Tag Archive | China

Standards of Beauty

整形外科 - Plastic Surgery

整形外科 (Plastic Surgery)

I am currently on a company trip to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Taipei. This post is just an observation about the beauty standards that are prevalent here. It’s not really a spiritual post, it’s just some things that have been going through my mind since I arrived. I think it dovetails nicely with Rebekah M.’s last post, The Monster in the Mirror. Please don’t take this post as criticizing the culture. I am well aware that my own culture is just as flawed and has just as many ridiculous standards. These are just my thoughts and observations.

There is an impossible standard of beauty here. This is true the world over, but it seems especially prevalent here. It amazes me that I can take a walk and get handed packs of tissues from at least three different plastic surgery outfits on a single street.

Plastic surgery is increasingly common in the west, but it’s still pretty much relegated to celebrities and the super rich. Here, it’s not uncommon for your average woman to seek it out. There’s nose jobs to be had, chin chiseling (to get that impossible heart-shaped face), double eye-lid surgery, liposuction, and the surgery to help you get rid of your radish legs. In other words, surgery to change you from something perfectly normal to something supposedly more attractive. There’s even a strangely popular procedure to turn your areolas into hearts. Really? Who would want or need such a thing? Especially something that so obviously can only be accomplished through surgery?

All of the constant focus on beauty here makes me feel really insecure. I do not live up to my own culture’s standards of beauty and really don’t live up to this culture’s standard of beauty.

Honestly, I think those women with the extreme heart faces look weird. It’s unnatural. I think the surgery to get a double eye-lid is a disheartening attempt to appear more “western”. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but that’s sure what it seems like. And radish legs? Seriously? I always thought your thighs were supposed to be wider than your calves. This is considered something so ugly that it bears it’s own insult?

I guess it can be compared to the teenage obsession in the US to have a thigh gap. A few months ago I saw a picture one of our youth at church posted on her instagram account. She had photoshopped the picture in order to give the appearance that she had a thigh gap. It was a rather poor photoshop job so that’s how I knew and it made me so sad because she is a beautiful girl. An absolutely gorgeous girl actually. But there’s that impossible standard of beauty everywhere. Pretty girls are not exempt.

So I know it isn’t unique to this area, but perhaps because I’m in a foreign place it’s even more obvious to me. After all, we tend to do a lot more observing when we’re in an unfamiliar environment. Here most girls don’t flaunt their bosoms the way they do back home. You won’t often see low-cut tops, but you know what you do see? Super short skirts and shorts. Legs seem to be the body part of choice to show off. Therefore, they need to be perfect.

Then there’s the whitening creams, celulite reducers, fake eyelashes, and round contacts. The obsession to look…different…better…younger is everywhere. This goes far beyond the typical fat shaming which is done en masse, but also focuses heavily on things that are completely beyond personal control.

For example, being short is an insult. Being someone of short stature myself, I find it interesting. On the one hand, I love coming here and not always being the shortest one in any given gathering. Back home everyone is taller than me. Here, most people are still taller than me, but the difference in height is much less pronounced. I might be the shortest in a group, but it will only be by a few inches rather than by a foot or more. It’s an amazing feeling to be with a group of people and actually be able to talk to them face to face. I have spent my life literally looking up to people. Taller people are often unaware of how uncomfortable it is when they stand too close. The closer they stand, the sharper the angle my neck has to be at in order to look at them (keep this in mind when talking to small children). I sometimes wonder if this is the cause of my chronic neck pain, but that’s another story.

Anyway, this amazing feeling of not being quite so short here is dampened by the fact that here being short is an insult. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone describe another person as “plain and short” as a way to say they aren’t worth anything. They don’t deserve a boyfriend etc. because they are so “ugly – plain and short”. It’s strange to me. Back home being short is just a description, it’s not an insult. Your friends might kid you about it, but you’ll never hear someone call a person short in the same way you hear people call someone fat; like it’s a horrible thing to be – but here you do. It’s strange to me. At least when you insult someone for being fat (which I’m not a fan of either) the person likely has some control over whether they’re fat. When you insult someone for being short, you’re insulting something that they have almost no control over. It’s determined almost entirely by genes. Good nutrition in early childhood can make a difference, but that isn’t something most kids can control.

