So since we've been here, our Sunday fellowship meeting has met in 3 different locations. The first move was caused by a combination of outgrowing our space and a remodel underway in the old location. The second move was a little more interesting. It seems that the RAB (Relig. Affairs Bureau) -- i.e. the government agency responsible for monitoring relig. affairs -- deemed our second location to be a bit inappropriate. Evidently it was too close to the city center, too close to a train station (and therefore too close to lots of passers-by), "too visible" since we were meeting in a building that also housed apartments, offices, and a shopping mall, and there were too many entrances to the building, thus making it difficult to be properly monitored.
They actually had given permission for the location earlier, but evidently something changed and within the timespan of about 2 weeks, we were told to relocate. We found another suitable location, safely tucked away on a quiet side street. This last Sunday was the second meeting to be held in the new location, and our first week back in the country. Because of the new location, we had a visitor from the RAB; I guess he is our "case-manager" so to speak. He came in the service and had a few minutes to say a few words. He spoke enthusiastically about our participation in the Olympics. I'm honestly not sure that many of us have anything to do with the Olympics, but he was pleasant enough. We then gave them a gift; a box of Walkie-Talkies to assist with all of their work during the Olympics.
And that was that. He enjoyed the warm reception, but he didn't really seem to understand what we were all doing there. Nor did the restaurant workers (the new location is a restaurant); who kept peering in the doors during parts of the service that probably seemed a bit bizarre -- a group of foreigners singing with a live band. Hmmm... they always knew we were crazy.
My favorite part of the new location?! The wet bar out front. Mind you, I'm not exactly partaking. Hard liquor isn't my thing... but how many of you can say that your Fellowship meets in a bar?! And how many of you know that a split in your Fellowship would occur if you did meet in a bar...?? Hmm... funny how things change when options are removed. :)
PS: People often don't realize we can go to a Fellowship. Foreigners can gather in approved meeting places, but only those with a foreign passport are allowed to enter. Once we're in, we can talk about and sing about whatever we want... but, we still have to work with our hosts to make the meetings acceptable.
PPS: Sorry for the weird vocab in this post... hopefully all of you know what I mean by Fellowship.