ARRIVED IN CHINA ONE DAY LATE
Ron and I fly on Delta Buddy Passes to save money for the mission work. We try to fly on the least traveled day of the week so there will be seats available for us. It was Spring break for many states and the Atlanta airport was full of people as was every flight in every direction. We could not get on the flight to China so we stood by for three flights to Los Angeles (all were over-booked) and checked flights to every other city that has connections to China. We finally got a flight to Detroit at 9:45 p.m. that night after staying in the airport for 12 hours. We got to the hotel in Detroit about midnight but our flight to Shanghai did not leave the next day until 3 p.m. We were able to get business class seats so we got to hang out in the Sky Club at the airport, which is so nice compared to waiting in the airport.
David Halligan, one of our traveling companions, left a day before us and waited for us in Shanghai. Jonathan Goode flew from Nashville to Detroit and on to Narita, Japan, without a problem but could not make the connecting flight to Shanghai. He arrived several hours after we arrived the next night.
We left early the next morning to get to another airport to fly to Guilin. John Li, our foster care worker, met us at the airport and took us to lunch. We boarded an afternoon train for Rongshui. In about five hours, we arrived at Neil Taylor Christian Care Center. David Yue and our son, Ronald, met us at the train station.
We had dinner and then went to the care center to attend their monthly birthday party. Two large cakes were set up outside on the courtyard and children were gathered around to enjoy the party for 7 or 8 children having birthdays in March. We went back early the next morning and spent the day there. It was Sunday so all the children were playing and having free time. King came from the high school and spent several hours with us. We returned to the hotel to have our Sunday service and then went back to the care center for David to video an interview with the orphan girl he and his wife support (and two sisters that another member of their church supports). It was a great day for all of us.
A driver and van was rented to drive us back to Guilin on Monday. John Li met us at the train station and escorted us on the train for Pingxiang. We got on the train about 1:30 in the afternoon and arrived the next morning. Ronald joined us for the rest of the trip and it’s been great having him along. He teases us that he’s treated like the step-child because our guest traveling companions share the 4-person cabin with us and Ronald is the odd person out in another cabin. We spent a lot of time in government meetings as this is the new location for our Seventh care center. There’s a lot of formality even though the contract had already been signed and registered. We meet with Civil Affairs and Charity Federation people in Pingxiang. Then we traveling to Lu Xi (the smaller city where the care center will be located). It is only 20 miles further. There we met the local (Lu Xi County) Civil Affairs and Charity Federation personnel. Lu Xi is pronounced “Lou See.” Everyone is interested in meeting us and welcoming us. We are served tea at each location and then we all had lunch together in a local restaurant in Li Xi.
In the afternoon, they drove us to the countryside to visit two orphans and their families.
We went to another local restaurant in the countryside on a lake for dinner. It was a pleasant day because the government people were very friendly and happy to have us come to their area.
Ron and Ronald spent considerable time going over the building that will house about 200 orphaned children when it is renovated. It is presently occupied by elderly people but the government has a new building nearby ready to move them into. They said they would have our building vacated within 2-3 weeks. It is a lovely building and not in terrible shape.
There are some patching and repairs needed but mostly painting and cleaning. Bathrooms are inadequate so Ronald will construct an addition to one end of the building for restroom facilities. He will also turn several storage rooms and regular rooms into a kitchen and dining room for the children. The kitchen for the elderly is in a separate small building on the same campus but everyone agreed that the children need their own kitchen with a different menu.
Ronald will have to fly out of Beijing to South Korea to renew his VISA again (by April 11th). We hope to have a letter of invitation from the government in Pingxiang so we can get him a work VISA but we don't know if they will do it soon enough. When he comes back into China, he will go back to Pingxiang to begin the work there. The city of Lu Xi is actually where Refuge Grace CCC is located. It's not a bad city and the government people seemed so nice and helpful. I'm hoping it will go well. The building is not in a bad shape but it's big and will take time to patch, repair, paint and clean. It will also take time to construct the rest room facilities and kitchen. I hope we can fly Ronald from Beijing to Pingxiang (a new airport has been built 40 km from the care center). I'm sure a government official would go pick him up. He's learning his way around quite well and is adjusting (not liking it, but enjoying the challenge of the work). Jacob wants him to come back to MJH immediately to help with leaking roofs and a water problem. I don't know if he will go there for a few weeks before he begins RGCC or not.
