Friday, September 14, 2007

Update from China March 2006

Dear Friends! I really tried to make this update shorter this time, but alas to no avail. Please take your time and read straight through, or skip to the chapters most relevant to you. Thank you in advance, and enjoy!

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Greetings friends and family! It's Kevin! It's been a long time since I've last written you an update letter. By my calculations, it's been about nine months!

A lot has happened since that time, but I will not include everything. I'll touch on the important things which should adequately catch you up with what I've been up to.


Through the later part of last year, I moved completely out of teaching and into full-time management at the company I work for, Executive Communications. My title is still Overseas Program Manager, but my projects have changed.

I successfully completed the creation of the China Immersion Program as well as the China Immersion Program's Student Edition. These are both programs that enable foreigners to come to China to learn Mandarin and immerse themselves in Chinese culture. If you are interested, you can visit the website and learn more about these programs. Click on the "Student Program" link on the home page to go to the special Student Edition website.

I digress. I am now heading up several new projects which are much more intense and very exciting. My major work now involves managing a new initiative to create an online language school. This was originally a proposal I pitched to the CEO of our company and the other managing directors. After several months of deliberation, they agreed and decided to go ahead with my proposal and put me in charge of the project. I now have several teams under my supervision, an IT development team, a marketing team, and a content creation team. If all goes according to plan, before long you will be able to learn Mandarin online via web-phone and web-cam with a live Mandarin teacher in a virtual classroom!

I'm learning a lot about outsourcing and the international IT community. I'm also learning a lot about budgeting, project scheduling, team-building and cross-functional managing. In addition, staying innovative with fresh business strategies for both the company I work for and my own company is an exciting endeavour.

Because of our rapid expansion, we have opened a new office just for the new Online School initiative. Let me tell you, opening a new office complete with furniture and equipment and proper ventilation is not an easy task! But its all done now and we are functioning wonderfully.

Aside from the major IT project, I am also coordinating a business conference for a group of Australian CEOs and executives who will be taking a tour of China's major business centers. This conference is through Executive Communications and we are partnering with the University of New South Wales. The conference is focused on educating the participants on a multitude of aspects about doing business in China: entry strategies, political/economic climate, negotiating and relationship-building issues, to name a few. The conference is a week-long event with two key-note speakers per day and a good variety of banquets, sight-seeing, and networking mixers. The opening ceremonies commence the second week of May, right after the May 1st labour-day holidays.

So that is about it for work! I have also been redeveloping the company's websites, so far six in all. I am really relieved to say that they are scheduled to be completed and launched within the month. Really my days go by very quickly. Once I step into the office it feels like five minutes have gone by and the day is already done! I know things are just going to continue like this, and within a heartbeat it will be the summer, the end of my term at Executive Communications.


Where do I start? I took a nice little extended vacation from the middle of December all the way through to the Middle of February. Cool huh? About two months off, but it wasn't really time off, I was so busy during those two months that in the end I needed a vacation from my vacation.

I left Beijing in December and flew to Hong Kong to spend my Christmas, New Years and Chinese New Year holidays. Christmas was spent reflectively with a couple friends and a couple phone calls back home to my family and friends. The two weeks leading up to New Years was full-blown partying. I had so much pent-up energy and dance-floor-drive built up from Beijing, it was a real relief to let loose in Hong Kong. Even though Beijing is an amazing place culturally and intellectually, sometimes nothing is better than a pumpin' club with some sick beats. Beijing still needs a really fresh, consistent club; or maybe it's just that I need more dance-competent friends who are ready to party it up. Needless to say, I was able to have a good time in Hong Kong with some of my best friends, and the party just got better as more of my friends made their way to Hong Kong for our planned reunion.

This New Years reunion in Hong Kong was for the group of friends I made during my stay in Hong Kong in the Spring of 2003. This year we thought we would go back to the place where it all started. Now that everyone is sprinkled around the globe, it was really special for each person to make the trek out to Hong Kong. We did all the classic things there is to do in Hong Kong: Nightly HK Diners, walking through the old neighbourhood and campus, eating at our favourite dim sum places and of course, Mongkok shopping (if you don't know what any of these things are, don't worry, you can ask me later).

