Beauty in the Midst of Concrete

“For as the earth puts forth her blossom or bushes in the garden burst forth into flower, so shall the Lord God make righteousness and praise blossom before all the nations.”  Isaiah 61:11

 

Strategic randomness of art and beauty not only in the cities but also along highways seemingly in the middle of nowhere captivated my senses.

Bright, colorful gardens tucked behind concrete walls & steel buildings. Floral art galleries inserted into major freeway medians. Fruit groves dancing around magnificent sculptures. Picturesque canals along highways weaved like spider webs in rings upon rings. Lush ivy smothered overpasses and hung down intermingling with Magnolia trees. Row upon endless row of high rises neighbored small farms laced with electrical high wires connecting industrial zones like preschoolers in a line holding fast to a rope.

“Made in China” is a familiar phrase in America so I expected to see countless factories here. What a surprise to view them in the distance, often concealed by stair-step layers of giant evergreens and weeping willow, blooming shrubs, and flower beds. Brings new meaning to the term “industrial PARK”.

Despite the fact that I was in cities of 17 million (Beijing) & 14 million (Shanghai) residents, I was impressed with a permeating sense of pride among the Chinese.  Where is the litter?  And for that matter, where are the homeless?

Speaking of China…

Pray for these people

{click on collage to enlarge, then again on any photo}

Often while in China I couldn’t wait to get home so I could begin posting of my adventures and the plethora of photos captured on film & digital. I hoped to post daily entries to keep family & friends abreast of my adventures but was curiously prohibited from doing so. It was both disappointing and disturbing that I couldn’t access my web blog while in China, even more so when I learned that sites containing the word “Jesus” are banned there. Still I wrote incessantly on whatever I could find to express my thoughts and chronicle my experiences before details faded.

Now back in the sanctuary of America & safely ensconced before my home office computer, I look across my pile of notes. In addition to my regular journal entries, I find scribbles on the inside of a book cover, a ticket jacket, hotel notepads, maps, postcards written to myself, and even receipts. I ponder where to begin and how to go about this…should I simply organize my notes chronologically to create the blogs I would have posted had I been permitted? Might I combine experiences within each city I visited and write from that perspective? Or maybe I should write by themes…monuments, buildings, gardens, bodies of water, food, people.

People. My mind lingers there for a moment. I’m moved to review my photos, ones secured mechanically and many flashed in my mind with no camera quick enough to capture them…children in the middle of a busy intersection bowing & banging their heads on pavement before going car to car begging, or a young woman sitting in her apartment window encircled by hanging laundry as she wiped away tears from her cheeks, or an elderly man with no legs navigating his way through frightening traffic while balancing himself on a decrepit skateboard. Images of suffering and squalor haunt me even as images of a beautiful Asian wedding & smiling toddlers bring me joy.

People.  It occurs to me they are China’s greatest treasure. Children waving the red flag, soldiers marching in lock step, couples celebrating their union, beggars, hustlers… “hello lady, lookie, lookie”…merchants, tour guides.  Mobs at bus stops where no one waits in line but rather pushes their way through, blank stares from riders on bicycles, Asian families climbing the Great Wall together, faces in the crowd at Tiananmen Square anticipating a daily sunset flag ceremony.  Beside the obvious matter of being Asian, millions of Chinese natives have at least one thing in common…they are not freely allowed to fully embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Oh sure, “open” churches exist in China but they are government sanctioned and public worship is constrained by carefully constructed regulations.

A new friend I made in Shanghai admired my cross necklace and felt compelled to whisper when asking if I am Christian.  We exchanged contact information and met up again later that same day. He painfully shared the confines that Chinese people of faith are subjected to and the dangers of publicly confessing belief in Christ. Clearly well-educated, a prosperous bi-lingual businessman, he risked enormously in trusting me with his secrets but he rejoiced in being able to talk openly to another believer about his Savior. His parting promise to pray for me and my son touched my heart & brought me to tears. I promised to reciprocate, and he thanked me and shared how that would be his most precious assurance.

People. I could blog all day & into the night about sites toured, foods tasted {& my body’s reaction to them!}, experiences and adventures encountered…and I probably will eventually.  But those things pale in comparison to images of people.  Monuments decay, buildings crumble, flowers of every garden wither & die.  But people are eternal, their souls will survive beyond all else.

Please look again into the faces you see in photographs of this entry. Study their expressions, feel their emotions, bow your head and pray for them. But don’t stop there. Ask the Lord who saved you what you may do to reach out to lost people in China. This land is one of the most untapped treasures of souls for the Kingdom of God.

Recall the promise God made to Abram/Abraham in Genesis 12, the original Great Commission, when he told him to leave his home and go to a land that He would reveal. God told him that if he would obey, he would not only make of Abraham a great nation, but ALL people groups of the earth would be blessed through his obedience. God was telling Abraham that He Himself would be revealed to all nations through the obedience of one man. Central to this story of God & man was this covenant which He repeated 4 more times—twice more to Abraham {Gen 15:5; 22:15-17}, then to Isaac {Gen 26:3-4} & finally to Jacob {Gen 28:13-14}. God’s original intention was for ALL nations to come to know & worship the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.  Jesus Christ was The Key to that covenant {II Corinthians 1:19 & 20}.  Jesus proclaimed this in Matthew 28:19-20 when He commanded his followers to “go and make disciple of all nations”. The heart of the Great Commission, God’s covenant with Abraham to bless ALL nations, must be fulfilled before Jesus can return to earth to claim his Bride. China remains a huge part of the Great Commission!

Though logistically an hour shorter, our return flight from Asia passed much slower than the outbound. Even missing home, a nagging sense of having left something behind rendered me sad to leave China. Indeed, I did leave something behind…a piece of my heart.  Before I took my son on this trip, I asked several friends to pray that God would open Zech’s heart toward missions. Little did I know the work He would initiate in my own soul. My heart feels heavy tonight as I consider millions of lost souls of China. I ponder what God will reveal to me in months & years ahead regarding my role in His Great Commission. With a heart more open than ever, I am both excited & humbled at the thought of my Lord using even a broken vessel like me to reach out to this nation.

Seizing an opportunity to share with locals wanting their children’s photo taken with a “white lady”, I sang in Tiananmen Square over precious Chinese little ones congregating before sunset for the flag retiring ceremony:  {to the tune of Jesus loves me}

Jesus loves me, yes, it’s true and He loves the Chinese, too.

Every heart in this dear land, He holds in His mighty hands.

Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves us. The Bible tells me so.

For additional information on China’s religious culture, go to http://operationworld.org/country/chna/owtext.html