Would You Drink This?

30 01 2012

Most people in North America take their water supply for granted.  When they turn on the tap, they expect to receive clean water.  That’s just the way it is in most places across Canada and the USA.  But that is not always the case in many of the cities and towns of China.

Clean water, much less keeping a sufficient water supply, is a growing challenge for many places in China. Decades of rapid economic growth and lax enforcement of environmental protection laws have left most waterways in China heavily contaminated with toxic waste from factories, mines and farms.

Many rural residents of China are dependent on rivers for their drinking water.

Most recently, the discovery of hundreds of dead fish on the Long Jiang River in the south central province of Guangxi led to the discovery of the toxic heavy metal cadmium, with levels two times higher than the permitted safety level.   Since many of the cities and rural towns in Guangxi get their water supply from rivers, the news of a contaminated water supply led many citizens to rush off and buy up bottled water, despite assurances from government officials that the water was still up to national standards and safe for drinking.

The chemical spill in Guangxi is the latest in a long line of incidents that have rendered China’s rivers and waterways some of the most polluted in the world, despite efforts by government officials to pressure local authorities to shut down polluting industries. The unregulated disposal of chemicals by factories and mines has had a lasting and serious impact on ground water, wells, lakes and rivers across China.

Rural kids in Guangxi at local well

The WHO (World Health Organization) has stated that the assurance of drinking-water safety is a foundation for the prevention and control of waterborne diseases. But the unregulated dumping of pollutants into rivers and lakes across China has the potential to seriously impact the food supplied to its citizens.  With many rural communities dependent on rivers and lakes for water to irrigate their crops, any increase in unregulated toxic waste in these water supplies will eventually make their way into the food supply for 1.5 billion people.

While there are some NGO’s focused on improving the quality of China’s water supply, much still remains to be done in this area.  Church leaders in Guangxi are aware of this growing need in their province and have looked at ways they could be involved in helping to improve the water quality for rural communities in their surrounding areas.  PRAY with us that God would give wisdom to church leaders in knowing how to bring both clean water and ‘living water’ to the all those in need.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie Chute

We are thankful for a good week of rest & renewal in Thailand this past week as we attended a conference with other C&MA international workers.  We enjoyed good times of fellowship, worship and hearing God’s Word opened by our speaker – Rev. Sunder Krishnan.

The ICS Middle School is having their Spiritual Emphasis Week from January 31 – February 7th.  PRAY that the Holy Spirit would fill our speaker with energy, wisdom and His words. PRAY that students’ hearts would be receptive, and that God would give them courage to take the next step God is calling them to in their journey of faith.

PRAY that Debbie would rest in God’s leading and strength in the next week and a half.  The middle school principal is in the USA (unexpected trip) and she bears heavy responsibility for the details of the Spiritual Emphasis Week.  In addition, during this week and next week, interviews are being conducted with candidates for the position of ICS headmaster.  Debbie will also be involved in some of these meetings.  PRAY that God’s purposes would be accomplished through these events.


Signs for the New Year

23 01 2012

You can always tell when Christmas is drawing near when you start hearing Christmas carols being played on the radio, seeing Christmas ornaments and lights adorning Christmas trees (real or artificial) in homes and stores. But what are the signs that indicate Chinese New Year is nearing?  After all, this major Chinese holiday is also known as春节(Chun Jie) – Spring Festival, but usually occurs the end of January or the start of February.  So if you can’t count on the weather as an indicator of the start of Spring Festival, what else is there?

There are spring couplets (春联chun lian). Just as many westerners like to put up special decorations around the house for Christmas, most Chinese families will add their own unique style of decorations around their house/apartment in preparation for Chinese New Year.  An integral part of those preparations is the hanging/posting of spring couplets on the doors, and walls facing the living room.

Typically, the spring couplet is a four to eight character saying, usually written on red paper, with a happy, hopeful, message about having a better New Year. These statements reflect the perspective families will approach the New Year with, making them even more significant in meaning than some Christmas decorations.
These temporary banners are usually comprised of several Chinese characters written in glittery gold script on a red banner, but we have seen many different styles.  Some homes hang three different spring couplets on the top, left and right hand side of the front door.

