I met a Chinese National on a flight yesterday, a friendly fellow with a pleasant disposition. The occurrence was more of an accident than anything, a result of Tina and I being split up in our seating assignments and me being designated to an aisle seat next to him.
I was initially disappointed that Tina wouldn’t have my shoulder to lean on in the event of her usual flight slumber, but I quickly got over it when she seemed to sleep just fine.
As for sitting next to the Chinese man Brent, it was a short flight and both of our in-flight screens didn’t work, so we mutually decided to do the unthinkable – talk to each other.
His English was fairly good, so it was nice to be able to communicate in my mother tongue (there was no way the conversation was going to be in Chinese with my fumbling tones and limited vocabulary).
We spoke of the New China, foreigners who come to Beijing and love to eat Peking duck even though natives don’t, how Blake Griffin is our favorite player in the NBA, and the welcome influx of Koreans into Beijing.
The conversation then turned into our occupations, and he mentioned that he runs a tech business in Beijing.
“What is your occupation?” He asked.
“I’m a pastor.”
A puzzled look appeared on his face.
I could see in his eyes the turning of his own mental rolodex, searching for the word or phrase or context that might bring sense to what I just said. In some ways, it seemed like I just told him, “I’m an alien,” as if there was no category to classify me.
“I’m sorry, what is a pastor?” He asked.
I’m glad you asked.
“A pastor is someone who prays and cares for others by sharing with them the good news of Jesus, God’s Son. My job is to share with people the message that God is good, powerful, trustworthy, and loving, and we can have a relationship with this God when we trust that Jesus lived and died on our behalf.”
“Please, tell me more” he said.
“Having a relationship with God means putting him at the center of my life – that he’s more important than anything to me, and therefore I can trust him and live for him, instead of living for other things like money, success, comfort, power, or approval. Jesus came to live and die to show us that we can live in his security and power so that we can begin to love and be generous to others.”
What he said next completely floored me.
Brent said, “This news is what China needs. We have become a nation with more money, but there is no belief that we have. We make much more money now, but we are still not happy. We need to understand more about God. We do not know what to do next…”
After listening intently, I replied, “Yes, there is a belief that riches and fame can satisfy us, but people, even in the United States, often feel like something is missing because God created us for something bigger – a relationship with him.”
“Yes, yes,” he said. “I understand this. My wife and son need to hear this. China needs to hear this.”
Just like that, we moved from musing about Blake Griffin’s highlight reel dunks to the message that China needs to hear.
“Thank you for telling me this news,” Brent said.
By the end of the flight, we talked more about China and how Guandong people are very unique and different, and he told me more about his hometown which has become much more modern in the past few years.
We exchanged email addresses by the end of the flight, after which he promised to email me in a few days after his travels cease.
Tina was awake now, renewed and revived for the journey at hand. I peered over at her from a few feet away. I winked. She winked back.
I think it was our way of saying to each other, “God is good. God is good all the time.”