[If you read the blog compulsively as soon as each post goes up you may notice this post has changed slightly from its originally posted version. Holly asked for a few of the more salacious gossipy things to be taken out and I did because, really, it’s not like this is important or anything. -JJU]
I’m quite a ways into this and I haven’t really discussed Wang Xuefu and Sun Wen, his wife. They run Zhi Mian Psychological Counselling Institute [where Holly works]. Zhi Mian has a counselling hotline and helps train counsellors in different parts of the province and further afield. It’s a Christian (sort of) organization being supported by MPC. Xuefu and Myrrl have been good friend going back years.
Now Nanjing has a seminary and Amity (a Christian missionary group that deals a lot with teaching English) is based here too. Zhi Mian isn’t associated with any of the churches or groups though; it’s a private business for counselling which happens to be Christian. This is partly to stay out from under the Religious Affairs Bureau’s thumb, partly because there’s some bad blood in the Christian community over who should have been the successor to someone at Amity and Xuefu backed a losing horse loudly, making a bunch of enemies.
There are criticisms of Zhi Mian; that it’s sort of a Mom & Pop organization undeserving of real respect is one of the main ones. Xuefu only recently separated the business bank accounts from their personal finances. And they don’t see any real problem with that. They’re the ones who’ve invested everything into this enterprise so why not?
Evidently they do some very good work, but the problem is that no one wants to pay for counselling. Holly’s job is to write up grant proposals to get them money, and it’s hard when they don’t focus on anything beyond what they think it might take to grab the next grant. Though Holly says when they’re out “in the field” training churches on how to do pastoral counselling she’s very into the whole Zhi Mian thing. This is what they should be doing. This is where his genius comes out. And Holly does speak of him as a genius. He’s done things without any help. He’s got grand vision, or at least the ability to say “this is what we will do” without paying attention to the practicalities. It’s all such a gamble.
Myrrl’s been talking to Xuefu about the idea of leaving a legacy. Myrrl’s getting older and thinking more about it I guess, and MPC is his organization (which is kind of saddening to see it so small these days). All the kids who would maybe have come through here in the past are hitting up Connexus and the Korean Anabaptist Centre instead. A place where they’ve got a community instead of being scattered around like chaff.
Back to Wang Xuefu. He’s in his 40s, not very tall and stares into the middle distance. Often he looks to me like a ten-year-old calculating what he can get away with saying, sort of shyly appraising you. I haven’t heard him speak about his work, though when Holly introduced me it was as a writer. He said he had once written fiction but now worked on other things. He told me about a patient he’d counselled who was obsessive about things and had now turned to god and was improving. His counselling sessions often go long and people can’t pay, says Holly, which makes the “getting foreign money” all the more important.
And he has the humility act down fo getting sympathy, though he’s also hugely self-absorbed and has a hard time listening to people, including (especially?) his wife. He tells people they’re wrong and then suggests what they just said, that kind of thing. Sun Wen is very small and has a scarred face. Maybe a long ago burn? Holly can’t imagine the two of them apart. Not for love, but for completeness. She is the practical part, the one who runs the household and the office and knows how things work. She ran a meeting the other day and Holly was pleased Xuefu only interrupted and contradicted everything she said once or twice. But the two of them do blame others for their mistakes, the “shallow” or “loose” video made by an underpaid intern a year ago when they thought big things were afoot. He was told to make a video and wasn’t given an outline so it didn’t talk about all the things they now wanted out of it. So now they go on about his “lack of professionalism” to the rest of the employees, which isn’t cool. For counsellors they have little idea of how to treat people.
My favourite part about going into that office is how Xuefu doesn’t know how to treat me. I’m not important like Rod or Bert Lobe; I’m just Holly’s friend who’s here for a while. And I’m not falling over myself to talk about him so it’s a bit awkward. I live in that awkwardness so whatever, but he tends to ignore me. He and Sun Wen were grilling Xiao Meng about whether I was Holly’s boyfriend and she took great delight in saying “But don’t you remember? Her boyfriend is in Sichuan! We all saw the pictures!” They’d grilled Holly about a former roommate (who was the daughter of a friend of theirs) and whether she was sleeping at home during a dispute with her mother about the boy she wanted to marry. Holly changed the subject. If I were her I wouldn’t want to stay here either. It’s an office that sounds very draining to work in.christian counselling holly mpc myrrl nanjing redacted sun wen the hangman wang xuefu zhi mian