“Come, let’s taste some tea,” she said.
“Oh, ok…” I replied a bit nervously as I glanced down at my watch.
“I am afraid I don’t have much time,” I said.
“No?” she asked, and there was a trace of disappointment in her voice.
I glanced around the empty tea shop and into Jinlan’s young and eager face. She wanted to share her shop with me, her culture, her tea, her home. I could hang Christmas lights some other day or not at all.
“I have a moment,” I said as I smiled at her and took my seat.
I watched in awe as Jinlan began preparing tea in the traditional Chinese method- a small clay pot, lots of sloshing, boiling water, clinking of tiny tasting bowls…
As she worked she educated me about tea, her homeland and all she had sacrificed to make a life out of nothing in the United States.
“Have you heard of Oolong tea? My town is the place where it is grown. My family is very poor. We have no air conditioning. We wash our clothes in the river. In the winter it is so cold! Your hands hurt to wash the clothes! But we have been growing tea for generations. Now I have come here to sell the tea. Some girls would come to America with clothes in their suitcase. I came with a tea set in mine.
For the first four years, I worked long hours, six days a week in a Chinese restaurant and saved every penny. All of my savings are invested here- in this tea shop.”
So Jinlan made tea and taught me how to drink it while I listened. I bought several tins and promised to return. I took her hand in mine and prayed a silent prayer over her. I told her I wished her great success.
This morning I sip oolong by the Christmas tree thinking of Jinlan- of her bravery, her isolation, her sacrifice. The life of an immigrant is hard. I am very thankful I stopped by her tea shop, even more thankful I yielded to the nudging of a loving God to stop and sip tea for awhile with her. I think the whole interaction felt so right because it was one that was important to God. Contrary to what some Christians’ Facebook postings would lead us to believe, He cares about the struggling immigrant. (Exodus 22:21, Exodus 23:9)
Christians, you know, latch on to fads. We pop stickers of fish on our cars, buy the t-shirt, stuff like that. A few years ago, everyone was all about a slogan- WWJD. What Would Jesus Do?
I am a bit sorry the whole thing reached such epic proportions because the power of the question was lost in the mix. For some time now, I have wondered what my life would be like if I discarded all I think I know about Christianity, lay aside my agenda, to study the life of Christ. What if I searched Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and asked myself what Jesus really cared about? What was He talking about? What was He doing? What made Him angry? What broke His heart?
We sometimes forget that Christ lived in Roman occupied Judea. The hot button Christian social issues of America in 2013 have nothing on the Romans. There is not one Facebook bully pulpit that Christians are enraged about today that was not in place in the extreme in Jesus’ culture, but it isn’t where we see Him spending His energy.
We see Him reaching for the hurting, lifting up the disenfranchised and opening His arms wide to the marginalized of His day. His harshest words were not for “the sinner” but for “the righteous” who judged and condemned the broken.
He took time to listen and offer compassion. He lived sacrificially, radically. His kingdom, you see, was not of this world. (John 18:36)
May God grant me the humility and grace today to follow in His footsteps.