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Home from Huangshan

Written by Dougl & Elizabeth Searles
September 2, 2005

For seven weeks, the Searles family has been apart for the longest time ever.  Mackenzie is in the U.S. for university.  Douglas and Mickey were in Chengdu working on special projects. Elizabeth was teaching in the Huangshan Summer English Program for pastors, seminary teachers, and other church leaders in Anhui Province.  Here's Elizabeth writing about it:  What a tremendous experience!  First, the program was intensive and immersive.  We saw students in small morning and larger afternoon classes, and then were sharing meals, walks along the river, and day trips.  We had the rare opportunity to walk beside those who will be communicators for the Chinese church as it relates with the church universal.

Second, the program was extensive, drawing adults from all over China.  Here's my first period class: a seminary teacher from Shandong Province; a YWCA leader from Beijing; a pastor and computer professional who works in the offices of the China Christian Council in Shanghai; a seminary teacher and theological journal editor from Liaoning Province; a young university student; an elder from a growing church in Sichuan Province; and a teacher from the seminary in Chengdu, our home.

{mosimage} Most importantly, the program was personal and interactive, open and questioning.  Many students wanted to practice sharing what their work is about with foreigners who may visit the church.  Others wanted practice dealing with the sometimes difficult and probing questions that foreigners ask about the church in China.  Still others wanted help with the language of faith, of the church and of worship, or wanted practice preaching in English.
Morning devotions offered real-life opportunities for using the language of faith, and opportunities for pronunciation practice.  In their Christian materials classes, students were exposed to stories, prayers, scriptural commentary, calls to worship, benedictions, and everything in between.

Language acquisition is slow and subtle, and it's often difficult to discern progress.  In this program, however, progress was palpable and students exited with far more communicative competence than they entered with.  And they know it.

And we had fun!  Folks really have the spirit!  We sang and laughed and played games and tried to get everyone comfortable and loosened up so that they could listen, speak and learn without stress.  In China, teachers are often a daunting and distant presence, and exams are the exclusive measure of progress.  At Huangshan, the six teachers, all from the UCC and DOC, were informal, relaxed, forgiving, and interactive—and yet demanding and teaching to a high standard!

{mosimage} Goodbyes were tearful as the students peeled off to their trains, buses and planes.  Already, though, just a few days later, e-mails from students are flowing in to express their thanks and ask new questions.  Many of us will have ongoing relationships, I'm certain.

What the students learned is easiest to gauge.  What I and the other teachers learned is much more subtle and difficult to measure.  Perhaps the most important thing I learned from the church leaders is the power of prayer, of hope, and of determination.  In often-difficult circumstances, these men and women have persevered, reached out, put their lives on the line for the gospel. They live the lives they sing about in their songs!

What a privilege.  What a fellowship.  What a gift, participation in the Huangshan program.

I thank the China Christian Council and Common Global Ministries for this gift—a gift to both Chinese students and foreign teachers.
And now, it's back to classes in Chengdu for both Douglas and Elizabeth.  More about that later.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and share your news with us, won't you?

Blessings on all your ministries!

Douglas, Elizabeth & Mickey Searles
In Chengdu, Sichuan, China
 
The Searles family:
Doug, Liz, Mackenzie & Mickey
Chengdu, Sichuan, China
 
Doug and Elizabeth Searles work with the Sichuan TV and Radio University in Chengdu, China.  They both serve as English teachers.
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