I recently went to China. I saw beautiful temples and shrines, ate some delicious and some not so delicious foods, walked on The Great Wall, went to a house church and a government church, played with precious babies in an orphanage…I could continue, but I think you get the idea. I had many awe inspiring experiences that I will forever hold dear. Sadly, I also saw beggars whose bodies were disfigured, a man banging his head against a wall and foaming at the mouth in the midst of a drug overdose, elderly people falling on broken sidewalks, and lifeless bodies sitting on every street corner.
In China there are people everywhere – literally everywhere. Walking through the streets on any given day is like going to the beach on the first day of Spring Break. It’s complete chaos! However, in the endless sea of people there is an overwhelming sense of loneliness and emptiness. There is rarely communication between people other than the constant honking of car and scooter horns. And even then, the people being honked at don’t even look at who is honking at them. People simply don’t acknowledge one another.
Being raised in America, especially in the south, this is crazy to me. We are raised to smile, wave, and politely say hello. We are taught respect for our elders, and the importance of helping someone – no matter how small the need. We see videos of everyday people who become heroes by risking their lives to stop a runaway car or lift someone from train tracks.
In China, however, it’s as if people see right through each other. Over and over again, I witnessed complete disregard for human life. At one point, while walking down the street, the group I was a part of came upon a crowd of people taking pictures and videoing. We were anxious to see what the commotion was all about. We were shocked to see a beautiful young lady, who looked to be in her low 20’s, lying in a raised plant bed having some sort of seizure. She was soaked with sweat, hyperventilating, and uncontrollably crying. Her arms and hands were unnaturally twisted and immovable, her legs were stiff as boards, and she could only slightly move her head. Everyone was just staring and gawking at her. She was obviously petrified, and although she was surrounded by people, she was completely alone. No one would get near her. We stopped for just a moment, and then immediately sprang into action. We prayed, got water, wiped her face and chest, and tried to help calm her breathing. A doctor came by, but refused to help because he was on his way to pick his son up from school. There was a doctor’s office just a few doors down. We tried to get help from there, but again we were refused. Finally, an ambulance was called. We couldn’t help her condition, but we could try to comfort and care for her until help came. That’s what people do, right? We help each other. Well, apparently not in China. We had become the new focus. People were shocked that we actually went out of our way to do something. We didn’t just stare and make a spectacle out of the young lady. We showed her kindness and love.
Over the next few days, we were told several times that Chinese people were “just that way”. They were just disconnected and had a lack of compassion. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around what I was seeing and hearing. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that humans could be so cold toward their own people. Then we met Chinese Christians. These people were just like us. They talked, laughed, hugged, and had genuine concern for one another. I watched women cry and pray together. I heard stories of how they wanted so desperately to reach their fellow Chinese for the cause of Christ. They had compassion, love, and joy. I quickly realized that the people in the scenarios I had witnessed on the streets and in the hotels, stores, and restaurants weren’t merely just “being the way Chinese people are.” The truth is they were just being the way people are without Jesus. The Christians I met had a relationship God; therefore, they had the fruits of the spirit active in their lives. The people with empty eyes and no regard for one other simply needed Jesus.
As I sat in a small group with a bunch of Chinese Christian ladies, they kept saying over and over how wonderful it was that I was their true family. They said that because we all had the same Father we were connected no matter how far away we were. Of course, I know this and have said it before myself, but hearing them say it with such passion made me rethink the whole concept. They were overjoyed to meet me because I really was their family. These ladies know very well their duty as Christians. They want nothing more than to spread the Gospel to those lifeless people around them. My responsibility as a Christian is to know God, and make Him known. It’s is truly my desire to know God more everyday, and to make him known by my words and through my actions.
Since leaving China I’ve realized the need for American Christians, like myself, to attack this task with a greater intensity and passion. While we go about our daily lives there are people all around us that are empty and dying without Jesus. We’re in the South, so people, Christian or not, are raised to help others. However, our kindness, if not fueled by the love of God in an effort to bring others into the Kingdom, is futile. It may give us warm fuzzy feelings, but we have to see the bigger picture. The Christian church is exploding all over the world, while America seems to be falling away more and more. As Christians our efforts must be intentional and tenacious. We have a responsibility to reach our world for Jesus, but it has to start in our neighborhoods and communities. Love and compassion should overflow from us because we are so full of Christ. Our Christian family in China is doing their best to bring others into our family. My prayer is that we are doing the same.
~Farah N. Rains~