Thursday, November 8, 2012

Back in Texas after extensive travel in the Eastern U.S.

Several have asked how we are doing because I have not been posting to my blog.  Since we left Texas the middle of June, the time has just gotten away from me.  Do I have more work or am I just getting too old to keep it up?   It could be a little bit of both.  We went to Woodstock, GA the middle of June to help our daughter, Leigh Ann, move into our son’s house.  She has lived in an apartment the past three years and her close next-door neighbor moved to Tennessee.  Ronald’s renters moved out of his house so it was a good time for Leigh Ann to take it over.  The house and yard were in a big mess and it needed a lot of work.
We stored our furniture in the basement of our Sharpsburg house two years ago when we rented the house to travel full-time and live in an RV.   When we arrived in Georgia in June, Ron rented a truck and moved our stuff to the basement of Ronald’s house.  He was so busy repairing things on the house and helping get some of the yard cleaned up , we had no time to put up shelving and get our stuff straight in the basement.  I helped Leigh Ann unpack and get her things straight in the house.  After two weeks, we left to fulfill appointments to give reports to churches in Tennessee and Kentucky. 
We stay in Corp of Engineers parks for two weeks (their maximum stay) and report to churches in the surrounding area as we travel through.  First, we visited Red Boiling Spring and Moss, TN.  From there, we went east to Pikeville, KY and then returned back west all across the state of Kentucky to Paducah, ending with reporting to churches in Hickory and Benton, KY.  From there, we went to Nashville, Columbia, Spring Hill, Culleoka, Brentwood, Franklin and perhaps churches in other Tennessee cities.   While in Nashville, we saw friends and family members that we only get to see once a year.  I will not mention names for fear of leaving someone out. 
We had an enjoyable stay at Rippaville Plantation in Spring Hill, TN for about 10 days.  Our friends in Benton, KY go there with their 5th wheel camper for Mule Day each year.  We did not know about the hook ups that are available on that plantation.  We were parked a long way from the highway next to the barn which is a museum of ancient farm equipment.    We walked to the cemetery nearby to see graves of the original owners and their slaves.  There is one slave house still standing.  We had too much to do to tour the mansion.  If we go there next year, I hope to see it inside.   It is a very lovely southern house and plantation.
We traveled to North Alabama and parked in the back of the Kennedy home (dear friends from way back).  If I tell you how far back, you’d think it’s too long for me to even remember.  It was a great week while Ron gave a report to Mars Hill and then we left for Huntsville to visit with the Mastin Lake church.  We have such dear friends in both Florence and Huntsville so we had a wonderful time seeing everyone.  
We returned to Woodstock, GA on September 24th for Ron to fly to Dallas on the 26th.  He was invited to speak at the Airline Ambassadors Convention.  The flight attendants that go to China to meet and bring the children back to the U.S. for surgery (and take them back after recovery) are part of this volunteer organization.   It was a very long day for Ron but he thoroughly enjoyed being with this wonderful group of tender-hearted helpers of China Mission.
We parked in Ronald’s driveway again in Woodstock, GA and began to put up shelving and get our stuff organized in the basement.   It was just piled in the floor everywhere from the men who helped us unload.   It was quite a job but we completed it before we left on October 17th.   Now, our children do not have to go through a house full of stuff when we are gone from this earth.  I know that is always hard for those left behind.  Now, the boxes are in the basement and ready for a garage sale or give-away (or they can call someone to haul it all off).
Our renter is using most of our furniture so what we moved is mostly household stuff.   We went through our clothing and gave a lot away and decided what we could handle in the RV for both winter and summer seasons.  We have scaled down to bins underneath the RV for the off-season clothing. 
We got to see a few friends and churches in the north Georgia area.  We really needed more time there but the work was demanding and there was too little time. 
Ronald came home for 10 days.  It had been two years since he had returned to the U.S.  His wife, Gigi, from the Philippines planned to come but could not get a VISA.  He came alone.  He had to get dental work done that included three crowns.  That was a very important part of his trip home.  He spent a lot of time working in his yard and moving some of his special items from a storage shed into the house.   I really felt sorry for him because it was not a vacation for him.  He worked completely up to the night before he went back to China.
We left Woodstock the day after he went back to China.  We stopped in Lagrange and Albany to report to churches.  We spent a few days at Lake Seminole park near Chattahoochee, Florida.  The park is just across the state line into Georgia.  Ron reported to the Chattahoochee church on a Wednesday night and Baker, FL the next Sunday night.  We stopped one day in Baton Rouge, LA to meet with Joan Ni, our Chinese worker.   Joan coordinates all of the children coming to the U.S. for surgery and handles our bookkeeping.   It was a special day to be with her, meet her children and have dinner with her husband at a wonderful Japanese restaurant.   Their friends (Chinese) own and operate the restaurant.  The food is wonderful and presented very beautifully.  I told them I think it’s my favorite all-time restaurant.
Ryan and Rachel Swanson, an American couple working at the Refuge of Grace Christian Cere Center since June of this year, returned to the U.S.  for a visit.   Their hometown is Pontotoc, MS.  We had never met them so drove from Baton Rouge to Grenada, MS.   We went to Oxford, my hometown, on Wednesday night and met Ryan and Rachel in Bruce, MS for lunch on November 2nd.  After lunch we drove from Grenada, MS to Texarkana, TX, stopping in Greenville, MS for gas.   We arrived about 10 p.m. that night.   We have a place to park overnight at the Hampton Church of Christ in Texarkana.    We left about 9 a.m. for Lewisville but had to stop to have a tire put on the trailer that pulls the car.  Ron noticed tread showing on the side of one tire and was concerned that we would have a blow-out.  That stop took about an hour (found a tire place in McKinney, TX).   We arrived at the Hickory Creek, TX Corp of Engineer park on Lewisville Lake about 3 p.m.   (We are about 3 miles north of Lewisville, TX.)
Do you feel tired already just reading about our travels?   It has been a very busy five months.  I actually thought it had been six months from the way I feel.  We have put many miles on both the RV and the car.  We are thankful that we have been in good health that allows us to keep up with this schedule.  It is grueling for a healthy couple, much less someone our age.
We are working on our computers all the time we are parked.  The weekends are very busy with the church appointments but the weeks are also busy with the incoming workload.    Someone said this keeps us young .   It will either help to keep us going or wear us out sooner.  I’m not sure which!
We will spend November and December in the Lewisville, TX area.  We want to have some time with our home congregation but Ron will also report to some of the other churches in the Dallas area.  We don’t just go back to sit and relax.  This is our usual way of doing things.
The work in China is progressing as well as we expect.   There are always some problems to work out but Ronald has been such a blessing to our work.  He gets the blunt of the problems and saves us from having to make so many trips back and forth.   The trips to China are not getting any easier either. 
Gigi, our sweet daughter-in-law, has a VISA for another month in China.  She met Ronald in Shanghai on his way back to China.   She may be successful in getting the VISA renewed for another month or two.   They are working on that as I write this.  After she’s been in China six times, it will be easier for her to get a longer VISA.   We had difficulty getting Ronald’s VISA for his return to China this time.   The Embassy claimed the policy had changed on business VISAs so they had to receive a letter from China.   Then they complained it wasn’t on letterhead, which this remote government does not have.  They wanted the government to FAX it to them – but they have no FAX machine.  These are Chinese workers at the embassy.  Ron finally asked them if they had been to the really remote areas of China because they don’t seem to realize the way things are done in the country.   Finally, after they talked with the government, and Joan Ni got involved with a friend she knows that works at the Embassy, they released the VISA for another year.  Ronald still has to leave the country every three months to get his Passport stamped unless the government is kind enough to extend it for him right there.
Thanksgiving will be coming soon and we wish a happy holiday to all of our family and friends.   We had our family Thanksgiving dinner one night with Ronald, Leigh Ann and Tatum (our granddaughter).    It has been years since we have all been together so it was a very special occasion.  We also enjoyed going to church services together as a family for two Sundays.   Gigi saw our picture made at the Thanksgiving dinner and said we had one empty chair at the table and it was hers.  That’s true – we regretted that she was not there to enjoy it with us.   We missed her very much.
I will try to do better keeping everyone posted on our whereabouts.    Even if there’s little time, I’ll post short segments.  There’s been a lot of interesting things and happenings along with the travels.  If I write more often, I can remember some of these things to make my writing more interesting to read.   Until next writing, may God bless you. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

