I made a quick trip to Singapore in the past week. It was just four days but wow, it was wonderful. I was invited to come and run some workshops for the youth music teams at the church where a good friend of mine is the youth pastor. The students were amazing and I really enjoyed my time with them – whether teaching, making music together, or just hanging out. I also spent time with two young people who were in youth group with me in Beijing back when they were high school students – that was wonderful. Also, while I’m not a very good tourist I did take time to wander the Botanic Gardens; it was wonderful and I plan to write about it soon.
When I got back to John and Katie’s place after finishing my final “event,” Katie asked if I was exhausted. I stopped to think about it and realised that no, I wasn’t. On the contrary, I felt very energised. It didn’t really make sense. I hadn’t slept too well several nights in a row, and I had just finished two fairly full days with lots of people to meet and mingle with. But I really did feel wonderful!
It wasn’t until the next day I really twigged to why I felt so great. For the first time since leaving China more than two months ago, I had spent time with people who really KNOW me. While there are lots of great people in Phnom Penh, including people I first met nearly 6 years ago, until recently I’d never spent more than two weeks at a time here – and always with Christina. I was engaged with her friends more than I was making my own. I have a lot of connections, a lot of people I admire and enjoy, but I don’t have established friendships.
In Singapore I spent time with three awesome people I knew in Beijing. I am so thankful to have each of them in my life – even when we don’t see each other much. People who knew me in China, in my context there. People who have known me closely, in real life, over many years. People with whom the relationship is already established, so it’s not hard to skip straight to the deeper things of life. People with whom I have built trust – both ways – over time. People I can not only be myself around (I can choose to be myself anywhere) but people who already KNOW my self. People I am relaxed around.
Wow. That was so good for my heart! I came back to Phnom Penh feeling refreshed, and more myself than I have in a long time. Not only that, but I gained an extra measure of hope/reassurance about my imminent move to Australia. There will be a few people around that I have some of this sort of resonance with. It is different with each person, but there are overlaps. There are people I have spent time with, have lived life with, who have known me in some context. While it’s not the “up to date” version of me who has been doing youth work in China the past few years, there IS shared history. There are shared experiences, there are stories, and there is lots of potential for building on that foundation.
There will still be a lot of relationship building to do, but it will be done with the knowledge that I’ll be around long enough for the investment to be worth it. And not all of it will be starting from scratch – some of it will be building on what already is. It motivates me to spend more effort connecting “in advance” with people in Australia whom I already know and love.