Friday, June 12, 2009

The Great Wall

We left Jinan and flew to Beijing. In Beijing, as well as Jinan, and Shanghai, and several other smaller cities, we met with brother and sisters that were part of our global spiritual family. At all times we were mindful that we were guests in China, and we took pains to honor the governments view on Christianity. Our role was that of a responder to any and all who were exploring the nature of Faith. China is a land of mysticism and many of its people see merit in the historic Christian message.

In our hotel were about 100-hundred rambunctious teens from an ex-pat school in Shanghai -- they were in Beijing for a "cultural" study. They were also a source of entertainment (not all the hotel guests would share my disposition), and a great opportunity for my own personal anthropological and cultural study. You know, at the core, youngins' have not changed that much. I witnessed all the usual, juvenile pranks played out -- the same shannigans I would have been up to at that age. Racing each other -- one group using the elevators and one group using the stairs. A red faced boy -- wearing nothing but a towel and his birthday suit -- pounding on a door trying to get back in his room. You heard them before you saw them -- there was noise, noise, noise, and more noise. Shadowed alcoves and turns in the hallways made a good place for the love-struck to get out of sight and catch a quick smooch. Also, there were a couple of break-ups, and the accompanying tears, hugs of consolation, and empathetic consolation that life would some day be worth living again.

The Great Wall of China . . .

On day two we walked through the lobby to the awaiting Chinese driver named Tiger. Over and over again I kept giggling, I can't believe we are going to see The Great Wall of China. The ancient barricade is cloaked in myth. One being that it is the only man-made structure that can be seen from the moon. Not true, but I want to believe it! Long before we were able to actually set foot on the storied landmark, we caught glimpses of its serpentine trail wriggling along rugged hillsides or atop and along jagged ridge lines. It was my opinion that we were passing up some pretty impressive places to breach the wall, but that wistfulness disappeared when at last I found myself standing on the highest point of the entire Great Wall. Breathless from my highspeed ascent to the summit, I stood gasping for air -- my imagination going at full throttle. Again, I found myself saying audibly, I can't believe I am really here!

Where does one start in trying to describe something so indescribable? I will try. Steep slopes and carefully laid, massive, gray, stones worn smooth by the foot traffic of millions of people, were neatly and closely fitted together high above the contours that formed its base. Severed, skeletal sections of the wall appeared and disappeared for miles among the vistas of undulating topography that surrounded it. People of all ages trudged up the ramped inclines. One of the most striking scenes of my entire time in China was that of the young man plodding step-by-careful step carrying his aged (I presume) grandfather on his back to the Wall's summit. The elderly man was clinging to his carrier and looked to be clinging to the last days of his life. A steel cylinder with clear, slender tubes provided the air that hissed into his nostrils. Gaunt cheeks and pale lips that lay tight to the bone, stretched even tauter as he labored to gulp oxygen into his lungs. Twisted and powerless, his legs dangled awkwardly, and swung lifelessly, from side to side with each stride of his loving porter.

It was a beautiful moment. It was an excruciating moment. It was a humbling and tearful moment . . . Throughout the centuries the Great Wall had stopped the advance of conquering Legions, but it could not stop the advance of conquering love.


  1. What a beautiful description of our day on the Great Wall. Thank you for making it come alive for others.

  2. As you described your experience and the indescribable feelings of what you saw, it brought me back to the day I went to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Africa! God's great power yet gentleness was shown to me that day in my view of the falls! But how awesome your experience must have been as well! Thanks for sharing!!