15 years ago as a new teacher I applied to join a group of educators and travel with them to China for 33 days one summer. We spent a few weeks teaching elementary school teachers at a university and 10 days touring the country. Being young and heading to a communist country on the other side of the world without anyone I knew was an opportunity that scared me but also challenged me in so many ways.
There were countless events that occurred on this trip that I could not possibly recount them all here. I mysteriously had Communist Party officials bring me gifts, place their children in my class (I was teaching teachers, not children so this was unexpected), place me at the head of tables during official dinners. A common remark was how there was something specific about my eyes that other Canadians did not have. They wanted to touch me (yep, that was a little creepy), they wanted to be friends with me. I received meals first, I was placed at the front of lines. Since we were in a place where many people did not approve of westerners this seemed out of place, not to mention that the others in my group did not receive this attention.
As a child I was taught a simple little rhyming prayer to say before we ate. As I grew up I continued to use this prayer. My family would chuckle. My parents would tell me I could make up my own blessing now that I was an adult. I remember once telling them, "It's always worked for me so far so why change a good thing?" It became a little joke. I continued to use that blessing over my meals whenever I ate and as I said the words they would fill my heart and I would whole heartedly give gratitude to God for everything the prayer mentioned.
My days in China were punctuated with meals of unknown food and odd textures of stuff they told me was food. I silently prayed over each meal before I consumed it. I prayed each night getting into a soggy bed with wet sheets as the humidity was so intense laundry couldn't dry after being washed...in dirty water. I prayed each time someone wanted to touch my face or another mysterious Communist Party member showed up at my classroom to hear me speak or to take my passport for a few days. Then I watched as every person in my group became sick to varying degrees with stomach and bowel ailments due to food. I saw them experience a lot sleep related issues and allergies. I saw the struggles they had in their classrooms, with officials, with communicating back home to Canada, with purchasing daily supplies - just about everything.
And then one day as I quietly began my little childhood prayer over my plate of jelly fish and cucumber God halted me. He continued the prayer for me, clearly showing me line after line of the prayer, how I had prayed it with meaning and truth and how He provided it all for me. I did not get ill, not even a little nauseous. I slept very well each night. I found favour with people in a land of strangers. I had marvelous memories of my time in China I could not have created on my own.
This experience with God was about heart attitude not religious traditions, actions or words. My prayer was simple and in a child's language but I meant it all in my heart. Even 15 years later this experience with God is still fresh in my mind.
There are a wealth of stories I will gladly share of specific encounters, events and awesome things God did during that trip if anyone wants to ask me. But until then, I will leave you with this:
Thank you God for milk and bread.
Thank you God for a cozy bed.
Thank you God for friends and play.
Thank you God for a happy day.
Submitted by Ruth McGauley, Posted with Permission