Orchestrated Chance Meetings

September 19th, 2010
Time: 14:12
Location: Starbucks on Hengshan Lu

So, here I sit at Starbucks, living the Chinese dream. It is a beautiful, slightly muggy Sunday afternoon, I’ve got a caramel Frappuccino by my side, free internet, my nook, and I don’t have to work. It’s the weekend, nobody is working. Wrong. Everyone is working – at least, everyone that I know. Wednesday is Moon Cake Festival or something like that and so the whole of China has Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off. Brilliant, a 2 day week! Wrong. Here’s where it becomes illogical. The holiday is on Wednesday, so celebrate Friday and give people the weekend, right? But that would be logical and TIC – This Is China. Instead, they make-up those days off on the weekends. Kids go to school on Saturday and Sunday so as not to lose a day of school. Kind-of defeats the purpose of a holiday, doesn’t it China?
But lucky me, I work at a Korean Kindergarten and those Koreans, thank God, don’t believe in that whole weekend school crap. Also, they are fine church-going Christians and the Lord ’s Day isn’t meant for any kind of school beyond the Sunday variety.

And that is where I’m headed next. I’m at Starbucks not because I had a bad day or seriously needed a coffee fix. It’s more a matter of blessed convenience. Across the street from where I sit is Shanghai Community Fellowship. Last week I Google searched and chose this church to visit because of the name. Nostalgia is kind-of a thing with me, all the more so being in a foreign country. (Community Bible Fellowship is the church of my childhood.)

Never before have I worshiped with such a wide variety of nationalities. The opening song had at least 4 languages. I sat beside an Italian man, a Chinese couple, and who knows how many other countries. To be honest, I wasn’t planning on returning today – church shopping and all that. But, last night when Rob and I were headed home from the most delicious gruesome dinner you will ever encounter – Chinese Hot Pot, we met a fellow American on the Metro. (As an aside, every time I see a white person a little voice in my head exclaims “White Person!” It’s so weird.)
After some discreet mutual sizing-up, he asked us where we were from. Turns out, Rob and he had met once before at ultimate frisbee. Also, turns out he’s from Oregon! High-fives and fist bumping commenced. Turns out, Forest Grove! More high-fives. Okay, yes, Forest Grove? Who really cares about Forest Grove? The point is, close to Portland and not some podunk town I’ve never heard of before. Turns out, went to school in D.C. – where Rob also went to school. Turns out, this school was a tiny Christian college. Turns out, he also attends Shanghai Community Fellowship, is part of the worship team today and helps with the youth. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to be my new friend. A Christian from Oregon? I need more of you people in Shanghai.

But that’s the reason I am back across the street from SCF and I have a feeling that meeting wasn’t mere coincidence, if such a thing even exists. It’s one thing simply to attend church, but once you start meeting people it changes the game. People require relationships and time and purpose – not just anonymous pew sitting. That can be a bit scary, so I invited along reinforcements. Paulette is joining me around 4 but in the meanwhile I am going to enjoy my coffee and pretend to do my homework.

Tuesday I am off to Hangzhou for a day and a half. I’ll post if something interesting happens - or if I am inspired to make something up. In the meanwhile, I’ll post some pictures of my neighborhood from the window of the metro station and also the carnage of our staff dinner at hot pot.

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