I say all that to point out how ridiculous the standards of beauty are. There’s actually a ton more examples of this that I could share, but the point is that many of them are literally unattainable (or only possible with surgical intervention). People grow up hating themselves. Hating the bodies that God gave them. If only they knew that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

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Send Me

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me.” -Isaiah 6:8

I have exciting news. I will be going back to China and Taiwan! It will be another short trip through my company similar to the one I went on last year. It won’t be for a while, perhaps not until spring, but the plans are falling into place. I have no idea what the spiritual significance will be, but I have no doubt that this is the will of the Lord. I had to go through several steps over a period of months during the selection process which entailed completing an application, submitting an essay, getting letters of recommendation, having a panel interview, and taking a Chinese proficiency test. At each one of these steps I prayed for the Lord to either open the door or close the door according to His will. From a human perspective I am far from the best candidate for the job so I know that being selected was only by the hand of the Lord. He has a purpose for allowing me another opportunity to go and I am humbled, grateful, and excited. I pray that He will allow me to be a vessel to reach the souls I come across. Lord open doors, open doors, open doors!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Choose this Day

“…choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24:15

As many of you know, I have a friend that lives in Taiwan. For the last couple of weeks he has been on a business trip to China. The beginning of his trip was fraught with difficulties. He is under incredible pressure to succeed by his company. In addition, he has been battling many personal temptations and sin has been lying at the door just waiting to trip him up.

Recently in prayer, God asked him a question. The question was, “Do you want to be like your father or like your Father? You see, many of the struggles and temptations my friend is facing are the very sins his father has succumbed to. God was asking him whether he would choose to become like his earthly father or like his heavenly Father. Indeed, this is a decision we all must continually make.

When he encountered these temptations in China, rather than fall into secret sin and try to hide them away, he reached out and openly told his pastor, his mentor, and a couple close friends exactly what he was tempted to do. So often we try to face our demons alone. Church, we need to learn to lean on each other during our trials! Had he tried to face this alone, he almost certainly would have failed. But with the love, support, and prayers of those close to him, he found the strength to stand for Christ!

His decision to stand for the Lord has resulted in something amazing! At a business meeting in Shanghai, he told his co-workers that he could not do some of the things they were doing because he is a Christian. After the meeting, one of his co-workers told him that he is actually a Christian also, but he had never told the group because he didn’t want to stand out. While Christianity is rapidly growing in China, it is still a tiny minority of the population, and if you think it’s difficult standing out in the United States, it is much more difficult in a place like China that values the group over the individual.

My friend’s Christian co-worker invited him to attend church with him. It is a government registered church so my friend knew that doctrinally some things would not line up with what he believes, but he decided that getting to worship with other Christians would be good for him. After the church service he and another member of the church were invited back to his co-worker’s house for lunch. During lunch, it was revealed that neither his co-worker nor the other church member had ever been baptized. In fact, they felt that baptism was something done in biblical times, but was not something to be practiced in modern times.

I know even amongst our readers there are differing opinions on this, but my friend went through all the Scriptures in the bible that admonish new believers to be baptized. He pointed out that there aren’t any Scriptures that would indicate that we should stop baptizing people. Before long the two church members were feeling convicted and having an intense discussion about what they should do. Meanwhile my friend contacted his pastor back in Taiwan to get some advice on how to handle the situation. His pastor recommended that my friend suggest they all pray together and then if they indicated they wanted to be baptized they should do it without hesitation. He pointed out that the government church would not baptize them so to help them be obedient to the Word, my friend should just do it himself.

As suggested, my friend had the three of them pray together. After prayer, the two men both agreed that they wanted to be baptized! My friend took them back to the hotel where he is staying and baptized them in the name of Jesus in the hotel pool!

One of the things that strikes me as so amazing about this entire interaction is how it would not have happened if my friend had chosen to be like his father rather than his Father. He was under extreme temptation and had he given into it, he never would have had reason to let his coworkers know that he is can’t do certain things, so therefore he never would have found out this other co-worker was a Christian, and the co-worker would never have invited him to his church and therefore would not have been baptized.

Every decision we make either for Christ or for the satisfaction of our own flesh, has consequences. When we stand for Christ, He can make miracles happen in our midst! When we follow Him and do His will, we can witness the expanding of the Kingdom of God before our very eyes!

Will you be like your earthly father or like your heavenly Father? Choose this day whom ye will serve.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

His Name is Jesus

Those that have been following along on my journey know that I have been on a trip to Asia for the last three weeks. I first went to the Philippines, then to China, and now I am in Taiwan. The Lord has proven Himself faithful to me numerous times throughout this trip. He has opened my eyes to a new dimension in Him.

I have faced spiritual opposition while I’ve been here. I believe it is because the enemy knows the Lord has used this trip for the purpose of planting seeds and for the purpose of growing me. I believe the Lord is not done yet and He will be further magnified before this adventure concludes.

