•      Spring of my sophomore year of college I studied abroad in Shanghai. One weekend a few other American students and I took a trip to Suzhou. While we were there, we went to a lovely garden to spend an af […]

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  • Picture this.
    On a mountain just outside of Xian is a Buddhist temple. Not very many people are around, just a few tourists and a handful of local Chinese. The incense is so thick you could mistake it for the morning’s fog. Walking into the temple, the first thing I see is a woman holding an infant – by the look etched in her eye I know she is a mother of mercy: she cradles life and hope in a child. From a Catholic canyon of my mind the Ave Maria rises and momentarily I feel my own faith in something foreign. Later, I learned the statue on the mountain was Guanyin, in fact, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. It struck me then, and strikes me now, that I can see my own Catholic faith even in the foreign. Someone could argue that it makes sense, my religion must have borrowed the idea of maternal grace from the prior. But in my canvas shoes that mandarin morning – It seemed Christ transcended time, the earth heard him say, “Woman, behold your child, (John 19:26)” long before he coughed it on the cross.   
    Finding God in All Things 

  • Picture this. A Harvard classroom is filled with a group of nearly fifty individuals from around the United States. The red walls of the room match the love written on the whiteboards. The seats are occupied by a group that has come together for only a short four days in order to innovate, brainstorm, and inspire. The group you are picturing has not met before this summit, nevertheless they have all the bustle and dysfunction of a family that knows one another through and through. Despite their desire to tour Boston, to relax their schedules, or to sit and chit-chat about their common interest – China, the group works tirelessly towards their shared end goal, Pengyou.         The image I’ve just painted for you comes from a real life experience of mine. It was this last March that I attended a Leadership Training Summit at Harvard University for Project Pengyou. I had gotten an e-mail from ISA (the company I studied abroad with the previous spring) that suggested I apply to be a pengyou fellow and promote U.S. – China relations. Upon receiving the e-mail, I did the typical cost/benefit analysis. After weighing the pros and cons and finding grant money to pay for it, I decided to apply.         It was not until the first day of the Summit, though, did I realize the true benefits of the opportunity. Sure the four days ended up being a paid trip to Boston (a check off the bucket list). Sure the trip ended up being a way for me to add “Harvard” to the resume. But, more valuable than anything, was the priceless experience of being in the company of fifty folks who understood a mission in my own heart. It wasn’t the beautiful city of Boston or the Harvard instruction that made the summit worthwhile, rather it was the rally of people who wanted the same thing as I. We wanted then and advocate now for bridge building between two marvelous states, The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.          From my perspective, it often seems that Americans mis-conceptualize the Chinese. The Chinese are either seen as a newly thriving world power with potential or an age old tradition with 4,000 years of perspective. The problem with either way of thinking is that they miss the China of today. Too often it seems China is judged based on its past or on its future. When one dwells on what China was or what China will be, he or she misses what China is. After all, our hindsight is twenty-twenty and our foresight is blind. Our insight, however, is perceptual. Project Pengyou invites Americans to encounter the Chinese not as they were or as they are going to be, but merely as they are. By perceiving China in the “now,” instead of the past or the future, we will be better leaders, better neighbors, and better friends. Hence the name, Project Pengyou.           Now, picture this. I’ve taken the idea with me back to Omaha and I have started a local Project Pengyou Chapter. Likewise, all around the country my fellow pengyous have done the same. We’ve scattered back to our home cities in search of expanding our numbers and building our bridges. Even though we are divided by distance we are shepherded by a task. We are constructing connections and we dare you to join us. What do you see?

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