Seems like all fun and games doesn't it? Well I was doing a lot more during those few weeks. First off, it wasn't completely a holiday as I was having a lot of meetings at my company's Hong Kong headquarters. A lot of time was spent in planning and strategy meetings with the CEO and the managing directors of Executive Communications. I also was able to do a little consulting work for the Hong Kong office as they were in need of some fresh perspectives about business strategies for the Hong Kong market.

More importantly, during those few weeks with Christmas, New Years, my reunion and work, I was studying for my GMAT examination. For those who do not know, the GMAT examination is a mandatory entrance aptitude test for anyone wanting to pursue their MBA. I started studying in Beijing back in December, but really began to focus on my preparation when I arrived in Hong Kong. It was really hard to juggle GMAT preparations with spending time with my friends. One full GMAT practice test usually took about five hours, so it really cut into my time I had with my friends and my work obligations. Luckily I managed. I did my examination in Hong Kong four days after New Years. My results were alright, better than I had expected, but worse than I had hoped for. Nevertheless it gave me a fighting chance into the schools I wanted to get into. More to come later about my MBA plans.

When the majority of my friends left after the reunion, I stayed on in Hong Kong because my mother came to visit. My mother stayed in Asia with me for about three weeks, and it was a really enjoyable time with her and another family friend. Her visit was originally three-fold, 1) to see me 2) to help me move back to Canada as I was scheduled to leave around January and 3) to help me get my Hong Kong Identity Card. Since my plans changed and I did not move back to Canada in January, she just came to visit me and help me with the HKID application process. In between processing times, we took a trip back up to Beijing for a week where she was able to see how I was living, my lifestyle, my work, and my friends. Spending time with my mother was really a blessed experience. I was able to see how much she had grown and how our relationship had progressed and deepened while I have been away.

My mother stayed until just after Chinese New Year. We had a lovely time walking through her old neighbourhood in Hong Kong. It's kind of funny because her old house is now a brand new parking lot. It was special to walk through my mother's childhood memories. I even saw my grandmother's old high school. It was a truly unique experience, helping me understand my parents better. Jogging through her memories helped me learn more about my parents' pasts and provided an opportunity for my mother to share with me new stories about their youth that I had never heard before.

After Chinese New Years I returned back to Beijing to recuperate from two months of living off of other people's good graces (I moved around Hong Kong staying with different friends). My free time in Beijing since then has been filled with a variety of different events. From January through to early March, the majority of my free time was spent writing Business School applications. I applied to six B-schools in all, four in America and two in Canada. Each school required an average of five essays, plus a fully completed application. In total I wrote over thirty essays. February's free time was spent as such; everyday after work I would come home and write at least one essay question, with weekends spent completing the applications and sending them out to their respective schools. Come early March, I finished all my applications and had a great celebration to treat myself for a job well done.

In the first weekend of March I took a trip to Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Shanghai was spent visiting some of my best friends who had just returned to China from Canada. My trip this time to Shanghai was different from my previous times in that city because we spent all of our time in the suburbs of Shanghai instead of the tourist-packed Bund. It was quite refreshing to see the type of expat lifestyle my friends were living in Shanghai, with marked points of difference from mine in Beijing. It gave me an idea of the type of life I would be leading if I decide to relocate to Shanghai in the future. The couple of days were well spent catching up with my friends and celebrating, Shanghai-style.

Shenzhen was merely transit to Hong Kong. However, it was good to see how far Shenzhen had developed from the last time I was there in 2003. It is wonderful to see that China is developing across the board, not just in the first-tier cities. My only regret about Shenzhen is that I was not able to visit some of the places I had frequented before; namely the infamous DVD/fake goods/custom-tailor markets we know and love.

