To Xian, China – June 5, 1986
This morning we unexpectedly boarded a plane to fly from Nanjing to Xian in western China. This quick change of plans caused us to skip seeing the Nanjing bridge. We’re all learning to go with the flow. But I thank the Lord because we will have an extra day in Xian. I hope to see Mrs. Li, wife of one of the university students I know back home. I also hope to visit Mr & Mrs. P., American Christians who have been teaching English at a college for two years.
This morning I read that Jesus is my best friend. I’m so glad He goes before me on this path and paves the way.
“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15 NKJV).
Right now I’m listening to my micro-recorder play the wonderful hymn, “Savior like a shepherd lead us; Much we need Thy tender care. In Thy pleasant pastures feed us; For our use Thy folds prepare. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Thou hast bought us Thine we are.”
So far, I’ve given out about ten gospels of John. I’m frustrated because the tour is so packed with activities that I can’t find time to get out and meet people. Our communist tour guide monitors our every move to make sure we don’t talk with the people too much. Perhaps I will omit some of the activities in Xian since we won’t be visiting a hospital.
Our excellent city tour guides have such a sense of humor! They speak English well, especially considering that most of them have never left the country. Everyone studies English and learns basic phrases on the government-run TV stations.
We have great fun bargaining with the shopkeepers. If I walk away without buying anything, they follow me down the street and try and make a better deal. Free trade seems to be taking hold in China. The nurses who have also visited Russia said the Chinese have much more freedom.
I love the cute children chattering together as they walk hand in hand through museums. The proud parents treasure their one child. I wonder if China will quickly become a child-centered society.
Time for the plane to land. Plane safety is absent with no seat-belts and open overhead bins so any turbulence would cause our luggage to fall on our heads. The stewardess has walked up and down the aisle the entire trip handing out fans, snacks, and small bottles of oil that are supposed to cure everything. Thank You, Lord, for safety.
My roommate and I took a wild taxi ride in the dark night to Mrs. Li’s apartment. At the intersections, the driver slowed, flashed his headlights, looked both ways, and then zoomed across after turning out his lights again. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed. The kind driver walked us up four flights of stairs and somehow found Mrs. Li’s unmarked door in the pitch-black hallway.
She lives with her parents and her new baby boy in two rooms with one dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Even though we could barely see each other, they gave us a warm welcome. I gave Mrs. Li several gifts from her husband for their new baby who he has not met and gave her photos of her husband that I took before I left. Her baby had tiny pieces of tape on his ear to hold the acupuncture needles in place to cure his illness.
They called a translator to come to help us who works at the Xian Hotel. I was unsure if he was a Communist block parent. While Carla talked with him, I shared the gospel with Mrs. Li in Chinese. I recited John 3:16 and showed it to her in the gospel of John that I gave her. I’m not sure how much she understood, but I asked the Lord to take my stumbling Chinese words and make them clear to her. She will meet me tomorrow at my hotel and send some things back to her husband with me.
The translator volunteered to try and track down Mr. and Mrs. P for me tomorrow. The unreliable telephone connections make it nearly impossible to call someone. My Chinese teacher in Ohio warned me about the phones. Only God can work out our meeting.
Xian, June 7, 1986
This dingy old gray cinder-block Russian hotel with threadbare worn dark red carpet smelling of stale garlic is my least favorite one thus far. Carla and I left the light on in the bathroom all night to keep the cockroaches from running all over us.
This morning, we went to see the impressive buried army of terracotta soldiers. When farmers dug a water well in 1974, they uncovered numerous life-size clay warriors buried around 300 B.C. to care for their emperor in his afterlife. Originally, they were painted in bright colors with intricate facial details. Twelve years later, they have only begun to uncover the estimated 8000 man army complete with horses and chariots. With fascination, we watched archaeologists work under a large canopy built to protect the worksite. The clay soldiers are now a major tourist attraction in China, but the government struggles with building enough hotels to keep up with the demand.
Afterward, we bargained for things in the nearby market. I watched one man make noodles, boil them, and then serve them in a bowl with a pair of wooden chopsticks. After the person finished eating, he gave the bowl and sticks a quick wipe with a towel, refilled the bowl, and handed them to the next person in line. We were instructed not to buy anything from the street stands to avoid food sickness. They eat wheat noodles here in the north rather than rice grown in southern China.
When I returned to the hotel, Mr. P telephoned me. Somehow the translator contacted him today. Mr. P told the clerk at the hotel desk what to tell my taxi driver, and I arrived without mishap in the daylight. I asked the driver to wait while I visited with Mr. and Mrs. P for about an hour. They gave me a tour of the recently opened small campus. They have two small children and had no heat last winter where the temperatures plummeted to zero degrees regularly. Finally, they obtained some coal heaters. The five other American teachers all got frostbite.
Each one teaches about 15 students. They combine their classes several times a week for group activities. The teachers aren’t allowed to mention God in the classroom but can speak with the students who approach them after class. They give a Bible to any student who asks for one. The students talk freely with them and resent the government assigning them to be a teacher, giving them no choice of an occupation. They are also sad and upset that they are only permitted to have one child after they marry.
The tight living quarters frustrate the English teachers and conflicts arise because they all have strong personalities. When the Americans leave the compound, they face anti-foreigner remarks from the Chinese. But all the teachers want to give the gospel of Jesus Christ to each student and willingly endure the difficult living circumstances.
Although Xian was my least favorite city, the Lord blessed me with the most actual contacts with the local people. Joyfully, Mrs. Li and I met again the next year when she came to Ohio to visit her husband. The government made her leave her baby behind with her parents to ensure that both Mr. and Mrs. Li would return to China. Mr. Li’s son was three years old before he finally met him for the first time in China. He made a great sacrifice to obtain an American education.