Wow – Lately, life has been hard, yet so sweet. I am thankful for the Lord’s provision because even though I don’t always understand what He’s doing at the time, I know he is working for my good. (The same thing goes for you… trust Him. It will change your life!) Things are coming together in such a beautiful way.
Have you ever had seasons like this? Seasons where you are blown away over and over again by what God is doing? This has been the past 8 months or so for me. It’s been a journey, to say the least. Maybe this is why my students constantly tell me I have a colorful life. Hearing, “You have such a colorful life, teacher!” never gets old.
I tend to get discouraged by the low points, yet these incredible high points I’ve had lately have made it all worth it. For me, the high points may not even be what the world would consider significant. Sometimes it’s scripture references that speak directly to the longings of my heart or the people I know God has placed in my life for a specific reason. I have been praying for a clearer picture of what God is doing around me and He keeps answering by showing me connections.
In my daily life, I teach. A lot. My main job in China is being a university English teacher. On top of that I work at several private training schools and kindergartens. Some days, I go from singing “Open, Shut Them” in the morning to moderating class debates about societal changes affecting marriage and whether it’s better to establish a career before marriage or vice-versa in the afternoon. The classes are all quite different in nature, but it keeps things interesting.
I enjoy teaching younger kids because it’s kind of fun to sing and dance with them, yet I appreciate the way teaching college allows me to have relevant conversations with my students. When I first began teaching in China, I didn’t realize how much class content could tie back to life truths I desperately hope my students realize.
From my experience (while not too vast, but still significant), I have noticed that education on issues relating to health is majorly lacking in China. I have come to recognize how privileged I am to have grown up in America where health class was required and I knew the basics at a young age. Some of that can be attributed to having great parents, but I still believe schooling played a role. I’m not saying Chinese schools don’t have health education, but what they have seems to be lacking when college students don’t know basic information.
It’s not uncommon to hear comments like, “You shouldn’t eat meat or you’ll get fat.” Or, “You shouldn’t keep pets because you can get AIDS from dogs.” There is sometimes validity to their health claims, but it’s often misconstrued. Sure, if you gorge on meat and processed junk without eating fruits and vegetables, you probably will get fat. However, you’re not going to get AIDS from dogs. Sorry, you just aren’t.
The way girls seem to have anxiety over the possibility of “getting fat” and wanting to “lose weight” breaks my heart. Being a proponent of a healthy lifestyle, I am always supportive when someone wants to get into better shape. I think it’s great to eat cleaner and exercise more to lose weight, but only when it positively affects your health. Many of the girls here are around 80 pounds and still attempt weight loss. On top of that, they aren’t doing it in a healthy way.
I can’t begin to tell you have many times I’ve been with a Chinese girl who said she was skipping a meal because she wanted to lose weight. They seem to have no concept of a food pyramid or calories. There’s no discussion of BMIs and how we should aim for healthy bodies instead of thin ones. I do what I can to encourage them, but I think they brush my comments off because as I foreigner I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I’ve been struggling to teach listening class because the textbook brings up issue after issue that I feel compelled to address. From AIDS, to fasting, to weight loss, to eating disorders, I’ve done a lot of lecturing lately. And really, whose idea was it to teach fasting as having health benefits to impressionable young girls? I am all for fasting as a spiritual discipline, but putting it forth as a good option for weight loss and to improve your health in this setting just isn’t wise.
As much as I try to lecture the students and show my genuine love and concern for them, I realize that I am only one person. I cannot change the system alone. I cannot provide adequate health education to each of my 400+ college students when my job is to teach English. There’s just too much ground to cover and not enough time. That’s when I remember that while the burden is heavy, God is strong enough to bear it.
God is in control. I am not. I am faithfully teaching and doing my part. While I feel a deep brokenness for my students, I realize that I am called to be obedient in what God has given me and that is all I can do. God can and will take care of the rest.
It’s humbling to know that I can’t just fix the problems I see. Being somewhat of a go-getter, I like to see a need and then meet it. This time, though, I have to trust that God is working. What I can do, though, is pour out the love He has filled me with and show my students that they are valuable and they are loved.
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Emily Lofgren’s heart beats for authenticity. She craves true connection where we can be real about our struggles and find hope together. Emily became a Christian in college and since then has had a passion for writing in a way that helps others encounter life. Grab your free copy of her eBook Finding Hope Through the Fog.