May travels in western Texas

Summer is definitely here. We had 102 F on Saturday and 97 F yesterday. Yesterday, we relocated to Waco Lake at the Airport Park (Corps of Engineers). Last week this park was full so we went on the other side of the lake to another park but it was unsatisfactory. They only had 30 amp power outlets and with the summer heat, our air conditioner ran full time and kicked out the circuit breaker every few minutes. We could not use any appliance unless we turned the air conditioner off and then it warmed up more inside and the air conditioner would kick into the high phase immediately to cool it down and there the power would go again.

This morning, Ron looked at this park’s website and saw that there were many parking sites available for motor homes. We just packed things up about 11:00 a.m. in 97 degree heat and drove to this park. Unfortunately, they can only give us a place for two days. She told us at the gate that it wasn’t fair but when they book a group shelter with many people coming in for activities, it takes up lots of their sites but it’s not reflected on the internet. That’s why there would be no sites available for Wednesday night or for the rest of the time we needed a place to park.

We stayed at this park about a year ago so I checked our GPS to see if the address was still there. It wasn’t, of course. It had dropped off long ago. There’s a button that says “GO HOME” and our address in Georgia used to be listed. Just for the fun of it, I hit “GO HOME” and it asked for an address. That’s the story of a vagabond’s life – where is home? It’s wherever you spend the night, I guess.

Across from us at the park, in one of the sites, there was an old man living in a van. He apparently had a bed in the back and he spread out all his other stuff on the picnic table and was living outside under the trees. In the 102 degree weather on Saturday, that could not have been too easy. This may be all he has in life.

Last week, I ran across this saying…”No matter what you have, there is someone in the world that would be happy to have much less.” I am truly thankful for the conveniences I have, the beauty of the parks and the many ways God blesses us daily. Although our work is difficult and the traveling and relocating every few days to another area is frustrating, I am still contented. I know the inconveniences of this life are few compared to the joys that await us one day.

We are settled in again with internet, good air conditioning and sewage connection. If only it would last. It takes an hour to get everything ready to move to another location and almost that long to unhitch the car and get things set up again. It seems longer when we are working in temperatures over 95 degrees. We are parked in full sun (the one tree on the site might give shade in the mornings, but it’s not helping this afternoon.

The parks are pretty. We see deer and many beautiful sights with the lakes and wild flowers. Crepe Myrtles are in full bloom now. Yesterday, while driving to the two cities, we saw fields and fields of sunflowers. I did not have my camera with me so I was upset about that. We had neither seen such huge areas with sunflowers growing. It was a very beautiful sight. 

We have spent four weeks in small towns south of Abilene and east of San Angelo. Ron gave reports/sermons for the churches in Comanche, Cisco, Coleman and Brownwood. We also visited churches in De Leon and Early. We will not go back to Early. They have some changes underway that we consider questionable. We had no TV connections and only limited access to our wireless internet connection so we had to go to the library or a church building to work. We had to abide by their hours and limitations so it was not easy. The last few days, we moved to a regular RV park in Early, TX so we could have internet enough to catch up our work.

We got a yearly check-up while we were near Dr. Monte Horne in Hamilton, TX. I got my blood test results back the morning of my birthday. My cholesterol was low so I ate a nutty buddy ice cream cone for breakfast. Ron took me into Brownwood (we were staying in Coleman) for lunch that day. There were no big restaurants there but we ate at Chili’s. It was even smaller than any Chili’s I’ve seen before. I had their avocado, swiss cheese hamburger with avocado dressing. It was delicious but I was truly stuffed. I’m not used to eating anything that heavy so I could not eat dinner that night.

Yesterday morning, we were in Palestine and last night in Eastland. The date was changed for the appointment in Palestine so we had lots of driving. We got up at 6:30 a.m. and got there at 9:00 a.m. One of the elders took us to lunch and then we left immediately for the four hour drive to Eastland (west of Ft. Worth). We arrived with 30 minutes to spare and still Ron was late starting because the person at their sound booth could not get his power point to load. Ron ended up using his own computer. Ron works on 2007 or 2009 Word (I can’t remember which) and when a church’s system is older than that, it’s a problem.

