Abraham, Isaac, Jacob…and China?

I’m currently tutoring two Chinese restaurant waitresses in English.  They are lovely young women, both about 23 years old, and we are having a great time together.  I’m always amazed how friendships can be forged, even through language barriers (the most common means of communication), and God has not failed in growing a strong relationship between me and these women. 

I meet with each of them tête-à-tête once a week.  Our time together consists of 15 mins (or so) of Bible Time and then 1.25 hrs English study.  This is based on the format we used when I was in Japan, and I found it worked so well there that I brought it over to my classes here.  The Bible Times are in simplified English, so even if they don’t like the subject matter, they are still practicing and learning English.  They seldom argue against, but frequently act surprised, or withhold questions just so it will be over with sooner.

We use a kids Bible, since the vocabulary is simpler and the pictures help explain any confusing points.  Idioms are aplenty, however, so it is helpful for learning new expressions.  I find myself laughing at some of the expressions we use everyday that I had never thought much of before.  It’s refreshing to know that many of the idioms we use are duplicated in some manner in other languages.  No matter where you are, or what language you speak, there are certain concepts that are always best explained using an idiom. 

We have been going in order through the Bible, starting with creation, through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  I am on through to Joseph with one woman, but the other is just now in the middle of Jacob’s story.  When I was in Japan, teaching these lessons, it was very easy for my students to pick up how Jacob was a cheat and a liar.  He didn’t care who he stepped on, just so long as he got what he wanted.  This made the redemption of God still choosing him and using him all the more grand because they clearly saw what his sinful character was like.

However, with my Chinese students, I am having a harder time getting this message across.  When I was in China many years ago, I learned an expression, translated into English.  It went something like this:

Whichever cat catches the mouse

The idea behind it was to say that, no matter what method that cat used to catch the mouse, if he caught it, then he won.  The ends justify the means.  So, a person like Jacob, who spends his life cheating and lying his way into physical prosperity, is seen as a strong person – maybe even someone to be emulated.  As we are nearing the end of Jacob’s story in our Bible Time, I can’t help but feeling that it’s something that will have to sink in for later musing. 

Despite this sort of negative conclusion, there has been some good stuff happening.  This last week, the women went with me to a youth revival at my church.  I was helping worship, so bringing them was a lot of fun.  They could see me perform, but also, it was prime opportunity for them to read the Bible in their own language.  I had been hesitant to bring my Chinese/English Bible with me to our lessons, because I didn’t want them to think that I only care about making them Christians.  I do care a great deal about that, but under the umbrella of that goal is to help them assimilate into our country (as much as possible), learn the language, and develop friendships outside of their workplace. 

I showed them the Chinese Bible pretty quickly and answered any questions they might have about them.  When I asked one woman what her favorite story was that we’ve read in Bible Time, she thought a moment and said, “Jacob.”  I found it for her and she began reading, not lifting her head either until she was done with most of the story and it was time for the meeting to start.  When I showed her where the message would be given from, she glanced over at it, but then went back to reading, this time about Joseph.  The other woman was a bit different.  I started her on the story of the message, The Samaritan woman at the Well, who had done everything wrong, and continued to do everything wrong, but Jesus choosing her anyway.  She seemed captivated with the story.  She read from the beginning of that chapter through two others.  On our way back to her house, she said that it had been “the best day!” and she was so happy. 

Please pray for these women.  I don’t want to give their names, but you can call them Lee and Sharon.  I appreciate you covering our English lessons (Mondays and Wednesdays) with prayer as well. 

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob…and China?

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