By Betty Young
For many years I held in my heart a desire to visit the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the land of my ancestors. I wanted to walk the villages where generations of my family lived out their lives. It wasn’t until President Nixon visited in 1972 that I, along with other Americans, viewed images of Mao-era China. This presidential visit ended 25 years of no communication and no diplomatic ties between the two countries.
On January 1, 1979, the United States established diplomatic relations with the PRC which opened up opportunities to travel there. Without hesitation, I signed up with one of the many San Francisco Chinatown travel agencies that started to offer tours to China—the only option for travel to China available at that time. If you wanted to see China, the only way was to join a tour group with a tour company approved by the Chinese government.
It was at this time that I began to think about moving to China to teach English. The government of China were begging for English teachers. My mother strongly discouraged me. I remember her saying, “How can you do that??!! I fled China and communism and you want to return??!!” Since I was insistent, she wrote to my 2nd uncle who was still living in China at that time. He encouraged my mother to let me come to explore before making a final decision. So that was my plan—to visit my 2nd uncle at his village—after the tour was over.
After two or three days in Hong Kong, our adventure began. The next twenty-five days were exciting ones as I saw, experienced and explored the amazing sights and sounds of third world China. This was the China where everyone still wore the blue Mao jackets and rode bicycles (cars were very few) and armed soldiers controlled the lives of its citizens. Hotel rooms were spartan and bare, with concrete floors. We visited many cities. They all had a character of its own—Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Guilin, Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Sian, and others. I will never forget the majestic mountains of Guilin as we cruised along the Li River or the treacherous uneven steps of the Great Wall. So many terracotta soldiers—it was staggering to see! I loved walking the Bund in Shanghai. I marveled at the useless marble boat and the vibrant artwork on the covered walkway of the Empress Dowager’s Garden. And I must make mention of the Forbidden City’s Museum which housed the most beautiful jade bangles I have ever seen. I loved learning the history of all the places we visited.
Little did I know that in God’s wonderful plan, I would meet my future husband on that marvelous trip. We promptly married and had four children in quick succession. I didn’t have time to dream any more about a life in China teaching English, during those very busy years of child rearing.
However, it wasn’t very long before I started to teach ESL first at the church and then in the neighborhoods surrounding our church—neighborhoods teeming with people from all over the world. I was able to hone my teaching skills and gather like-minded teachers around me. I did not need to travel great distances. I often said to my friends, the world is in our backyard! I was happy teaching ESL to immigrants right here at home in San Jose. There was no need to travel. I could reach the nations and still be at home to care for my family.
But God had other plans and gave me the desire of my heart! He remembered when I had all but given up. I was thrilled to have been invited to teach English at an orphanage near Nanning, Guangxi Province. I recognized God’s hand and praised Him for His love and blessing. The children of the orphanage eagerly looked forward to classes each day and were able to read picture books by the end of our time. To this day I fondly remember those dear children.
We traveled to Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, a couple of years later again to teach English. God’s plan was more excellent than my own. Instead of traveling as a young inexperienced young adult, God’s plan was not only for me to travel with a partner but to bring along a whole team of able teachers. His way is always the best!
If you have a dream or a desire, I encourage you to wait upon the Lord. As you wait, be obedient to His calling wherever He places you. Allow Him to shape and mold you to be more Jesus. He has a plan. It will surely come to pass, and it will be a more excellent plan than your own. Praise God!