As soon as the evening service was over, we packed up our displays and left to drive back to the park on the north side of Waco. We had to get back by 10 p.m. or the gates would be locked to the park. We were parked more than a mile into the park and without any lights in the park, we would be walking in total darkness. We drove the speed limit the whole way to make it in time. I started driving when we left the church building and drove until it was started to get dark. We made it with just a few minutes to spare. When we drove in, the guard house looked totally dark so we thought they had locked up early. But when we got to the window, the man stood up and opened the gate for us to drive through. I think he was just watching TV inside without lights so it appeared that everyone was gone.

With 8 hours of driving and the heat and stress of the day yesterday, we were both feeling really tired this morning. We didn’t get up until almost 8 a.m. I had the Today show on but kept dozing back to sleep and dreading getting up. We have one more appointment set at Temple, TX but Ron is trying to fill the other spots until we leave this area the middle of June.

The work in China continues to go well (with some ups and downs, of course). I’ve come to believe that if things are going too smoothly, without problems, you only have to wait a short time until it all changes. Life is just that way.

Gigi, our daughter-in-law from the Philippines has been blessed to get two extensions on her Visitor’s VISA but the time is up and she’ll go back on the 15th. She will soon apply for another Visitor’s VISA to China so she can be with Ronald more but they are also planning to visit the U.S. in October. A man told Ron yesterday that his son married a Chinese girl and it took him over a year to get her to the U.S.

This summer, Ronald and his assistant, Simon, will rebuild the kitchen at our Neil Taylor Christian Care Center in Rongshui. As soon as drawings and preliminary work is completed for the hospital construction, Ronald will begin that phase of work. In addition to overseeing the six orphanages, he has made site visits to where the hospital will be built and to Wuhan to see a facility where we could care for more orphans. I think he and Gigi visited about five locations in the three months she has been with him in China. She must have a greater insight about what it’s like to live and work in China now. She knows what Ronald’s job is and she’s very proud of him. She is supportive and they are very compatible so it’s going to be very hard for them to spend time apart again. But, God has answered our prayers for another wonderful daughter and she is a blessing to all of us. Gigi tells me that Ronald is her gift from God. I think God granted gifts to both of them when they found each other.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May travels in Texas

We are finally over jet lag from our March trip to China. We got back April 4th but the trip was so hard, it seemed to take a very long time to begin to feel well again. I want to blame it on my illness while in China, my sprained foot, the lack of sleep two days before returning home and the long flight from Seoul, South Korea. But, we could also say it’s our age because the trips seem to get harder. Ron had a difficult time after this one too.

Leigh Ann came from Atlanta on April 24th and spent a week with us in Lewisville, TX. It was a busy week with work coming in from China so we had very little free time. We took about 45 minutes each day to walk around the lake at the park but that’s about the extent of our recreation. She returned to Atlanta on May 1st. We really enjoyed having her with us.

We left the park at Lewisville two days later and relocated the RV to Bear Creek Park in Fort Worth. On Saturday, May 5th, Dr. Joshua, our doctor from China arrived to visit with us a few days. He stayed with us in the RV and got to experience us closing it down for travel on Sunday afternoon to Proctor Lake Park in Comanche, TX. We went to church in Lewisville Sunday morning and then rushed back to the RV to prepare to move. I quickly prepared some lunch and began closing things down for the trip. Joshua was very interested in the process of removing all loose objects and storing them away, bungee-cording doors and areas that might open during a bad bump in the road, bringing in the sliders to reduce the size down, etc. We drove to the dump to “dump” the sewage, a process no one should miss! At the gatehouse, we hooked up the car on the dolly. Ron had slipped on a ladder trying to clean windows on the RV on Saturday. He had a bad place in his side (either cracked ribs or a sprained muscle) so he was very sore. Because of Ron’s limited mobility, I got down underneath the car to hook a steel cable from the car to the dolly for extra security. I thought I heard Joshua’s camera click. When I got up, I told him he better not post a picture of me in that position on Face book. He said he would not do that. I believe him. He’s really a super nice guy and a good friend.

When we arrived in Comanche, it was late Sunday afternoon. It was about 96 degrees as we took the belts off the car tires and removed it from the dolly and got set up in our spot in the campground. Dr. Monte Horne and his son, Caleb, stopped by on their way home from Amarillo. I quickly prepared some snack foods and we all had dinner together. Because Dr. Horne had gone to take his son to a tennis tournament that weekend, we met with Rosy and Marissa, his wife and daughter on Saturday night and had dinner with them. Joshua also took a short tour of the hospital in Hamilton, TX that evening.

Our May newsletter tells about the charity hospital we plan to build for Joshua in China. He was visiting with Dr. Horne and the hospital in Hamilton to get ideas about the hospital he wants to construct in China.

Monday morning, we drove from Comanche to Hamilton for Dr. Horne to spend more time with Joshua and give him a complete tour of the hospital. They completed their meeting about 9:30 and we drove Joshua back to the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport for him to catch his flight back to California and then from there back to China. Joshua was only in the U.S. a week so he experienced jet lag for almost the entire time. Each time he got in the car, he began to nod and go to sleep. He slept well the two nights he stayed with us. Our leather couch makes a queen-size bed and it is firm like beds in China. He said he got a full night’s sleep the last night he was here. We surely enjoyed his visit with us. One of the elder’s wives at church told me Sunday morning that we should have called them and let Joshua stay with them. I told her how much I appreciated their hospitality but I thought Joshua wanted to experience a “camping” experience. I told her we have known Joshua for about 10 years and he’s just like family to us. We didn’t want to share him on this short visit anyway! He said it was most interesting, seeing how we live and move around to do fund-raising. I think he has a greater respect for our work now.

We have limited access to the internet in this remove area. We are not near any big city. We are several hours from Ft. Worth or Waco. We have been going to the library to have internet but they are closed today. We have struggled along getting internet only partially throughout the day. It is very frustrating when it works part of the time.

Yesterday, we left at 3 p.m. to drive to Franklin, TX (3 hours’ drive) for Wednesday night service. We were there about two years ago and received a friendly reception both times. It was midnight when we arrived back at the RV. The gatekeeper put the lock on the gate to appear it was locked but left it for Ron to push the lock together after we arrived. That was exceptionally nice of him. Otherwise, we would have parked outside the gate and walked almost a mile to the RV. I was not looking forward to that because there are wild animals in the park. We know deer is in all of the parks and a buck will actually attack someone at times. We saw a fox run across the road one day. We have not had any campers in our particular area all week but two big dogs have come around the RV at night barking at some animal they were chasing. Campers have to keep dogs tied so we think these dogs were from the farms near the park. I was not excited about facing all of these varmints on a very dark walk to the RV. We were dead tired after the six hour drive and fell into bed and slept until 7:30 this morning.

