We got the opportunity to travel to the village of BenXi, China for Chinese New Year! Here are some pictures and descriptions of some of our experiences. A trip we will never forget!
We arrived at this beautiful place on Valentines Day. It’s a town in the city of BenXi called CaoHeCheng. It is surrounded by snow dusted mountains, harvested corn fields, and at night, a sea of stars that city life could only wish for. The building to the left is the wonderful home where we are staying. The building to the right is one of three large buildings that house pigs, the family business. Other than both the tiniest and hugest pigs I’ve ever seen, this land has big chickens running around as well as six new puppies and their mom. It is a high of freezing temperature here but the hospitality and love we’ve received keeps things warm.
Kangs are brick platforms where life happens. Everywhere else is pretty much just in between. The reason the kang in the room is where everyone gathers is because it is the only source of heat. The kangs are heated by fires that are kept burning 24/7. This house has two kangs and this is Beth adding to a fire for one of them. Swipe to see Fan Shou Zhe’s mom adding branches to the fire of the other kang! The fire will last almost 12 hours and it is an incredible heating system. The phrase they keep saying is “shang kang!” which means “get on the kang!” If you stand by the kang, you will be cold. But hop up on the kang and you will be nice and toasty. For example, we are laying down for bed, it is 6 degrees Fahrenheit at the moment and I am only wearing one thin layer, no socks, and I am sweating. C’mon everybody, Shang Kang!
No running hot water? No problem! Kang to the rescue, again. There is a built in basin above the kang that keep water in it hot. This is Fan Shou Zhe fetching us hot water to wash our faces and hair with and then replacing that water with ice cold water that will soon be just as hot.
One of the nicest things this family did for us was cook some of our favorite dishes. They found out we like Guo Ba Rou (a fried pork dish) so they had it for us twice. While looking at pictures of Chinese food together with Fan Shou Zhe’s wife, Liu Ying, they came across an egg and tomato dish I love and Beth mentioned that she recognized that dish because I love it so much. The next day, it was served. We have really been blessed and spoiled!
So proud of my wife! This is her offering to help cook one of the Chinese dishes after observing for a little bit. She has thrown herself into many new situations and has thrived in them as well!
Another food post! 1) The day they told us they’d be killing one of their chickens for us to eat, I must have asked 10 times, “What time are we killing the chicken?” “In a little bit.” And like an annoying kid I’d ask over and over. And then, it was time. They ran after a chicken, caught it, slit its throat, defeathered it, chopped it up, and cooked it! 2) We had a continuous flow of fruits and nuts through out the day. 3) They served a vegetable dish that only grows on mountains. It is really expensive to buy but delicious to eat. And lucky for us, there is a mountain right in their back yard. They went up and picked these vegetables and cooked them for us. 4) We had the biggest corn I’d ever had. This corn, also grown right on their land. We had so many new and exciting dishes in the village. Such a great experience!
The kids had a blast in BenXi. They chased puppies, petted baby pigs, ate candy everyday, and watched a chicken get killed and defeathered! We are so thankful for this family. They really helped us out with them. Layering them, holding them, playing with them, singing to them, feeding them, and here washing them! I don’t know what we would have done without these guys. They are the best!
On Sunday we went to a government church. While there are churches in most cities that the government sanctions, there are a few problems with these places and therefore, still such a huge need for gospel preachers and church planters. 1) Fundamentally, Jesus is not the head of these churches. The Communist government is the head of these churches. They decide what happens in all these churches and train their own preachers as well. The head of these churches is an entity that denies the very existence of God. 2) Many of their preachers teach baptismal regeneration. They teach you must be baptized to be saved. You must have good works to be saved. Anything other than faith in Jesus to be saved is not the gospel. 3) There is no discipleship. The lady preacher at this church travels here to this village from a bigger church. During the week there is no godly leadership. 4) These churches are 95% grandmas. This one is not a bad thing but does cause a problem. Because of this, many men view Christianity as a women’s thing. Solely women in leadership and an overwhelmingly imbalanced number of women in attendance compared to men deters many men from desiring to attend a church like this. Right or wrong, that’s just how it is here. However, the great thing we’ve found is that, as we witness to Chinese young people, they are more willing to listen to us because many of them have grandmas that attend a church. Grandmas hold a huge influence in the family. These people love their grandmas and therefore are more willing to hear what we have to say! Either way, this is the only option here in this village.
We celebrated Chinese New Year in the village! The roads were covered in tiny pieces of red paper, the remains of the continuous fireworks shot off the night before. I just learned a few of the superstitious/traditional customs associated with the holiday that I thought I’d share. 1) Every year in China is associate with one of 12 different animals. This year is the year of the dog. If you were born in 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, or 1934 then this is your year! If this is your year, then traditionally on New Years Eve, you do not leave the house for fear that the New Years Monster will kill you. So, 2) you tie a red sash around your waist and 3) cover the two sides and top of your door frame in red to cause the New Years Monster to pass over your house and not kill you. Does this story sound a little bit familiar to any of you? 4) Fireworks are shot off continuously around the city, even in the day time. This really confused me as to why they’d shoot off fireworks in the day time. Also they are so loud. It sounds like someone is firing a gun inside our house most times. But it turns out the reason they shoot off fireworks is not for the beautiful color display. It’s actually for that loud noise. The loud noise is supposed to scare off evil spirits.
My absolute favorite part of this village trip is when Fan Shou Zhe took me out going from place to place to intentionally share the gospel. We walked through corn fields and small streets until after dark. The first person he had me talk to was one of his cousins. We went to his house but he wasn’t there so we went to his aunt’s restaurant and found him hanging out there. I was so nervous and it showed. I butcher my presentation of the gospel in Chinese, but I did it. Fan Shou Zhe wrapped things up by explaining in detail what my limited knowledge of the language could not, which I am so thankful for. I knew I totally bombed, but God promised that His Word would not return void and I did quote a few verses, so if nothing else, God at least has something I put out there to work with! Fan Shou Zhe was gracious enough to tell me I did “not bad.” I was sure he wouldn’t give me another opportunity as we went to other places, but he did. We met up with an old classmate of his and I got to share the gospel again. I know I didn’t do very well again, but he seemed really interested and seemed like he wanted to understand more. I felt on top of the world. In my very kindergarten (not even) level of language, I got to proclaim my Savior. I really look up to this guy. He’s currently training under missionary Mark Tolson to be a pastor, and when that day comes, he’s gonna be a great one.