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What on Earth is a GIG?

Previously published in June 2004

We met Mrs. Jiao many years ago when the energetic grandmother gave a sermon in Los Altos, California. “Please, come visit us and our church in Shanghai!” she said to my mother in Mandarin. “China is changing so fast. It would be good to bring your girls over, to see the changes and God’s work here.” That July, my family and I flew into China to visit Mr. and Mrs. Jiao. Soon, my younger sister and I were savoring soft garlic cloves, freshly steamed buns, and marinated eggs from the local street markets.

They gave us their bedroom and slept on blankets spread across the kitchen linoleum. We protested their generosity, but Mrs. Jiao insisted. “We want you to feel at home here.”

Mr. Jiao smiled of the tour or she has my future doctor doing he could be a thank you later by behind metal-rimmed glasses: “Yes! We’re quite comfortable on the ground.”

Mom sighed and shook her head. “You are too kind.”

Dad beamed. “You see girls, this is the amazing Mainland hospitality. We have a lot to learn don’t we?” Little did I know, I would soon encounter an unforgettable learning experience. I call it a GIG. It happened on a train ride.

The train ride from Hang Zhou to Shanghai would have been comfortable, since Mr. and Mrs. Jiao, and my family were assigned a cushioned sleeper compartment. But we had to sit upright bracing ourselves against the wall, or slumped with no back support at the edge of the bunk since there were eight of us, including two strangers cramped into a four person compartment.

Mrs. Jiao turned to the young couple. “Isn’t it incredible that we’re having such cool weather in July?” she asked. They nodded. “God has been so good to us. Do you know that from the moment my friends flew in from America and started traveling in China, the weather cooled down in every city we arrived in?” 

Mrs. Jiao continued, “It’s incredible. I guess God knew our friends from California could not take the hot, humid summers here.”  The young couple laughed. “How about you?” Mrs. Jiao asks, “Do you believe in God?”

“I am Buddhist,” says the young woman, “in fact I’m on my way to the temple to burn incense. My husband doesn’t really believe, but he’s here to accompany me.”

“Ah, what a good husband. And you a devout Buddhist. To be devout is very admirable,” said Mrs. Jiao. “But what if you in all your sincerity are devout to the wrong thing? Have you heard of Jesus who has control over even the weather?”

“I’ve heard a little about Him before, but not a lot. ”

“Ah, okay, so let me start from the beginning. In the beginning, God created light, land, and every living creature on earth. Then God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and made them rulers over all the earth.  He only had one command do not eat fruit from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But they disobeyed God…” For the next two and a half hours, Mrs. Jiao told the stories of creation all the way down to Christ and his crucifixion. 

“People told me that Jesus died on the cross before, but I didn't really understand why.  It makes much more sense now.  Thank you.” The young woman excuses herself and steps into the narrow corridor outside our compartment. A few moments later, I dangle off the top rail of the bunk and let go until my socks touch the floor.  I peer around the corner and see the young woman staring out the huge corridor windows as the trees whiz by. I peer out at the landscape and back up at her, but she does not notice me. I crawl back on the bunk.  We were almost in Shanghai before she returned.

“Nice meeting you!” says Mrs. Jiao.

“You too.” says the young woman.

“If you want to learn more, you can find a local church when you return home,” Mrs. Jiao said to her before we exited the train.

“Thank you, again. I will think about it,” said the young woman.

That was it. That was my first GIG experience. What’s a GIG you ask? GIGS are Groups Investigating God where non-Christians and Christians investigate God together. I didn’t stumble across this term until years later through the nationwide campus ministry, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. But that’s what it was—a GIG. And although I do not know that young woman’s final choice, Mrs. Jiao helped her investigate about God and God had blessed me with the opportunity to witness it. Since then, God has brought me into other GIGs—some as informal as in China, and others more structured like a Bible study. Mrs. Jiao has since passed on, but the Word which she so diligently shared will never passed away.

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