Not far from where I was, the two communist agents were snacking from a bag. I waved at them. They nodded their heads and laughed. Before we left the island, they passed a present to each of us. I looked in the plastic bag and found a T-shirt with the island’s picture on it, the big size that was too small for me. I thanked them. They did their best.
We crossed the lake in a crowded boat and got in the van. Our next stop was the church we’ve seen for the first time, the one with the bookstore. While we were enjoying our trip on the island, the driver had filled the back of the vehicle with the last boxes of Bibles. We ate a very late lunch on the road, fruit and sandwiches, and had only fifteen minutes to change our clothes at the hotel.
When we reached the big building, there were groups of people on the sidewalk, waiting to take a close glimpse of us, Americans. A few men came to the van and carried the boxes in the church. We followed them, with the lady pastor showing us the way. The sanctuary was full. I took a deep breath to keep from weeping. These precious followers of Christ in China were our brothers and sisters we loved. Each of them had a life story we were not supposed to know. Behind their smiles, there was pain they had to hide from us.
I looked around while walking from the back to the front rows, and saw a crowd of women, hundreds, maybe more than a thousand. The section designated for men was narrow because they were not many. How hard had to be for these families to live their lives separated, women in the city and men at work far away?
We sat down and the lady pastor and another two women walked to the pulpit. The service started with a prayer and then continued with the choir. I was amazed to see 80-100 singers on the platform and praising God with so much passion. Our interpreter was sitting in the bench behind us and translated as much as he could.
When the service was finished, after the last song with the whole congregation, the audience was invited to step outside, while the pastors and the leaders of the churches represented there were called in the front rows. During this move, we stood up and give hugs to as many people as we could.
Then this young man came to me. He said something in Chinese. I could see he was pretty anxious about something. He opened his arms to give me a hug and spoke in my ear in English. He said, “Thank you for coming to help us.” Then he slipped a piece of paper in my hand and pressed my fingers to cover it. He smiled and turned to leave. “Do you mind if we take a picture together?” I asked. He looked around and stood still next to me for our picture. Then he was gone.
I went and sat down in the pew and, pretending to get my water from my bag, I opened the paper inside my purse and read it. There were a few words scribbled and two of them were, “Help us!”
I knew that kind of desperation when pastors from America visited our church in Romania during Ceausescu’s ruling. We looked at them for hope, at least for the night when they talked to us after the service. They prayed for us and told our stories before the senators of the US, year after year. That way the USA started putting pressure on the communist Romanian administration to ease our yoke. It worked.
How could we influence our country to help the Chinese people in their distress? The surface of the Chinese society looked great, but deep despair pulsed underneath.
-To be continued-