Lonna’s Lines, Strange News from around the World (Issue 7, “The Problem with Big Churches & Big Bucks, Part 1”)

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Not many people can say that they’ve visited the biggest church in America and the biggest church in the world.  I went to both of these, not as a welcomed speaker or acclaimed, best-selling author, but as a traveler needing a place to sleep.

I came upon America’s biggest church quite by accident.  I had just arrived in Houston, Texas at the turn of the New Year, 2016.  A winter storm with strong gusts and torrents that blinded my driving pushed my car off the downtown freeway to Lakewood Church one night.  I thought it was odd that the name “Joel Osteen” was lit up in lights next to the church’s name.  The building was a former convention/sports stadium that had been turned into a mega-church.  It boasted several levels, below-ground parking, and an arena that could seat hundreds of thousands.

I parked in the lower-level parking area and found my way inside the church which was hosting many events for children and adults on a Friday night.  I walked past the cafe and bookstore and took an elevator to Level 4 where people gathered for a Celebrate Recovery meeting.  While my husband, still shy about America, waited in the car, I listened to a woman give her testimony of being free from an abusive relationship.  She also played the guitar and sang.  I stayed for the free soup after and asked a woman with a badge if anyone could help me and my husband, new in town and with little money, to find a motel for the night.

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“Oh, you have to come back on Monday when the office is open,” the badged woman informed me.  I thanked her for the soup and mentioned, as I walked away, “I need gas and food, and that’s 3 days away.  I’ve tried all the public welfare agencies.”

A black man handed me $20.  “I don’t know if you are telling the truth or not, but Jesus loves you,” he assured me.

He walked quickly away, before I could thank him.  I found my way back down to the parked car.  We drove to an old auto repair shop not far away to spend the night in our Mazda 5 minivan.  Since we blended in with other parked cars, no police or neighbors bothered us.

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Monday morning I returned.  The church looked more ominous in the daylight.  I walked up its steep entrance ramp, through one of many glass doorways, past a uniformed guard, to the long security desk. Continue reading

Lonna’s Lines, Strange News from around the World (Issue 5, “The Problem with Pentecostals: Prosperity”)

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Most Americans know about TV preachers and that they get money from their viewers.  Many of these TV preachers are  Pentecostals, an often-emotional and loud group of “Christians” whose movement to promote Spiritual gifts, miracles, healing, and especially “speaking in tongues,” was started in Los Angeles, California at the beginning of the 20th Century.

There are many types of Pentecostals.  I have encountered several of these groups, churches, and conferences–and have mixed feelings about them.  Some Pentecostals are humble, kind, and helpful to their fellow human beings.  They believe that God is God and can do whatever miracles He desires through His Spirit.  Others are proud, entitled, promoting the “Prosperity Gospel” view that a real Christian, blessed by God, will have lots and lots of money (and probably not share it with homeless people).  They believe a good Christian gives “tithes” and “gifts” to support “the ministry.”  In conferences, they often take more than one noisy “offering” from the less affluent people there.

The problem with Prosperity Gospel adherents is that their leaders are very, very rich–and proud of it.  Many are found on T.V. shows, running entire TV broadcast businesses and publishing houses.  Some call themselves Dollar, fly in private jets (and sometimes die in them), live in huge mansions on large estates, brag about their yearly income, wear expensive clothes and hair designs, vacation in exotic places, and continue to extract money from their followers with the promise that they, too, will be rich.

Pentecostals draw more on some Old Testament examples of wealthy Jewish leaders than the New Testament teaching of Jesus and his followers, who often marked money as an evil snare and rich people as oppressors of the poor.  Wealth also led to the fall of Old Testament heroes–and the tragic end of their families and personal empires.  Job was the oldest Old Testament rich man who suffered much because of his riches.   Gideon was a hero, mentioned in the book of Judges, who saved Israel from a huge enemy army.  However, he asked for all the gold earrings (and other gold ornaments) from that army, built a giant gold statue near his hometown, got lots of wives and children, and turned Israel back to Idol worshipping.  He also lost all but one of his 70 sons, and his inheritance plunged into nothingness.

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Now for my story.  As you know from my previous issues, I taught English overseas for more than 5 years.  I went alone, with no credit card, backup plan, or help from home (I had no American family to help me).  I lived in the economies where I taught (Russia, Turkey, China).  Sometimes I was paid well; sometimes I wasn’t paid at all.  When I came back to America after this hard duty, I felt like a soldier who had suited up every day to battle language barriers, cultural differences, and dangerous surroundings.  I was attacked by men in all 3 countries (thankfully, I took Self-Defense classes, so I was not raped or killed).  I returned worn out, tired of trying to get around in Taxis driven by people who didn’t understand me, toxic air, acidic water, and nauseating food.  My Armenian/Turkish husband helped for part of my overseas journey, but he could not get a work permit, and his family was poor (better than my entire lack of family). Continue reading

Lonna’s Lines, Strange News from around the World (Issue 4, “Car Crash in Houston and the Problem with Christians and Gold”)

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I’m still homeless in America.  A year ago I left China suddenly, flying away from a well-paid teaching job at Wenzhou-Kean University because the smoky air became unbreathable.  I used money I had saved in China to buy a 2014 Mazda 5 minivan with just 15,000 miles on it.  The glittery-silver vehicle was the first I had owned in the 5 years I had taught English overseas.  I admired its graceful lines, stylish red taillights, and the way the back 2 seats could fold down flat so that I could sleep there, on my foldable memory foam mattress.  A rear cup holder gave me great comfort.  I could sit up, drink tea, and admire the world from my little van home, safe from rain that wandered down its tinted glass windows.