I returned to Hong Kong only a month after my last visit because I had to pick up my Hong Kong ID. That's right, I am now legally allowed to live and work in Hong Kong with no questions asked. I can also walk in and out of Hong Kong without having to show or stamp my Canadian passport, which is a sorely needed benefit. My trip to Hong Kong also allowed me to have some critical business meetings, so it all worked out perfectly.

My free time since that trip, with the absence of any more applications and essays, has been to relax and enjoy the warming weather of Beijing. I've started my golf season already, and have had more chances to spend time with some close friends. This also explains why you are now receiving an update letter from me! I have been so excited to sit down with my coffee and my laptop and type this out to you!

In the future, my free time will be refocused on preparing my Web design company for my departure from China. There are certain organizational issues that have to be put into action so that this business can be sustained with my extended absence. I will also be taking more business trips to Shanghai and perhaps Hong Kong if they are needed. I do hope that I will have a chance to go to other places in China (but none outside of China because I have no more room in my passport for stamps); however looking at my schedule I doubt I will have too much more free time for traveling. Regardless, with my change in projects, my schedule is more regulated and I have more free time. I hope to use every minute I have to the fullest.


As always I am looking forward, and so my thoughts have been dwelling on my decisions to stay in China, to pursue my MBA, and my life afterwards.

Extending my stay in China was a simple decision that grew out of several circumstances that developed last year. 1) the offer from my company to stay on to head up this new Online project 2) the MBA requirement that applicants needed two years of full-time employment experience and 3) What would I do in Canada if I came back so early??!!

Actually, I originally planned to come back to Canada earlier because I wanted to spend more time with Carmen, since we had been apart for such a long time. However, as some of you already know, Carmen and I separated last September. If this is your first time hearing about this, no need to get weepy-eyed or sentimental. Carmen is a wonderful person and I do not regret one day of our relationship. The relationship helped me become the man I am today and will continue to influence me as I continue to mature. I am fine now. I was very honest with my emotions and took the time needed to ensure I was healing well. Needless to say, as my relationship with Carmen was a pivotal factor for my returning to Canada earlier, by January there was no longer a strong incentive to return.

Confirming my desire to pursue my MBA came last fall. I feel since I now have almost two years of full-time work experience, with most of that being management experience, I have a clearer idea what additional knowledge I need to learn. In fact, a major driving factor for my continued studies is comes from my experiences as an entrepreneur. In order to be a successful entrepreneur, I must have comprehensive knowledge on many aspects of the business. Even though I am versed in international business, strategy, finance and marketing, I feel that my accounting, logistical and legal knowledge is insufficient for me to be the best business person I can be. That is why my goal when going back to school is to generalize as much as possible. Learning about a myriad of subjects I never studied in my undergrad, and forcing myself to study the courses I detested before will better equip me for the future.

My most recent dilemma has been what b-school to choose. While I am still waiting for responses from most of the schools, the general choice comes down to Canada vs. US schools. In Canadian schools (Toronto B-schools) I get to study for 1/10th the cost it would take me to study in the States, I would finish my MBA in 8 months versus 2 years, and I would be able to live at home and spend precious time deepening relationships with my family and friends. In the US schools I would study in one of the top B-schools in the world, gain more unique international experience, make connections with elite classmates, and perhaps secure an even brighter career prospect. I have been deliberating between these two options for the past month, and at this point, I have a very strong conviction, even if I got into some of the US schools, to come back and study in Canada. I think looking at the most important aspects in life (Spiritual, Emotional/Relationship and Financial) the Toronto schools are the smartest option. I would welcome any comments or opinions anyone has about this issue. I am always looking for more insight, especially from those who either have an MBA or have experience with the business world.

One more thing; being in Toronto means I get to drive! Man, do I miss driving… I miss my car. Jazz filling the cabin, one hand on the wheel and one arm gently resting on the adjacent headrest, cruising through the city streets at night with only the light of the street lamps slipping by… ahhhh…

I have begun looking at courses offered by some of the schools, and have already made a short-list of subjects that I want to take. I was like a kid in a candy shop! I am so excited about all the applicable subjects I can learn going back to school! My passion for business has continued to grow, and now I have a much more focused and driven purpose to my learning.