On this trip I have seen the incredible generosity of people who have nothing. I have seen that true happiness does not take a lot of material possessions. I have seen that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world and where He is absent there is spiritual darkness. I have seen that His burden is easy and His yoke is light and where other spirits are worshiped there is a spiritual heaviness. I have seen that He is mighty and powerful in all corners of this earth and that a moment spent crying out to Him can change everything. I have seen that worshipping with brothers and sisters in the Lord is a wonderful blessing even when you’ve never met before and don’t speak the same language or have the same culture.

There is amazing beauty in other cultures, histories, traditions, and even religions…but there is only One God. There is only One King who sits on the throne in heaven. There is only One Savior. His name is Jesus. His name is Jesus!

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

If Ye Be Christ’s

I am currently in Taiwan, but I’m going to share my exciting story of what God did the other day when I was still in China! God is so amazing!! It was so hard to restrain myself from writing about it, but because of the way woman reacted, I felt it best to be a little cautious and not share what happened until I left. I was probably just being paranoid, but you hear all these stories of the Communist Party reading outgoing emails and blog posts so I decided not to take any chances.

Anyway, from the moment I stepped off the plane in the Philippines I had not had a minute to myself. Literally every moment has been spent with my co-workers or my host family, or my students, or the villagers. For an introvert who lives by themselves and is used to a lot of alone time, it’s a little difficult to always be “on”. I needed a few minutes to clear my head and unwind so when we finally got some downtime, I decided to take a walk. On my way out the door, something told me to grab my bag. I realize now that it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

I had intended on pretty much just walking a straight line so that I wouldn’t get lost, but when I got to a fork  in the road I heard a voice tell me to go left. It was not a literal voice that I heard with my ear. I just heard it like a thought in my head, but it was the voice of my Chinese teacher (from my dreams)! Immediately, I remembered the lessons where he coached me to move left, or move right, or step back etc. without hesitation. Obedience. So I went left. I walked a ways further, and again I felt a prompting to take another left. So I did. Then I felt to just walk straight for awhile.

After a bit, I walked by a woman sitting on a bench. She called out to me, “Mei guo ren, mei guo ren” (American, American). I just ignored her because this has happened several times simply because people are surprised to see Westerners. But then she called out in English saying, “Miss?” I stopped. She spoke in a very thick accent so I had to strain to understand, but she said, “Miss, you are missionary or you are here for company?” I was surprised by the question, but just said, “I’m here with my company.” She looked really disappointed and just said, “oh, okay.” I started to walk away, but something about the disappointment in her voice stopped me. I turned  back and asked why she wanted to know. She said, “Your God told me to come to wait on the bench until the missionary come.” At this I was taken aback. The Spirit had also prompted me to go there by taking those left turns. I sat next to her on the bench. I figured she must have some Christian understanding because she used the word missionary. She also seemed to associate this word with Americans since she called out to me. And she said “Your God”. This woman didn’t know anything about me so to say “Your God” was interesting to me. It’s exactly the way that my ex-boyfriend used to refer to God before he came to know Him for himself. I asked her if there was something she wanted to know. She said, “Yes, did American take their God from Jewish God? There was a man Abraham. And Jewish God promise him a lot of children and promise him he inherit what God have, right? Why Americans think they can have this God when they not from Abraham. Doesn’t the Jewish God make this promise to Abraham’s family?” I realized this was a very important question because she wasn’t really asking me about Americans. She wanted to understand how the rights and privileges of a child of God got extended to gentiles. Somehow, somewhere she had some teaching, but it was incomplete. She was longing to be part of God’s family, but if Americans didn’t really have a right to this God, then logically she wouldn’t either.

I had a bible in my bag. I wanted to take it out and show her some things, but teaching the bible outside the government sanctioned Three Self Church is illegal. Granted, persecution is nothing like it used to be, but an American will be arrested (and likely deported) if they bring their bible out and publicly start sharing it. It is fine to bring your bible into the country for personal reasons, but you can’t share it with others. But then I had an idea! I pulled out my phone. I have an offline version of the Bible in English and Chinese on my phone. If someone were to see her looking at a phone, they wouldn’t think anything of it. I started scrolling through Galatians. I knew what I was looking for was in that book, but I wasn’t sure what the exact verse was. Finally, I found it. Galatians 3:29, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” I read it in English and then switched it to the Chinese to let her read it for herself. I apologized that I only had a version with traditional characters. She excitedly told me that she knows how to read traditional Chinese.  I explained, “If you belong to Christ –to Jesus, then God sees you as a descendant of Abraham and you get all the same privileges and blessings. Anyone; American, French, Korean, Chinese, anyone can be a seed of Abraham. They just have to belong to Christ. I told her that belonging to Jesus is where the real blessing lies. “The point is not to belong to Abraham, it’s to belong to Jesus because He is the only who can save us.” I asked her if she belonged to Jesus. She looked around nervously and began almost to whisper. She said she had started going to a church in a friend’s house. She continued looking around nervously. She said the problem is that they only have a small portion of the bible and the part they have talks about Abraham and so she thought maybe we stole the Jewish God. She said, “I know they sell bibles in the city, but they are government bibles and people here can’t afford to go to the city and buy them anyway so we just read about Abraham over and over.”

