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Living in China: The hardest thing we've ever done, and why we would go back!

Updated: Jan 27

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

― Miriam Adeney

In the beginning, moving abroad is this mysterious, exciting idea that you can't quite wrap your head around. You don't know what to expect, but you can't wait to give it your all. You scour the internet, blog after blog, trying to soak in as much information as you can. What is the culture like? The food? The weather? What do I need to pack? What apps are helpful? The anticipation rises as time moves towards that date. The day your life will change forever. And then finally it's here.

Actually being in China was nothing like we expected. We didn't expect everything to be so hard. And thats what China was for us. Hard.

Nothing was convenient or consistent. Every day was a challenge. Grocery shopping at a store where you do not recognize the food is hard. Ordering off a menu you can't read is hard. Asking a stranger if you're on the right bus when you can't speak the language is hard. Explaining to your children why they can't talk about Jesus to other kids is hard. Hand washing your dishes in your bathroom sink with dirty water is hard. Living with only 6 consecutive minutes of hot water is hard.

Being able to see anything but the hard, is hard.

The first three months of our experience were painful, and it felt impossible to see anything but the hard. And that challenge never entirely left because our problems didn't go away. Our house was never not moldy, our water was never not dirty, and the culture was never the same as home. So how do you change your experience when you can't change your circumstance? Thats what we had to learn one day at a time. Once we made ourselves teachable, we saw our hardships for the temporal inconveniences that they were, and opened our eyes to the inspiration all around us.

It happened little by little. One kind gesture after the next. A meal paid for by a friend, a stranger watching over our bike to make sure it didn't get stolen. A man stepping in to protect us from a scam. A community that treated you like family.

While we may have had to worry about the foods we ate and the water we drank, there were so many things we never had to worry about. We never feared for our physical safety. We never worried that a neighbor would judge us. It didn't matter what you wore, fed your kids, if your house was a mess, because those things didn't define us to those around us. We were loved. We were taken care of. If we were lost or in trouble, strangers would rush to our aid. We witnessed strangers look after our children to make sure they were safe in a crowd. No one ever shamed us for communicating in English.

So yeah, we complain, and I will never deny that it was hard, but there are some things that can't be overlooked. And those are the things that went beyond what was temporal.

How many places in the world will tell a father to leave work to spend time with his sick daughter? How many places can you sit next to a stranger on the bus and embrace like you are family? Where else do children refer to their classmates as their big brothers and little sisters? And find me another Man who chooses to live with dirt floors because he would rather share his talents than sell them. Because that is where we lived. That is where we found a home. And that is why we would go back in a heartbeat.

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