I find that I really do spend much of my time thinking about the future, but I guess that is only natural for someone my age at this stage in life? I am starting to hear of friends back in Canada who are getting engaged, buying their first homes, or having babies! Being someone who is concerned about the future, I wonder when that stuff is going to happen to me. Looking at the direction my life is headed right now, I don't know whether I will eventually have to choose between a transient life in Asia and a settled life in North America, or whether I will be able to find a career that neatly incorporates both lifestyles together. My heart is somewhat torn; half of me is in love with Asia, its energy, adventure and innovation, while the other half wants desperately to cultivate life-long relationships which only a consistent, settled life can afford. We will have to see what will transpire won't we? Please help me put it into prayer.

Changing tunes, many people are specifically interested in my perspectives about Asia and what I have learned from my experiences out here. It's funny because some of my accountability partners expect me to have some new exciting story or lesson to share every time we connect. It's hard to always have new material, because I speak to some of my friends every week! But since this update to the rest of you has been such a long time coming, I'm not going to disappoint.

I have spent much time writing MBA applications in the last few months, and the exercise has given me ample time to dwell on the condition of the Asian experience and my role in its development. Personally I feel like China today mirrors what America was at the turn of the last century; a place full of opportunities where anyone with a great idea, a lucky combination of connections and financing, and most importantly courage, can become a success. Everyone can see the powerful growth of China's economy, military and political positions in the global arena. However, China's rise to power has a stark difference from America's a hundred years earlier.

Once scorned by the British as a land of uncultured, undisciplined outlaws, America quickly produced a life philosophy and a national culture undeniably attractive to all. As a student of history, I have concluded that the crown which defines a true super-power, an empire that inspires the ages, is Culture. Military, Economic, and Political might are essential building blocks for a civilization, but what sets any empire apart in the annals of history is its culture and the way it inspires the rest of the world. Think of the Roman, the French, the English and the American empires. What did each of them have in common? What made them stand out from the Babylonian, Egyptian, Mongol, Ottoman, Nazi and Soviet empires? It was their inviting, intoxicating culture. All of these empires had economic, military and political might. Yet it is the culture each civilization breeds that defines its status in history. Where is China today? As I stated before, China is where America was in the late 1800's (the Wild West). But where are the Benjamin Franklins? The Thomas Jeffersons? The Abraham Lincolns? The Davey Crocketts? Just as importantly, will China produce its Louis Armstrongs? Its Elvis Presleys? Its Jackson Pollacks? Its Miles Davises? Its "Leave it to Beaver"s?

Will China grow to inspire nations, or will it stunt its preeminence because it fails to influence and lead by trust and acceptance? Sadly China is caught in a "catch up" mindset and is hurting itself by importing its values from a declining civilization whose ideals are severely corrupted. Instead China should venture into creating its own distinct philosophy and define its culture and identity to position itself for future international leadership. China isn't there yet. It will get there though. It will have to choose how it wants to be perceived by the global community. It has to decide whether it wants to accept full responsibility for leadership. It will only hold on to leadership if it can affect the individual. Economics, politics and military might are too macro. Will people one day say "Oh I wish I could be a Chinese citizen" as they once said for the Roman, French, English and American empires? China has a second chance at global leadership. I am excited to see whether this time around they will get it right.

This is where I plan to make my contribution. To the development of China's new identity and culture. My preoccupation with China stems from the dream that I may have a hand in helping grow and influence a Chinese Benjamin Franklin, Pablo Picasso, or Jane Austin. I plan to have a career developing Asian innovation and establishing a business that facilitates in China's new identity and culture; a culture that the world will be motivated to follow and imitate. While studying my MBA and upon graduation, I will be looking for opportunities to participate in a company that will give me an avenue to contribute to this purpose.


