Friday, September 20, 2013

Women of the China Inland Mission: Elizabeth Wilson

Today someone came across and commented on one of my 2008 posts - one that tells the story of Hudson Taylor's little sister Amelia and her lesser known contributions to the formation of the groundbreaking China Inland Mission.

Amelia prayed for her brother, was his faithful friend and correspondent, and helped raise his children along with her own. By the time she was my age she and her husband had stepped into a crucial role in the young mission's home office. They hosted many mission candidates and missionaries in training as well as those transitioning into home assignments. Even when she was an elderly, crippled widow, Amelia would take tea with the young people who applied, encourage them, and help the candidate committee size them up as potential CIMers. As CIM/OMF popular historian Phyllis Thompson put it, "Without the root under the ground, there would be no tree. Without the Amelias, there would be no Mission.”

Today I came across an essay about another great woman of the CIM, Elizabeth Wilson. Just a few years older than Hudson Taylor, Elizabeth met Taylor at prayer meetings in London when both were young. She became an enthusiastic supporter of his work and the China Inland Mission. Committing her own life to missions at the age of 20, she wanted more than anything to go serve in China herself. But as the only unmarried daughter in her family, she had to stay home and care for her invalid parents. It was decades before she was free to leave.

Did she give up her intention? She did not. Three weeks after her last surviving parent died, Elizabeth  contacted the agency and offered her services as a self-funded missionary. She was 46 (one source I found said 50). Starting so "late," she never gained the fluency in Chinese that some of her colleagues achieved, but she did her best, and she could keep up with the rigors of travel.

At the time they described her as being "well past middle life." But that had its advantages. "As a senior person in a young mission, she had a unique ministry of support and encouragement to the younger workers," says Valerie Griffiths in Not Less Than Everything: The Courageous Women Who Carried the Christian Gospel to China. Her silver hair was an asset; Chinese Christian women hobbled miles on their bound feet to meet the "Elder Sister," convinced that she was old and wise.

Elizabeth was committed to going where the need was greatest and coming alongside overworked coworkers. At one point exhaustion threatened to overtake George and Emily King, far inland and away from any other workers in Shaanxi Province. Elizabeth and a young recruit Emily's age, Annie Faussett, set off on an arduous, thousand-mile, three-month trek to join them. Emily King was newly married and expecting her first child, and she was overwhelmed. The church was growing fast. Many Chinese women crowded into her house to get a glimpse of the first foreign woman most of them had ever seen, and they stayed to listen to what she said. But she could not keep up with the ministry opportunities; she needed help. In come Elizabeth and Annie, accompanied by two Chinese believers. In the next year 18 Chinese women were baptized there.

See also Going Where the Need Was Greatest: The Story of Elizabeth Wilson.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

11 Untranslatable Words from Other Cultures

Thought you might enjoy this, friends.

11 Untranslatable Words From Other Cultures
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Wrestling with those "I can't stand it" thoughts

A more personal post today. Hubs and I have a painful, ongoing conflict over where we're going to live when he's out of seminary. Where we go initially likely depends on where we can get a paid internship for him, and then a job with a paycheck sufficient to pay off the federal student loans that are paying for his degree. So we may not have an abundance of options. Maybe, though, if we decide where we want to be, we can aggressively pursue connections in that area as the job search season approaches. If the doors open up, what he really wants is to move to Hawaii (or some other tropical island).

Usually when he brings this up, a storm starts to rise within me. I hate to deny him anything he really wants... so externally I may try to just go with it. I try not to camp out on the subject, but just let it float by. Especially in front of other people. Because after all, who wouldn't want to go to Hawaii?

Me, that's who. And my emotional reaction is so strong and frightening it's probably important to figure out what the thoughts behind it are and if they are sound, or helpful. It's clear they are not helpful, since they create such a storm within me and between Hubs and me.

I think it's what my professor this summer (see "How Not to Sabotage Your Efforts") called "I can't stand it" thoughts. Or to put it another way (and this doesn't sound very flattering...) "low frustration tolerance." The way those thoughts work is that you freak out when something starts to develop or threaten to develop which is more than you can handle: if that happens, you believe or fear it will destroy you. You "can't stand it." This kind of thinking actually increases your level of fear and pain, because it adds to any list of pros and cons the major con that whatever it is might kill you. And chances are that is not true.

