Archive for May, 2008

Ordinary returns…

While it will take months, years to repair the damage to buildings and entire towns caused by last week’s earthquake, there was a strange sense of normal today. Flags once again flew at full mast, but for so many that were impacted by this disaster their lives have been changed forever.

So this morning I forwent my normal bike ride to work and decided to walk with camera in hand. Below is a link to a 2 minute slide show of the ordinary I saw.


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The Earthquake in China: One Week Later

Background: May 12, 2008 at 2:28 PM, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the Sichuan province of central China. The areas hardest hit are mountainous, rural, poor and hard to access, even in the best of conditions. Chairman Mao, realizing the strategic importance of such a location, hid his best weapons and military might within the mountains of Sichuan.

Yesterday, at 2:28 PM, the massive country of China came to a screeching halt. To remember the dead and pray for the living, three minutes of complete silence were mandated by the government. Cars stopped and drivers stepped out to pray. Rescue workers, for the first time in a week, took a three minute pause. Even Olympic construction, the seemingly never-ending project that continues day and night took a break. After the eerie silence (urban China is many things, but never quiet), car horns, firecrackers and cannons boomed through the air.

We are now in the second day of the 3 days of national mourning. Many are wearing black or white, China’s funeral colors. White flowers and ribbons (the color of death) are everywhere. Entertainment venues are closed. Entertainment TV channels and websites are redirected to sites focused on the earthquake.

At our local university Sunday night, we gathered in a huge circle to sing and sway to “Zhu Ni Ping An” (Wishing you the best) – a Chinese favorite in difficult times. We foreigners followed with our comfort song “Amazing Grace”. Tears streamed down faces – it is an emotional and heart-wrenching time.

China has suffered one of the hardest years since the reforms and opening up of the 1980’s. The massive snow storm that crippled southern China during the new year holiday, food prices that have doubled and tripled, the lethal outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in 8,500 toddlers (24 fatalities reported), serious and fatal unrest in the western regions of the country and now the Sichuan earthquake. All of this, while trying to prepare to host the most perfect, most choreographed Olympics in history.

Our friends are understandably exhausted. Our Chinese teacher taught us the phrase “yao ting zu” – which I at first translated as we “must endure”, but he corrected me to “will endure”. The Chinese are a resilient people. The older generations have seen a great deal of tragedy and suffering in their lives, yet on their backs, the new China was born.

Please keep the people of China in your prayers. The rescue work is slowing down – the back-breaking work of rebuilding will begin soon.

I am including a link to our friends’ Chris and Dawn Scott’s snapfish photo gallery. Chris and Dawn and their children live in Chengdu, just 60 KM or so from the epicenter. While Chengdu was miraculously spared, the local villages were devastated. The Scotts and their school spent the weekend collecting funds, food, blankets and tents – then distributed them throughout the area. Pictures 136 – 139 are especially poignant. The beautiful girl in the white dress is only one of ten students who survived the collapse of their school. 230 students were in the school at the time. Link:

If you or someone you know would like to directly contribute funds to help with the relief and rebuilding, please let us know by leaving a comment. We will contact you by email to provide donation information.

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Just a short post to let you know we are safe and well. The 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Central China Monday (and is continuing to send aftershocks through the region) is nearly 900 miles from our city.

Please keep those impacted by the earthquake in your prayers at this difficult and frightening time.

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9 Views of China


So it occurred to me on my recent trip to the US for a conference in Minneapolis, that there is so much here in China that we simply don’t see anymore. The bizarre (to Western eyes) has become normal. The subject of many of our photos two years ago have faded to the background to our rather accustomed eyes.

So during a recent, and to us, ordinary, walk to the post office I tried to put on my ‘New To China’ eyes. This is what I saw…

Row 1, Column 1: Zach & Noah walk through life in China locked at the hip under a-typical blue skies. What a gift to be able to share this experience with a life-long friend.

R1, C2: In typical fashion, a man-powered delivery vehicle stacked tall and wide.

R1, C3: As the dust and smog are thick in our industrial city, people find lots of ways to keep out the elements. Both of these are quite common. The lady on the left is using a cloth wrapped around her head, while the person on the right used a full-face visor (I can’t help but think of Darth Vader).