Too much thinking and dreaming right? What else do you think I do here in China when I am by myself? People always ask me how I feel I have grown or changed. I've noticed quite evidently that I am a lot quieter than I used to be. I still haven't fully explained this change, but I surmise it is because I have grown accustomed to the solitude in which I find myself. I think I feel a lot more comfortable with being alone. I also find that not everything needs to have a response. In a country where the majority of people have differing ideas than mine, with opinions that normally clash with mine, I have grown accustomed to keeping my mouth shut, and letting them keep their opinions, while I keep mine. I guess I have grown weary of the argument or just the converse of differing opinions. This is not to say that when someone asks for my opinion I will decline, but I will no longer actively look to hash out every single issue that is presented before me, even if the ideas differ from mine. If I were to do so, I would end up spending every hour of the day in debate and would still make no difference in people's lives. I am finding that people nowadays talk way too much, and do too little. I do not know whether this change in me is good or bad, but all I know is that I prefer to listen much more now, and only say what is necessary, if it has a purpose.

This issue also relates to another observation I have. I am finding a widening discrepancy between the people I find interesting and of value, and those who I feel waste my time, and waste their own time. Maybe to some of you this statement feels a little bigoted; maybe some of you feel this is a natural step in a person's maturing process. I don't know. All I know is whether new or old friends, I am finding it harder to relate to everybody, and finding there is less to talk about.

Pretty depressing huh? I'm just reporting to you what I observe. This issue might be more pronounced in China. In China you will meet one of two kinds of foreigners: 1) those that come to China with a preset purpose or reason and 2) those that come to China with no purpose or reason, perhaps running away from something. Naturally the number of people who fall into the first category are dwarfed by those who fall into the second. Many people who claim they are in China to "learn about the culture" or "get some international experience" do nothing more than squander their time and money by living an expatriate life and feeling they are more important than the local Chinese. Many do not make an effort to learn the language or the culture. Many do not try to make local Chinese friends, and always spend their time with other foreigners in expat hangouts criticizing and evaluating China based on their limited experience with limited perspectives. Many are mortified by "real life" after college in North America, and feel that coming to China will instantly and magically prepare them for what awaits them back home. Even more tragically, many who have not yet found themselves feel that China will help them find their identity and purpose in life.

Truthfully, China has so many things going on, offers so many distractions, temptations, and new experiences, anyone who does not first have a purpose will quickly be swept away in one direction or another. It takes a strong will and a determined mindset to stay the course in China. Too many opportunities abound, and those who think that China will help them focus or help them find themselves are severely mistaken. China will instead push you to lose yourself if you are not prepared. This is probably one reason why I find so many people a waste of time, because they are being swept along without taking the reigns of control for their own life. I have little in common with these people and find I have less to say. My contributions to their debates and discussions make little difference because they speak merely to talk, not to make an impact on their own lives or the lives of others.

Alright, enough with the depressing skepticism; I will change tones. This section is supposed to be about how I'm living. I try to live a routine life as best I can. I go out when I have to, and stay home when I can. As a full-time manager my schedule is more regulated and I can afford more time for myself. This has benefited with increased time spent at the gym, and time spent on weekends doing things I enjoy, such as coffee shops, golfing, and keeping up with the latest in the art and music scenes of Beijing.

China always ends up making your life interesting, even if you try to make it dull. This past January I was showcased again on BBC radio as discussion panelist about my views of China's social and cultural development in the coming five years. In addition this past month, a short program aired on Beijing Television about my life in Beijing. The program chronicles foreigners and their lives in Beijing. I had a camera crew follow me around for two days filming everything I did. It was an interesting experience, but a little bit embarrassing having people staring at me wondering why I was being filmed.

Next week I will be traveling to Shanghai for a couple business negotiations, and while there, my fellow managers and I will be going to the Rolling Stones concert. A concert for only 8000, this is the Rolling Stone's first concert in China and smallest concert in decades. What is more exciting, my friends and I are invited to the Stone's pre-party! The tickets and the invitation were a result of some connections we have. Sometimes I am reminded that being a foreigner in China really does offer a special experience that few can enjoy in North America.

