Before going to China, my concept of a man living in China was a man with a straw hat, working in a rice patty and living in a thatched hut. The picture that I saw when I actually went there is nothing like that. I am sure that there are some who live in such meager circumstances but they are not the norm. What I saw was a nation that has evolved into the 21st century. The cities are much larger than the cities of America. There are over a hundred cities of over a million people. There were high rise buildings well beyond what we see here in America. For example, one complex of apartment buildings can house 200,000 people. The streets are sometimes six or more lanes in each direction. You see cell phones there as often as you do here and the youth are just as attached to their phones as we are here. Construction is much more active there than here. From my room I could see 4 major construction sites of multiple high rise buildings of from 25 to 50 stories; consisting of 6 to 12 buildings each. There were at least 6 other sites within the same radius of view that I couldn’t see. Their stores looked much like the ones you see here only everything was written in Chinese.
What I didn’t see was just as dramatic as what I did see. I didn’t see hope in the eyes of the people. Though there were signs of prosperity, I noticed that there was an absence of purpose. It was as if they were asking to what purpose is all of this? There was a small remnant who remember what it was like before Communism took over and they spoke of that time as a lost world.
I didn’t see answers to life’s eternal questions; “Who am I?; Where did I come from?; Where am I going?; and Why am I here?” Several that I spoke to stated that they had never even seen a foreigner before my coming. There reaction to me was like asking the question, “What is out there?”. Some were quizzed by government officials as to whether or not there had been any foreigners in their services. Since that occurred prior to my coming they could safely answer no. But now . . . ?
Their hunger was illustrated by their actions. Some would travel up to two hours just to get there. They arrived early, some as much as 30-40 minutes, which they spent in prayer. They sat on a plastic stool with no back, like the ones you would find in a children’s classroom. They would sit there up to two hours or more without fidgeting or complaining and take notes like a college student studding for an exam. They ask lots of questions. They brought refreshments which we spent an hour or more enjoying after the meeting. Then they would travel up to two hours, returning home. Then they would do it all over again at the next session and never miss a meeting. This sacrifice was considered small in proportion to what was gained. We call that a bargain.
This kind of commitment caused me to reflect on our own meetings here in America. If we speak over 30 minutes we risk someone’s ire. If the seating isn’t comfortable they may not return. We miss attending because of multiple excuses. Our minds wander and our hearts grow cold. Historically, the church has flourished under persecution but it has floundered during prosperity. King David had it right in 2 Samuel 24:24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. A faith that cost nothing is valued in the same way.