For all those who have ever been to Xiasha (the area of Hangzhou I live in) you will know that there is not much of anything out here to do. About the only Western type food you can get is KFC. And if you are like most people KFC is probably the last place you would request as your only foreign place for food.
Well, about little over a month ago a rumor of a Pizza Hut started to travel around Xiasha. We have all heard that a Pizza Hut was coming this year at a mall they are building close to my campus, but this rumor was about another mall that is a little outside of Xiasha and that a Pizza Hut was already there. So, me and a few others journeyed out on our ebikes trying to discover this hidden mall in the middle of nowhere with a Pizza Hut waiting for us.
Sure enough, out in the middle of nowhere there was a mall. Not any mall, this mall can rival most nice malls found in America. Not that China cannot design good looking places but this mall was out in the middle of nowhere. It made no sense! I could not comprehend what I was seeing. Just think about going out into the country and suddenly coming across a mall that would normally go in the nice part of most cities. I was excited to have the Pizza Hut but I found something else even better “A Starbucks.”
This Starbucks has since become my oasis of safety from the culture of China. I go there to relax, study my Chinese, prepare for class, and to mediate on the Word. However, I did not think this place to be a place of outreach. I came here for me time. What I have discovered is that some of my best talks and opportunities are starting to happen here. I do have my days of not talking to anyone but from time to time I have very nice conversations with people I would have normally not talk to in other settings. I also find myself not irritated with the talks. I think it might have something to do with the relax atmosphere and that I am in a good place mentally. My friend Stan made a comment that made sense. Most people that come to a Starbuck’s tend to speak English much better and most have a better understanding of Western culture. This has helped me to quickly get into deeper and more enjoyable conversations then you might have with someone on the street.
I have decided to make this Starbucks my “third place.” This idea of a “third place” was discovered in a book I am reading called, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost. A “third place” is a place that is neutral to both me and the person I am talking too. A place that has a relaxed atmosphere and people go to get away from work and normal life. In these places most barriers that people put up are temporarily taken down. The exchanging of ideas, even those foreign to you, seem to be tolerated more then in other settings. At times the ideas are entertained or seriously considered. This could lead to more conversations later, or you could at least leave that person thinking about something they normally might have never thought about. I encourage everyone looking for ways to do outreach to discover a “third place.”
I really enjoy my down time, but I have come across an excellent outreach that I cannot ignore. Please remember this opportunity and myself in your daily conversations to Father.
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