International Ministries

Thinking Back to Christmas 2009 on Our New Campus: How God’s Plans Surpass Ours

February 25, 2010 Journal
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Christmas 2009 was special because it was the seminary's first Christmas on our new Jiangning University District campus.  When we were on the old campus in the city center, everyone planned for the Christmas Eve program to be held outdoors to accommodate the big crowd that usually came to see what was happening and to learn what this event meant.  However, in preparation for the Christmas events at the new campus this year, everyone set their sights much lower and smaller.  Everyone thought that, since we were in a new place one and a half to two hours from the city center by public transportation and since public announcements could not be put up on the campuses of other schools, attendees would mostly be just those from the seminary community itself.  So, the plan was for all of our programs to be in our chapel which seats around 400 people.

Well, God had a much bigger plan in mind for our campus' three Christmas Services!  First, our chapel overflowed for our Service of Sacred Music and the Word on December 23rd, which was let by our seminary choir consisting of over half of our student body and which included the preaching of a gospel message on the meaning of Christ's birth.  All seats were taken.  People were standing at the back and many were also standing outside, listening and trying to watch through the windows and doors. That night I sat next to six students from a big university just two bus stops from our school. We were all there early, so I started chatting with them before the service began.  It was their first time to visit a church or seminary.  They had heard some things about Christmas from others, but wanted to see and experience it for themselves.  I continue to pray that God will use other believers they meet to water and sprout and grow whatever seeds were planted in their hearts that night.  Our Christmas Eve program, which consisted of choir performances, scripture reading, preaching and a variety of performances which included a nativity drama, skits to show the meaning of Christmas for us today, recitation of poems, liturgical dance, etc., attracted even more.  That night all seats were full; people were standing in the back and along the side walls; people were standing outside looking in; and even more were in several overflow rooms where seminary faculty and students talked with them about the meaning of Christmas.  After the two-hour program ended, seminary students had "stations" set up outside all over the campus and the school provided a free evening snack of a traditional Chinese sweet porridge in the dining room.  At some stations, seminary students were there just to answer any questions the visitors might have.  At others, Christmas carols were being sung.  The dining room was full of students, too.  There, seminary students and visitors sought each other out for meaningful conversation and discussion.  It was exciting and heart-warming to see. 

This year I wasn't able to attend the Christmas Eve services at the churches in the city center so far away, but I also learned how they have continued to grow.  If you've followed my Christmas reports over the years, you know that a few years ago there was only one scheduled Christmas Eve service at each of the large churches in Nanjing, with a spontaneous second service to accommodate those who couldn't crowd into the first one; and that last year there were two scheduled services at the each of those churches, with a spontaneous third service to reach those who were still waiting outside after the second service ended.  Well, this year the pastors told me that they had three scheduled services and needed to hold a spontaneous fourth service for those still waiting after the third service.  Our God is an awesome God who is doing amazing work through the witness of the seminary, the local church and all the believers.

Back on campus, Christmas Day we also had our usual Christmas service, which included communion.  Participants Christmas morning included the seminary community and some believers from the surrounding area. 

I invite you to pray that God will continue to bless and guide the seminary and the churches here in their witness to our Lord.