“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their pounding waves. More than the sounds of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, The Lord on high is mighty. Thy testimonies are fully confirmed; Holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, forevermore.” Ps. 93:3-4
Our restaurant is closing. And my heart is heavy and sad. Flood waters pound in my ears.
In 2008, we opened a Western Restaurant in China. It wasn’t just us. An outpouring of community went into opening Gina’s Place. A chef from Switzerland, a manager from South Korea, two inexperienced, but excited, American families, and so many others poured life into this project. There were friends who came by to taste test and encourage us. Others stepped up to help train local workers. It was a beautiful time of working alongside beautiful people. During these moments it was easy to declare God’s goodness. We could see evidence of it all around us. Oh, there were struggles, but we saw great victories, too.
A little more than a year after opening, our family took over managing and running the restaurant. We were able to be involved with discipleship amongst our workers, daily. We lived life together. They saw us struggle financially and they prayed. They rejoiced when business was good. Often during the day we’d see our co-workers sitting together studying the Word. We’d hear ladies in the kitchen singing together as they cleaned or peeled potatoes. They saw our family work along side them, every thing from cleaning to baking. And they poured out love on us.
Our restaurant was far from perfect. Financial struggles plagued us from the beginning. Cultural issues (between the foreigners and the locals alike) constantly had to be resolved. There was political high water to wade through. And then, there were the stateside supporters who never quite “got” what we were doing. An abundance of opinions were offered, some helpful, many not so helpful. Language difficulties because knowing the proper word is far different than knowing when and how to use it. Yet with all these (and more) imperfections, ministry took place.
It doesn’t seem possible that anything but food could come from a restaurant. But Gina’s Place opened doors for us. What did those doors look like? Curious customers engaging in conversations about our Father. Basketball and English camps with local university students. A local body boldly proclaiming during their Truth night. Graduate students enjoying a dinner theatre and a whole lot of apologetics thrown in “just for discussion.” Fatherless and unwanted were clothed and loved. A man seeking refuge found safety in the Solid Rock. Women, scarred and broken, experienced healing and beauty.
Just before we left China last year, our head chef came to me. She had a seemingly strange request. She asked me get on her back. Through tears she called out blessings upon our family, she thanked us for coming and opening Gina’s, she prayed, all the while circling the restaurant with me on her back. It was humbling. Our family was leaving for a year and a half. We knew most of our workers would be moving while we were gone. It was time to say goodbye.
Yet, with the sadness of parting there is still joy. We are better people, better ministers, better friends because of the wonderful people we worked with at Gina’s Place. The struggles have made us stronger, have increased our faith.
The waters are pounding in my ears but God’s testimony, His faithfulness is louder still. Gina’s is closing, but the business license is still in tact. Another business, another opportunity will open in Gina’s place. The money that was raised will continue to be used enabling Light to be shown in a dark place. His word will be proclaimed and lives will be changed, foreign and local alike. All because “The Lord reigns, He is clothed in majesty; The Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Thy throne is established from of old; Thou art from everlasting.” Ps. 93;1-2
I don’t have to fear the waves that are crashing around me. I don’t have to worry about what tomorrow brings. Yesterday, the restaurant, was great but now it is gone. My Father is unchanging and He holds the future in His hands.