To Xian, China – 1986
We’re on the plane this morning from Nanjing to Xian in western China. There was a quick change of plans so we will not be seeing the Nanjing bridge. I thank the Lord because this will give me an extra day in Xian. I hope to see Mrs. Li, wife of one of the University students I know back in the Midwest. I also hope to visit Mr & Mrs. P who are Christian Americans who have been teaching English at a college in Xian for two years. I read how Jesus is my best friend. I’m so glad He is with me all the way.
“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15 KJV).
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 with tracts. It’s frustrating because the tour is so packed with activities that I can’t find time to get out and meet the people. Our communist agent is with us every step of the way monitoring our every move so we don’t talk with the people too much. I think I’m going to drop out of some of the activities in Xian since we won’t be going to a hospital.
The city tour guides we have had so far are really excellent with such a sense of humor! They speak English very well, especially considering that most of them have never left the country. There are English lessons on all the government run TV stations so everyone has an opportunity to learn basic English.
It has been fun to bargain with some of the shopkeepers. They are very persistent and even follow me down the street if I walk away without buying anything. Free trade seems to be taking hold in China. Several of the nurses have also visited Russia. Their observation is that the Chinese have much more freedom than the Russians.
I love the children – they are so cute! The parents are so proud of their one child. It seems like it could become a child-centered society quickly. Several times we have seen them chattering away as they walk hand in hand through museums.
Time for the plane to land! This plane has no seat-belts and open overhead bins. 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. I thank the Lord that we are here safely!
Praise God! I was able to see Mrs. Li tonight. Carla, my roommate, and I took a taxi to her apartment. The driver didn’t believe in turning on his headlights except for a moment at the intersection. He slowed down slightly, flashed on his lights, looked both ways, and then zoomed through after turning out his headlights again. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed. The driver walked us up four flights of stairs and found Mrs. Li’s door in the dark hallway. We never would have found her unmarked door without his help.
She lives with her parents and her new baby boy in two rooms with one dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling. We could barely see each other, but they welcomed us warmly. I gave Mrs. Li several gifts from her husband for their new baby (who he has yet to see) 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 and help us who works at the Xian Hotel. We reside nearby at an old Russian hotel called the People’s Hotel. I wasn’t sure if he was a Communist block parent or not. 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 words and make them clear to her. She is coming to meet me tomorrow at my hotel and send some things back to her husband through me.
The translator volunteered to try and track down Mr. and Mrs. P for me tomorrow. It is nearly impossible to get connections on the telephones here because they are so unreliable just as Mr. S, my Chinese teacher, warned me. I pray it will work out.
This is my least favorite hotel so far. It is a dingy old gray cinder block building with threadbare worn dark red carpet throughout and a musty smell of stale garlic. 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 buried army of terracotta soldiers which was impressive. As farmers were digging a water well in 1974, they uncovered numerous life-size clay warriors that were buried around 300 B.C. to take care of their emperor in his afterlife. They were painted in bright colors when they were buried with intricate facial details. Twelve years later, they have only begun to uncover the estimated 8000 man army complete with horses and chariots. It was interesting to see the archaeologists work as we watched from a platform suspended above them under a large canopy which was built to protect the work site. This has become a major tourist attraction in China. The government has not had time to build enough hotels to keep up with the demand.
Afterward, we bargained for things in the nearby market. I found the noodle stand fascinating. I watched him make the 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 any food from the street stands to avoid food sickness. They tend to eat noodles made of wheat here in the north rather than rice which is grown in southern China.
When I returned to the hotel, Mr. P telephoned me. The translator contacted him today somehow. 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 plummet to zero degrees regularly. They were finally able to obtain some coal heaters. The five other Americans teaching here all got frostbite.
They each teach about 15 students and then 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 are only allowed to give out Bibles when a student asks for one. The students talk freely with them and are resentful that the government has assigned each of them to be a teacher, giving them no choice of an occupation. They are also upset that they are only permitted to have one child after they marry.
Another challenge is the close living quarters of the English teachers in the compound. Conflicts arise because they all have strong personalities. When the Americans leave the compound, they face anti-foreigner feelings among the Chinese. But all the teachers have a heart to truly give the gospel of Jesus Christ to each student and are willing to endure the difficult living circumstances.
As I look back on Xian, this city was my least favorite of the ones I was able to visit, but it is where the Lord blessed the most in actual contacts with the people. I was able to meet Mrs. Li again the next year when she came to the Midwest to visit her husband at the university. The government made her leave the baby behind with her parents to ensure that both parents would return to China. Mr. Li’s son was three years old when he finally met him for the first time in China. He made a great sacrifice of missing his only child’s first years to obtain an American education.