Rain has moved in this afternoon and is supposed to continue throughout the day tomorrow, tomorrow night and for part of Saturday. Rain is loud in the RV. It is like rain on a tin roof but if there’s no wind and storms to worry about, the rain is peaceful and soothing. Ron just said maybe he can sleep 12 hours tonight but now it’s really coming down hard. Flood warnings are out in some areas but it’s still so dry in this area of Texas, I think the ground is going to soak it up quickly. Farmers are very happy that some rain is happening these days.

We had dinner on Tuesday night with the preacher and his wife for the church in Comanche. Their nephew and his wife came with us to a Mexican restaurant and we have a very good meal together. The restaurant has a teepee out front. We thought that was a bit strange but the motif all over the walls and in some sections were all Indian, with wooden statues and relics. It was certainly different but since we are in a city called “Comanche” it is appropriate. Their nephew’s wife said she was full Indian and her grandfather was a “medicine man.” I thought she was Hispanic but with her black hair and dark skin, they look a little the same.

We will be with the church in Comanche on Sunday. The preacher told us they will treat us to lunch on Sunday. Sunday is Mother’s Day so that will be a nice treat. We have appointments in several other cities over the next several weeks.

Without internet access and no TV reception, it really feels like “camping.” Ron does not miss the TV but I do. I feel like we are cut off from the rest of the world. We should be in this area through the month of May and into the first of June.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Things are always changing

When we live in a country and things are gradually changing around us, we don’t always notice how different things were months or years ago. If we think back 50 years, then we know there have been drastic changes in every aspect of life.

Each year, when we go to China, we see many changes. The first one is electronics. When Ron began going to China in 1998, we didn’t have laptop computers, email, MSN, Skype or cell phones. I had no contact with him for the entirety of his trip. Now, I can chat from China with my daughter every day by one of the means listed above. Although I really don’t like to learn a lot of this stuff, I am grateful that it’s available. Our travels are so much easier now. Ron can text our son in another city to let him know when our flight will arrive. We have contact with all of our workers by cell phone once we arrive in China.

Cell phones and electronics have taken over China just as in the U.S. On every plane, we see Chinese young people with Kindles or some such Ipad.  It is the things that look like a tablet and can do so many things. (You see, I really don’t know much about these expensive electronics that have not become necessary for me to have.) I’m not even sure how many different kinds of things they have but they are watching movies, playing games or reading from these small devices.  Almost every Chinese we see has a cell phone in their hand and they are forever checking text messages. It is almost an obsession with Chinese people just as it is with Americans. Just 10 short years ago, this was not the case.  A couple of days ago I heard that Apple sales affects the stock market either causing it to rise or fall.  Electronics is a major part of our lives now whether we like it or not.

Another very obvious change is the dress. Although most Chinese dress much the same as Americans, many of them have later fashion trends. We used to say the Chinese took their dress styles from Western countries but what we saw this time is not from America.  The greatest change is in ladies fashions. These are among the more wealthy (working) girls. In the airports, on the streets and in shopping centers, many young women tend to dress very immodestly now. Short shorts are popular, so you see them everywhere. Because it was still chilly (or cold in some cities), they wore tights under the shorts. Sometimes, however, they wore regular hose (hose with designs) or no hose at all.  They wore short shorts even if they had to wear a jacket to keep their bodies warm. Very short skirts are equally popular. Many of them are ruffled and made of thin material. One reminded me of the little ruffled panties we used to put on baby girls (6 months old – not 30 year olds!).

Many young women wear outfits we used to call “baby doll” but they were  “baby doll” pajamas. These little fancy tops and skirts look like an outfit a cute little six-year old girl might wear to an Easter egg hunt. They are completed with spike or wedged heeled shoes of every weird shape and design you can imagine. The outfits and shoes are not cheap. They are definitely worn to get attention but most Chinese are now used to it and seem to pay little attention to a woman walking through the airport in such an outfit. I tried not to stare, but it was so unbelievable to me that these girls would dress that way when modesty has been the rule in China for so long.  (We saw little of this in Hong Kong, which surprised me.)  These are working girls who have money to spend now so they want to follow the latest trends. I think these fashions may come from Japan, because I can’t imagine it is a European fashion and I certainly have not seen anything similar to this in the U.S.   I call the little short ruffled skirts a “Bo Peep” outfit. If they had a shepherd’s staff, they could be pictured in a storybook about little Bo Peep.

I was overwhelmed to go to the grocery store (food on one end, cosmetics and household items in sections at the other end). Although Walmart stores are in China, many of the markets are designed in much the same way. It is hard to find items because you must recognize it (pictures) with only Chinese writing. It is difficult to tell shampoo from conditioner.  There are so many kinds of foods now. Chips, cookies, cakes, and snacks of every kind are available. We think we are so blessed to have such a great variety of things in the U.S. but I would imagine that the amount is doubled in China. As a result of the better economy for the working people of China, obesity is beginning to show up. We saw more heavy people on this trip as well as some chubby children. Having KFC and McDonald’s available doesn’t help. There are Starbuck’s, bakeries and ice cream shops everywhere.

Ron has bought his clothes in China in the past years but now he finds them as expensive as in the U.S. Unless you can go to one of the bargain spots where there are booth after booth of things being hawked by the sellers, you can expect to pay almost as much for clothing as we pay in the U.S.  There are many expensive boutiques. The major department stores are as expensive as any Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. All of the designer stores are in major cities. There will be Versace, Hermes, Coach, Chanel, and other such expensive brands (these are the real thing at a very high price). The bargain stores are the ones with the fakes.

In past years, people stared at us a great deal. There are so many visitors to China from so many countries now no one looks at anyone. While in an airport, you can see people from many countries and you hear different languages being spoken. This was true more so in Hong Kong than in China, of course.

Everyone is traveling in China. Every plane is full. Flying is sometimes just as economical as taking a train so both methods of travel are sometimes difficult to secure.   Soft sleepers on trains are almost always sold out and every plane is full.   It does not matter what time of day or night or which day of the week you travel, it is much the same. 

I'm sure we will continue to see more rapid changes in the years to come. 

