Below is a selection from my journal entry from the end of China as I sat in the quiet auditorium after most of the other parents had left following the Christmas program.  I loved that it was a “Christmas” concert in a nation that is not really historically considered “Christian.”  Not a “holiday” or “seasons greetings” kind of a thing, but a “Christmas” concert.  And we ate it right up.  Here’s what I wrote sitting in that little auditorium as all the other parents were filing out:

It is interesting that one of the most moving and soul-enriching thoughts and pondering of this whole adventure would come while watching a quite professional belly dancer whipping around her hips in the midst of the first grade class at SMIC school, all dressed in neon tutus, dancing their little hearts out to a popular Chinese song that makes everyone want to dance and a sea of Asian parents snapping pictures as fast as they could (I fit right in here).  

(I have to share a picture and a video to do it justice:)

It is one of our last days of school in China and as I sat here behind my own lens for some reason that random belly dancer set of a whole slew of emotions.  I don’t know if it just caught me off-guard or if it was just the unlikely crowning jewel of the differences we have experienced but I was just so incredibly overcome with pure gratitude for this experience.  So grateful for the myriads of thoughts and woes and worry and humor and love and glory we have felt here in China.  Tears pooled up in my eyes and it was all I could do not to let them spill out.  I’m just so grateful.  

I never want to take this for granted.

The rest of the concert (after the belly dancer number) turned into the Nutcracker, and who doesn’t love the Nutcracker?

Lucy’s class kind of “introduced” the rest of the program.  She was very excited for a chance to wear her baptism dress again (since she was supposed to wear something fancy) and do curtsies over and over again while the narrators spoke.  She took her job very seriously as you can see:

I couldn’t believe the costumes and how cute all the dancing was.

As you can see, it included a whole variety of Nutcracker numbers.

And then it was over.
I felt compelled to stay in my seat and get my thoughts straight by scribbling them down in my little spiral falling-apart Chinese “journal” right then.  
Here’s the end of that entry I started above:

This trip has changed us in so may ways.  It has opened our eyes and knit together our hearts.  It has taught us so much gratitude.  For cultures.  For differences.  For languages.  For the world.  For growth from trials.  For HOME.  And for FAMILY.  It has been tough.  We came here with eyes wide open that it would be hard, but how can you really brace yourself for “hard” when you don’t even know what kind of “hard” is coming your way?  But oh how grateful I am for all we have learned in the process.  

We will forever be grateful for this blip in time (really that’s all it is in the whole scheme of things) that had the power bond us like nothing else and to do so much to our hearts and our souls and our faith and our love.

I left the school for one of the last times.  That school with the musical bells (William Tell overture and Mario Bros. were the signals to switch classes) that was at first so scary and foreign to all of us but that had become “home” in so many ways…through all the basketball games, meetings with teachers and counselors, tracking down textbooks, Saturday school, after-school tutoring, walking to and from every day.  As I walked away I was filled like never before in my whole life with my heart overflowing that we got to be there and do that.  Not just the school, but the whole adventure itself.  
I know this isn’t the kind of opportunity that comes along every day (it took us years of thinking and planning to figure this out).  I know that there are many people who have written and emailed who would love to do the same kind of thing (or who are in the midst of their own adventure already…whether it’s at home or abroad…there are all types of different “adventures” in this life of ours!), and that there are others who think we are completely nutty for doing it.  But for us, as a unique, individual family it was good.  Very good.    
And that day, sitting in that auditorium I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for a Heavenly Father who I felt sure watched over us a while we were there, and who helped us learn things we will never forget.

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  1. What an awesome experience for your entire family…love these photos and videos. And I love your last sentence (closing thoughts) of this post…it's always humbling to have experiences like this–where the Spirit confirms in our hearts that the journey we are on is what Heavenly Father wants for us. Thanks so much for sharing this amazing family experience with your readers.

  2. isn't it funny how things work…you knew deep down that you'd feel this way when you first started the adventure, but then when you really did, it still felt incredible. it was so good to talk the other day and i can't wait to see you. love you shaser.

  3. I am not really sure one can say that China is « void of religion » (but probably of your religion, yes) given all the amazing taoist and buddhist temples, but I’m French and maybe didn’t understand your sentence. However, I really liked the rest of your post nd the way you write. Loved to follow your adventures in Asia, must have been so instructive ! ☺ Helene

  4. I think it's important to point out that not only is China definitely *not* "void of religion" but China is actually set to become the home of the world's largest population of Christians within the next few years (if it isn't already – the statistics are very difficult to track). Though the open practice of Christianity is regulated to a certain extent in China, there are countless underground churches, house churches, and other types of churches where protestant Christianity is thriving and growing at a tremendous rate. It's absolutely wonderful to see the gospel spreading (even in difficult circumstances) in this part of the world!

    I'm actually quite surprised you haven't heard about this, or learned about this when speaking with the people who live there during your stay. This growth is only of protestant Christianity however. The incredible spread of underground and "official" (to the Chinese government) Christian churches does not seem to include the LDS or their theology.

    Here is a very short article (it’s 3 years old, but still telling) describing the incredible things happening in the Church in China:

    *I deleted and reposted this comment to fix a couple spelling errors. =)

  5. We did something similar in 2012. We have three daughters adopted from China and wanted them to experience their home in a deeper way than a 2 week vacation every couple of years. We left our employment and my husband and oldest daughter attended Nanjing University for a year. (Our oldest was 15.5 at the time.) We learned so much and look back on our time in China with such fondness. We are currently living in New Delhi, and that is how I came across your website. I've used your parents curriculum and read their books for many years, so it was fun to hear about your life.

  6. China is not void of religion.
    The government simply controls it's practice, does not allow missionaries and makes separate allowances for ethnic minorities and foreigners so you are excluded from what the average citizen is doing. Even without underground churches the number of people attending a church service in China I think has surpassed that of any country in Europe on any given weekend. Given the poor turn out in Europe. And there are relgions other than Protestantism and Catholicism.

  7. Oh I thank you for the religion clarification…I mis-stated that sentence. What I meant is that through it's long history China has never been considered a Christian country. And yes, there are deep and ancient Buddhist and Taoist religious roots there (maybe the most deeply rooted in all the world) but so much of that culture and tradition was wiped out during the cultural revolution. New religions are cropping up all over and new freedoms are gradually being introduced which is great. My point is that I found it interesting that in America, a very largely Christian nation, we are sometimes so careful about being politically correct and not stepping on anyone's toes that we opt for saying things like "Holiday" party or "winter formal" rather than using the word "Christmas", and there in China it is "Christmas" with no questions asked. Being Christian I thought it was refreshing and great that they are not nit-picking those things…they are just celebrating a wonderful season. Thanks for the heads up though, I will change the wording in the post.

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