China Trip--Day 8
2:06 PM Almost time to leave for the airport, but before we do, we want to say thank you to many people: Charlie and Joy Brainer, Driver Zhang, Sharee, to the whole team at ZDL Books: Rob Tucker, David Wright, Anan, Donna, and a special thanks to Jodi. Thanks also to Simon, Eleanor, to our brothers and sisters at the scroll shop, to the friends who opened their bookstores to us, and to those who came to listen and to share.
12:37 PM Mark has picked up quite a bt of Chinese. Before he left, he met for eight weeks with Soo Ai Kudo who got him started on the language. He mentioned this week that it helped him in a big way. He said that he understands a lot of the "discipleship" language and Dave McKee understands a lot of the shopkeeping and restaurant language. You need both in China. Between them they can hold their own in most casual conversations.
12:36 PM We're back at the Mac Center waiting for our taxi to the airport. I noticed on the back of the Mac Center sign, these words are inscribed: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." It seems a fitting tribute to all those who gladly give what they have to bring the Good News to the people of China.
11:04 AM In about an hour we check out of the hotel and go back to the Mac Center. We leave for the airport at 2:30 PM. Our flight leaves at 5:30 PM. We should be back in the cabin in Tupelo in about 26 hours.
10:59 AM Later I spoke at another bookstore in a different section of Beijing. I was told that the clientele is mostly Korean. The fellowships in Korea send over people who work in various businesses in China and also do the Father's business as well. The leaders at the meeting were all Chinese. Lots of questions about pressing ethical issues, regarding bosses who require you to give "gifts" in order to get a promotion and questions about how to reach your friends with the Good News.
10:45 AM On Saturday I spoke at one of the first legal "like-minded" bookstores in China. It was started in 2003. Last year there were 43 such bookstores. Today there are over 60. That's not much for a country of 1.3 billion, but it's a sign of new openness. We entered through the back door so as not to cause a stir. I spoke to 30-40 leaders from various backgrounds for over an hour. Then we opened it for questions. They didn't ask a single question about my book. Every question dealt either with church problems, doctrinal issues, or spiritual struggles they face. It was like doing "Open Line" only the questions were even more basic, such as "How do you recognize God's call on your life?" and "What is required to enter the kingdom of God?" Amazing things have happened across China as the Father has done his work, but there is a dearth of good teaching for all the new disciples. Things we take for granted, like TV and radio and easily-accessible fellowships and DVDs either don't exist at all or are difficult to find. Later I discovered that one of the leaders had taped my presentation. He sent me the last half of it as a large .wav file. If I can figure out how to convert it to MP3, I think I'll post it on the website since it does not contain any sensitive information. Just basic questions and answers, but you can get a sense of the hunger of the people.
10:41 AM Last year we came to Beijing (with my brother Alan) to visit Josh who was in the middle of his year teaching English with ELIC. I kept a very extensive weblog that describes our trip in detail, including our visits to the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the hutongs, and so on. For those who are interested, you can find the weblog from last year's trip here. Go to the bottom of the page and you will see "China Trip--Day 1" all the way through "China Trip--Day 11" and "China Trip--Some Final Thoughts." One note: The picture links no longer work.
8:30 AM I am writing this note from the tenth floor of our hotel room in west Beijing. Outside we can see the vast city through the smoke and the haze stretching for endless miles in every direction. This is by far the largest city we’ve ever visited, and it continues to grow at a rapid pace. We’ve had a wonderful time in China and will be returning to the States later today, God willing. By the way, here’s the shape of the future. Today Marlene and I are in Beijing, Mark is in Bangkok, Nick is in Birmingham, AL, and Josh is in Chicago. Not the four corners of the world--but it’s close.
We have had an entirely different type of trip this year. Last year it was all sightseeing--and there is much to see in Beijing. This year we have had direct contact with believers in various settings, including a “chance” meeting with what is sometimes called the “family movement.” During the week I spoke to two different groups of "like-minded" believers and learned a bit about the problems and challenges they face. I also experienced firsthand their enormous spiritual hunger, and their desire for solid teaching. If all goes well, the Chinese translation of one of my books will be released in about a month. To put matters in perspective, last year there were 10,000 Christian books published in America. In China there were around 50.
We found the Chinese people to be friendly, open, and very interested in talking to Americans. It is well-known that the Chinese and American economies have become tightly intertwined in recent years, and you see Western influence everywhere you go. This is a mixed blessing, of course, because the needs of the human heart are the same everywhere. The answer is not material wealth but to know God, to have our sins forgiven, and to come to him through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Culture and language may separate us, but the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us. We experienced a warm welcome from our "like-minded" Chinese friends who thanked us for coming.