We were in the rural China. The small houses reminded me of those in my birth country. The only exception was that there were lots of children where I grew up. Here, people had one.
The car pulled over a creek through green branches of trees and stopped by the first building. Two elderly women and a man waved at us as the driver opened the door to get out. A few moments later we were in these sweet people’s arms that kept hugging and kissing us. The precious minute of love was so intense that I burst in tears. We hung to each other and praised God for this divine appointment. Instantly I knew in my heart why we were there. It was because of these brothers and sisters’ prayers. They needed encouragement and evidence that they were not forgotten in their corner of the world. Their wrinkled faces and their mouth with missing teeth were so beautiful.
They invited us in the church. The government’s agents were already there, sitting on the last bench. It wasn’t a morning for gathering. The villagers were working in the fields, but a few more elderly men and women were there in the pews anyway.
The man who waited for us outside invited us to sit on the first bench. Somebody came with a trey of peeled cucumbers, and we sat there with tears rolling down our cheeks and eating cucumbers.
The church was a room that could fit maybe 60 people in rows of wooden benches. The dirt floor was freshly sprinkled with water to control the dust. The ceiling was low and the room had only one small window on one side of a wall. Our interpreter invited the brother from our team to give a word of greeting from our church across the ocean. The driver brought two boxes of Bibles and placed them on the table in front of the audience. After the little speech, the interpreter came to my friend and I to join our brother and sing a praising song together. It was a custom in churches, not only in China but also in Romania, to honor special guests in offering them to sing the praises of the Lord. We didn’t know for sure that would be the case there, but we were pretty prepared. We sang “Amazing Grace” together. Then we took a few Bibles from the boxes to give them to the people as they were sitting in expectation. When I handed out the first one, the woman grasped it and kissed it. Then she reached after my hand and kissed it too. I stretched my arms around her shoulders and kissed her back on her face. We couldn’t communicate verbally, but it was so much meaning of love and gratitude for each other in our hugs. The government couldn’t take that away from us.
Somebody wanted two Bibles, one for herself and one for her sister-in-law. But the understanding was one Bible per family.
I had three personal Bibles back home, and some of us had more than five in our bookcase just sitting there without being opened. And these sweet people of God were so hungry for the Word of God. One woman showed me a few printed pages torn from a book and I asked our interpreter what was that about. He explained me that was a Bible somebody had brought to their village. They took out the pages and shared them with the entire community, and that was her share.
One of the ladies gave us a plastic bag half full with fruit I had never seen. That represented a token of gratitude from their church to ours. As we were ready to leave, I was so sad. I knew I wouldn’t see these faces on earth again. I wished somehow I could stay in touch with them, but that was impossible.
“Don’t forget us,” the interpreted translated while our friends were saying the same words. It was noontime and we had to leave. As we were standing by our car, I held hands with two of the women next to me and I prayed for them.
That experience was heartbreaking. We were called to love, move on and continue to love. I remembered what our Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2 NIV
We had to keep our schedule. There was more work to be done.
-to be continued-
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