Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Sweetest Hug I've Ever Received

I was emotionally exhausted. I'd been crying myself to sleep for four nights out of loneliness and homesickness. I was in a small village called Lijiang, a Southwestern village in China. I had been away from home for almost eight weeks. I was on the adventure of a lifetime, but it was the last leg of this adventure and I was emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically spent. I missed my family. I didn't speak Chinese. The people I was traveling with were a lot of fun, but most of them did not understand me at all. My faith was challenged in ways I'd never experienced before.

A little over three weeks earlier, I had been voted off my tribe on the reality show, Survivor: China. The protocol is that the contestants who are voted off do not go home until the show wraps up production, therefore there are no "spoilers" back at home before the show is aired later in the year. So all 16 of us had to go back home at the same time. Six of us who did not last long enough to make the jury were treated to a wonderful trip in China. We had visited Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and now we were in Lijiang. We had seen the Great Wall of China, the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Forbidden City and more culture than I have ever experienced! As beautiful as the trip was, I was really missing my family and I was desperate for connection with other believers in Jesus Christ.
The ancient streets of Leijing, China

As I prayed one morning, I prayed a very specific and desperate prayer. I wanted to meet another believer in Jesus Christ and get a hug! It seemed a strange request, but I knew it was something my spirit was in need of, and I wasn't afraid to ask. Of course, I had in my mind that it would probably be some Christian couple that was staying in the same hotel, there to pick up their adopted daughter because in every hotel we stayed in across China, this was commonly seen. We saw dozens of families there on route to pick up their sweet new little one! It really warmed my heart.

So that morning, I set out to the restaurant for coffee and looked around for someone God may have sent to encourage my weary heart. But the restaurant was empty. I was so sure God was going to have someone there that I was a bit shocked, honestly. We ended up leaving the hotel awhile later and walked around the cobblestone streets of the ancient market. As we walked, I prayed and was still looking for a connection with someone, knowing God had a plan.

About twenty minutes into our excursion, I saw something unusual from a distance. Every shop had Chinese writing and I couldn't read any of it, but one shop straight ahead had an English word on it. As I walked closer to the shop, I realized it said "Emmanuel". My heart raced and tears immediately filled my eyes. I ran into the shop and looked around. There were little carvings of Biblical stories that were all hand made. I saw Noah's Ark, the 10 Commandments, Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, you name it - tons of sweet carvings encased in beautiful glass.

In the corner of the shop was a young Chinese woman who was carving away at a cross. Our eyes met and I said, "Jesus?". She looked at me and her eyes grew wider and she shook her head up and down saying, "Shi De!"(this means "yes") I pointed to her cross and then pointed to my heart and she stood up and hugged me as we both sobbed. We were sisters, but we had no means of communication except "Jesus". She didn't speak a lick of English and I didn't speak a lick of Chinese, but I have never felt so close to someone as I did that day!

There will come a time in the future when I believe I will see my sweet Chinese sister again in heaven, and on that day we will communicate with no language barrier and I will share with her how she was an answer to a desperate prayer in China in August of 2007. Hers was the sweetest hug I've ever received. I look forward to this reunion!

If you are waiting on an answered prayer, I want to encourage you to get the picture of what you think the answer should look like out of your mind and hold on tight! God's plan is going to blow you away. I believe He used that precious young woman because I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He sent her to me. Hang on and trust Him. He's working. And if you're looking for what you think He will do, you may miss altogether what He is actually doing.


Rick Barry said...

So glad I had time to stop and read this today. Very cool story. A mix of "behind the scenes at Survivor" and a Christian testimony. Thanks for sharing it!

I can relate a little. As a Russian-speaker with a Christian ministry, I have often led or interpreted for missions teams overseas. In 1992 I was helping a team in the Far East of Russia for a month, and in those days you couldn't call or email the USA from there. Missed my wife and kids tremendously, but at least I had the other men on my team for fellowship. In our case, we never hugged. ;)

Leslie Nease said...

Thanks for the encouragement Rick! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. It's one of my all-time favorite memories from China! :)

afmac said...

Loved reading this. Certainly brought tears to my eyes. Isn't it amazing how God works and manifests Himself in our lives if we only ask Him and wait for His timing.

Leslie Nease said...

Thank you so much - It truly is amazing how He works!

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