To wrap up my "Living" section, I wanted to add that I have started dating again. It's a very unique experience to say the least, dating in China. I am again learning a lot about women, and the vast variety of different women there are in the world. It is quite refreshing to see the distinctions between Chinese and foreign women, their attitudes, philosophies and expectations towards life. I myself am challenged to rethink my expectations towards women, and my expectations for what kind of woman I would like to settle down with. Dating is helping me reevaluate what attributes in a woman I feel are essential and unessential. All in all its great fun, and I rather enjoy the process.


Well! The time has come to conclude this update! For those of you who have made it this far, kudos to you! I am happy to inform everyone that I have already been accepted to at least one MBA program starting this fall, so most definitely I will be returning to North America for at least one year. That being said, I would like to inform you that I will be flying back to Canada on June 30th! My aim when I return to Canada for the months of July and August is to relax as much as I can, and do a little bit of traveling. Once I land on June 30th, I will immediately be traveling to Montreal for the International Jazz Festival. I have gone every year for the past five years. I missed it last year, and regret it viciously. I will be in Montreal until the end of the festival on July 9th, at which time I will return to Toronto. Those who are interested in joining me in Montreal please let me know as soon as possible so that I can plan accordingly. In addition to Montreal, I will be making trips to New York, Chicago, and some of the states down South to visit friends during the two summer months.

As I count it, I now have less than 100 days left in China before returning. I will try to write one more update before I return, but no promises. I know as the departure date nears, my spare time will be extremely limited. For those who plan on visiting me in Beijing before I leave, please notify me soon so I can schedule free time for you. I haven't even left China yet, and I'm already missing it.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone when I return! For many of you, it will have been two years since the last time we met. I will say plainly and honestly, I miss each and every one of you. There may be some type of get-together in July, so be on the look out!

Thank you for spending the time to read my update letter. It really means the world to me that you value our relationship so passionately. It has been my pleasure to share my life with you, and in turn I hope you will continue to share your life with me. Let's continue to deepen our friendship wait for the day when we can see each other again face to face. You are all important to me, thank you for your support.


POST SCRIPT// To my Brothers and Sisters

The following is written for those who are interested in my spiritual wellbeing and the spiritual wellbeing of China.

To my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, greetings to you all! Thank you for taking the time to read my update and more importantly for including me in your thoughts and prayers. I will try to keep this section as succinct as possible and only reiterate on the points that require mentioning.

In terms of new developments, there has been little. Things are more or less consistent; Church every week, devotions every day. God has been asking me to focus on consistency more than anything else. It has been a great challenge, especially since I have been traveling so much in recent months. The months spent in Hong Kong were very difficult spiritually because consistency was thrown out the window. Back in Beijing, things are more settled and I have more opportunity to keep my time with God consistent.

Last September I felt called to begin serving again. It has been several years since I've served in a Christian institution. Serving in fellowships and accountability groups are wonderful, but there is still something to be gained from active service in a church. I auditioned for a spot on the Beijing International Christian Fellowship's inspiration team (musical worship) as a male vocalist. God blessed me with the opportunity to serve with them, and I have had the privilege to contribute musically to the inspiration team several times in the past few months. Serving has allowed me to meet new people and make new friends at church. The BICF is a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary melting pot, bringing together people of all ethnic, educational, linguistic, and economic backgrounds together into common service. I am already regretting not taking active participation earlier in this church. The way God uses diversity to his glory is something only accomplished through will.

Since January, I have also been trying to get into a small group or serve in other ministries (counseling, mentoring, evangelical), but initiatives have not worked out and I am still unable to find a match for what I am looking for and my schedule. As I have three months left, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find avenues of participation, as many would best be served long-term. I am determined when I come back to Canada that I will find a good church to attend and quickly begin serving. Even if it is only for one year, I have learned that God does not ask you to serve only when you are settled in. It is wrong for me to excuse myself from service just because I might be leaving in a few months or a year. God requires us to continually affect and love those around us. He is the one that blesses us with the opportunity to leave and enter new environments, but not at the expense of service to others.