The only thing that seems to be constant is poverty among the country people.   There are few changes among the peasants.   They have no way to change their status.  Life for them is the same as it was 50 years ago and it will probably be the same way in 50 years from now.   Our Savior said we will always have the poor with us.   Although we see the rapid growth in the economic sectors of China, our work continues among the poor.   The wealthy are not going to help the poor.   The government is never going to care.  No one is going to reach out to save an orphaned child except those that have a tender heart because of believing in His word.   No one is going to teach these little ones the truth.   Our work is endless and the fields are white for harvest.

Thanks for continuing to remember us and the little children we care for.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hong Kong - A trip to Remember

I was with Ron only once before on a quick trip to Hong Kong. We were not there long and I saw nothing that I remembered from that trip. This time, however, I have many things that will always be remembered.

Thursday, March 29th, we prepared to leave Ronald’s apartment so he could complete his preparations for Gigi, his wife from the Philippines who was coming back with him to China for the first time. I washed sheets from our bed, helped with a little dusting and cleaning, prepared lunch, cleaned up the kitchen and then we left for a nearby hotel. Ronald had more cleaning to do, a trip to the grocery and his own packing for the trip to Hong Kong. We stayed in a hotel because there was no way we could get up early enough the next morning to wash his one set of king-sized bedding and leave everything clean for Gigi. We hesitated to stay with him as long as we did, but he didn’t seem to mind. He said, however, that he didn’t get to bed until midnight, getting everything done. Our night in the hotel was not good. It was so noisy with doors slamming and loud talking in the hallway until long past midnight. We had to get up and be checked out of the hotel by 5:30 a.m.

We took a taxi to another hotel that provided us a 40-minute bus ride to the airport. We checked in at the airport, having a little time to spare. Two different flights to Hong Kong previously scheduled had been cancelled by the airlines so we re-booked for a flight to Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule several years ago, having been under Great Britain for many years. There is still a border crossing so it was not an easy trip from Shenzhen, although it is a short distance with a river between them. After we landed, we took one subway line to the end (about 30 minutes) which was the furthest you could go and remain in China. Then we boarded the subway to Hong Kong. We had at least three changes onto different subway lines (each taking about 30 minutes). They were all crowded so we did not get seats for most of this trip by subway. We finally got to the Hong Kong immigration area and completed our “leaving China” and entering Hong Kong checks. At last, we got another taxi to our hotel.  Driving is on the left side of the road with the driver's seat on the right side of the car.   It seems really weird.  There is a lot of construction everywhere and the roads are winding and up and down hills.   They drive fast but sensibly.  

Our hotel was nice but remote from the city. Ron booked it because it was near the congregation where he was scheduled to speak on Sunday morning. We had not eaten all day so by the time we arrived and got checked in at 2:00 p.m., we were all hungry. We went to the hotel dining room (nothing else around this area) and ate a rather expensive lunch.

The next morning we had a very good breakfast buffet in the hotel. At noon, Ronald checked out of the hotel, preparing to go meet Gigi and her parents at the airport that night. He came to our room for a few hours and then we took a taxi to the Star Ferry area.

Ronald had told us before we went to China that he wanted to treat us to a tour of Hong Kong (Anniversary/birthday present for both of us). He and Gigi found a great tour guide when they were in Hong Kong for Christmas and he was able to book him from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

We had about two hours before we were to meet the tour guide so we walked across to a very upscale mall. It was about five stories with mostly designer stores (very expensive). Hong Kong is full of expensive jewelry stores, boutiques, and all top quality, designer brand stores (Gucci, Coach, Hermes, and Versace, just to name a few). The top floor had restaurants so we chose a good Chinese restaurant that was not too expensive. We enjoyed a good meal and when we left, I was the last one out of the booth. When I put my left foot out onto the floor, I thought it felt numb but I had not noticed that it had gone to sleep. This has never happened to me before so I must have tucked this foot behind the other while we ate without realizing it. The minute I slipped completely out of the booth and stood up, my left leg gave way and I went sprawling on the floor between tables. It was a spectacular display of clumsiness and Ron and Ronald missed it. They had already walked out of the restaurant. I had about six Chinese waitresses and waiters rushing to help pick me up. I was standing when Ron walked back in to see what happened to me. I held on to the counter and put some weight on the foot and it felt O.K. Ron took my arm and we walked out. I could feel a little pain in the ankle but walking was not really a problem. We walked back to the Star Ferry and I sat down to wait for the tour guide.

There was no way I was going to disappoint Ronald after he had paid for this tour and had looked so forward to treating us. I told him I thought I would be O.K. He assured me there was quite a bit of walking. I decided to try it and thought if I had to cancel somewhere along the way, at least I had given it a good try. The foot began to swell slightly but there was only a little discomfort.

We took the Ferry to the other side of the bay and had a great view of the harbor.

From that side of the island, we walked around a bunch of streets and ended up at Diamond Hill. There’s a nunnery there with the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. The trees are trimmed perfectly, many of them bonsai trees of all sizes. We walked through the garden for at least an hour. The nunnery was closed to the public but we could view the beautiful buildings from one side. The tour guide said during the day, tourists can go through portions of it. On one such trip, he quickly counted 109 nuns. These are Buddhist nuns, all estimated to be in their 70’s or 80’s. Buddhist is dying in China so after these nuns pass on, I guess this will be nothing but a tourist site. 

We walked a few more streets and went to the Parliament Hotel, a very beautiful structure. They were having late afternoon tea so the downstairs was completely full, having tables for at least 200 (maybe even more) people. They have an earlier tea and it’s usually full for that one also. The British influence for afternoon tea is still carried on in Hong Kong. The tour guide explained that this hotel was completely occupied by Japanese troops during the war and this was the actual place where they surrendered. This hotel is at least $600 U.S. per night and they have seven (yes, 7) Rolls Royce limousines parked outside to take guests back and forth from the airport (not complimentary).

We walked through the market area (much like a flea market in the U.S.) where goods are displayed in booth after booth. If you do not stop to look at things, they don’t bother to give you a sales pitch. We didn’t want anything so we just walked through without stopping. It was quite large but most of the stuff was junk (and what looked the best, such as leather purses, were probably all fake, imitations of the real thing). The Chinese are very good at duplicating brand names and making it difficult for the average person to tell the difference. We do know that $10 Rolex watches will run a few weeks until the battery is dead. They could pass for the real thing if you are not a connoisseur of the finer things in life.

