Getting lost in Suzhou

Tuesday, December 1st

By Gail Thornhill

 

They say the ‎best way to find your way around in a new place is to get lost in it. When Nora Sanders and I set out for an easy 30 minute run this morning, we didn’t plan to get lost. My colleagues in Newfoundland had given me a travelling Buddha for good luck and safety before embarking on this trip. Unfortunately he was back the hotel room and couldn’t help us this morning.

The beautiful streets of Suzhou were too tempting – turning around and returning the same route would have meant not seeing the many canals and tree-lined roadways. Getting lost turned out to be a great adventure and a wonderful way to get to know each other better.

The delegation has only been together for a couple of days and already we feel like extended family, getting together for a long-awaited reunion. Our meals are spent sharing food as well as stories around a roun‎d table. And as each day passes, fewer of us are asking for a knife and fork. My own chopstick skills have gone from goofy to graceful in just three days!

On the Steps of Dushu Lake Church Suzhou 2
The group at Dushu Lake Church, Suzhou joined by senior pastor Rev HE Jie Miao (front row)‎ and teaching pastor Rev WANG Bing – photo by Alan Lai

Our Chinese partners and hosts have been so generous of their time. The hospitality we have been shown has far exceeded expectations—we couldn’t have expected the welcome we have received.

This morning we were received at beautiful Dushu Lake Church by senior pastor Rev. HE Jie Miao‎ and teaching pastor Rev. WANG Bing (better known now to us as Rev. “Chris”). It is a stunning church only 5 years old. I am still processing the number of people who attend Sunday services: 1500! The way they engage the young members of the congregation reminded me of my own organization, Stella’s Circle. Rev. Chris spoke of “paying attention to their gifts, hobbies, careers and offering opportunities for community-building and meaningful involvement”.   Stella’s Circle, a social justice community ministry in St John’s, NL has developed many of the programs and services it offers by providing opportunities for participants to uncover or celebrate their gifts.

Last night was my first night of sleeping well after suffering the effects of extended jet lag. Today I felt a renewed sense of energy for the remainder of our time together. The experiences so far have well surpassed the opportunities we had anticipated. We can’t imagine what lies ahead, but we look forward to the journey… even if it means getting lost a few more times.

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