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What will these drawings lead to?


Dec 7, 2004
-by Cari Friesen


Daisy, Angela, Jackeynee, and Cari Friesen (l-r) get together in Chongqing, China to prepare for advent using the MC Canada family advent resource Come! Walk in the light of day!. Friesen says it is a personal challenge to explain matters of Christian faith in simple English to people with little or no knowledge of God.

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Chongqing, China — This is my second Christmas here, where I’m an oral English teacher.

It’s interesting, but sometimes challenging as well. This year as I was thinking about Christmas, I decided that I wanted to set up some advent candles. I can’t really call it a wreath, since I don’t have the greenery, but I thought the candles would be a good way for me to purposefully prepare for Christ’s coming during this Christmas season.

As I was debating where I could find some readings to go along with the advent candles (you have to think a little extra about where you will find things when you are in China, even in an urban centre like Chongqing) I remembered seeing something about a family resource booklet on the Mennonite Church Canada web site. Sure enough, there it was and I went down to the office to print it off. I browsed through the little booklet I had made, and some ideas started coming to me….it was made for families, true, but if my students came over to help me set up… And then we could light candles or do readings during their visits for open house…. Maybe students could add to the pictures each week…?

The next day I called my friend Angela (a student from last year) and asked her if she would like to help me decorate my apartment. We decided to get together for supper, and then spend the evening together. Actually “we” included me, Angela, her best friend Jackeynee, and their classmate, Daisy. Most of my students have English names.

I have to admit, I couldn’t wait until evening to decorate. By the time they came, I had draped a few garlands around the room, set out my Christmas cards from last year, and put the little tiny Christmas tree on the shelf. I brought a few ornaments with me from Canada, but the tree was too small to hold more than a few of the smallest ornaments, so Jackeynee and I attached the rest to a string that we tied across the bookshelf. My crèche will be set up on the coffee table later.

Come! Walk in the light of day! is a neat little booklet. It suggested you create window frame poster with different panels. I adapted it a little bit, and found some paper and pulled my pencil crayons to set up our drawing station. The three young women all expressed their lack of artistic skills, but I gave them some deliberately brief instructions based on the booklet, and sat back to work on my panel and see what their results would be. We ended up with a winking star, a rather Chinese-looking town as Bethlehem, some shepherds drawn in Japanese animation-style, and wisemen/kings looking like Chinese nobility (male and female) from two different dynasties about 1000 years apart. I thought they were great. They are currently on my door, and will be added to as the weeks continue.

After supper (an odd mix of what was in my kitchen, a real “east meets west”) we finished up the drawings and then I led my guests through some of the first week of readings and activities. I never realized how much ‘olde’ English is in the song “Come, thou long expected Jesus” until Angela remembered “thee” from a song last year, and asked about the rest. So I explained the rest of the song and sang it for them.

Somehow the discussion from there went on to other things, and before I knew it, we were trying to figure out why bad things happen to good people, and where God is in all of it. I’m very happy to have these kinds of discussions with students, but sometimes I feel I’m in a bit over my head. It certainly forces me to pause and clarify my own beliefs, when I have to try to explain things using simple English and speaking with students who have little or no background knowledge of God.

Some of my current students are coming over tomorrow night. If they are interested, we will light the first candle together and learn an advent song. I wonder what will happen then?