Suddenly I knew why I was there! When my ex-boyfriend sent me my Chinese/English bible, he actually sent me two bibles. One is the Chinese/English parallel and the second one was a Chinese/Pinyin parallel bible. He thought that would be helpful to me because I could see how the characters were pronounced if I came across one I had never seen. The trouble is that knowing how to pronounce a character does absolutely no good if you don’t know what the character means. Therefore, since that bible didn’t have any English, it wasn’t of much use to me. My Chinese is not nearly good enough to not have an English translation so I never use that bible.  When I was packing for this trip, on a whim I threw that Bible (along with my regular bible) in my bag. I thought I might have an opportunity to witness to someone in Taiwan and then we’d both have a Bible to look at. It didn’t occur to me that this would happen in China because of the Traditional characters. But actually a Chinese/pinyin Bible is perfect for someone in China because in China they learn pinyin in school. If she came across a traditional character that she didn’t know, she could look at the pinyin, and through context would probably be able to figure out what simplified character it represented.

I hesitatingly told the woman I had something for her.  As I was reaching in my bag, she said, “no no, you don’t need to give me anything”, but when I pulled out the Bible and handed it to her, her eyes got wide. She snatched it and hid it under her shirt. Then she looked around to make sure no one was watching and pulled it back out. She held it to her face. She kissed it! Then she clutched it tightly to her chest holding it in her arms. She quickly hid it under her shirt again. With tears in her eyes she said, “oh meiguoren, I knew you’d come.” We talked for just a few more minutes. I briefly told her about the book of Acts and that she should be baptized in Jesus name. She said she’d study the whole bible and share it with the church.

She told me how when she was a kid her grandmother had forced her to learn the traditional version of every simplified character she learned in school. She’d spend hours writing out the simplified characters and then her grandmother would make her spend hours more writing out the same characters in traditional form. She said she had resented it at the time, but now she knew it was all worth it. Then she admonished me not to tell anyone in China that I had given her the Bible. She was quite nervous the whole time which made me pretty nervous too, but I was sure that God was in it!

Now that I’m safely in Taiwan I felt to share this amazing testimony. We seriously have no idea what a privilege it is to have Bibles so readily available to us. Watching the way this woman held the Word of God was a reminder to me of how precious the Word of God truly is! Pray for this woman and her church!

A Dry and Thirsty Land

“Declare His glory among the nations; His wonders among all peoples” -1 Chronicles 16:24

chinese lantern

Every once in awhile we are given the opportunity to get away from our usual surroundings and remember just how blessed we are. It is sometimes challenging to be a Christian in our society because the United States is becoming less and less tolerant of Christianity as time goes on. Despite this, it is still overwhelmingly a Christian nation. It may not seem that way because so few actually serve our Lord (even when they profess to), but we are constantly surrounded by Christian influence. Being in China I am very aware of this lack of influence here.

It has woken up a sense of urgency in me that I haven’t felt since my ex and his friends were in the US for their graduate degrees. Something in me is very aware of the fact that the Lord is coming soon and there are so many who still don’t know Him. In America almost everyone has heard of Jesus even if they choose not to follow Him. But here in China, although Christianity is rapidly spreading, there are still countless people who have never even heard of Jesus.

In Shanghai when I’ve told people I am a Christian, many nod knowingly. Perhaps they don’t understand much about it, but at least they’ve heard of it. They’ve seen the big church in the city center and they’ve watched Christian weddings in Western movies. However, just a few miles outside the city and most people here have no idea what I’m talking about. They have no idea who Jesus is or what He has done for us! They have no idea that there is a way out of their hopelessness. They have no idea that forgiveness of sins available to them and they have no idea that LOVE came down and became our sacrifice so that we could live life eternal with Him.

My very soul cries out for these people! Lord, give me the words! Somehow Lord, that You would make me salt and light. That you would make me an ambassador for You to these souls. Teach me, Jesus. Reveal Yourself to them. Pour Yourself into them. Let Your living water flow in this dry and thirsty land! Open the doors. Open the doors. Open the doors.

