We made it. As difficult as it was, we finally found ourselves in Deqen which is a small town deep in the Yunnan Province cradled in a steep and rugged valley where the days are slightly shorter than everywhere else because the sun doesn’t shine upon it until late in the morning, and disappears early in the afternoon.
Our second attempt at hiring a driver/guide was successful and the driver turned out to be a good one. Maybe not the most experienced driving in snow on roads 13000 feet high (4000m) with thousand foot drops and nothing to stop you from sliding of the road…but he did well. The 4wd Nissan did not do too well however and broke down several times at the beginning of our return trip from Deqen. I learned that diesel fuel can freeze…and the Chinese solution to that? Build a fire underneath the gas tank. It also would have been nice to have heat driving late at night at that altitude but it was broken. The driver was nice nonetheless and even bought sodas for us on way back to Shangri-la. He even spoke a little bit of broken English which helped a lot. If you ever have a chance to star gaze at 13,000 feet it is truly an amazing thing. Actually, it is more like a star-glimpse because it is so insanely cold.
While in Deqen for two nights, we stayed in a nice hotel complete with broken lights, broken bathtub, broken toilet and broken sinks and once again no heat. Only heated blankets. Our room and blankets were not cleaned after the last inhabitants but we managed with our sleeping bags. It did have fairly hot water which was nice to wash my feet and face, but it was not possible to shower. Besides that, we really felt it would be better not to shower anyway when the room temperature was only 35 degrees F. Outside it was in the 20s. The elevation of this town was at about 11000ft.
The people of this area are predominately Deqen Tibetans who are very kind and hospitable. We were afforded many opportunities for witnessing and spreading the Gospel within the one day we were there. We presented the Gospel according to Luke to beggars, monks, bystanders, and shopkeepers. We spent the most time with a family that ran a small restaurant across the street from our hotel. We were able to show them some of the Passion of Christ movie as well. James and Joe found an opportunity to play music with the guitar on a busy street corner drawing a big crowd. Many took of the gospel tracts that were left out on the guitar case as they played and read them curiously. We visited a temple and monastery where they let us inside to see the idols and abundance of offerings of all sorts of things. There we delivered some more tracts. Some the people were glad to receive the gospels that we gave them, which was encouraging to say the least. We also spent some time at a look-out point of Mt Meili where there were numerous shrines and incense ovens where anyone could purchase a special plant or incense and burn it as an offering to the god Kawagebo (the highest peak). We offered our own prayers to Jesus instead.
It was a really rough trip, probably the hardest for me due to the cold and my illness. I was more irritable than usual being so weak and deprived of energy and rest while having a non-stop migraine the entire trip, but James and Joe proved to be faithful comrades and stuck with me and together we pulled through everything hell could throw at us. Because of the difficulties, our time was very limited making it difficult to find time for relaxing. In spite of the hard conditions and trials around every corner and, on top of that, my illness, I was satisfied to be there doing something meaningful with my life. I believe that there is no greater thing for us to do than what we are called to do, and that when we do it, even if it seems daunting, or becomes hard to do, our souls will be satisfied because God always satisfies us if we obey him and that satisfaction and joy is so abundant that it drowns out any hardship or pain and makes them seem as nothing. Like a mother who has just given birth.
I think about the words, “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit”. Where do strength and power come into the picture, if it is by his spirit? The idea I think is repeated in Jesus’ words, “with God nothing is impossible.” When everything seems to be against me, do I see failure or do I see opportunity? Do I stop, or do I keep going? Am I walking against God, or am I walking with him?
Those are the lessons which I have been learning these days. I often struggle to understand “faith” and what it is and what it means in the deeper sense. But I feel God must know this and desires to teach me about it. So, on the whole, I am satisfied in what He has done with the trip and how it was orchestrated. I was sick and miserable the entire time but there are no regrets, only great memories.