I can now say I have official residency in Guyuan and find it comical that I have moved from a Tourist Visa to a Work Visa to a Residency Visa within a month of being in China. With this official document in my passport, one should feel a sense of purpose and identity, but as I have moved about the city this week, I realize that residency doesn’t come close to the purpose that I long for here in Guyuan.
To reside in a city is to inhabit it, to physically be working and occupying a space. Residing is not necessarily living in a place. Residing is surviving, but investing in a community, that is living.
While training in the Philippines the goals of Generation Transformation seemed so simple: Engage in local communities, Connect the church in mission, and Grow in personal and social holiness. Engaging with local communities was the value that initially drew me into this program after a semester in India and continued to be significant as I felt a call to build relationships with others in our world. But now I am finding that the idea of community and engaging within it, extremely difficult in this context.
Yes, I am residing in this space. I am a familiar face to the security guard at the apartment gate, the family who sells me produce, and the copy lady. Their smiles and simply words of greeting (that I can actually understand) have allowed me to survive this past month. But right now I am living through the community of foreign teachers and loved-ones back at home- a true blessing but a safe haven none the less.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am doing well here! It has been a relatively easy transition into this environment due to my time in India, and I praise the Lord for his guidance in my teaching. But I yearn for more, I yearn for fellowship with the local people that can only be attained through language at this point. With ‘survival September’ almost complete and a new month ahead, I pray for strength as I tackle Mandarin. I pray for diligence in speaking and patience in listening.