In His Love,

Rebekah L

Leaving Tomorrow!

travel-suitcaseI leave tomorrow for Asia. It’s hard to believe almost a year has gone by since I applied for this program. I’m still deciding on last minute things to pack. I should be done, but I keep changing my mind about things. I underestimated the amount of space all the gifts for my host families would take up in the suitcase.

Peoples’ reactions to this trip are interesting. Most assume it’s just a work trip, others assume it’s through my church somehow. Some have told me they can’t picture me traveling so far alone because I’m too timid and quiet. Others have told me they’re surprised I’ve never been. It’s amusing to see how people project things onto you.  People travel everyday, I don’t quite see what all the fuss is about. When I’ve told people I’m going to the Philippines, China, and Taiwan (in that order) for some reason most folks only seem to register China. I’ve been asked over and over again about my trip to China as if that’s the only place that matters. This bothers me. I get it; China’s huge. It’s also the economic powerhouse that people in the US have their eyes on these days. Out of the three, it is the one that Americans tend to know the most about. But still, it is not the only place I’m going to, stop acting as if it is. My other pet peeve? Taiwan is not Thailand! And it’s also not China. People, please go read a book. Oh, okay enough ranting. Moving on.

Things I’m looking forward to on this trip:

  1. Learning more about the places where we do business.
  2. The opportunity to interact with locals and share culture.
  3. Getting to know more about my co-workers.
  4. Most importantly, hopefully getting the chance to share my testimony and plant seeds for Christ.
  5. The food! 🙂

It’s sort of silly the things I’m worrying about. I should be concerned with safety, translation issues, getting along with my host families, the lessons I’m going to attempt to teach etc. Instead I’m thinking about being fat and coming home to a backlog of work.

Seriously though, I’m trying to gear myself up for the inevitable comments about my weight that I’m sure I’ll hear. It’s just not unusual for Asians to make comments about weight in a way that as Americans, we aren’t used to. It was that way when I first met my ex’s friends.  It was also that way when I was going to Chinese church. In addition, people assume you can’t understand what they are saying so that gives them even more liberty to make comments. There was one woman at Chinese church who made constant comments about my weight. Her and her daughter had numerous full on conversations about it while I was right in front of them. It was partially my fault because I never let on that I had a clue what they were talking about. That was somewhat unfair of me. Later when she found out that I understand a little Mandarin she was a bit upset that she hadn’t been told. But pretending not to understand was my only defense. What would I have said? So I said nothing.

Granted, I’ve lost quite a lot of weight since then, but compared to your average Asian, I’m still huge. Here in America, I’m thrilled to be overweight. You may wonder how anyone could be thrilled to be overweight. Well, when you’ve spent all of your adult life in the obese category, and most of it in the ‘super (morbidly) obese’ category, being merely overweight is a wonderful feeling! but that’s in America. Going to Asia basically means I’m going back to being super obese (in comparison) and I’m not looking forward to that part of it.

I know I’ll hear the comments and it will be the same as it was with my ex’s friends or with the folks at Chinese church; I’ll grin and bear it and act as if I don’t know what they’re saying. It will be partially true since my understanding of Mandarin is so limited. I’ll try to tell myself that I misunderstood, that they aren’t saying what I think they’re saying, that it’s just their culture, that it doesn’t matter…that it doesn’t affect me.

Ahh, but enough of that. I’m not going to waste too much energy thinking about those things. Good things are ahead! I’m going with a spirit of expectation and I can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do! My prayer is that by the end of this journey I will have a new appreciation for my home country and all the things we so often take for granted. More importantly, I pray that somehow the people we meet will be forever changed because of God’s mercy and love for them.

Since Being Rebekah is a shared blog with a pretty specific focus, I have set up a second, semi-private blog to document my experiences on this trip. I will attempt to write every day and later upload the posts whenever I can find an internet connection. It will not necessarily have a spiritual focus the way this blog does, but will function more as a personal journal for me. Never the less, if you are interested in keeping up with my journey, send me an email at beingrebekahl@gmail.com and I will send you the link.

Next week on my regular day to post on this blog I’ll be in China. I am going to try to post from there, but I’m not really sure if I’ll be able to or not. WordPress is banned in China, but a fellow blogger that lives there has sent me instructions on how to get around that, so we’ll see. Also, my internet availability will be a bit spotty while I’m gone. I’ll have it in some places and not in others so I’m not completely sure if I’ll be able to post on my regularly scheduled day or not. To be sure, I’ll post again when I can. Say a prayer for me.

In His Love,

Rebekah L.