Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year 2017, year of the rooster. I would like to share my first Chinese New Year experience with you all. This Chinese New Year I find myself back in America on a short sabbatical, but the memories of that first Chinese New Year stick with me like it happened yesterday….It was a story perhaps I could not share until now. The story of my first visit to a Chinese home and an underground church.
January 31, 2014 Journal Entry
“Come to the countryside and experience peasant life!” This is what my student said to me this weekend, when he invited me to visit his family for the New Year. I was amused by his English, when he called the people in the countryside, “peasants”. I did not really know what to expect, when he said to “experience peasant life”. I would find out! I would find that in some ways the people in that countryside of China still live much like the “peasants” did 500 or 1000 years a go. They still work the land to get their living. Some of the neighbors still had no electricity and none seeemed to have indoor plumbing. The family used a wood burning stove. They hand-pumped their water from the ground. They are very proud of their water though! They excitedly told me it comes from 300 feet under the ground and is free of germs! I envied this a little as you know we must boil our drinking water, where I live in the city. Despite the humble circumstances, the house was full of love and warmth. There was one room in this little farm house, aside from the kitchen, but somehow a dozen relatives and myself gathered in at the table and enjoyed a happy and delicious meal.
My student’s father proudly told me that he was born in the very same bedroom we were sitting in. His brothers and sisters were also born there. He bragged that there was a lot of history in this old farmhouse!
I was also surprised to find that the family was Christian. The grandparents had been Christian for 70 years. They took me to their “church”. It was only a block away from their home. It had a large, tall, closed gate like the other houses. From the outside, it looked just like a normal house.
They told me that this is because the government does not support the church. In fact, they went on to tell me that the churches I see in the city most likely are government-run or controlled. Inside the church though, it was small but pretty like any other church in the nearby city.
I was very happy to find myself among other believers. They gave me some religious gifts (as well as others), which I know must have came from their own family collection, but I could not refuse their kindness. The family and many other villagers have been Christian for a few generations, since the first Christians came to China, but now they must practice in their own homes. So perhaps I can encourage my friends abroad to pray for them. I can not say exactly where they live, but I felt the joy of the Spirit among them. It was a blessing indeed to be among the bretheren for the first time since I came to China.
We ended our visit as every Chinese New Year visit should end – with fireworks! They have a much louder pop than any I have seen in America. I do not know, who enjoyed the fireworks more – me or the children!
At the end of the firework fun, I was very sad to end my visit and leave my student’s grandparent’s home.
Grandfather was very shy yet friendly, but his wife rattled on happily in Chinese while I listened to her friendly voice (wish I could say I understood half of it, but she showed me her favorite things like her vegetable garden, hymn book, and Bible. I could undertstand her affection.) The grandma even cried a little, when she first saw me and when it was time to leave. It was her first time seeing a foreigner in her 90 years! I think she thought I was a movie star or something!
It was also my first time visiting a Chinese home! I enjoyed it very much! I hope I can come back again some time! I am humbled this week! These people had so little and yet they made so much of what they had. They were some of the happiest people I have ever seen even without the modern conveniences we take for granted! I feel very humbled today and very blessed! I think I love this Chinese New Year!