Sometime in the last year, probably nine or ten months ago, a group of leaders sat in a meeting in Beijing and made the final decision close Qufu.
"Yes, we've been at Qufu for twenty-five years," I imagine them saying, "but what about the new vision?"
Ah, the vision.
The organization made a definitive decision about two years ago to change momentum and start moving most teaching teams to urban locations. My town? Not so urban. There are probably around 100,000 people but it feels small and it is small for China. I've heard students call it "backward," which it's not, really, but it's certainly not "urban."
So there the leaders sat (in my imagination), butting their heads up against the vision for perhaps the hundredth time. And they came to the conclusion that this campus and this city simply cannot fit into the new vision, no matter how much anyone wants them to. I trust that these leaders know what they are doing, so I don't plan to debate whether they should have closed Qufu, but I wonder... If they were on the ground here, living this life and loving these people... could they have?
This week I've enjoyed some especially warm times with people here. Yesterday we had a potluck with some of the brothers and sisters from the student group. We don't know them that well, but our time was filled with stories and laughter, and they were genuinely sad to hear that we are all four leaving in less than two months. Tonight I had some senior students over for dinner, along with one of their mothers who is visiting from southern China. I've been friends with these girls for almost two years; I love the long, relaxed conversations we have around the dinner table. Another senior stopped by to tell me she's going home for good in a few days and she will miss me.
I'm reminded of what a special place I've been privileged to live in these last two years.
It may have been organizational decisions that rolled down the line to close Qufu, but we are the ones snipping the heartstrings. We four, with our collective seven years total in Qufu, are the ones with the bittersweet task of packing up twenty-five years of life on this campus. We are the ones who will box up the English lending library and send it off to another school. We are the ones who will walk out of our classrooms knowing that the quality of teaching from the foreign teaching staff will take a big hit with our organization's exit. We are the ones who will pack up apartments that have been painstakingly furnished with years of trips to IKEA, suitcases from home, and packages from America. We are the ones who will walk away from literally hundreds of students clamoring for our attention, our time, our help with oral English, and (of course) pictures with our foreign faces. We are the ones who will walk away from promising opportunities to offer hope and real friendship to hurting and empty students.
In spite of my melodramatics, this change isn't a tragedy, and it isn't even necessarily bad -- it's just life. I believe that God can take care of this campus without us. We have been blessed to be here, but we are not irreplaceable, and I think there are many wonderful things to come for our students, our department, and our city. As for me, I am not just walking away from precious people; I am going to another campus where my students, colleagues, and neighbors will be equally precious.
But it's still sad. There's no other word for it.