This afternoon I spent some time looking at pictures from the trip I took to China in 2005. Eight of us, all men, went on a humanitarian mission that began in Thailand - then on to China - then to Laos and back to Thailand. According to my pedometer we trudged 72 miles in all. Our footsteps took us through and around thousands of acres of rice planted by hand and harvested by man and beast. We forded swollen rivers on rickety bridges made of bamboo, and sometimes had to wade through water up to our thighs. We skirted rolling hillside country and gazed upon hundreds of acres of beautiful indigo plants, boxwood, stands of rubber trees -slashed and wounded to yield their value, and tea and melon plantations.
During the worst rain storm that China had seen in 100 years we lost satellite communication with the U.S., and were stranded somewhere in Laos. There were moments when we sensed the presence of God more intensely than any previous time in our life, and there were times when a dark, dangerous, and treacherous spiritual presence never before experienced was smothering.
Scenes like those from a National Graphic magazine were in abundance. Chickens and potbellied pigs ran through thatched roof shanties every bit as welcomed as the half naked little children who called it home. Laotians and Chinese peasants alike invited us into those humble homes and fed us. Little children stared, giggled and loved us. Young women shyly flirted, and fawned over our cameras. Communication barriers were amazingly easy to disassemble - kindness, and respect created instant bonds.
Our team of 8 men took the moniker "Road Makers," and there is a world of difference between following a road and being a road maker. In retrospect I realize that my life was forever turned upside-down. Absolutely nothing has been the same since that 10 day adventure 6 years ago when when we left the soil of Laos, crossed the Me Kong river, made our way back to Thailand, and then on to the United States. All my spiritual beliefs and the activity of my faith based life were challenged and forced to change. Road making is hard work. My pride makes it hard to admit this, but I am stuck in mud or spinning my wheels. Detours - rather than a road for others to follow - eat up a lot of miles.
But all said, I don't want to go back to the way life was.