My Armenian/Turkish husband Jack and I stayed in Southern California through the 2015 winter holidays, then left to start a new life in Houston, Texas.  We arrived after a long drive across deserts, on January 1,2016.  The sprawled city seemed strange, highways circling and intersecting it like a cut-edged puzzle.  Our first week there, we witnessed a car crash that bloodied the corner near our modest motel.  It took me a long time to find a teaching job, and then it was only part-time at a local college, hourly, with no benefits.  We tried to rent a nice apartment but lost our large deposit and ended up sleeping in our van at an old auto repair shop in downtown Houston.

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Lonna’s Lines: Strange News from around the World (Issue 3, “Homeless in America”)

All of us face challenges.  In America, our challenges are usually not as difficult as people who face civil war in South Sudan, where children walk miles each day just to find a safe place to sleep.  Yet many people think life is easy for Americans. I say, not true. Which do you think was more difficult for this American (Lonna Lisa Williams) to do:

1. Leave my California home in October, 2010 for Russia to teach English because I could not find a job in my own country even though my grandfather graduated from Yale University, was a professor at UNC, and handed the torch of education to my teacher mother and to me. Endure a long winter where I wore chains on my boots to run across the ice that coated every surface.  Teach English to 13-year-olds only to end up speaking and reading in Russian because no one really wanted to speak English and hated America. Even though my grandmother was Russian, I learned their alphabet and simple words as a child, and I look Russia, most people avoided me because I was the “Amerikanka.” Discover that Vodka is easier to get than good tea, Russian food is bland and full of potatoes, and everyone shares alcohol and violence in the 3rd-class wagons of the Russian train from Samara to Moscow. Endure the 17-hour journey with 50 bunks to a wagon, accidentally stepping on a sleeping Russian woman who screamed when I descended from my top bunk. Cry on the trash bin in the back of the wagon. Kiss a Russian stranger between the wagons, in that blessed cold, dark connector, as snow fields slipped past and a full moon shone on frozen rivers. We, Russian and American, kissed without words, like lovers from a war movie who will never meet again, showing how tragedy is really, really Russian and American.

2. Escape Russia in April, 2011 (when snow still brushed the train tracks and no leaves adorned black trees) to fly to Istanbul (abounding with flowers and spicy food); learn a new language; adapt to another culture; teach English again; marry a Turk; cover the 2013 Freedom Protests; get attacked by pepper-spraying police; lose a job for being a Christian (but walk around the corner to get a better one at another private language school); get threatened with death for being a Christian; teach at a Turkish university; and leave for China just before Turkish police showed up to arrest me for a photo I’d published.  Later I wrote 2 journalistic-style Kindle books about Turkey which have not had much recognition. Continue reading

Lonna’s Lines, Strange News from Around the World (Issue 2, “Leaving Korea, Coming Home?”)

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A Korean groom and bride on display at Incheon Airport’s Native Korean Crafts store

After 3 weeks of being Stuck in Seoul, I finally got the luggage I had to leave behind in China–and air tickets home. My last images of Korea melt into airport shots:  Incheon Airport, outside of Seoul, is the biggest in the world, like a city on an island. Tokyo Airport is the most high-tech and beautiful I have seen. LAX caused delays in customs for my husband, and I do not know how life will be back in California with no house or job. My daughter did not meet me for her birthday, nor did my son. Maybe I will go back to Asia to teach. Maybe I will push past the “Do Not Enter” sign I saw in the Los Angeles International Airport–and see what happens.

My newest surreal video of my trip from Seoul to Tokyo to Los Angeles

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A tiny, foldable paper cup, half full of water, from a Korean hospital; the worker consults a doctor

If you like my Blog and free videos and photos, please check out my books.

Lonna’s Lines: Strange News from Around the World (Issue 1, “Stuck in Seoul”)

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I’ve decided to snub the establishment and start my own newspaper.  I worked for 3.5 years as a journalist for the “Mountain News” of Lake Arrowhead, California.  I labored for several years, inside Turkey, writing news and photo essays for the Canadian online news magazine “Digital Journal.”  I even taught Journalism for an American university inside China.

