At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; (Matthew 11:25 ESV)
If you travel west from Guam toward the USA you’ll find China. Usually you travel east to the USA. But things aren’t always as you’d think. It was cheaper to fly to Hong Kong first, purchase a ticket to the USA and then fly to the USA. Go figure. There’s something strange about airline ticket pricing. So, on our first furlough we decided to visit Hong Kong and take a one day trek into mainland China. We settled into a small apartment in Hong Kong and prepared for the big day.
We boarded a bus in Hong Kong and headed toward the China border. When we arrived at the border we were inspected, checked, and passed on from station to station. With our money changed and bags in hand we entered China ready for a first hand peak at our biggest target area. While everyone else on the bus was going to visit relatives, we were the only family on “tour.” After crossing the border we met our private translator and our driver and climbed into a small van.
We rode around and enjoyed the sites and learned more about the people. During our tour we had a chance to chat with the translator. The driver wasn’t interested in conversation and the translator indicated we should be quiet about certain subjects so he would not report her to the authorities.
Our translator made a comment after Ellice began singing, “Jesus loves me this I know.” Ellice wanted to share the Gospel of Jesus with the people of China. She knew this was why we were living on Guam and so she wanted to help in our ministry. Thus the conversation turned to the Gospel.
Turning to face us and not be heard by the driver, our translator meekly let us know she was Christian. She had heard the Gospel over the radio! What a marvelous confirmation of God’s work in our lives. The work to minister to this vast nation was having an impact. We were encouraged as God provided us with a face to face confirmation. “So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing I sent it to do.” (Isaiah 55:11 WEB) We have no information about the young lady’s name or what she’s done since this meeting but pray for her walk with the Lord in a nation which opposes her belief.
We were also interested in visiting a Chinese home if possible. Finally, after many inquiries, our translator gained access to a three story home. We were informed this was a single family home but if that were true it was a very large family. As we wandered through the rooms to the balcony on the top floor we discovered why they allowed us to tour their home.
Little girls with long, blond, curly hair were unknown in their culture. They were fascinated with a little girl sporting a head of long, blond, curly hair. Almost everyone in the house reached out to touch Ellice’s hair. Personal space is a different story in China.
In America people don’t like to be caught staring at another person. If we’re watching someone and they turn our direction we quickly look away and pretend we’re doing something else. During the trip we were taken to visit a large Department Store.
As we walked through the building we noticed a couple of things. First, we were the only people in the store besides the employees. This was not an average Chinese shop but designed for visitors. Second, we realized everyone was staring at us. When we turned and saw them watching they kept right on watching and didn’t attempt to turn away. The store had lots of goods for sale inside and a small bumper car ride outside.
We decided to allow Ellice to ride the bumper cars. It’s not fun if you’re the only participant. So we paid to have our translator drive one of the cars. It took a bit of convincing and coercion to get her to agree to drive the little car. It wasn’t a matter of her driving but the combination of her driving and our paying the bill. This show of generosity was not in her frame of reference. When she started the ride her smile and joy was more than we needed in repayment for the kindness.
Since this was an all day tour we stopped for lunch. The tables were full, conversation was loud and energetic. There was a pause in the restaurant’s din of conversation as we entered and took our place around the round table. The table was large so we could all sit, including the translator but not the driver (who went off on some unknown function while we ate), to enjoy a preset meal. A white tablecloth hung over the edges and rice bowls were placed at each seat. The only utensils provided were chop sticks.
One item missing was a napkin. I looked about to see if other tables had these, in my opinion, essential items. They were not. I soon discovered the purpose for such a large tablecloth. Glancing down at the overhanging cloth on my table I saw the remains where others wiped their mouth, hands, whatever on the cloth in lieu of napkins. Next visit to China, I bring my own tissues, for lunch if nothing else!
The food was tasty and plentiful. I don’t remember all the dishes we received but one caught Joel’s attention. A large fish of some sort was brought out on a platter and placed in the middle of the table. It was split open, broiled, but the head and tail were still attached. Like the other dishes we all reached to the platter and removed a portion with our fingers to eat over the rice bowl in front of us. The bowl provided a nice catch for anything which missed the lips and fell.
Joel leaned forward and stared at the fish. He didn’t attempt to reach for any of the meat. After a couple of minutes he looked at Beth and me and said, “That fish is looking at me!” The fish was situated with the head and eyes towards Joel’s seat. He wasn’t about to eat something which was staring him in the face. We turned the fish the other way and Joel then enjoyed the tasty meal.
When we finally departed the country it was back through the border. In the time it took us to enter the country, visit a museum, see a reservoir, shop in the stores, eat lunch, drive about and return to the border the exchange rate changed. It changed in our favor and we received more money when we turned in our script than we paid to receive it. It was a free day after all!
Children say the most unexpected things at the most embarrassing times. Ellice was open about her faith and love for our translator. If not for her honesty we never would have known to pray for our young translator and her faith.
As adults we miss things we once saw as children. It seems our observations are hampered with age. Jesus made it clear wisdom was hidden to the wise and open to the child. Maybe it’s time we started acting like children in our faith and see what God wants us to see.