April 12, 2004 Matthew

China: The Solo Journey of My Life

Dear Friends,

The prayers prevailed…

The trip to China was a success more than I could have imagined.
China is an incredible place and God is doing incredible things there.

For 3 months I prayed and prepared for my trip to China. Two people groups that I was impressed to pray for were the Dongxiang people and Bai Ma Tibetans. Both which had no believers and less than 1% evangelized. I was not planning on it but things fell through for prospective companions and so I went solo. I didn’t want to go solo because its not the wisest idea to do that, unless you are really sure you’re called to go. And I knew I was. I first felt the call to do this toward the end of 2002. Finally it came to pass. Besides that I had hopes of reaching someone I knew in Beijing.

I flew into Beijing and stayed at a hostel and made friends with a local guy who owned a restaurant nearby. Everyday I would visit him and have noodles or something and we would sit together and just…not say anything. He didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Chinese. But smiles and friendly gestures speak a thousand words sometimes. But I did get some things across to him with the Chinese phrasebook I had. I left a Chinese gospel tract with him. I stayed in Beijing for about 4 days in which I was dealing with a different kind of need for God. I was alone. No brothers or sisters. Phone calls to Wayne shock had failed. Not even any Christian music to listen to. It was just me and Jesus himself, and if I was weak in relying on Jesus alone I would certainly strengthen it in this time. And of course a lot was strengthened after the trip!

Before I left I heard God telling me not to really take all the ‘extra’ stuff with me but to just go ‘light’. I was freaking out thinking things like “am I allowed to take a toothbrush?” I struggled with it because I had a lot of things I wanted to take–especially my music–but finally I decided better to obey. And so I had only my small backpack with a few items of clothes, a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and 10 bibles. And the toothbrush. I had only managed to procure one new testament that was in Chinese. I was really hoping for more.

From Beijing I traveled by train to Xian in the center of China. There I found a week of sweet ministry with several Chinese college students working at a hostel. They understood English. There were a couple girls who found interest in what I was doing there because unlike other people staying at the hostel who were always gone looking at the sights and sounds, I was always hanging around at the hostel.

“Why don’t you go and see the sights like the other tourists? ” they would ask. “You should go see the Terracotta Warrior statues!”

“I find real people more fascinating than statue people!” I replied.

One day one of the girls who was working there, had found my Foxe’s Book of Martyrs lying on a table in the lounge which I had accidentally left there and started reading it. I found her reading it and I asked her if she could understand it. She said yes. I asked her if she liked it. She said yes. So I gave it to her. Through befriending these people here I was able to give a couple “gifts” away.

From there I prayed about going one of two directions. I ended up taking a train to Lanzhou. I was there for one night and then went to board a bus to Xiahe, a small and cold Tibetan town. On the way to the bus station a boy came up to me as I was observing a mosque and said “can I help you?”. He was about 16 years old. He was on his way to the bus station himself, so we walked there together. He told me he was on his way home to visit his people the Dongxiang. My eyes lit up! So for the next hour I conversed with a Dongxiang boy who knew English. He was Muslim. All his people were Muslim. But he accepted me and I accepted him. I told him about my belief in the bible and I gave to him the one Chinese bible I had to take with him back to his people. After this there was a period of deep rejoicing and gratitude to be used like this for God’s kingdom. It was humbling.
Then I went off to Xiahe. In this place I befriended a Tibetan student who helped me to barter a warm Tibetan sheep coat, because it was extremely cold! We exchanged contacts and he even gave me his address and phone number. And I gave him a New Testament for which he was thankful.

From there I was to go to Chengdu by bus. This would take me through the mountains and amazing panoramas of China. The mountains have a fierce look about them. I had trouble reading the destinations at the bus station(actually I couldn’t read them at all) and so I looked at a map and tried to buy the right ticket but I actually bought the wrong ticket. (On the bus I sat near a very old Tibetan lady who had her little prayer wheel which she spun around over and over and over again. It was a sad picture of just what these people are enslaved to. ) So I got dropped off too early where there were no bus stations or anything for that matter. It was the middle of nowhere. I asked for help unsuccessfully from a couple Tibetan people who were around. There was nobody and no place to even sleep! So I took to hitch hiking and I waited for some time while many trucks went by. Finally, one truck stopped for me and picked me up. Hallelujah. I was dropped off about 4 hours later in the right place in a real town.
It was called something like Roergai. I was met by a young girl here aged about 14. She was extremely friendly and spoke some English. She really wanted to show me around so I consented. So for the next two days she took me all around her town to visit her friends (whom I gave Gifts to) and even her family’s home where I was invited to have a meal. I asked her where I could get gloves for my hands because they were freezing. She took me all over the place looking for some that would fit my hands because all the gloves we found were too small for my hands. She took me to where she and her friends went to school and showed me around there. I was taken out for a hike on one day with her friends up a hill where there were many Tibetan prayer flags and a beautiful view of her town. Then I was taken to one of her friend’s grandparents’ house where I was received by very lovely and humble old folks who made for me an awesome dish of Tibetan pudding. I was so blessed in this town and able to leave some Gifts behind, that I was continually thanking God! I had to move on and they were sad wondering if I would ever come back. From there I took a long bus ride to Chengdu. I watched as the scenery of pristine rivers and untouched landscape and deep gorges a thousand feet deep changed gradually in something ugly as we neared Chengdu. Industrialization and development has been radically altering so much of the landscape in China, it is unbelievable.

In Chengdu I had finally met with some Christian contacts that I had. Missionaries out of Multnomah Bible College. I stayed with them for 3 nights. In this time, I made friends with the land lords of their apartment building and went to an interesting Tibetan dance gathering in the courtyard of a college. Tibetans and Chinese alike formed a large circle of hundreds and all danced together in a synchronized manner to Tibetan music. They had different dances to different songs. There were some foreign missionaries also participating. I tried my hand at the dancing, but we won’t talk about that too much!
Later the land lord people invited me to dinner with their friends. It was the spiciest meal ever. They thought it was funny how I needed 9 glasses of water. There were a lot of strange things I was obliged to eat and then spirits afterwards that were about 70% alcohol. I sat on the couch and talked with them after eating feeling a little sick. They asked me an interesting question about what I thought was better in life between money and success and business and such. I took the opportunity and pointed to a verse in the bible. “Love,” I answered kind of dazed from my stomach sickness, “is the best thing in life.” I told them about the verse in the bible that says ‘Love never fails’. They thought about it for a moment. Then they said as they nodded their heads, “We like you!”. Then I went back to my room and puked. The next day I was sick. The day after was better and finally I left Chengdu and took a train back to Xian. I reunited with my new Chinese friends there and stayed a couple days. I had pictures developed that I took when I was there, and when I let them look at them they took a lot of them for themselves. But that’s ok, I still had the negatives.
From there, time was short before I needed to return to Beijing to catch my plane home so I flew back to Beijing and stayed there one night. I looked for my friend at the restaurant but he was gone. The next day I left to home.

Please pray for the Dongxiang people as you remember them!