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We continue the interview today with Connie Gibson. She’s been a teacher in China for more than 12 years and is looking at this being her last year due to cancer. Yesterday we heard about her teaching experience (and if you didn’t read it, GO now. She’s a testimony to the difference a teacher can make on a life and system). And now for part two of the interview.

What are some of the Chinese dishes you will miss?

I will miss all of my favorite dishes at a place I call “the Famous Restaurant.” Actually it is a small hole in the wall where I have grown to love the owners very much, which I used years ago as a required community project for my speech class and a group of visiting foreigners from Chicago. We cleaned and painted the entire place. It took a couple of days and my students had never done anything like that before. The loved it and the food. Later, I paid to have the floors all replaced, evened and retiled. I love the potato dish and the sweet and sour stuffed lotus root the best. {Oh Connie, I love this. I ask about food and you share how you have fed others. Even here, you are teaching us. Thank you}

Being “Connie Mom” is a significant part of your role/identity in China. In what ways have you been able to mother/care for your students?

I don’t know where to begin to explain this role. I could literally write a book (and have, kind of) telling about how this all got started (Mom 2 in the USA before ever coming to China).

Mostly I try to “see” the best they can be, believe in them and all of their possibilities. Actually, it all boils down to LOVE. I love them. However, I am very strict with them. I’ve been told that I am stricter than the strictest Chinese teacher {Wow, that’s saying something!}. I’m used to giving out hugs generously and when there is a student who has faced a great tragedy I try to listen to them, give them a shoulder to cry on and mostly to love them with an understanding heart and encourage them that they CAN make it through. I love my title and position of “Connie Mom” and I take it very seriously. I’m thankful and blessed by the respect and love they have for me as well.

I also try to let them know that there is no way I could ever come up with this kind of love myself. It’s because of God who has given me this love for them and for China. Left to my own ability, my passion and love would fall short, dwindle and die. Only God’s continual love and prompting could keep me coming back for 12.5 years. And I still don’t want to leave!

What two things you will not miss?

I will not miss the changing weather in Nanchang… however, I have to say, it’s been really unusually great this semester. I won’t miss the constant last minute changing of things. One of my greatest frustrations here is that I am trying to teach my students how to plan a life, but it’s nearly impossible when they can’t even plan a day, without someone changing it on them constantly.

Connie, your time in China is sadly coming to an end due to having cancer. When were you diagnosed and what type of cancer do you have?

December 2010, I found a lump in my left breast while showering. When I returned to the States in January of 2011, for two surgeries for different reasons, we put one of them on hold and found out that the lump was malignant; I had stage 2+ breast cancer. They removed my left breast and 13 lymph nodes. The pathology report showed that two of the nodes were malignant. It had spread.

How are you doing now?

For a period of time the cancer did not spread any further and it was under control. I had done a tremendous amount of research and studying and decided not to do any of the chemotherapy, radiation, etc. What they now call “standard of care.” I chose to go the “holistic” approach and changed my diet and life style drastically! That was a great way to go for me!!! Had I chosen to take hazardous chemotherapy, it would have basically destroyed my immune system and made me terribly sick.

God had not called me back from China (as He had so clearly called me there) and I did not want to be in China with a compromised immune system!! I did well until this last time I went home and had more PET/CT scan and blood work done and the tests showed that my cancer had metastasized into my bones. It’s in my spine (the T6, T7), both hips, both femurs in my legs and the left pelvis. I am starting to experience more pain than I am used to and my oncologist (who is amazing and wonderful!!! The first one “fired me” as a patient, saying he could no longer handle this long distance health care AND I never did anything he told me to anyway.) says that it is not from my arthritis but is the cancer.

Connie, I think what I’ll remember from today’s part of the interview is the importance of love first and foremost. Bob Roberts has a new book out called Bold As Love and it reminds me of you. Thanks for sharing .

Come back tomorrow as we learn from Connie about life with cancer.

Leave A Comment

  1. Joann December 5, 2012 at 6:50 am - Reply

    Was it really 12 and a half years ago that Connie sat front and center in every session and class of new teacher orientation? Seems like yesterday.

    OK, I have a story about Connie and her hugs. During her first or second semester, I was dispatched to Nanchang to check on the teaching team there. Connie was still learning her way around the campus and the culture, but her love for China and everyone she met was already overflowing — yes, through the hugs! I will never forget walking with her to a market off campus. As we approached the campus gate, she recognized one of the guards (a young peasant boy with a uniform). Not content with a smile, a wave and a “ni hao,” she walked right up to the poor fella and gave him a big bear hug. I thought he would die of fright right on the spot.

    I debated whether or not to say anything to her. If it had been any other teacher I would have suggested to them that hugging a security guard on campus was definitely NOT culturally appropriate behavior. But I could also see that asking Connie not to hug would probably crush her spirit. “Only you can get away with this,” I told her…..and then gave her a great big hug.

    Connie….you’re the greatest!

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      Amy December 5, 2012 at 7:13 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing this memory!

    • Connie Gibson December 5, 2012 at 1:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing that experience Joann.. I forgot all about it but then I’m so used to hugging everyone on every level of society and so often I didn’t think of that as anything unusual… :~)

  2. Nita Kulesa December 5, 2012 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Wow! Connie sounds like a marvelous, spirit-filled lady! I’m inspired by her story. What courage to deny cancer the power to diminish her ministry.