From Pingxiang, we took a train to Shaoyang. Abraham, our director from North Canton Christian Care Center, has been instrumental in getting the contract for RGCCC in Lu Xi so he was there with us for the formalities with the government. He returned with us to Shaoyang. A van and driver drove us to Longhui to the care center. We arrived late in the afternoon so we did not see all of the children.
The middle school children came in to eat dinner but went directly back to school for an evening class. We intended to go back to the care center the next day but the road was torn up for new construction and it was miles of rough riding. With children in school, Ron decided that Abraham and Esther should come to our hotel to meet for a few hours. They took us to the bus station to catch a bus back to Shaoyang.
It is very interesting to see how we are welcomed and appreciated in China. When we left Shaoyang (the city following NCCC's visit), we were buying water and snacks before boarding our train for Changsha. A person in uniform (working at the train station) came up and asked to see my ticket. He then escorted us to a "soft sleeper waiting room" to get us away from the crowds and public. We actually had "hard sleeper" accommodations because it was a day trip and we didn't qualify for this waiting room. It had a TV and leather sofas. The lady maintaining that room saw some paper flowers sticking out of my purse and started looking at them. The girls at NCCC had made them for me. I took out my camera to show her pictures of the children so she would understand. Then we opened up the computer and showed her a 15 minute power point about our work (Judy prepared it in Chinese). When she saw Ha Ha and then the house we built for him, she jumped up from the couch and hugged me, nearly squeezing me to death, thanking me over and over. When the train came, she took my bag herself to the platform and would have even taken it on the train for me but I insisted on taking it from there. She told another train person on the platform about us and he was nodding and smiling. She stood and waved at us until we could not see her any longer.
When we arrived in Changsha, it was dinner time. Esther had contacted Sunny, a college student to meet and accompany us to Biyang to serve as our translator. Sunny and a college friend took us to a restaurant nearby for dinner. We took a 10:45 p.m. train to Zhumadian, arriving about 6:30 a.m. Unfortunately, the train was sold out and Ronald and Sunny only had seats in the cattle car where there was also standing room tickets sold. Ronald did not sleep having to hold one bag on his lap and having people all around him, pushing, stepping on his feet, spitting, coughing, etc. He went about 36 hours without sleep before he got to bed last night. This is the roughest way to travel and I hope he does not have to do that again.
Jacob, our director from Mama Jo’s House, met us and took us to a nice hotel nearby to have a buffet breakfast. After breakfast, we returned to the train station and he purchased our tickets for Tuesday when we leave for Beijing. Not knowing that Sunny was coming with us, Jacob had arranged for girl to be here from a university to translate for us.
She's a very good translator so she is doing most of the work. Jacob also has a lady and her four year old son from Korea visiting. We have no idea how she knows about us or why she came. She gave us $250 this morning and said she would help more. They all belong to some local churches but we don't know what kind. They have been in on the classes today.
We are not in a good hotel here. The plumbing is bad with a terrible smell in the bathroom and the shower water pours all over the floor. Jacob had not made hotel reservations for us and the hotel he intended for us was full. This one is the worst we have had since arriving in China on this trip (trains are worse) but this is a poor city and we never expect much when we arrive here. The good thing so far is that none of us have gotten sick. I’m almost afraid to say that since we still have more than a week left in China.
Today is Easter Sunday in China. It has been a pleasant day here. It was really cool early (maybe 50 degrees) but by noon when we went to lunch it was in the 60's and sunny. We had our service at 9:30 a.m. in our hotel room. A study from both David and Jonathan completed our morning. They are studying now with Jacob.