We passed all of the very expensive car dealerships (it seems strange to find them side by side in a downtown area instead of out in the suburbs where we find them in the U.S.). We also walked through an area where billboards and signs displayed hotels that charge by the hour. You won’t see that anywhere in China.

We took a bus back to the Star Ferry and crossed over again; taking a taxi from there to the Peak. This is the highest point of the mountain overlooking all of Hong Kong. It is the exclusive area to live. There are many high-rise apartment buildings and homes on the mountainside. The trip up the mountain was steep and curved. My ears actually stopped up and popped during the trip up. After we got to the top, we still had a 20-minute walk around a narrow road. We could have gone to the top of the building for viewing the bay (almost all of Hong Kong) but it was expensive and there was a crowd waiting to either go for the view or take the sky lift back down the mountainside. Although my foot had swollen quite a bit, it was not painful so I told them I thought I could take the walk. We slowly climbed slightly uphill along the road until we got to the overlook area. It was breathtakingly beautiful. It was about 9 p.m. The lights from the city, shining on the water was spectacular. It was a little cooler on top of the mountain. I took a jacket and was comfortable but Ron said he was cold in just a short-sleeved shirt. We then had a 20-minute walk back down to the taxi stop. It was about 9:30 so we said goodbye and thanked our tour guide for a great time. We took a taxi back to our hotel. Ronald took his bags and headed to the airport to meet Gigi and her parents.

Gigi got a tour package for them arriving from Cebu, Philippines. It included their flight, hotel and a tour for the next day. They did not arrive until almost 1 a.m.

I took pain-killers and went straight to bed and to sleep. We had walked more than four hours (carefully with a swollen foot) so I was very tired. I was uncertain how my foot would let me sleep or what it would be like the next morning. I slept all night and the foot was actually better on Sunday morning. We dressed and took a taxi to the area for the church meeting. The driver did not know which building, nor did Ron. Ron was there two years ago but it was very hilly with many apartment buildings that looked similar. We walked up and down steps and around building after building. Ron said he knew it was not easy to find because it’s actually a rental section of an apartment building. I finally found a seat in a courtyard between buildings and told Ron to come get me when he found it. He was back in a few minutes with one of the church members. Ron recognized her from his previous trip. She had actually come to the hotel the last time to take him to the church.

We had a delightful visit with this group of Christians. They can openly worship in Hong Kong. We know China doesn’t like their religious freedom but to put it down would cause problems they would never be able to handle. A very nice man (Tony) translated for Ron. Between worship and class, they had a birthday cake for two of the children. Most everyone could speak English and communicate well with us. After the class was over, about 10 of us walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch. They ordered small portions of many different things (enough for everyone to try). I did not know most of what I ate but it was all very delicious. They had many questions about our work and the discussions went well. They are appreciative of our work and for our visit to their congregation. I think only Julie Ng, a successful business woman, is our only orphan sponsor from this congregation. I hope that will change and others will want to help. Some expressed an interest in visiting some of the care centers.

We rested in the afternoon and waited for Ronald to contact us for a place to meet them. Instead, they came to our hotel room. Gigi’s parents were very nice (I would really love to be a friend with her mother). When we went to the hotel lobby to meet them, Gigi came running to hug me. She had told me in an email that she was nervous to meet us. I told her not to be nervous because we were looking forward to our first visit. She began crying as she hugged me with a big bear hug. I think the only reason she let go was because Ron was saying, “what about me?” She looked me in the face and I saw the tears on her cheeks. I felt like crying too but it was overwhelming feelings of joy. Gigi then reached over to hug Ron. I walked to her parents and gave each of them a hug. We went to our room and visited a while. Then we went to the hotel dining room and had dinner together. They left after dinner to go back to their hotel, and we did not get to see them again. It was a wonderful visit but much too short.

We planned to leave the next morning for the U.S. It appeared there were seats that day so we checked out of the hotel at 5 a.m. and took a taxi to the airport train. We arrived about 6 a.m. and were told they had oversold the flight. We waited anyway to be sure we could not get on. They oversold it by 44 seats so people from coach were moved into first class until the plane was completely full. They actually turned away people that had paid for a ticket. We took a room in the hotel at the airport and decided to try again on Tuesday morning. It was the exact same thing the next day. People were off this week for Easter week (spring break for many people) so the airport was overloaded with many travelers.

Ron sat me down with the bags and he went to see what other airlines might fly to other cities that we could connect with. The only possibility was Korean Airlines but to buy tickets was very expensive. They told him he could buy them cheaper on-line so he came back and got on the computer and booked us both on a 12:30 flight to Seoul, Korea. We rushed to check in but their system did not show our on-line booking. He had to go to the ticket agents, get their office in N.Y. on-line (it was about 11 p.m. there) and wait for nearly 30 minutes before they confirmed the booking and gave him a ticket number. We were the last people checking in for the flight by the time we got back to the counter. We quickly got to the gate and had only a few minutes before boarding the flight.

Gigi’s parents were back in the airport to return to the Philippines but we had no time to try to find them. I asked two Filipino girls sitting by me which airline they would most likely be flying and they told me it might be Philippine Airlines but it was located in Terminal 2. Once we got things settled for our flight to Seoul, we had no time to go see them off. Ronald and Gigi were in the airport until their 5 p.m. flight to Nanning. I was especially disappointed that we had spent so much time in the airport and I didn’t get to spend any more time with them. Ron was so glad to get out of Hong Kong (it is expensive there) but I was sad to leave my kids and not see them again.

The trip to Seoul was about three hours. We walked around in the airport, checking out restaurants and the hotel. We were not successful in finding anything for hotels outside the airport. I was reluctant to leave the airport although Ron said U.S. passport holders did not have to have a VISA to come to South Korea. We still have several military bases there. We went to the food court and ate and then to the lounge area. The hotel room was going to be $172 U.S. for the night but they actually rent the room by the number of hours you stay. We decided we would rest in the lounge until about midnight. There were lounge chairs that reclined and it would have been fine for the night if others had respected those that wanted to sleep. About 10 p.m. a group of young American students came in and dumped their stuff around, chatting and eating. Some took advantage of the free showers in that area. They all left later and then a group of Chinese students came in about 11 p.m. They would not stop talking so at midnight we went to get a room for six hours. From 12:00 to 6:00 a.m. it was still $120 U.S. We slept until 5 a.m. I showered and packed up and it was time to leave. We walked around trying to find something for breakfast but it was so expensive. We had exchanged some money but didn’t have enough for most restaurants. We didn’t want to exchange more and be stuck with Korean money so we snacked on a few things to tide us over. We boarded the flight at 11:00 a.m. bound directly for Dallas, TX. We had coach seats, of course, and I was stuck in the middle of three seats with a Korean guy on my right. It was my home for the next 14-l/2 hours. I knew I could not sleep in a seat like that so I watched four movies (8 hours of entertainment still left some boring time before we landed). We got to Dallas at 9:30 a.m. (the same day we left Korea) but we passed through many time zones in the meantime. My eyes hurt from the dry air, my sleep time had long been exhausted, and my foot was swollen more than before. There’s no place to prop up a foot from this small space in the middle seat!