Some of the more auspicious sayings posted are:
恭喜发财  (gōng xǐ fā cái)  May you be prosperous in the New Year
心想事成   (xīn xiǎng shì chéng)  Hope you get everything your heart desires
吉祥如意   (jí xiáng rú yì)  Wishing you good luck in the New Year 
金玉满堂   (jīn yù mǎn tang) Hope your house is filled with riches

There’s a common theme to many of these couplets –

Chinese character for spring - inverted.

most of them express their wish for good luck and prosperity in the coming year – lots of money!! It is common to have decorative hangings of Chinese calligraphy with the characters for “spring,” “wealth,” and “blessing” on one’s front door, or inside their house/apartment. Even the positioning of the characters is significant – they are hung upside down to show that these blessings are “coming down” upon them.

On January 23rd, people around the world will celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year 2012, which happens to be the Year of the Dragon. It is a year that is believed to hold great promise for building wealth and for making life-altering decisions. Our local news media reported this week that the rate of mothers giving birth in Hong Kong is expected to increase substantially this year. Couples are more willing to have a child during the year of the dragon, because it is considered an auspicious / lucky year.

Our wish for the New Year is a little ‘different’ than those expressed in many of these spring couplets..  Our desire and prayer for our Chinese friends and families both in Hong Kong and China is that they would have a “new birth into a living hope . . . into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven.” Would you pray with us that students we have contact with at ICS would grow in their faith, which is “of greater worth than gold.” Pray with us that the many people across China who heard the gospel message for the first time at Christmas services this year would come to faith in Jesus and experience His life-changing touch.

Happy New Year – 新年快乐 – xīn nián kuài lè!

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie Chute

Home for the Holidays

10 01 2012

Have you ever been stuck in a line at an airport, or in traffic on your way home for the holidays, wondering how long is this going to take?  If you thought the line-ups at the airport in your city for the recent holidays or even for Thanksgiving were long – think again.

Migrant worker on the way back home

Chinese New Year is just a couple of weeks away, and many people in China are already beginning to start traveling back home.  China has well over 200 million migrant workers working away from their homes, and many of those will be making the long journey home over the next couple of weeks. For many of the migrant workers who have been working in factories along the east coast and the southern province of Guangdong, or the university students away studying, it’s their only opportunity to go home each year.  So they will pack up their suitcases with gifts for their family, with enough snacks to keep them from getting too hungry before they arrive at their destination. And they will endure the 18-hour, 24-hour, even 40-hour train ride just to be able to spend time with their family during the Lunar New Year.

Chinese government officials say they are anticipating a 9% increase in the number of trips planned over the next 40 days, estimating that 3.1 billion journeys will be made by bus, car, or plane between now and February 16.  Yes that’s right – 3.1 BILLION different journeys!  Now imagine the lines that people will have to endure at airports as well as bus and train stations.

Migrant worker entering Shenzhen train station

Though the government has been rapidly building high-speed railways, there are not enough trains or staff to deal with such a surge in demand. Traffic on the roads and railways and in the skies will be up to 10 times the normal rate.

To put these numbers in perspective, compare these statistics with those from 2011 Christmas & New Year’s travel in the USA.  The largest motoring organization in the USA, AAA, reported that US travel during the 2011 Christmas and New Year’s holidays’ weekends was at the highest level in five years.  Of the nearly 92 million people who traveled 50 miles or more from home during the holiday period, automobile drivers and passengers accounted for 83.6 million of the year-end holiday travelers, with another 5.4 million people traveling by air.

So the next time you feel upset at the long lines at the airport, or with how long your trip is taking, just be thankful you don’t have 3.1 billion travelers in line ahead of you!

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie

Christmas in China

3 01 2012

Our time in China over the Christmas holidays went by all too fast for us, but it was memorable for both of us.  We wanted to be able to see firsthand the Christmas programs put on by the local churches and have the opportunity to visit with our pastor/friends.  While we both battled the cold/flu bug for part of the time, we were able to attend special Christmas services as well as regular Sunday services at churches in Nanning.  In addition to their regular Sunday morning service schedule (3 services each); the two churches also held special outreach services on Christmas Eve and the evening of Christmas Day (2 services each night).

We have added some pictures to give you a glimpse of what Christmas in China looked like!

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We hope you enjoyed the pictures, and gained a better understanding of what it means to celebrate Christmas in China, both in the church and on the street.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie