A Light at the end of the Tunnel of Darkness
Tests and Trials of Faith will come to those who believe, and even those who don't believe. Its learning to understand that this is normal, that allows us to better handle these events with a positive and happy attitude. Faith makes that possible. Faith makes it possible to endure things without murmuring stress, but with a patient endurance, waiting on the Lord. It allows for peace, a daily peace. But it takes work. It takes sincere prayer.
But on a certain day 3 months into this endurance, I found myself not happy, not at peace. In fact I was at what seemed like my "edge" of the limits of my endurance.
Not a physical endurance of a walk or a hike or a run, but a mental and emotional endurance. Trying to stay positive when your logic and mind is telling you that its over, you lose. My job there had ended, the two year contract whittled down to one instead as a big surprise to me, since the company was negotiating the extension but at the last minute pulled away in a strange and rather cruel turn of events. I found myself living in China, which was a matter of FAITH in the first place, even coming to that country with all of the unknowns, and now with my whole family dependent on me alone, and me without a job.
I was now unemployed, and our one-month mandatory "tourist" visas secured with difficulty through the help of a Chinese friend (Crescent) sponsoring us, for each member of the family, these one-month visas continually running out because my work permit visa was revoked (or ended) and no longer in force. In order to stay we had to do so as a visitor, a tourist, expensive, no legal income possible, and so we got tourist visas as a family and stayed in the apartment we already had, living on our savings, at great expense to ourselves, company no longer paying for housing, and we waited for a job offer that was sure to come, because we were praying for it. My resumes were going out. I was making contacts. We were waiting. We felt that our time in China was yet to continue. It had to. We had sacrificed SO MUCH just to get here and 1 short year was hardly worth it from a financial standpoint, but more important, we felt a spiritual call to be there in China for reasons mostly known to the Lord. We can speculate, but in short, we all felt the Spirit calling us to be there, and so we strived to overcome this challenge that was thrown before us, especially me, so it seemed.
Through the help of the Lord through Christa's friends, we had several opportunities and help come our way. Her friends helped set up
Christa's Creative Corner
to teach the children of many affluent Chinese families, in our apartment by us, for a cost that would have paid us over $12,000 per month. Dozens of families were signing up at $500 per kid for a week! We were an instant success in this, word was getting out fast in this city of 38 million, and in China, $12,000 a month is a LOT of money. Way more than I was making with an engineering job. We were excited!!
Then a Chinese person who was also interested in this, a shrewd business person, took us aside over dinner one night, and said that what we were doing was actually illegal in China, that we didn't have the permits. We didn't even think about that! But she spoke English very well and said that if we worked with her instead, she had connections in the government that could be bought off, even bribed, to keep quiet about it and she could handle that. I listened and thought "what are we getting in to???" and that's when I knew we had to get out, and quick. I thought, she is right, its logical that this is not legal, we are not registered with the government and its like under the table stuff, even though it is out in the open. We are competing with real schools who paid a lot of money to get registered, and they will surely come after us to shut us down. I didn't tell the lady what I was thinking, but when we got home I shared with Christa my concerns, and it took some convincing to get this ended. It was giving up a LOT.
We were going viral in the business world and truly there was a DEMAND for what we could offer in our American immersion program in the depths of China. BUT... we pulled the plug on this great opportunity as fast as we could, because it was like doing things "under the table" and we had not considered this before. We did not want the Police showing up at our door. In pulling that plug, a lot of Chinese people excited about the program were not happy about it and didn't understand our concern. They said it was no big deal, nothing would happen, etc., and yet, I being the protector for our family thought the worst and thought that illegal activity could easily mean expensive instant deportation from China and losing all our things in the process, being sent to the USA in shame. No way I was going to let that happen. So we backed out, gave the monies back, etc., and I was still unemployed and we didn't get the $12,000 per month.
I would have gladly accepted the new income source for the family. But China has laws, and we were committed by our faith and our religion to OBEY the laws of the land there, and to respect the Chinese government. We were setting an example as Latter day Saints. And so we continued to do so.
I remained unemployed
Not too long after that, another one of Christa's friends, Lucky, had a friend who had a friend who owned a Chinese English school, and they said they could "employ" us and get us a residence permit, a foreign expert certificate, etc., all of the things to make us legal in the country again, and within a short time that process was complete and we were legal. Still living on our savings, because this school was not paying us, but then again, I wasn't working at their school either. It was a favor and we were available on-call as they might need us. It was a big favor. Getting this legal paperwork involved the Chongqing PSB which we received, but by a miracle. The story about that amazing set of miracles leading up to that paperwork is found here.
Nearly three months had gone by. No income yet, and yet we had big bills to pay. An expensive rent. No way to get another apartment without a job and residence permit and a big downpayment, so we were stuck where we were and it cost us $2000 per month just for that. Airline trip to HongKong to get new visa, cost us. Etc. I was working on videos with the kids, because I felt inspired that is what the Lord wanted us to do. So we pressed forward on that, and those three months we got a lot done, I was very involved with the kids in doing homeschool, and in doing creative things with them and teaching them many things. Emily exclaimed on one day that she was feeling so good about all that they have been doing and that it was the best homeschool experience she has had. She and the others learned a lot, and we did a lot. Our team now also consisted of me being involved, and Christa and I made a great team together. We did 200% where previously it was 100%, and the kids noticed. I wish I could be with the kids 100% of the time, and if I were independently wealthy, I WOULD. But that is not my lot in life right now. I hope it will be in the future, I would love that, welcome that. I love being with my family, full time.
But every day that wore on, my morning prayers also got longer, and longer. I was praying very hard and mustering up faith everyday, but every day was started with an overwhelming darkness and fearful feeling. I was jobless, and I knew it. I had no job prospects in sight, and nothing legal was an option to me. I prayed, and had deep long talks with the Lord. It took a while to break through. I prayed every morning in my walk in closet there, shut the door, put on my iPhone itunes ocean background noise to block out all other sounds and distractions because the door was very thin plastic "glass" panes... and I concentrated on my personal prayer, to break through each morning and try to get my advice and counsel from the Holy Spirit, to know what was important to do that day. After these few months, and my 1.5 hour long prayers (it took that long because I needed to overcome my worry and fear that engulfed me each morning), the prayers were growing longer. It was becoming more evident as time went on that this was getting more and more critical. Even though we had had some miracles in our favor (Crescent getting us the first tourist visas so we could get back in to China), and then Lucky's friend's friend's school owner getting us a Type Z visa residence permit, we still had no income and the money was just about gone. Even if I wanted to leave the country, I didn't have enough money in the bank to do this. We were now financially stuck and so the ominous feelings were intensifying as I realized what we were into.
At the middle of month 4, I was feeling the feelings very strong. I was praying, and the Lord didn't seem to be answering. I was not feeling comforted. I was feeling overwhelmed, and so I went into my bedroom where Christa was, and I expressed to her my innermost feelings about what I was facing. I could barely get it out, the emotion was so high and strong and heavy, but I told her about my prayers and said "I don't think I can endure this much longer" and I was at the edge of tears, yes, I was shedding tears. I was at the edge of the darkness and I did not see a light at the end of the tunnel. There was no light there.
What I didn't know at the time, was that she had determined to FAST for a miracle. And so she did. She knew from previous experiences in our marriage that fasting coupled with praying can bring about very unlikely events, even miracles. So she was fasting, and I continued my morning prayers for the next couple of days, until the miracle...
The Lord heard her fast. The Lord answered her prayers.
I was doing my daily routine in keeping busy on trying to secure a job and move forward our creative projects.
I got a text on my phone.
It was from someone at my previous Chinese company there, who had been trying to get money from me for the rent deposit, etc., but they they did not extend my contract, so it complicated the whole process, and I was powerless to get anything from the landlord. So we were stuck.
Yet this message came and it said:
"We may have an opportunity for you. Are you interested?"
When I saw their text, I was not excited about it. I thought, what they could possibly even mean. My trust for them was low at this point. I had to humble myself, because of all the opposition I had gone through because of their indecisiveness the last 4 months that cost me a lot of money and worry. I showed my wife the message.
At last, I responded by text to them, "what is the opportunity?" and waited for an answer. The text message answer did come the next day, and they explained in it that they thought I would like it and thought it was a very good opportunity for me. They also wanted me to pay the deposit. So they had a dual purpose in all this... but what is that to me, or to the Lord? Nothing really.
Turns out, it was a great opportunity. It was an offer to be the CHIEF SITE ENGINEER overseeing inspections and construction on the Bullet Train line being built from Beijing to Shenyang, two major cities in China's north area. I would stay in a small town (only 2M people!) of Fuxin, a poorer city for sure, but lots of people and a whole new even more authentic experience in the "real" China. I shared this with Christa and we talked that maybe this was in a way, a huge blessing from the Lord coming from a most unexpected source, my previous company. We made a 1000 mile trip together to check out Fuxin for a weekend, just Christa and I, and select an apartment. I made it clear to them that I would do nothing dishonest and that my qualifications were what they were, and I did not have previous experience in train construction inspection. They hired me anyway and said it was OK, and it was OK as I did a really good job of it, not that hard to do.
We read the text together and that's when Christa shared the news with me that she had started fasting on that day two days earlier when I told her that I didn't think I could take the darkness ominous feelings much longer. I was at the edge. I had never been at this level of "edge" before and I was truly a bit fearful being stuck in China, half way across the world from my real home, and money running out, etc.
We knew this was the Lord giving us, suddenly, that light at the end of the tunnel. Except we were instantly OUT of the tunnel and the light was already there. We were standing in daylight. I went over to the company headquarters and met with the Vice President YangFei there and heard the offer in person. We talked about salary, etc. etc. housing, etc. etc. and eventually I signed a contract and so did he. We were on our way to Fuxin.
This is why I believe in Prayer. This is why I believe in Fasting. I also believe the Lord does not make things easy for us. The Lord knows that by our difficult experiences were learn to depend on Him even more. He has been teaching us this lesson, and more especially through our experiences in China. It was an amazing place to learn how much you can NOT depend our your own strength. We learned this lesson even more, even much more, after arriving in Fuxin and the load of new problems and challenges that would come our way. More on that in other stories.
Why I Believe Blog
Husband, Father, Professional Engineer, and an amateur movie maker... and most importantly, a believer in Jesus Christ