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You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6)

November 11, 2006

Doug & Liz Searles – China

Romans 1:8: First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (NIV)

Romans 1:8: I thank God through Jesus for every one of you. That’s first. People everywhere keep telling me about your lives of faith, and every time I hear them, I thank him. (Peterson)

On a recent trip to rural Tibetan schools in the mountains west of where we live, teachers gratefully held up copies of English books and CDs they’d received as gifts from U.S. churches. Sometimes these books were the only bright spot in the otherwise cramped, drab and sunless rooms of their on-campus teacher housing.

These village teachers know very well that their gifts came from churches—Christian people who believe that loving servant hood may transform the world, one person at a time. They are moved and sometimes awestruck by the idea that everyday people in the U.S. would want to send teaching materials just for them.

Lots of Americans have lots of books, whether we read them or just use them to warm up a room. Here in China, however, books are in short supply—especially real books in real English—and especially in rural areas where almost everything but the basics is in short supply. Why English books? Because entrance exams for high school and university require a pass in English, Math and Chinese. English books help disadvantaged minority students reach that goal.

Awhile back, we were called to the Chengdu customs office about three big boxes from the states. A customs officer in a shiny uniform demanded: “What’s in these boxes?” “I don’t know,” Doug shrugged. “They’re presents from U.S. churches for Tibetan village teachers.”

“You mean people are giving things to people they’ve never met?” She was incredulous.

“That’s right!” he said.

Visibly moved, the officer actually flicked away a tear as she stamped the documentation: “No charge.” “Next time,” she said in a gruff voice, “tell them not to send all the boxes on the same day!”

To us, this officer’s actions were better than the words “Thank you!” to the people at home whose “faith is being reported all over the world.” She and so many others learn about your lives of faith—you—the people in the pews who transform the world by your giving.

Earlier in Paul’s letter to the Romans is my favorite part: “Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others . . . You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ” (Peterson). “You are who you are” because of a gift, and through your owngiving. Giving defines us as Christians--defines us to ourselves and to the world.

In our case, your giving has defined Christians for the  Chinese customs officer, for the rural teachers, and for the many many minority students whom they, themselves, tirelessly serve. And it’s a powerful, moving and transforming message.

Thank God that this is so!

Elizabeth and Douglas Searles and family
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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