I thought they were missionaries, they weren't.
I thought they would speak English, it was pretty broken but we could still have a conversation.
I thought they were familiar with American culture and ideas, they were members of the communist party.
That's right. One guy was a mid-level communist government official in a northwest Chinese province. The other was his younger brother - a businessman in Shanghai. The older brother has been in the States for almost a year getting his masters degree in Business administration and the younger brother and sister had come to visit him and do some traveling before they all return to China.
We talked about everything from the free-market system, to physicalism/spiritualism/ dualism, to Taoism and Buddhism, to best practices in leading businesses and staffs of people, to family issues, to Jesus' love for the poor. It was a fascinating and mind-expanding few hours. Some of my favorite questions from them included:
- how many children are you allowed to have?
- how many square feet does the government allow your houses to be?
- what career plans do you have for your children?
- do you think people are only physical or do you think they have spirits?
- who does the cooking in your home?
- are 100% of Americans politically active because it seems like that's all they talk about?
- how much did your house cost?
One of the more fascinating exchanges was between the brothers as the younger brother began to express concern over what would happen to the older brother if he began to talk about his new-found ideas in the workplace, etc. The older brother explained that Christianity is a better way - it influences the way you treat people and the way you make decisions and the way you go about your life, and that if he simply lived out his faith but didn't talk about it all the time, that his superiors would eventually see the truth and that it would begin to affect necessary change not just in his family, or in his department, but in China. It was amazing!
He pulled out a New Testament and asked for some guidance in how to go about reading it. I stayed up well into the night putting together some reading guides for him to follow and directing him to certain sections of Scripture that I thought would be helpful to him.
I asked if he had ever heard the story of Joseph - he said no. I told him that it would be a story of great interest to him because Joseph was a leader of his government and he had to walk the fine line of being a follower of the Most High God among people and systems that were unlike his own- he faced persecution and rejection from his family and others along the way - and still remained faithful to God and saw God's faithfulness expressed back to him. This gentleman could affect real change in China. I teased him that the communist government got more than they bargained for in that they had sent him to America for an education and he is coming back a Christian!
As we said goodbye early the following morning I realized that God had connected us in a sovereign way. The older brother expressed to me that life-change had occured in him because of our encounter. Same here.