A Worthwhile Investment

20 04 2011

This past weekend was a fun but busy one for us.  On Friday, the International Christian School (ICS) middle school students took part in their annual sports day, in which everyone either ran or participated in field events.  That evening saw the opening of the spring high school drama – a musical performed over two nights. Debbie had the privilege of being actively involved in both events – an interesting way to spend a birthday!

She had front row seats for both performances of the musical – sitting together with the other 10 members of the pit orchestra (playing her bassoon).  Bye Bye Birdie cast and pit orchestraWhile her involvement in this musical required her to attend practices over several weeks, above and beyond her teaching responsibilities, it was a worthwhile and enjoyable experience – a chance to spend time with students she had taught 3-4 years ago.

Over the past years, high school students have regularly staged dramatic presentations, but this spring marked the first time a musical was accompanied by a live orchestra. The musical they chose to present was a fun-filled play called “Bye Bye Birdie”.  We won’t give away any of the plot – but it’s an entertaining play to go see if your local high school should ever perform it.

This particular presentation by ICS students was made special by the fact that this musical was a combined effort by students in the high school drama class as well as those in the high school show choir.  And it was a job well done by all of the students involved – great acting and singing by the students for both the Friday night and Saturday night performances. Both the students and parents who attended laughed and applauded their way through each performance.

We learned that you need more than a good script, good actors and acting to make a successful performance. In reality, it also required the help of two other important groups – a pit orchestra and the stage/tech crew.  Those behind the scenes were equally as important as those on the stage in the bright lights.  Without the musical accompaniment by the pit orchestra, or the quick set changes by the stage crew, the final production would have been incomplete.

Even though the school has grown quite dramatically over the last 5 years, thankfully that community spirit remains where many people pitch in to put together productions that seem beyond the realm of possibility.  Through the years we have seen people in various departments and with various skills from inside and outside the school, come together, freely giving of their time and energy to build something great.

We’re thankful for the opportunity to be part of a school that values the participation and involvement of everyone – students, teachers, parents and other volunteers. We know that as you too see those opportunities in your community – whether it’s at your local school or church or other organization – and get involved, you too will discover that it has been worth the effort. May you too this week find those opportunities for service that only you can fill!

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie Chute


Walking in Footsteps of Faith

10 04 2011

There are a variety of thoughts and emotions that come to me during my travels in China.  I am often amazed by the immensity of the country – not just the size of the land but also the number of people (everywhere), the diversity of people groups and the languages they speak.  Then there are the dramatic changes that have occurred in every area of life over the past 10-20 years – from a growing economy to ever-changing fashions and the latest technologies on display.  And lastly, but maybe most importantly – the dramatic change and growth of the church in China.

I am so thankful for the local pastors and lay people that I have met over the years – God has used them in amazing ways to share the gospel with their family, friends and neighbors.  When I look at where the church is today, I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Warren Buffet: “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” It’s actually a translation of the Chinese proverb – “前人种树, 后人乘凉.” And it’s good reminder that I should never forget those who have gone before and sacrificed, even decades ago to bring the good news of Jesus to the people of Guangxi.

The Landis Family in China - 1907

In March of this year, I led a small group on a special tour of churches in Guangxi.  One of the ladies in the group, Martha Pepper, is a descendant of pioneer missionaries who had come to Guangxi over 100 years ago.  She had written a book detailing some of the experiences that five of her grandfather’s cousins (Isaac Hess; Alice, Amelia, Laura, Martin and Minnie Landis) had when they went to China in the late 1890s.

And now, over 100 years later, I was able to take her and the rest of the group back to visit three of the major cities in Guangxi where her ancestors had worked and ministered.  Each of the visits to churches in those areas was an opportunity for us to praise God for the work He has done in China over all these years. Meeting with these local believers and pastors gave us cause to celebrate what is happening in their communities and cities today.

Martha Pepper and Nanning City pastor

Two of the churches we visited were especially significant for Martha, and for the local church leaders. It was very meaningful to be able to attend a Sunday morning worship service at the Republic Road Church in Nanning (3rd of 4 services that day). The current facility was rebuilt on the same piece of property where Martin Landis and R.A Jaffray had built the first church in Nanning back in 1897.  It was a very moving experience for both the congregation and the current senior pastor when Martha, a relative of the founding pastor came up to bring greetings. The congregation expressed their gratefulness through their applause and comments to her after the service.