We had to go through immigration in the Dallas airport, arriving back in the U.S. from a foreign country. Outside, we waited over an hour for the Holiday Inn Express courtesy van to take us to the parking lot for our car. From there, we drove to the Anchor Boat and RV Storage in Denton to get our RV. We were close by the Hickory Creek Park where we booked RV parking for the next two weeks. We parked, hooked up the power and began setting up the RV and putting things away.

The refrigerator had been off for almost a month so there was some mold inside. Ron forgot to leave doors open so it would dry out. He proceeded to wash it out with Clorox but I collapsed on the couch. Before I knew it I was asleep. Ron finished cleaning the fridge and went to Wal-Mart for groceries without me knowing it. I awoke as he came in with the food. I helped put it away and fixed up something to eat. We are still fighting jet lag (arrived Wednesday afternoon – it’s now Sunday afternoon). We go to bed by 9 p.m. and wake about 3 a.m. It just takes about a week to get the body reset for this time zone. By 3:00 p.m. we begin to feel very tired and forcing ourselves to stay up until 9:00 p.m. takes a lot of effort. Ron says the secret is to keep moving but since I’ve been sick for three weeks and still have a sore foot, that’s been very hard for me. Today is a bit better so maybe we are over the worst part of it.

This was really a hard trip but mostly because I was sick and did not have much energy the entire time. Then, spraining my ankle three days before we left was not good. Having to forfeit our usual first class seats with Delta Airlines for a longer flight in coach made the trip especially difficult.

Looking back, in spite of Ron having to drag Pat everywhere, everything else went well and spending time with Ronald was priceless. It was such a joy to be with him for about 10 days.  Meeting Gigi was also very, very special.  She is wonderfully sweet and loving.  We love her very much.  We are so blessed!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ronald's Apartment in Nanning, China

After living in the orphanages for more than two years, occupying whatever room they had available, Ronald finally got an apartment in Nanning. He married Gigi Gayo, who lives in the Philippines, September 24, 2011. They have spent some time in Hong Kong but this is the first time she’s received a VISA for China. She is coming to China for the first time on April 3rd but it’s on a one entry, one month VISA. In time, they hope to get her here full-time. We will be in Hong Kong when she arrives this weekend so it’ll be our first time to meet her. Her parents are coming as far as Hong Kong to meet us on this trip. It should be an exciting time for all of us since we were not able to go to the Philippines for the wedding.

Yesterday afternoon, we watched Ronald and Gigi’s wedding video. It was a very pretty wedding and we were so excited to see everything about it. We also saw a slide show of their times in Hong Kong and on the island of Palawan (where they honeymooned). The pictures were really beautiful.

Ronald chose Nanning as his home base because we have three of the orphanages in this Province. He can travel to any of these three orphanages in a matter of a few hours. Ron is trying to get registration for Agape in Nanning as our home office, which will eventually allow Ronald more freedom to do banking and other things.

His apartment is on the 32rd floor of a high-rise building. The view from every window is spectacular. From this height, even the slum apartment buildings do not look terrible. There are 12 high-rise apartment buildings in this complex with gardens and walkways in-between. Today the sun is out and it’s about 75 degrees. We walked around the complex and enjoyed seeing the beautiful gardens, manicured plants, pavilions for resting, lovely designed walks and the large swimming pool that is now empty. His apartment consists of a small laundry room (washer and racks for drying clothes but no dryer), a small kitchen, living room and dining combination, bedroom with king-size bed, bedroom with small bed and desk (where he does his work) and small bath (shower head on the wall in one corner). There’s no way to take a shower and not get the bathroom wet but keeping the spray low is the key to containing water mostly in one area and being able to mop the floor once you have finished your shower.

The apartment costs about $300 U.S. plus a small amount for utilities. He bought a small space heater for winter and a dehumidifier. There is an air-conditioning unit in the living room and a wall unit in the master bedroom. It does not get severely cold here in the winter. The apartment is furnished with simple but nice furniture. You might think it all came from IKEA.

It is a quiet apartment. We only hear the next door neighbors on this floor when they come in or go out and slam their door. Oh yes, we can also hear them chopping up their vegetables to cook in the apartment next to us!

It is a bit of heaven in the middle of China. Ronald says he can escape for a short time and not even realize he’s in China but then the difficult task of getting the work done brings him back to reality. We are very pleased that he was able to find this nice place for such a reasonable amount. We are relieved to know how he is living. When we return home, I can picture him in this lovely apartment with Gigi and feel proud.

Ronald’s job is very hard. Overseeing the six orphanages and making sure everything is run well, the children are being cared for properly and costs are maintained within budget, is a huge responsibility. He must spend time at the various care centers doing maintenance on the buildings, inspecting the buildings and grounds for future improvements and spending time with the workers and children. We are lacking in management-skilled workers. All of our workers are inexperienced, young and untrained but at the same time, they are difficult to manage. Ronald has developed a manual for every phase of operation so workers need only to study it and follow it to have a well-run facility. In spite of this tool, they have not yet learned to lean on our guidelines or on Ronald for help, rushing ahead to handle things their way, which is usually more costly and less efficient. We are told that our standards are too high and we are sometimes unreasonable in our expectations. We want our workers to do the best possible job so the children can learn a better and cleaner way to live. If we have high standards, the children will grow up wanting a higher standard for their lives than the poverty from which they came. Ronald has an on-going battle to keep things running well and handle various crises.

