because I would love to talk with you!
The trip began with a delay in Toronto which forced my team to spend the night there. All of our needs were met, but we couldn’t help but wonder what the significance of the delay was if our work was cut out for us in China and we knew our time was very precious. However, we spent several hours in the airport, alongside many Chinese college students that were returning home for winter break. We suddenly realized that even this was an opportunity to start sharing. Nothing noteworthy came of our conversations, but seeds were planted.
We finally boarded the flight and minutes before we left the gate, I was so excited to see that the window seat was still open as I was in the middle. But of course, one of the last people to board the flight gestured that the window seat was hers, and I sighed and let her take her seat. I was looking forward to having some alone time and putting in my headphones. When I heard the woman in the window seat crying, I felt a tugging on my heart, and I knew my alone time would have to wait. After we were safely in the air, the woman had stopped crying, but I could tell she was still wrestling with something. I started a casual conversation, hoping to take her mind off it, but within minutes she couldn’t help but open up and talk about what was really on her mind. She talked for about an hour, while I just listened. Finally, she said, “I never would’ve expected that I would find a therapist on this flight.” I laughed and apologized that I couldn’t be much help, but I told her about my faith and I told her how I would approach the situation as a Christian. Nothing visible came out of this, but another seed was planted.
Because of the night in Toronto, our teams missed our respective trains, and were forced to spend an unexpected night in Beijing. As a result, my team of 4, (Robbie, Joel, Alysha, and myself) missed an english class, which caused us to miss a Christmas party. But His ways are higher than our ways, so we got to Taiyuan as soon as we could. Our Brother picked us up from the train station and told us to get ready because we had a class in a couple of hours. No time for jet lag! We decided to keep the same agenda for every class, which consisted of introductions, singing Christmas carols, performing a skit about the Christmas story, sharing the story of the candy cane, sharing our Christmas traditions, breaking up into small groups for discussion, and playing a game to finish. The first class was a little rough around the edges, but the students didn’t seem to mind; they smiled and laughed at everything we did and were just happy that we were there. My favorite part about being in classrooms was the small groups. Alysha and I each took half of the girls and were able to get to know them and discover their interest level in what we were sharing. We exchanged contact information with our new friends and made plans to hang out one on one in order to dig deep and really share. After our first class, our Brother took us out to dinner to meet eight other brothers and sisters. It was really encouraging to hear about the work that they are doing over there.
The next couple of days were mostly spent in classrooms. We taught eight classes total, ranging from 20 students to around 70 students. Throughout the course of the week, we were able to share the Christmas story with over 250 students! There were varying responses; some students were not afraid to tell me that what I was saying wasn’t true and was just a story, others were intrigued with the life of the Son, and others were just excited to take a selfie with an American. Almost every meal was spent with Chinese friends, which was very lucky for me because I had no idea what to order or how to order. (I could rave about the food for a long time, but I’ll spare you). We also hosted a Christmas party where we sang songs, played games, Joel, Alysha, and I shared our stories, and Robbie shared the good news.
One of the hardest things for me to do was to prioritize my time and pick a few friends to invest in. Throughout the course of the trip, I was getting together with five girls individually, getting to know them, and sharing about my life and my faith. I would love to say that my words moved mountains, but they didn’t…or at least, not that I could see. None of my girls, Alysha’s girls, or the boys that Robbie and Joel were meeting with, were moved to make any decisions, but in hindsight, two weeks is a short amount of time to make that kind of commitment. Another struggle for me was introducing the good news to my friends and then leaving without developing it enough. I was reassured by my Brother, however, that him and his wife, the American English teacher, and the other brothers and sisters would remain in contact with the friends we were making.
Although I was bummed that I missed the Christmas Eve service at Grace Community, I was still able to have a wonderful Christmas. My Brother, his wife, and their three kids, opened up their home to Alysha, Joel, Robbie and I, and we enjoyed a delicious American breakfast, watched A Christmas Story, and helped the kids set up their new Lego sets. The day got even better when Alysha and I each took a friend to the local Christian church. We were very surprised to hear about this church, but we were informed that a certain number of Christian churches are approved by the government. The whole service was in Chinese, but mine and Alysha’s eyes lit up when we recognized the tune of Amazing Grace. It was also really cool to see our friends reach for the Bible in front of them and flip through it, to watch their faces as they heard the message, and to see other Chinese believers. The service consisted of worship, a message, and a Christmas program filled with singing, dancing, and acting. After three and a half hours, we had to leave to take our friends home, but we were in awe at how long the church wanted to celebrate this special day. We even saw snow flurries on Christmas night! It was a great day.
The two weeks flew by, like they always do on these kinds of trips. It was very hard to say goodbye to my friends, especially knowing that the chances of seeing them again is very, very small. However, it helps that we are able to stay in contact over an app on our phones. I am very grateful and thankful for this experience and I have learned so much. My biggest takeaway was probably the importance of sharing the good news and looking for opportunities to share the good news it in every situation. This trip also helped to give me a new perspective in sharing with unbelievers in America. Again, I can’t thank you enough for all of your thoughts, prayers, and support that helped make my trip possible!
Your Sister in Christ,