Now I’m just going to bring you strange news from around the world because I seem to get places.  With little money and often just my smart phone camera and my own 2 feet, I bring you photos, videos, and headlines from far-off places.  Some things I report first-hand.  Some may be Breaking News.  Others I may adapt from reputable online news sources.  I may not give you links to those sources.  Look them up for yourselves.  We all should do that, anyway, and not trust today’s Media.

Enjoy my first issue.  It features 2 musical sideshow videos I uploaded to my YouTube Channel.  Photos of Seoul, South Korea:  its people, places, objects, fashion, pets, and plants.  You see, I literally got stuck there on my way to teach English again in China.  China wouldn’t renew my tourist visa.  Now I’m looking for another teaching job and keeping busy with what I do best:

  • assimilate world news
  • write
  • take photos

I hope you enjoy the videos.  If you want to know more about how I got here and what I hope to do next, send me an email:  selahtrilogy@yahoo.com.  Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or just check my YouTube Channel from time to time.

All the best,

Lonna Lisa Williams

P.S.  Most of all, don’t forget to check out my books (paperback and Kindle) on amazon.com.

Stuck in Seoul:

Surreal Seoul:

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Your author poses in a ladies’ restroom 3D mirror on top of the Lotte Department Store in Seoul

Lonna Sells Her Books

Watch Lonna Lisa Williams sell her books in the California mountains, at Big Bear Lake’s Copper Q Cafe, 2 summers in a row (2014 and 2015).  She should be there again this August, so come meet her and get your signed copy!  In the meantime, please buy her Kindle eBooks for just $2.99.  You can download a free Kindle reader to any smartphone, tablet, or computer.  If you like traditional style, Lonna’s paperbacks are about $10.  Enjoy!

You can buy Lonna’s books here:  http://www.amazon.com/Lonna-Lisa-Williams/e/B006ZISIFU

Shanghai Christian Fellowship Sings Together

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Shanghai Christian Fellowship sings

Wonder where lively Christians are? Check out Shanghai, China. I visited Shanghai Christian Fellowship (also called Shanghai Community Fellowship).  I saw people from many countries, races, and cultures singing together with love and peace. To get there, I traveled 4.5 hours on a speed train, 40 minutes on a subway, and on foot. I also had to rent a hotel room and eat out. So next time you complain about going to your church down the street on a Sunday where people don’t seem to really care about Jesus or each other, watch my video. Christ rose from the dead, and Christians are happy about that!  The People’s Republic of China allow Christians to meet in this historic church, and for certain services only foreign passport holders can attend.  Next time, you’re in Shanghai, check it out!  Watch the video.  If you like travel adventure, also check out my books.

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Shanghai Christian Fellowship is a church packed with people from all backgrounds and cultures

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Lonna’s Survival Guide for China

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West Lake at Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province (near Wenzhou)

After living and teaching English in China for 2 years (and teaching in Russia for 6 months and Turkey for 2.5 years), I have learned a few things that may help anyone who comes to Wenzhou-Kean University (WKU) or any other place in China. My background as a journalist helped me compile facts from a variety of sources and summarize them here. Enjoy!

  1. Get RMB (Chinese currency) cash at the airport in China before you leave the airport or as soon as you can find a bank. Nobody accepts dollars or other foreign cash, and the only places I’ve discovered that accept American credit/debit cards like Visa are the nicer hotels (especially in touristy areas), Pizza Hut, and Starbucks.
  1. If possible, bring a working laptop computer. You will need it! Many American or other foreign smart phones may be difficult or impossible to fit with a Chinese SIMM card, especially at China Mobile. Unicom is the best company to find SIMM cards to fit non-Chinese phones. You can buy a cheap, basic Nokia mobile phone that can display English and Chinese texts (SMS) and send and receive calls (with other features like a calculator, calendar, and flashlight) for only about 170 RMB (less than $30) online, but you need a Chinese person to order it for you from taobao.com, the really cheap and great Chinese internet-ordering sight where everything is much cheaper than in the stores.

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Spring at West Lake, Hangzhou, China

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Children and adults play in a park by West Lake

I went to West Lake in Hangzhou, China in May and saw so many colorful flowers and people.  Walk with me by the lake, on paths across stone bridges, through parks, temples, pavilions, and historic buildings with statues.  West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province.  For 2000 years it has been the source of inspiration for poets, artists, photographers, and even filmmakers.  My students told me the romantic story of the immortal White Snake who became a woman and fell in love with a mortal man.  The turtle god of the lake was jealous, so he imprisoned her under a pagoda.  However, the man still loved the White Snake Woman, and they were eventually reunited and had a son.  This story has been made into television series and films.  Emperors from many Chinese Dynasties visited West Lake and inscribed its famous “Ten Scenes” with poetic names like “Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds,” “Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon, and “Orioles Singing in the Willows.”  As far back as the 14th Century, Europeans visited West Lake, including Italian explorer Marco Polo, who wrote that Hangzhou “is the most splendid heavenly city in the world.”  Spring and romance are here in China!

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