by Raeha Butler
I had a lot of anxieties before my return to China. How much will be different when I go back? Will I be able to transition back well? Since some of my best friends moved away, will I have to start from scratch again? Will I remember my Chinese? These were just SOME of the questions repeating in my head. One major question that kept coming up was: Is this really the place I should be right now?
Not going to lie to you, the first couple of weeks were a bit difficult. I got sick after my first week. I was in limbo since I couldn’t move into the school apartment until the teacher got back to Lanzhou from her winter vacation, so in the meantime I was staying at the West family’s apartment (THANK YOU TO THEM!). I had to get used to the massive amount of people again. Getting stared at wherever I went again. Using public transport again. City noise again. Polluted air again.
It was encouraging, though, to be greeted by friends – both local and foreign – and welcomed back. I feel in the two months since I’ve been back I’ve had more social interaction than I did in my first two months of my first term. That has helped put a lot of my worries at ease. There’s just something about community that brings comfort.
I definitely feel peace since coming back. It gives me a sense that this is the right place for me right now. Many of the unanswered questions of what my future in China will be are still unanswered. But for right now, in this season, at this time, in this place, I know this is where God needs me to be. My focus is to better my Chinese speaking skills and I am already seeing an improvement in that. I’m spending more time with my Chinese friend who is still here and hoping to continue discipling her to grow more in her relationship with Jesus.
May 7 – This was the first Sunday of an International Fellowship. The group I meet with and another group are starting an international church for Lanzhou. Please keep this in your prayers as we are hoping to grow our fellowship with other foreigners but also use the church as a catalyst for more ministry to the Chinese people of our city.
May 26 – June 4 I attended a singles retreat in Thailand. Thank you for your prayers for safe travel, good fellowship, and encouragement from this trip.
Chinese skills – My memory of Chinese started coming back to me in Detroit as I was surrounded by the passengers who would share my plane to Beijing. Since coming back, I have had so many compliments from the locals about my Chinese, saying they can understand me. Now if I can get my skills to a level I’m comfortable with.
Transition back to China life – I feel like my transition back into China went pretty smoothly. I still have difficult days at times (to be expected living in a foreign culture), but for the most part there have been no major issues. There’s peace knowing this is where I’m meant to be right now.
More free time – Due to my easier class format, I have had a lot more free time to do activities outside of studying. I’m getting to meet with Chinese & foreign friends more often which is a HUGE blessing.
Deeper friendships – One adjustment since getting back is spending a lot of time alone. Last year I had a roommate who I spent most of my time with (studying, shopping, eating, etc.), but she moved to another city so I am having to do all these things alone again. It has been a difficult adjustment. Pray I can a find a friend to be with on a more regular basis instead of just once or twice a week.
Chinese study – Although my Chinese has certainly improved, it still isn’t easy. Pray I can sharpen my skills to speak more easily and clearly. Also that my listening will become more accustomed to common people’s speech. Many mumble or do not use proper pronunciation which makes it difficult to understand their meaning.
So, so encouraged by the IPHC Asia Missionary retreat held in Hanoi, Vietnam at the end of March. It is always good to be with this family, and this time didn’t disappoint. It was nice to get an extra push from everyone as I’m just getting started on my second term in China. Praise God for our time together. I think it was healing for so many. I really believe we were recognized by the Vietnamese we encountered for our love for one another.