A View from the Curb

31 05 2013

On a recent trip into China, I watched as a group of young students on their way home from school, nonchalantly and safely made their way across a busy street. There wasn’t a crosswalk for them to use, but they carefully navigated their way from one side of the street to the other – as a variety of vehicles made their way down that same road.

Crossing Guilin Street

Students trying to cross a street in Guilin

It’s a scene that is repeated on a daily basis all across China, and if you’re not used to it, it can be a little unnerving. Growing both up in residential & more rural parts of Canada, I was taught & learned the rules of the road – when and how to safely cross a street – and that served me well until our family came to Asia. But upon our arrival in Taiwan, and on my subsequent travels into China, I quickly discovered that what worked for me in Canada and the USA wasn’t going to work here.

At first everything seemed some chaotic – there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why people were driving the way they were, or how people could safely cross the busy road without being run over. (If you want an idea of what it’s like to cross a street in China, imagine a real life version of the old arcade game – Frogger!

But as time went by, I began to see more than just the cacophony of cars and people and instead saw the rhythm – the ebb and flow of walking and driving in Asia. It’s hard to explain on paper all that’s involved (I guess you have to be here to experience it) but part of that rhythm involves having patience and being willing to wait for the right moment to move forward.  (Maybe that is why it has taken me 24 years to learn this particular lesson!)  But learning some patience and waiting for the right moment to step out has helped me survive the past 24 years on the streets of Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Now, when traveling in China, I know how to safely make my way across a busy intersection without being run over by passing cars.

Crossing Nathan Road

Crossing a busy intersection in Hong Kong

As I reflected on this the other day, I realized that I have had to apply these same principles to my personal life and ministry.  Life and ministry is different here in Asia, and living in a culture where everything is go-go-go, and constantly under pressure to produce results, it’s not always easy to be patient.

As much as I would like to rush forward with all the great ideas I have gathered over the years – I need to bide my time and wait for the right moment before stepping out.  Peter Marshall said it best: “Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.” When the moment is right, we need to step out in faith, and move forward.

So whether it’s just a matter of us trying to cross a busy street safely, or trying to determine the next step in life or in ministry, remember – ‘Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself.’ (St. Francis de Sales)

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie


PRAISE God that students and staff were able to move into the new Guangxi Provincial Training Center building the middle of May.  Classes for this year’s students will be completed the end of June. As they complete their studies PRAY that these graduates would be both an encouragement and a help to the ministries of their local church.

We are thankful for recent improvements in Debbie’s dad’s overall condition.  He is on a new medication, which has helped to improve his recall and focus.  He is doing a bit of exercise again, getting out to church and making plans for our summer visit.  We are encouraged by his hopeful outlook.

We are thankful that we were able to attend our daughter Janelle’s graduation from Azusa Pacific University at the beginning of May and celebrate this milestone together with her.  PRAY for God’s leading both for summer employment and plans for the coming year.

We will be back in North America again this summer (June 16 – July 31st) – spending time with family and sharing with some churches about our ministry.  PRAY that in the midst of all our travels that we would have time for rest and rejuvenation.