I know why I think moving to Hawaii might kill me. Well, not kill me, but bring on a nervous breakdown, which is maybe my biggest, deepest fear. Having a nervous breakdown, that's what I think might kill me. May have some level of PTSD from how freaked out I was about having suicidal thoughts when I lived in Central Asia more than a decade ago. Result, I think going overseas (to live, not visit) would cause me to explode into a hundred little pieces. True? Probably not. And Hawaii, while literally "overseas," hardly holds the challenges of living in another country!

My concern is not about Hawaii; I could take it or leave it. I like the green parts. I like being near the water. I don't like the wind whipping around my hair and getting dust in my contacts and not having seasons. But all in, all, it's as nice as anyplace else, and better than many other places.

The problem is leaving the continental US. I'm concerned about an increase in social isolation if we move further away from all our family, colleagues, friends, and supporters. The logic breaks down when I confess I hardly ever see any of these people anyway. My responsibilities - two jobs, grad school, house & family - seem too heavy for me to justify getting out of the house on a regular basis. I work from home and find a surprising and persistent lack of alternatives in our current circumstances. But sometimes I get to travel. If we moved further, I wouldn't be able to travel much at all, and I really like the things I get to do when I travel - conferences and events, face-to-face meetings, teaching and taking classes, etc. In fact, I'd probably have to quit my job and find another.

Apparently, the problem is not Hawaii... It's how I'm living when I'm in Eugene: isolated and frustrated. And aaaargh... I can't stand it!

Of course all this is pretty tough on Hubs, because he wants to be the good guy who would never force the woman he loves to do anything she didn't want to do. He also wants me to get out of the house and spend time with other people. I don't know which one of us is more surprised that I haven't been able to do that. But the more emotionally whacked out I become, the more my native shyness and flat-out fear of interacting with other people increases, and picking up the phone seems impossible. Is this how agoraphobia begins?

Sigh. May be time to bring in the big guns. Professional counseling. Hate it. Can't afford it. But the alternatives are probably worse and more costly. Meanwhile, there are some smaller steps I can take, so that's what I'm going to do. Took one step today. What step can I take tomorrow?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Disputes about the word "so"

So, some people really don't like to read or hear sentences that begin, unaccountably, with the word "so." To me it suggests a continuing conversation. To the purist, it's a conjunction, and should no more lead off your sentence than a "but," "and," or "though." Now you know!

An odd assignment in a biblical hermeneutics class I'm taking as part of my seminary studies had me exploring uses of the little word in various contexts in the book of John. What does John mean when he says so?

There are some variations in meaning for this word. The Greek version of it shows up in John 3:8, 14; 4:6; 5:21, 26; 7:46; 8:59; 11:48; 12:50; 14:31; 15:4; 18:22; and 21:1,  and in most these passages it means (and may be translated into English as) "this is how" or "in this way." Not "to this degre." So, more "thus," less "very." John's using the word as a conjunction, not a modifier.

The reason for this assignment? Turns out that when "so" sneaks into the uber-famous King James Version of John 3:16, there's good reason to believe it means the same thing there, despite tradition and appearances. Not like this:

"I asked Jesus, 'How much do you love me?'
And Jesus said, 'This much.'
Then He stretched out His arms and died."

Sorry! (Actually, I'm not sorry. Always found that Christian T-shirt sentiment a little creepy.)

Some scholars disagree, but how John uses the word elsewhere suggests that here, too, it refers to the manner and expression of love (this kind of love), not the degree of it (this much love). Small difference? It's enough to use a different translation. English a few centuries ago, in the day of ol' King James, used "so" primarily in the same sense as the book of John ("this happened, so that did"). Today's English, though, tends to use "so" primarily as an adverb indicating degree. ("I am so totally ready for the weekend, what about you?")

That renders the King James version of this verse - and translations that do homage to it - a bit misleading. For 21st century American readers, ol' John 3:16 might be better rendered "this is how God loved the world," not "this is how much God loved the world."

Does that change the meaning much? I think it moves the emphasis from God's warm fuzzy feelings to God's world-shaking actions, from the greatness of his heart to the greatness of his gift. As the saying goes, love is a verb.

For more on this translation issue see So, What? John 3:16 and the Lord's Prayer (God Didn't Say That: Bible Translations and Mistranslations).