Ronald has developed programs to track cost of various things at each center and make comparisons to get a complete picture of how money is being spent. He spends a lot of time reviewing the petty cash expense reports from each center, approving them for accounting purposes. He also has to review and approve the monthly budget and request for the next funds to be sent to each care center. For six orphanages, it is a lot of work. We spend about $50,000 every month to care for the children, pay workers and overhead expenses. This is for six care centers caring for about 650 children. Twice a year, the budget will include extra expenses for tuition and cost of living expenses for the middle school and high school children that live at the schools and only return to the care centers on weekends. Sometimes, we have children in the hospital and more is needed for their medical care.

I really don’t know how Ronald will continue handling all of this and find time to oversee the construction of a small 12-bed hospital and clinic for Dr. Joshua to serve the poor people who cannot afford medical care. This building project will take him away from this nice apartment and he’ll have to find a temporary place to live in a remote area of Henan Province for about six to nine months. Overseeing construction is also very difficult. The standard construction is poor workmanship and use of improper building methods. It will be a huge task to have a good facility built within budget.

Tomorrow we will get up about 5 a.m. and go to John Connor Brown Christian Care Center in Tiendeng. In my next segment, I will give a report on our visit there and post some pictures of the children.

A Better Week

This has been a much better week for me. With the extra rest and sleep, my health has improved considerably. I have gone to bed by 8 p.m. almost every night and slept all night, sometimes with an afternoon nap. Ronald’s apartment is quiet and comfortable. The cough and congestion has improved day-by-day. Tuesday, we went to Wesley’s House Christian Care Center. We took an 8:30 a.m. train and returned about 3:00 p.m. by bus. We arrived about an hour before the children returned from school for lunch. We ate lunch with them. We had rice, carrots and greens, cooked with a little pork. It was very tasty.

The children were very happy to see us. It was especially nice to see Lankui, the little girl that came to the U.S. for surgery on her jaw. She had surgery in Nashville almost two years ago. She lived with us for six weeks before going to Nashville for the surgery, so we got very close to her. She was delighted to see us and we had some good hugs. Several of the girls, along with Lankui, went to their rooms and designed some wonderful drawings for us. It is their way of giving us a gift. They had glued small objects, such a colorful feathers or beads on the drawings. The older girls, including Lankui, took the same bus back to school that took us downtown Pingguo to catch the main bus back to Nanning. Lankui got off to go to school at her stop and waved until we got out of sight.

On Saturday, we went to Ronald’s grocery store, several blocks away. We woke up the morning before with a strong wind and storm at 6 a.m. It cleared out the fog and smog so Saturday was a warm, nice day. Ronald’s market, not the open street market, is very nice. Although it takes time to find things with everything in Chinese, there is a large variety of nearly everything. The vegetables and fruits in China are especially good. The spring time brings many good things from the farms and the stores are overflowing with food. Things are very cheap compared to the U.S. A package of green peppers (about 6) costs about 90 cents, a large tray of shitake mushroom costs 50 cents and three large, beautiful carrots cost 50 cents. We got a large amount of vegetables for this week. I have cooked a variety of rice, noodles, dumplings and vegetable stir-fry dishes. Each of us fixes our own breakfast each morning. I have cooked most other meals and Ronald cleans up the kitchen. We have not been out to eat but will have some meals out when we get to Hong Kong this weekend.

Today is Sunday. We had our service at 9 a.m. with Max, Ronald’s assistant, with us. Max has only been working in this position a little over a month but he had given his notice to quit at the end of the month. Ronald gave him some computer work three weeks ago, asking him to enter into excel spreadsheets some of the orphanages’ expenses. Everything was given to him so all he had to do was type in numbers in the correct columns. He still had not done any of the work on Tuesday and said he had not done the work because his eyes had been hurting. There is no doubt he is capable of typing in some numbers in a master form but it apparently this job is not what he wanted to do.

On Friday, when he resigned, he stated that our standards are too high after hearing Ron’s evaluation of how things are going at Wesley’s House. We found areas that needed to be cleaned with trash piled up and dirty walls that could be cleaned with soap and a rag. The Chinese workers think we should accept things the way they are used to, but we have told them all along that we expect our orphanages to have a better standard. Workers sit around while the children are in school - doing nothing. At Wesley’s House, they have a huge storage room of stuff, including clothing, bedding, toys and supplies. There were boxes and boxes of things the director has not opened and has no idea what is inside. A lot of these things have been donated. They don’t even know if it is things they can use. They are not of any benefit to anyone stored away like this. When asked why workers are not sorting through things while children are in school, he said they only did this on Tuesdays.

I asked if the children were allowed to play with the many toys I saw in the storage room. The director said there were not enough for each child to have one so they just kept them locked up. I asked what is wrong with teaching children how to share toys. No comment was made to answer my question. So, if you have 25 hoopla hoops and 100 children, you don’t let them play with any of them? Their answer is to just lock them up in a storage room?

Ronald offered Max the opportunity to have a job at Wesley’s House to help them since there is no male worker there, other than the director. Max said he’d just take his chances of seeing what other kind job he can find. When we found Max to come work at John Connor Brown, he was washing dishes in a restaurant. When he resigned that position (without any explanation as to his reason), he went to work for an orphanage with handicapped children. He lasted about a month. He said that was not for him so he asked to work as Ronald’s assistant. But, now he doesn’t want to do this either or take another position at any orphanage. Max is a good guy, a faithful Christian with good English skills, but he lacks motivation to work. It seems that the average Chinese does not see any need to put forth much effort in a job. When we arrived in Nanning and he learned we were staying with Ronald, he said if we didn’t need him the next day he would just go somewhere to ride his bike. Ronald told him it was still a work day and he could do some of the work he gave him three weeks earlier. It just wasn’t what he wanted to do, unfortunately. He is a university graduate with good English skills but he’ll end up working again in a restaurant at low wages simply because he does not want to work hard.

Finding motivated workers has been our greatest challenge. They all want to do as little as possible. There is no pride in doing things the best that can be done. It isn’t that they are incapable; they just do not see any need to make things better, especially if it means they have to work hard.

The children deserve to have a better chance in life and it’s up to our workers to teach them. We have two American couples who have worked in China for several years teaching English in universities who are discussing the possibility of moving to one of the orphanages to work with the children. If this happens, the children will have English classes and help with their homework to improve their grades. We hope the American couples at the orphanages can motivate workers to improve the living conditions and raise the standards, but we never know whether Chinese workers will conform or simply quit, like Max, saying we expect too much.

Thanks again for your prayers for my health.