Another memorable occasion on the tour occurred in a rural church near the northeastern city of Guilin.  The believers in this community are still meeting in the original church building that had been built by Baptist missionaries over 100 years ago.  With some renovations over the years, they have kept the building usable – a unique opportunity to visualize and relive a piece of history, seeing first-hand the conditions her relatives ministered under years ago.  It was a time to thank God for the service and sacrifice of pioneer workers – as well as the faithful witness and testimony of local believers over the years.

As I look back on this recent trip – it’s been a good reminder that God uses ordinary people who are obedient to His call on their life to impact our world in amazing ways.  I have seen this time & time again in China – pioneer missionaries from Europe or North America as well as faithful pastors and lay people who quietly lived out their Christian testimony in their communities. Twenty years from now, who will be sitting in the shade of the work God has given to me? To you?  Will there be any ‘shade’ to sit in?  May the next generation be able to look back and see that we too were faithful in our service wherever God planted each of us.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie Chute


Joel is traveling in China this week, meeting with church leaders in central China.  Since this will be his first visit to this province, pray for good times of fellowship with pastors and clear communication between all involved.

In addition to her teaching responsibilities at ICS, Debbie serves as the Bible department chairperson, and it’s budget time!  Pray for aptitude to learn what’s required in using a new budgeting system as well as a sound mind!!!

Put Your Best Foot Forward

5 04 2011

One reality that you can’t escape when you come to Hong Kong is the amount of walking you’ll do.  There’s a great public transportation system in place which makes it fairly convenient getting around town.  Since most people here do not own a car, they rely on the public buses, subways, ferries, taxis and trains to get from one place to the next destination. But no matter where you’re going, or what type of public transportation you use, you’ve got to do a fair bit of walking to get there – walk from your apartment to the subway station, walk from the subway station to your office; or walk through the mall to get to the grocery store.

That’s the reality of living in Hong Kong – and for the most part we don’t mind it.  But of course, there are exceptions to the rule.  When you’ve been on your feet all day long – the last thing you want to do is to ‘walk’ home.

Another part of walking in Hong Kong is learning to deal with the crowds.  After all, with nearly 8 million people on 426 square miles of land (1,104 sq. km) there aren’t too many places you can go where you won’t find other people.  And with most people using public transportation, you’ve got to learn to navigate your way through these crowds.  In fact, while our three kids never drove a vehicle during their teenage years here in Hong Kong, they got great preparation for driving on a crowded freeway just by learning to safely make their way through the crowds of people on the streets of Hong Kong.

One of our former co-workers (who will go un-named for obvious reasons) used to ‘play’ a game on his way into the office.  He took several forms of public transportation, and the goal was to get from his home to the office without bumping into or running over other commuters along the way.  For every person he bumped into, he lost a set amount of points.  If he intentionally ran over a person in his way – he lost all of his points.  Some days he made it to the office without bumping into anyone; some days he had lost all of his points before he got to the office, and needed a few minutes to quiet himself before starting his day!

If you were to walk down one of the sidewalks with us, you would notice several different styles of walking.  Here are some examples: ‘the saunter’ – not really in a rush to get anywhere but usually walking in the center of the sidewalk or path;  ‘the stop and go’-  I think I’ll go here, no maybe there, no maybe I need to go back over there.; ’talking on the cell phone / playing games amble’ – too involved in their conversation/game to notice where they’re walking until the last second; ‘the drift’ – not to be confused with ‘the saunter’  as these individuals find it difficult to walk in a straight line; the ‘dodge and weave’ – this person becomes an expert in finding or making spaces to pass others in an efficient fashion; and ‘the power walk’ – they’re in a rush to get from Point A to Point B and you probably don’t want to get in their way!

One of the challenges in living overseas is being able to learn the local customs and manners.  But beyond that, we have to adapt our ways to fit into the culture.  We’ll let you guess our preferred walking style while we’re here in Hong Kong!

Until we ‘bump’ into you next time.

Joel & Debbie Chute