Monday, July 21, 2008

Chinese Church and Swimming Lessons

Yesterday a friend and I went to a registered ("Three Self") Chinese church. That's the kind of church that China says is legal, except when it says it isn't--which happened a few decades ago and caused all the underground churches to flourish. The church has a deal with the Chinese government to be silent on the Second Coming and the resurrection of the dead. Wikipedia does note, though, that some churches have some leeway on that, and the one I went to must have been one of them, because the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was explicit in the Romans sermon text.

My friend and I arrived twenty minutes before the service started and were already shuffled into the 300+ person overflow room where we watched everything going on upstairs on video.

I was so fascinated to see what a Chinese church would be like. Even if I had understood all of the message, I would still have been distracted trying to observe: What kind of people came? (mostly girls) What were they wearing? (better clothes than normal) What did they bring with them? (a Bible, I think, and/or a book of hymns) And so on.

I was interested in figuring out what the four or five other foreigners were doing there, too. Missionaries can speak Chinese and find it too ostentatious to go to a Chinese service like that, and students are usually in one place long enough to try to mesh with a church in a foreign language. After carefully watching the foreigners--who were all Americans speaking English to surrounding Chinese people who obviously knew them--I concluded that it was evangelically-oriented Americans in Beijing for a short time who had Chinese friends interested in Christianity. I talked with them afterward and found I was right.

Language-wise, let's just say it's good that I'm used to the content of church, because I had to fill in a lot of blanks. "Trusting in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior" hasn't really come up as vocabulary in class. I heard it a lot, though, because they baptized 44 people. It was really amazing to see.

On a totally separate note, today I learned that my mom (real mom, not Chinese mom) is right when she says you should bring a swimming suit with you everywhere you go. Otherwise you may end up wearing something like the man on the left here:

And since I don't carry the swimsuit I brought all the way from America in my backpack, I did look like that man when I went to Beijing's swimming pool with Suzie today. It was an incentive to stay in the slimy-bottomed pool. When I got in, Suzie didn't eve know how to hold her breath under water. When we got out, she was doing the breaststroke for several meters at a time.

It was difficult to teach someone to swim in Chinese when the only related word I knew was "to swim." But like trying to attend church in Chinese, it's more the effort that counts.


David Griffen said...

uhhh, speedos...
Bad memories...
In Singapore, at one of the waterparks (I think near Jurong Central), they require you to wear speedos and you can't wear swimming trunks at all...
I commend your bravery.

Mel said...

for claiming she was never your girlfriend, i'm sure that seemed like a very date-ish outing :) oh well.