I have made a very good friend here in Beijing. We meet every Sunday after service and have lunch together and share our lives. We are accountable to each other and share our failures, weaknesses, temptations, victories and revelations. He has become very important to me and has been my anchor and my outlet here in Beijing. Even though I did not join a small group, God has given me what He feels I need: one honest, transparent brother.

In my devotions, in my discussions with my accountability brother, in the Sunday sermons, and in the books I read, God has continuously been pushing me to look inwards. He has thrown down an explicit challenge for me to expose the deepest flaws in my character. He is making me see the fundamental parts of my life that I refuse to give to Him. He is also making me understand that there is too much of my integrity that I have compromised. Too often I rationalize under the ideals of "acceptance" and "tolerance" and sabotage the integrity that God has placed under my duty to guard. He has made it clear that there is no amount of influence or change in circumstance that will win this victory for me. I must claim this victory by myself, overcome my fears, draw on God's strength, and place my faith in Him. If I do not claim victory once and for all, my flaws will remain with me wherever I go. I will destroy the plans God has for my life because these flaws will corrupt my actions and decisions. As I take on more responsibility and influence more people, this purging of my character will determine whether I lead everyone I affect into ruin or victory. God is challenging me to purge my integrity, and voraciously defend without compromise the unwavering principles Jesus set forward. I can see the challenge now. I am struggling with the execution. It is so hard to tear apart my fears, and plunge into uncharted waters only supported by faith. Often I feel my faith is not strong enough, often I feel it is just too hard to take the narrow road, to walk through the eye of that proverbial needle.

God's challenge for me is one of purification; a refinement of my heart so I can present it to Him as unblemished gold, washed only by the blood of Jesus.

Looking forward, I have shared with some of you the heavy burden God has placed on my heart for returning home. The defining reason why I will likely decide to pursue an MBA in Toronto is because of this ministry God has given to me. In the past two years, I have at times literally cried for my friends. God loves them so much, and my heart yearns to reconnect with many of them. I feel God has blessed me too abundantly the past few years with a unique experience and a different outlook on life. I really feel God's calling to share what I have learned with others. It is un-Christ-like to accumulate blessings, knowledge and gifts from God and refuse to share them. There are many in Toronto I know who are in need of encouragement, motivation and inspiration. There are others God has placed in my heart to mentor and tutor. There are those God needs me to love and forgive. And, there are still others from whom I need to be forgiven. This past year God has really given me clear and specific visions of who to reach out to, and how. I am really excited to go back and put God's plans into action. I do not know the results, and it is not my place to know. All I know is what God wants me to do, and He will take care of the rest.

In this issue He has challenged me to be as transparent as I can possibly be. While I might be scared that others will see my weaknesses and lose respect for me, it is necessary in order for me to serve in God's ministry. I must humble myself and serve with an honest heart. Most importantly, God wants me to show how imperfect I am to those I reach out to. That is God's challenge to me. If there are any preconceptions about me, if I have some sort of reputation in front of a group of people, I must break them all and help people see that I am only a sinner; a sinner of the worst kind. If you ask me, it's pretty scary, and it is pushing my faith in a new direction I've never gone before. Pray for me and the vision God has placed in front of me.

China has allowed me to be victorious in many different areas, while it has also allowed me to utterly fail in others. God has used the time here for His glory, and He will continue to be glorified in my life.

I know the preceding few paragraphs may be a little ambiguous for many of you, and I apologize, it's the only way I know how to express what is going on inside me. God and I are in the midst of a challenge and an internal decision-making process that will affect how I conduct myself from now on, and reinforce my integrity.

Thank you for taking the time to read these words, thank you for your love and your continued acceptance. I know God is blessing each and every one of you in immeasurable ways, and I look forward to hearing about them!

Grace from above, blessings to you all.


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