R2, C1: Another typical delivery method. As the price of labor is quite low, manual jobs of all varieties are quite common. What is even more amazing is to see guys like this carry large loads up many flights of stairs (we witnessed a man carry our washer on his back up 6 flights of steps! At the risk of understating this point, I would say simply that the Chinese are unbelievably hard workers. We will develop this observation in future posts.

R2, C2: Zoom in on this elderly man’s face if you can. What stories he could tell! Can you picture the history he has witnessed first hand? He is a stranger to us, and to you. I suspect he has seen more in his life than we can ever imagine.

R2, C3: East meets west. Not only is Coke everywhere here but seeing the Olympic rings has become the rule than the exception on signs, billboards, products- everything!

R3, C1: This is a store. Not kidding. This women is one of millions of ‘entrepreneurs’ in China. She sells phone cards (used to supply minutes to the largest mobile phone market on the planet). You can see her offerings in the bottom left corner of the picture. She sits in this chair, on this intersection and sells them. Everyday. She has the same ‘head dust cover’ as above and is pictured sending a text message within it (of course!).

R3, C2: Zach & Noah stop outside the post office to watch a guy fix the air conditioner (mind you they won’t turn it on until June 15 regardless of the temperature outside). Notice the head-jerk from the guy on the left exiting the building. Foreigners are quite the rarity in our quaint town of 13 million. While we are treated well, we are less celebrities, more oddities. To not go crazy, this is something you just get used to.

R3, C3: A handful of workers perch precariously on the outside of a bridge close to our home. A simple tether appears to be their security. I am reminded of how thankful I am to have a job, while far from home, closer to the ground. 🙂

Serving as your humble window to this amazing place,

– Dan
(If you click on the picture, you will see a larger image)


I Need a Hero

Amazing Grace 1.jpg

The idea of heroes is largely out of fashion. We are so often disappointed by the humanity of our chosen heroes that we stop looking for those larger-than-life people who seem to impact hundreds, if not thousands with their vision of what could be. Daniel and I were recently blessed with the gift of a wonderful book, but more importantly, the gift of a restored sense of the impact one dedicated individual who pursues the heart of Gd can make. Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas is that book. It beautifully re-tells the story of the great abolitionist William Wilberforce. Make time this spring to read this book. You will be so glad you did.


Spring Carnival


Sugar candy is a traditional art widely enjoyed in our city. The artist is pictured behind his confectionery creations: butterflies, roosters, pigs, dragons … these are amazingly beautiful candies that are made on the spot from a sugar similar to honey.
Every year, our school hosts a carnival for our community. Chinese, Korean and western neighbors gather on our school grounds to play games, eat hot dogs and cotton candy, bounce on a giant trampoline, get their faces painted and generally get to know one another better. This year, the carnival doubled as a fund raiser to help alleviate the costs of THREE summer service trips for middle and high school students. 23 students and staff are heading to Mongolia (the country between China and Russia – Ghengis Khan land), 61 to Inner Mongolia (the most northern province of China) and 20 to Ho Chi Min City,


Mia and Hannah showing off their painted faces. Be sure to double click on this photo to get a closer look at Mia’s butterfly. The detail is unbelievable!

Our family will be joining the Inner Mongolia service team. At the carnival, team members wore matching shirts to identify them to the community – ours is turquoise with a horse head on the front (horses are quite significant in Mongolian culture) – on the back, a phrase from John 10:10 is translated into English, Korean, Russian, Chinese and Mongolian – the five languages represented by our team.

While in Inner Mongolia, we will host camp for two weeks for our own students, as well as hundreds of local Mongolian students who will join us on the weekends. 40 local teachers will also be at camp, learning to speak conversational English. We will live in mongo bao (Mongolian tents – sometimes called yurts), eat lots and lots of mutton, ride camels, count stars, sing around the campfire and generally celebrate and share the Gifts we have been given!

Our train ride to the camp will take 26 hours – and this is after our entire team (including our four little kiddos!) board the train during its SIX minute stop in our city. Wow!

Also significant, the new logo for our school was unveiled at the Carnival. The awesome design was created by Daniel, who happens to be out of town right now so I can brag on him without repercussions. The large blue Chinese character is the word tian, the first part of our city name. Tian is translated heaven – which we really get a kick out of on so many levels …


Sporting our team shirts – over our heads is the new school logo

We are excited about the opportunity to experience Mongolian culture – and so thankful for a school that makes service trips do-able for a family like ours!