We want this blog to be a source of information and inspiration, a place to go to check your expectations of this summer’s work in Beijing, and a collection of any and all information that will help you prepare for the trip. We also want it to be interesting enough for your family and friends to read, so they can get an accurate idea of what Bring Me Hope is about, and have an up-to-date source of news from the camps in July and August. But there is another function we hope it will serve, and so far this one has been difficult.
We want this page to be a conversation. The “comment” function below each post is extremely easy to use, and we want you to. Tell us what you think, give us suggestions. I realize this is hard with some posts, the ones that are not interactive. But with this post, I hope to get our small group of readers into the habit of sharing their thoughts. I also hope to begin expanding our small group of readers.
The only thing to remember is to avoid certain religious language when posting comments.
For a more detailed list of words to omit, send me an e-mail.
So here are a few questions that I hope will stimulate discussion in the coming weeks. Any of these points that lead to a healthy dialogue in the comments section will earn their own posts, I can assure you of that. Here goes.
- What part of the summer camps in Beijing are you looking forward to the most? Put another way, why did you sign up to volunteer with Bring Me Hope?
- Is there anything you are worried about or not looking forward to?
- If you are a staff member who went to China last summer, what one piece of advice would you offer the rookies like me?
- How are your efforts to learn some basic Chinese words coming along? (See “Hope in Mandarin,” below.)
- If you are not going to China with Bring Me Hope this year, how can this blog serve you? What kind of information would you like to see posted here?
- For those who are going, I repeat the above question: How can this blog serve you?
In addition to these questions, we’d love to hear stories of God’s generosity in helping all of us pay our way to China. My wife and I received an anonymous donation for one of our plane tickets, which was immensely encouraging. We’ve now been given almost all of the money we need. For more than 100 volunteers to each raise around $2,000, there must be more stories like that out there. Send ‘em!
— Tom Pfingsten
I have not even completely grasped Spanish from my days in community college, with its irregular verbs and proper plural tense, and here I am trying to memorize the difference between “mother” and “horse” in Chinese – a subtle difference, it turns out, indicated not by what you say, but how you say it, the inflection. It’s like being married, when your words often mean less than how they sound. So it should be no surprise that the music in our voices is what truly matters when we try to speak Mandarin.
I recently began looking for Web sites with good insight into learning to speak basic Chinese. I found a few, and will continue searching, as I feel totally lost when I try to say anything I should know how to say before we head to Beijing. If anyone has a favorite online source of Mandarin wisdom, please send us a link. Here are a few to start with.
Peter Bower, a Bring Me Hope staff member who is learning to speak Chinese more seriously than most of the rest of us, directed me to what looks like the best single resource for the beginning Mandarin speaker, a Web site that helps you sound out Chinese words using the English alphabet. This system is called “Pinyin.”
Wikipedia has a decent spoken Chinese page that covers a lot of background, such as dialects. Much of the info here will not be useful to the Bring Me Hope summer traveler, but some will.
I also found what appears to be a comprehensive and easy-to-use Chinese-English dictionary. There may be a better one out there, but for now, this one will serve our purposes.
You can download flash cards and other helpful resources at a fourth site, www.mandarintools.com. This site is not as easy to navigate as the others, but it also has a dictionary and some other useful stuff.
— Tom Pfingsten
It’s not often that you see fifty people walking down Main Avenue in Fallbrook on a Saturday night, let alone handing out glowing green bracelets and taking pictures of each other. I imagine the scene was similar in every community around the globe where Bring Me Hope supporters gathered to raise money during the night walk on Saturday. That the cause has drawn such far-flung support during its two years of existence is a testimony to the dedication of its staff, the passion of those who volunteer and, above all, the eternal significance of what is being done in the lives of Chinese orphans.
The night walk raised $15,000 in donations, motivated about 300 volunteers to hit the streets in 12 states and three countries, and paid for 60 orphans to attend camp this summer. (Of course, that is just the number that were paid for by this weekend’s fundraiser, not the total number of kids who will be at the camps.) Volunteers walked in the U.S. and Australia while a group of orphans walked in China. There was even a troupe of flight attendants walking the aisles of a plane bound for the Middle East, Bring Me Hope Director David Bolt said during the conference call preceding the walk, although the details of how he convinced them to participate in mid-air are still a mystery.
Following are some images from the May 19 night walk, taken by myself and Michael Chan, who designed this blog.
A news station in Maine ran a feature story about a trio of mothers who have adopted Chinese babies and were taking part in Saturday’s Night Walk. It was a little more than two minutes long — a great piece illustrating what Bring Me Hope is about — but the station has already replaced it on its Web site with a more recent broadcast.
Love for children is universal, and it is encouraging to see people in the opposite corner of the U.S. taking up the same cause.
— Tom Pfingsten
“hope. v. A desire accompanied by confident expectation.”
It is what we have signed up to deliver this summer to a few hundred children in Beijing. Samuel Johnson, who wrote the first English dictionary 350 years ago, defined it even better when he called hope an “expectation of some good.”
We have expectations of the ultimate good. We are privileged to live where we live and have families, but without the spiritual adoption we have already experienced, we would have little more true hope than the orphans we will visit this summer.
I have struggled to understand exactly what we will be trying to do for these kids. I think I won’t really know until I get home afterward, but still, I would like to take with me some accurate expectations. Here is what I came up with.
How hopeless to be an orphan with no Faith and no family, the two strongest potential sources of joy in anyone’s life. Then you are put on a bus and taken to a camp where a bunch of Americans with no clue about you and little experience of Chinese culture are waiting to play with you and show you a good time. That could be fun.
But it could also be more.
It would be too Western to assume that these kids have no hope because of their circumstances. Children are born with a certain reserve of hope and the other virtues. But those reserves must be running dry, and so our job will be to replenish their hope, to leave them with expectations of some good. I would like my buddy to remember me years from now, when the big picture is coming into focus, and wonder, “What would make that white guy travel all the way from America to spend a week with me?” Because there is only one answer that makes sense, and when he stumbles upon it, he will begin to understand what in the world is really worth hoping for.
— Tom Pfingsten