by Joel Watters, Physical Therapist for Kinetic Edge in Pella
What would you say if I told you I just spent five weeks in China? And don’t let me forget to mention that I went with my two year old daughter, one year old son, seven month pregnant wife, and 17 college students.
You might be surprised that I’m living to tell about it, or you might just tell me that I must be absolutely crazy.
With a young growing family, the thought of going to China felt risky and a bit scary. Many times I knew it would just be easier to say no. However, we had a deep longing to depend on God and to say yes to Him. We wanted so badly to choose to trust and to live our lives for something other than ourselves. So, in July of this year we packed our bags, held onto our kids, and headed across the ocean with 17 wonderful students.
While in China, we participated in a cultural exchange on a college campus where each American student was paired with a Chinese student. They lived together, went to class together, and experienced life together. We had daily topical classes in which each pair would present from the perspective of their culture. These topics ranged from geography to weddings and everything in between. We would have different activities, such as sports or art, in the afternoons, and the evenings were mostly free. Our days were spent building relationships and loving one another.
The students weren’t the only ones paired off; I had a language partner as well who was a professor my age from the University. He was an incredible man, and we shared many things in common. As our relationship grew, he shared vulnerably about his home life and the difficulties he was having with his wife. I also was able to share challenges in my life with him in return, and through this relationship, I was able to tell him about my faith. One afternoon we went out for tea and read about the Prodigal Son. He could not believe the incredible love of the Father and asked question after question. This was the first time his ears had heard this life-changing Good News.
Our students were fantastic and God did incredible things through them. They loved well, struggled with the culture, and leaned into God. At times, life was really hard, but in the difficulties, they were able to see God’s hand at work. They had many opportunities to share stories of Jesus and to demonstrate the love of God to their roommates. On our trip home we received a picture of six of our Chinese students together; they had all gone to church for the first time.
The Kingdom is moving. To God be the glory.
Returning home is always a bit bittersweet. I am happy to return to the people and places I love, but I do miss the simplicity of life focused on pointing others to Christ. I long for a significant life here in the United States. Not one for all to see, but in humility serving God. I want to live life passionately for Christ in my workplace. I want my children to see me taking risks and living out the truth that I have placed my faith in.
Yes, spending five weeks in a foreign country with a two and one year old and a pregnant wife had its challenges. However, life over the past month was incredibly simple and so very sweet. We were focused on two things: loving God and loving each other. In this place of pure simplicity, I found life to be incredibly rich. In our act of obedience of saying yes to go, I encountered freedom. In living life for others, I experienced meaningful joy and purpose. In true dependence on God, my faith was deepened and hope in Him solidified. I am grateful for this opportunity and hope my life and the lives of my family, our students, and our Chinese friends will be changed forever.
Want to learn more about Joel? Check out his bio on our team page here!