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Pray and Play!

January 19, 2006

Doug & Elizabeth Searles - China

Elizabeth Searles here, writing from the training program for Chinese pastors and seminary teachers. The 40-day program of instruction is half over, and much already has been accomplished in the English immersion program. Pastors and seminary teachers from all over China are learning to speak, read, write and even preach in English, working with 6 volunteer instructors--5 from the UCC and one from the DOC.

Every morning, we have three hours of instruction including reading and using Christian materials, such as lectionary resources, sermons, prayers, etc.  Every afternoon, we sing for an hour--anthems, spirituals, praise songs, choruses, and silly songs--you name it.  Then we see and discuss a video.  Yesterday we showed the Robert Duvall film "The Apostle."  Generated LOTS of discussion, as you can imagine.

We all work hard and play hard and . . . yes  . . . pray hard.  The words "play" and "pray" are hard to distinguish among Chinese speakers of English, so there's great hilarity every time we get ready for devotions, as folks talk about who will "pray," and who will "play"--the piano, or perhaps a traditional Chinese instrument such as the arhu or the flute.  There's a lot of good fun and good music, and we teachers are learning at least as much as our students.  Powerful and spirit-filled preachers take turns filling the pulpit at church, so it's kind of a six-week festival of preaching, too.  There's a revival spirit on Sunday mornings, and you don't need to understand much Chinese to know when to "Amen!"

The English camp for pastors is housed in a new Christian training center connected to the very active Tunxi church.  It sleeps 50 and has a full kitchen and staff.  The shining white church buildings are imposing, set right on the river and main road in town, near a beautiful new bridge that's lighted in rainbow colors at night, and next to the international hotel--the most expensive in town.  The church's steeple and cross is a beacon to the entire community.  Everywhere we go in town--restaurants, shops, the hospital, or the grocery store--we meet church members who have seen us on Sunday and want to talk.

The church actively reaches out into the community, including having a well-attended medical clinic on Wednesday evenings and Sundays after church.  

This morning, the pastors sang in the Sunday Service.  We're finding that African-American spirituals, and gospel songs go over great.  We sang "I Heard my Mother say: Give me Jesus."  It created a stir--such different music from the more familiar good old hymns or indigenous Chinese spiritual songs.

With their repetition of words and phrases, rich harmonies, and syncopated rhythms, spirituals are VERY well received here by both singers and listeners, so we're singing lots of them.

We have about half men and half women in the program, and a stunning men's section.  Imagine 40-some Chinese singers holding forth on "Hush! Hush! Somebody's Calling My Name!" or "Keep your Lamps Trimmed and Burning," or "Every Time I Feel the Spirit."  Wish we could make a DVD for you all to hear.

In late August, I'll return to Chengdu to rejoin Douglas and Mickey (12), to start a new semester, working with about 50 teachers from GanZi, the Tibetan area of Sichuan province over the mountains west of us, and others at Sichuan Foreign Language College and at the Radio & TV University.  Mackenzie will be a freshman at Pacific University in Oregon, and we'll really miss her!

Keep us in your prayers, won't you?
And write your news.  We're always happy to hear from you!

Elizabeth Searles in Tunxi, Anhui (and Douglas and Mickey in Chengdu, Sichuan)

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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