This story is about G‑d. This story is about my trip to China, and how G‑d showed up there and was with me, a lone Jew far from home. It is about how my faith and dedication to becoming more observant and keeping Shabbat brought beauty into my physical world.

When given the opportunity to teach college students in China, I agreed with enthusiasm. Overpopulated China, with its streets buzzing with action. Cars, mopeds, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians seemingly moving at the same time, vying for the same precious space. Not to mention all the historical landmarks, including the Great Wall of China.

Yet its tremendous population contains only aThe teaching schedule involved classes on two Saturdays tiny fraction of Jews, perhaps just a few thousand.

I was excited about my upcoming trip, and the wheels were already in motion when I tripped upon some very pertinent information—namely, that the teaching schedule involved classes on two Saturdays. Given that I was relatively new to being Shomer Shabbat (observing the Shabbat), I consulted with my rabbi. “Can I work on Shabbos? How about if my teaching assistant handles moving the slides from one to the next, and I just lecture?”

“You should not work on Shabbat” was his answer.

Despite my fear of the answer that I would get from my university, even the chance that someone else would get the assignment, I decided to push forward and explain that I would be delighted to teach, but cannot do so on the two Saturdays in question because I am Jewish and observe the Sabbath.

And G‑d went to work right away.

Incredulously, the University in China agreed to shift my teaching days so that I worked two days longer and did not have to teach on Shabbat. That was only the beginning of the blessings I would receive for making the commitment to G‑d.

Upon arrival, I was able to pick between two rooms in the hotel. I selected the larger room, but quickly realized that it was too cold; it was at the end of a hall and the heat had been off. I patiently waited as the room heated up slowly. But once I realized that the shower would be lukewarm and I was unlikely to get hot water, I decided to ask the hotel manager to change my room.

Since my colleagues—10 professors who teach with me in the United States—had checked in and were all in the same room type, I assumed I would get a room like each of them. Their rooms were attractive and reasonable, containing a queen bed and basic amenities. The room I had started out with was in fact larger than the rooms they were in.

After I was finishing dinner a day later, the hotel manager whispered in my ear, “Renee, I have a room for you that you are going to like. But do not tell anyone about it because I don’t have one for everyone.” And off we went to see it. When she opened the door and told me that this room was the only one of its kind and the best in the hotel, I already felt G‑d’s Divine intervention. But when I actually walked in, there was no doubt this was, in fact, the handiwork of G‑d. This was not a coincidence.

The room was large, larger than the room I had selected originally. There was a living room and a bedroom, and a kitchen area with a sink. I was stunned as I looked around, even more so when she pointed out the brand-new washing machine. I already knew about the dingy and cold laundry room on the floor with an antiquated washing machine that everyone else had to use. She proceeded to show me the bathroom with heated seat. And so it went. I told no one. I kept this little secret between G‑d and me.

I have to admit that I was nervous, being alone, about how Shabbat would be in China. I consoled myself by telling myself I was not alone, G‑d was with me. In fact, it was clear that my devotion to the Shabbat brought the blessings of this room from G‑d to enable me to easily celebrate the Sabbath. On Friday night, I ushered in Shabbat by lighting candles using a travel Shabbat candle holder that I have from my mother. Instead of having to light candles in a bedroom, in a standard room where the bed and tables were all together, I was blessed with a living room where I could separate myself from the bedroom and light candles in peace. And on Shabbat morning, while the other professors went to work and I did not, I was again provided with this comfortable space to pray. It was easy to imagine being at home in shul because the environment G‑d blessed me with was so serene. I could make my connection with ease, even though in the physical sense I was alone. But in the spiritual sense, I felt G‑d, even across the world in China.

After praying, I was prepared to read and walk around outside. What else could I do?

And again, G‑d blessed me. There was a knockThey invited me to eat lunch with them at my door. There stood my co-teacher, who had come to the hotel specially to keep me company. The hotel manager was with her. They invited me to eat my lunch together with them. Afterwards, my co-teacher escorted me on a walk around the city. It was obvious to me that G‑d was helping me move closer to Him; as I move to become more observant, G‑d adjusted my environment to help me do so!

Similar blessings came on the second Shabbat. The concerns I had about staying two days longer than the other professors were also abated. Not only was I surrounded by staff at the university and my co-teacher during those two days, my students showered me with flowers, cards and handmade gifts on the last day. I clearly saw that I was not alone; I distinctly felt G‑d’s presence.

There is no doubt in mind that G‑d is everywhere. And He was with me, right there in China.