Let me tell you a story…
Last year, my friend and I met a girl, Stephanie* and her mother, on board a long distance train in China. Typically, my friends and I have a protocol for how to best ensure our safety and accommodate our needs. We travel in the soft sleeper bunks which accommodates for 4 people. If we have, for instance, 7 people, we purchase 8 tickets all together so we can have each “suite” to ourselves. This particular time, we left very urgently and there just so happened to be 7 tickets exactly. However, 4 were all together, 2 together and 1 alone. 😲 Not our ideal, but it was God’s plan, we were just the players. My partner and I took the 2 tickets together, all the while praying for God to plant the perfect people in that bunk. Here is where we met Stephanie. The first thing I did while climbing to the top bunk was drop my 1.5L water on mom’s head! Ugh. What a first impression! So apologetic, it definitely was an awkward way to start nervous conversation! They were returning home after traveling to visit potential universities for further studies. This train was about 18 hours and we conversed most awake hours! We shared a meal or two and came to know we had a lot in common. If you didn’t know this, I’m a dancer/choreographer. Her mother too loved to dance, and get this… She was learning Latin ballroom… In China! She showed me videos… 她是很好！we were able to share a video of my partner and I dancing and singing prophetically. Powerful stuff. But what was so nice… This was a safe place. Open and free to share with one another, like a family.
Commercial: Funny story. My name, Imani, phonetically in Mandarin sounds like I (yi) Ma Ni – one horse you! 🐴🐎 Lol. It makes me laugh too… Well my name means Faith. And I called myself giving me the Chinese name of Xin Xin. Xin was the closest translation I could find (via google translate lol). And I thought doubling it would make it sound more like a nickname. When we first introduced ourselves, I called myself this. They made faces but I didn’t catch it. Half way through our journey, she asked again, what was my Chinese name… And why. I explained. Well the mixture of my pronunciation and misinterpretation of this name, I wanted to be called true faith but was calling myself Guerrilla! 哈哈 talk about Stupid American! Though for those who know/knew me, this wasn’t that inaccurate. I was a very strong personality with tough skin. Pain had caused a lot of bitterness and my anger was uncontrollable… Sounding rather true huh?! Well guess what, on this day my name was changed. [My Jacob|Israel moment] I received my Chinese name from Stephanie’s mother. She pondered for a long time. She accounted for the Spirit within me. After watching the video we had shown, she said I had grace like a beautiful flower. Xin, the correct one, true and faith filled… XinHua 信华 my new name. My countenance changed (besides the tears the arose lol). And something on the inside of me was forever changed. The Lord could use anyone to reach you and impart His heartbeat. Here I was trying to embody God’s love with these strangers, and God used that moment to do an inner heart surgery in me. Food for thought.
One of my former students gave me a special letter to bless me as I embarked on that journey. In it she had instructions for different adventurous things she had thought for me to do. One of them was to write a letter to a “special stranger” telling them things about myself as well as sharing loving words for them. Well early the next morning, Stephanie was my designated “special stranger” and I wrote all over this (pre-prepared by student, designed by God) paper! We sang blessings over them and shared gifts. We of course took pictures! And soon we arrived at our destination, and said our goodbyes. I was so sad to leave our new friends, but felt undeniably connected to them.
(Read last post, if you haven’t)
Here I am, Shanghai… But why?
I had been thinking of Stephanie and really wanting to see her. But this trip was never intended to be for my plans, I wasn’t moving till He said move. The last morning in Shenzhen, I waited for my friends to get online and shed light on my narrow path. 3 signs Shanghai was the place… So I gathered it all up and moved. Well that day I had messaged my friend Stephanie. She answered first! We connected and shared info rather quickly. Hindsight, of all of my friends here in Shanghai, she has always had an open line of communication (even when my other forms were cut off). This week, I finally got to reunite with my friend. 😊 We had a wonderful time. She, her father and I shared a delicious meal, and great conversation on our xīntóu hé dǎogào (心头和祷告 – [heart mind] thoughts and prayers). And as much as I am enjoying my stay here, I truly believe God sent me here for her. When we shared that train last year, Stephanie was not a believer. Crazy as it may sound, she had no idea we were believers! Instead we lavished the love of Jesus on her and made sure she knew she was loved and purposed. We found out that she was baptized this Easter! That was when we found out she was a believer. Not until we reconnected a few days ago did she learn that all of us are believers and we had been praying for her since we met her. She responded with “We are Sisters!” Indeed we are… 😊 She told me that when she received my message, she was crying and in distress over her situation. As soon as she saw it, she phoned her mom and was immediately made glad. (That was when my tears came along…) like an SOS, The Lord is faithful to hear the cries of His people. We were able to pray together, and speak LIFE into our lungs! It was incredible… Still speechless.
All I can do is remember how I met this girl 和她的妈妈… And marvel at the unbelievable, 不可思议，#howcanyounotbelieve in our God, moments like this… Completely overwhelmed with joy.
… To be continued …
Walking in the dust…
*denotes name change*