Portrait of Shanghai: an international church staffer’s perspective

Jeff L.
I met Jeff at small group tonight. After attending Hengshan’s Shanghai Community Fellowship on Sunday, David had decided it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the expats that were here in shanghai. We headed over to the People’s Square, a stunningly well developed area with a lot of upscale shops. A massive building size billboard of Kobe’s new Zoom shoes looms at a key intersection. They sure love their basketball here. Sprawled across another building are Adidas’ five: Chancey Billups, Derrick Rose, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnet, and Dwight Howard.
West Nanjing Road is characteristic of Shanghai’s development but it also hints at the city’s growing affinity towards materialistic consumerism. I guess that’s another story. We maee our way over to the expat small group at one of the member’s apartments. It’s a really nice place and tonight they are joining two community groups here tonight for the end of the year because one of the leaders is out.
They have dinner here tonight so Ricky, David, and I join in on the food and get to meet some of the members of the small groups. It’s quite a global mix of people here in this room. To my left is a guy from Germany. He’s still in college and he’s doing an internship for 10 weeks here in Shanghai and he just got here so he’s been checking out Hengshan’s SCF. I like how universities in other countries incorporate mandatory internships and co-ops during the 3rd or 4th year of studies so their students graduate with solid hands-on experience.
As I glance around the room I spy an Urbana 06 bible and later find that there are people from Brazil, Germany, USA, and other countries here tonight. Jeff comes over and introduces himself to me and this nice apartment turns out to be his place. I mention where I’m from and I find out that Jeff’s also from the bay area. In fact, he was a staffer at GrX before being sent over to Shanghai to help out SCF. I had attended GRX on occasion when I was in Norcal after graduating and have a few friends who attend there. It’s even funnier because it turns out the Jeff is originally from San Diego (Poway). From SD -> SJ -> Shanghai.

Meanwhile, I’ve gone from SJ -> SD …

We had a bit of time so I decided to get to know Jeff’s story about his path to Shanghai. It turns out that Jeff was an engineer by trade a few years ago. He was working for Intel but after a few years there he felt that God was pushing him to serve GRX in a full time position. At GRX they wanted to send Jeff over to Shanghai to serve. Apparently Jeff had made several trips to Shanghai with different experiences and encounters. He had checked out the house churches and the migrant work but it was the international church that drew him most. Now he’s helping out SFC organize community groups throughout the church and all over the area.
I noticed that on Sunday, when David and I had visited a house church, we were very careful to appear to be visiting a friend and made sure not to draw too much attention. Tonight, when we knocked on the door it was pretty much flung open with a loud welcome from our host. Is it a cultural thing or is the international church not worried about regulation, I inquired.
Jeff replies that there is not much regulation because we are all foreigners. We can sing as loud as we want and we can be pretty sure we won’t be bothered. There is a strict law about interacting or inviting locals and that is a line that Hengshan works with the government and obeys. The church on sunday does do government ID checking and the like to make sure they are in compliance.
We settle down after cleaning up dinner and prepare for small group. It’s an intimate setting and everyone is welcoming. Worship is led by two girls and we split into two groups for a study of 1 John 2. Even though Jeff is by title the Community Life Director, the group has several strong leaders running the worship and bible study.
As we wrap up the study Jeff, David, and I end up in the same prayer group together and we get to talk a bit more about our futures in Shanghai. It’s so awesome to hear an ABC’s account of how God has faithfully guided him each step of the way. Here in Shanghai he’s met an amazing girl at Hengshan and they’re both serving together here. Jeff’ll wrap up his last contract year with GrX this year and already he’s been offered a full time position with SCF in Shanghai. It seems like he’s eager to take it, God willing.
Before me tonight are two examples of men who answered God’s call and went when He said “go”. Each have been called to different areas of work but both are furthering the Kingdom. I sit there and ask myself, “Will my path look like either of theirs?”

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