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Don't Spit Anywhere by Steve Hemphill

The first international mission trip I went on was with Harold Phillips.  Despite that, I've gone on several since.  I even went with him again the next year to the same places in China!  Our Chinese hosts may have thought we were intoxicated because we were laughing most of the time!   It was 1999 and 2000 when we visited Nanning, in the far South, near Vietnam (not to be confused with the much more famous Nanjing).  I had never heard of Nanning even though its population is more than all Missouri.  Everything in China is bigger and/or older than just about everything in the USA.

China is huge! Even though the population of China is over one billion, many parts are still very remote.  One village we visited was barely accessible by automobile.  Upon arrival, a village elder joked with us that the last foreigner they had seen was a retreating Japanese soldier! 

I had traveled extensively globally and often heard myself saying “Oh, that reminds me of “X” back home.”    I never said that in Southern China!  Nothing reminded me of home (except for the sign across the street from our hotel which announced the future arrival of Walmart). 

Speaking of signs, I am reminded of two that really caught my attention.  The first is from an airport which, to the Western eye, really looks odd!  It is an attempt to 'cover all the bases' and leave no stone unturned.”







The second sign is from a hospital and is just plain funny.  It represents the opposite sentiment: “keep it short and simple.”







I think we often fall prey to these same extreme sentiments.  Too often in our attempt to get the message across we list every possible scenario and try to cover every loophole.  Lawyers are particularly bad about this. Just try reading a federal/state statute for example.  If Jesus had tried to list every sin which is a 'no-go area,' it would make for a mighty long list and a boring read.  That's why he spoke in parables and allowed his listeners to 'fill in the blanks' and to apply their own understanding. 

Of course, the Old Testament does give us at least one 'short and simple' list which leaves less wiggle room...The Ten Commandments. 

May we lead our lives somewhere in between these two signs... flexible when trying to be inclusive yet clear and concise when trying to be understood.

Submitted by Steve Hemphill

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