I think Jesus may have negotiated a beautification project with my building’s owner. Something strange has happened to the shoe-print stained walls and the lingering urine odor in the lobby. The walls are now bright white, and the air is fresh (well, as fresh as you can expect when the whole of the city is filled with various aromas). The stacks of bicycles and motorcycles scattered throughout the hallways have mysteriously vanished. The floor is swept. The elevators are wiped free of mosquito carcasses. The lights are bright and operable. We even have a coded front gate and an on-duty security guard now.
I like the security guard. I say “ni hao” to him every day. I think he likes me too because he always smiles big enough for me to see his missing teeth whenever I walk by. I imagine his name is the Chinese equivalent of Larry or Hank or Rosco. Nice guy names.
I suspect Jesus to be behind all the prettiness and safety because I will soon be living here in this building all by my brave self. I won’t have anyone to come home to. There will be no roommate to account for my safe homecoming. No other English speaker to listen for and understand my desperate cries should anything unsavory happen to me. Jesus decided to make provision for this lack by bringing Rosco into my life. He will care whether or not I make it home safely each evening. He will listen for my cries, though foreign and indecipherable. With Jesus and Rosco on my side, this living alone business will be a breeze.
This morning I woke up early. Not on purpose. My phone rang at 7:43AM and I answered it half expecting a wrong number, but was instead greeted with a boisterous “Ni hao, Jaime!” I quickly recognized the thick Southern accent to be that of my new friend, Jack. He was calling from an airplane about to depart Qingdao for Shanghai.
I met Jack on Tuesday evening. He’s a rotund man with a belly like Santa Claus; he’s loud and jolly and so darn endearing you can’t help but instantly like him. He came to Qingdao to visit a mutual friend who invited us all to her house for a Chinese feast. The evening was spent around the dinner table listening to Jack recount story after story of his cross-cultural adventures. Jack’s a CPA from Tennessee, but said his real job is Ambassador of Christ. He’s traveled near and far making Christ known, gathering brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. I told Jack that I think he might be an opportunist because of the way he seizes every chance, obvious or obscure, to share the love of Jesus wherever he goes. He once sweet-talked a Tajik government official into issuing him a visa after he was discovered in the country illegally. Then he shared Jesus with him! He ministered to two Muslim men at an airport somewhere and managed to get himself an open invitation to stay in their homes should he ever visit Israel. This man could convince Osama bin Laden out of hiding and convert him to Christianity. I’m sure of it. He’s full of Southern charm, likability, and absolute resolve.
In between stories, Jack would occasionally burst into song. It seemed at times there was too much passion in him to be contained – even by all his size and stature – he had to let the praise and thankfulness and awe release. He may implode in gratitude to God otherwise. At one point, Jack asked me if I was a singer. When I timidly said, yes, he threw a songbook at me and made me sing hymns at the dinner table. Our Chinese friends joined in, singing the songs in their own language. Jack hung his head and wept.
I was so refreshed by my time with Jack. I just felt instantly bonded to him, inspired by his passion (which seems too flimsy a word). His goodbye hug on that night was so good and so tight, I could barely breathe in his affection. When he called me this morning from the airplane he told me he was so happy to have met me. He said I was now his adopted daughter, whether I liked it or not. He said he loved me; that he was proud of me; that he’d be keeping track of me and praying for me. I hope he does.
What a world this would be if there were more Jacks in it.