Katie Amico '08
When I set foot on Gordon College's campus my freshman year, I had no idea what lay ahead of me. I imagined myself having the normal college experience and then going home to work for the summer. My freshman year was anything but normal; it was extraordinary. Very soon in the semester, the opportunity to co-lead a trip to China for five weeks during the summer was presented to me. Up until that point I had not left the United States or been on a missions trip which made me question if I would be able to lead well. After lots of prayer and support from home I signed on, and with the help of an outstanding co-leader, Colby Smidt, our team went to China in order to teach English to sophomores at a university in Xi'an and to work in an orphanage. The trip had its unique set of difficulties, but I walked away having experienced a greater part of God's creation and am now beginning to understand what it really means to love my neighbor.
A landmark in China, and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world is The Great Wall. It stretches for miles and miles and is in a usable condition. The steps are somewhat worn near the railing from the many years of use, but foreigners continue to walk up and down these steps to discover the history of China.
The Great Wall is different than I had imagined. I was expecting a wall of sloping ramps like the ones pictured in the movie Mulan, but what I found was a seemingly unending climb of stairs. This picture is of an old man resting with his grandchild on the wall.
One of the struggles of being a privileged American in China is that the beggars flock to you wanting money and food…mostly money. They would grab a hold of you and implore you in Chinese. We ran into one little girl who gave us a wilted rose. We tried to give it back to her, but she continued to run away from us until we gave her a few kuai.
This is the old residence of the emperors of China known as The Temple of Heaven. Since the end of the dynastic period The Temple of Heaven has been converted into a public park where many people come to exercise, do tai qi, and paint characters on the ground with a large brush and water.
This is a a scene from a traditional Chinese show that included the Beijing Opera. Pictured is the Monkey King, a mischievous, active king who is always playing tricks people.
Western China is known for its rural nature and we got to have a small taste of the less privileged life. We came upon these farmers shovelling straw and offered to help for a bit. We discovered how hard this job really was. They did not have a choice of a different job, they needed to work hard on this farm to survive. There were no luxuries in their lives, food was all that they could afford.
The food did not all look like this, but having the heads of animals on your plate was not unusual. This is a chicken head that is supposed to provide nourishment by eating its brain. Just imagine yourself new with chopsticks attempting to extract the brain from this skull in order to eat it... Yes, it was difficult. Only one member of our team was brave enough to eat it.
This is one of our students and her family. She invited us over to her house so that we could make home made dumplings. We were pretty bad at making them but they told us we were doing fine. The dumplings were boiled and steamed and we at them with some sort of hot sauce. I have never had such good dumplings in my life.
This is another photo of teaching in the University. The normal teaching day would go something like this: Wake up and make the twenty minute walk to the bus station. Ride the teacher's bus to the university (which takes about thirty minutes). Then you set yourself up in front of the classroom, the bell rings and class begins. One of the days we taught on parables and got to talk with the students afterward about Jesus and what the stories were really about. Our students thought the concept of mercy was ridiculous and unrealistic; this blew my mind and made me want to care for these people even more.
The students enjoyed taking their pictures with us, making us feel a bit like celebrities.
The service was conducted entirely in Mandarin proving a bit challenging for our group. We could recognize the mentioning of Jesus every now and then, but we understood little. Half of the church had to sit outside and listen to the sermon through speakers rather than directly from a pastor. Communion was served with wine and crackers and we got to participate as a body of Christ.
Lunch began at 11 am sharp, every kid got rounded up and put in a seat around a table. The babies got hot water and milk. The older kids had a glorified mushy oatmeal type food. Watching them stretch the food they had really drove home the idea of having enough. They had what they needed, but no more. It was a lesson of contentment.
One of the days at the orphanage we got to take the kids outside and splash around in pools. They absolutely loved playing and splashing with us. It is difficult to put in words what it feels like to pick up a child and their face lights up. These kids were not neglected at the orphanage but individual attention was spread thin. We had the chance to give them individual attention.
When we were not teaching, taking care of orphans, or playing ping pong and soccer with our students, we would ride a bus to the center of the city and find an exciting restaurant or an activity to do. One evening, we learned a Chinese dance and we joined a parade of people in front of the city wall, another time we rode bikes on top of the city wall and looked at the beautiful city we were staying in.