    AND . . . speaking of hugs, I’m looking forward to collecting one in a couple of weeks! Love, Momma K.

  3. Kwen December 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    You inspire me Connie…to live Life in the large, to let all that He has put in you to overflow and to leave the consequences to Him. And what amazing consequences we have been seeing all these years! Everytime I see you, I hear of more and more projects and more and more outcomes of this and that. You are ever-sprouting and fruit is just popping up all the time, everywhere! It is as if the creative force cannot be held back. I want to learn to be more like you and have that courage to be FULLY who He made me to be. I love you.

    • Connie Gibson December 6, 2012 at 1:17 am - Reply

      Thank you so much Kwen… I appreciate you and your continued support over the years!!! I’ll add to Issac’s comment too and say thanks for the great breakfast when we were there in Hong Kong. Just wish you could have been there to hear my son Aaron perform on his bass and sing and of course hear me speak again… another time.. I love you so much.. Connie

  4. Chase December 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Well, Caleb stole my thunder in his comment on the first post, but LAUGHTER immediately comes to mind when I think of Connie! Spontaneous, unfiltered, infectious laughter. To combat cancer she’s taken the holistic approach, which requires a barrel of supplements a day, but I sure think laughter has done its part in giving her strength.

    Then there are the conversations where her eyes peer deeply into your heart. It makes you feel uneasy and loved at the same time. It’s the look my own mother gives me. A part of you wants to retreat behind your defenses, but then the love in her eyes slowly brings you out from hiding. In exchange for the honesty you give her, Connie gives even more honesty and often a story that reflects her insight and empathy. At the end of a conversation with Connie, you always walk away with truth (and a hug, of course). You know that you are loved.

    Connie is someone I’ll tell my grandchildren about one day. About her obedience. Her boldness. Her faith. I’ll tell them of the many things I gleaned from her in just one year (and maybe share some of the videos of her laughing!).

    I’ll finish with one of the first descriptions given to me of Connie when I arrived in China and before meeting her: “She’s gonna have a whole bunch of jewels in her crown one day.” Amen to that.

    • Avatar photo
      Amy December 7, 2012 at 5:43 am - Reply

      I second that! Thanks Chase.

    • Connie Gibson December 11, 2012 at 6:38 am - Reply

      Thank you Dear Chase! What a year it was… the year you were here. We really DID have some incredible talks and times of sharing. I’m absolutely thrilled that you are married to your precious sweetheart and that it appears as if the two of you will return together to our beloved China and hopefully “The Chang” as we lovingly call it. I sure wish I could be here when the two of you return!!

      Your impact you have made on me, our team, the students and the FAO office is HUGE!. Ruby and those in the their office call you “Mr. Sunshine” or “Smiley”. That tells you how much you are already liked and more importantly LOVED.

      How I wish that I could have been at your beautiful and fun wedding. Thanks goes to someone for posting some of the pictures and allowed some of us to “be there” with you in spirit at least.

      As far as the movies or video’s of my laughing, I’m afraid that Caleb has taken care of that for you… he included my “cackling as he calls it” in a much longer video that he made of his adventures in Jiangxi and posted it on the net… FUNNY.

      I deeply appreciate your kind words and loving heart. Thank you also for passing my story on to your children and grandchildren…. years away from now when that time comes…. hee hee. It pleases me and lightens my heart to know that I was able to make that kind of impression on you that you’d “pass it on.” I love you so much Chase!! Our time together was WAY TOO SHORT! Connie Mom

  5. Michelle December 7, 2012 at 9:57 am - Reply

    The super power of Hugs so fits. The very first time I met Connie, I was new to China and a little overwhelmed, but she enveloped me in a hug that made everything better. It was nice to feel safe even though everything was new and a little scary. I enjoyed just seeing her smile that year as short as our time together was. I always remember that fist day. Thanks Momma Connie.

  6. Connie Gibson December 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Thank you Michelle, for sharing. Connie

  7. Angel Xu December 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Having read each part several times this afternoon, I was greatly saddened by the new that my dearest Connie Mom might not be back to China next year. She is my mentor and forever life coach! I still remember the first day when she asked us who we really were and helped us search for the possible answers. It was a self-discovery journey which I am eternally grateful. Those lessons I learned from her have been passed onto my students. Life is like a speech contest regardless of the level, and each round of competition is a leap of faith. Although we can’t always win, we give a go, we commit to excellence. Connie has her unique ways of inspiring her students, her faith, hope, love and strength have a positive impact on us.

    • Connie Gibson December 18, 2012 at 7:25 am - Reply

      Thank you Dear Angel! I am thankful for you and your kind words. I’m also thankful that you learned and then adapted my love as well as my lessons to pass on to your own students. Having seen you at your school and with your students, I KNOW you are a great teacher!!! Congratulations on the accomplishments your students have made not only in English contests but in every aspect of their life and growth. I’m so glad that you have successfully returned from your studies at Edinburg University. I’m looking forward to seeing you before I leave. I love you! I always smile when I am reminded of our very first speech class that you were an important part of! Mom

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