We went to lunch at a restaurant that was having a wedding luncheon. They escorted us through the downstairs dining room and everyone turned to watch us walk through and go upstairs to a private room. It's like Susan Swang said on her trip to China, "We know how Julia Roberts feels now when she walks down the street." Ha Ha. They wanted us to take the package menu because they already had the food prepared for the wedding. (When we go to a Chinese restaurant in the U.S. they will have the dinner menu toward the back for so many people so it was like that). Some dishes were good but I didn't touch many of the dishes (octopus for one). Ronald said that's not what he would have chosen for a wedding meal. I would not have preferred this at any meal. While we were at the restaurant, two of our high school students came by to meet us. Yesterday a note was left at the hotel desk asking us to come by a high school and ask for a certain girl. It was not one of our Mama Jo's students so we didn't know how she knew about us. Today, after lunch, we stopped by that school and she came out to see us. She asked to come back to our hotel to talk. She is 19 and completing high school in June. She is concerned that she will not pass the exam to go to university so she wanted to know if she could help us in some way. She said she saw the van with our website and knew it was foreigners helping Chinese people and she just wanted to do something. She said she saw a small boy who was very poor with dirty and torn clothing and it touched her heart very much that she could do nothing to help him. She does not know about HIM but she has a good and tender heart. We got her phone number. Jacob can see if she wants to come to MJH and do some volunteer work first to see how she can handle it. Later, if she is good, we may hire her to work at the care center. She said her parents know nothing about her wishes so that may end it when she tells them. Somehow I don't think her seeing our van was just a "coincidence" but maybe HIS providence working.
Some of the girls at MJH got me aside yesterday and gave me a bunch of long letters. I think they are describing problems or giving complaints. All I can read in English is "Please help us!" They would not let me hold them in my hand but made me fold them and hide them in my pouch. We have not gotten a translator to read them to us yet. Another girl gave one of the translators a letter yesterday telling about the girls at MJH beating up another girl. We have to find out about that too.
We will probably go back to the care center tomorrow but school will be in session again and I may not get the pictures I needed. I thought I'd have another chance to take pictures but I'm not sure if I will find the children I wanted in pictures. I still have to go over the list with Jacob and talk to him about his reports. It's been difficult to find the time with so many other people all around and things to do. I've not had any time with the directors because Ron has the personnel attending Good Book classes when we are not doing other things. I had good intentions, but our time is too limited for me to get my time with them.
We will leave Biyang by driving the l-l/2 hours back to Zhumadian and taking a night train Tuesday night for Beijing. This will be our last train ride and our last care center to visit on this trip.
Ron and Ronald have made a complete survey of the buildings at each location. They are doing the planning to schedule what needs to be accomplished and the time frame for each, giving priority to what needs to be done first. We need about three men like Ronald working in China. It would be great if any men with construction experience could come help him for a few weeks or months at a time. We thought we might have another trip after leaving here to go to Zhenzhou but Ron has arranged for Jacob’s wife to go to represent Mama Jo’s Christian Care Center. Some years ago, a baby girl was deserted at MJH’s gate. She was brought to the U.S. about three years ago to have surgery at Shriners’ Children’s Hospital in Greenville, S.C. She has a genetic disease of the joints and will need surgery for many years. Stan and Connie Burnette, friends from the 1970’s, volunteered to be her host family. They fell in love with this little girl and decided to adopt her. The final adoption will take place in Zhenzhou on Tuesday. The government has requested that a representative from the orphanage be present. We are so very happy for Stan and Connie and their family. We are overjoyed that little Addie (Ai Dou Dou) has such a loving family and will have a wonderful life with them.
Temperatures in Beijing are still too cold to suit me so I'll probably have to buy a coat. I thought I could layer on and make it but next Sunday will be just above freezing in the morning when we will have to go to the hotel for services. We will meet a group from Calgary, Canada, in Beijing. They have been supporting and visiting the Neil Taylor Care Center for a number of years. They arrived the day we left NTCC but we will be in Beijing at the same time. Jonathan, David and Ronald will probably join them for sight-seeing a couple of days. We all plan to have dinner together. Ron has meetings scheduled in Beijing so he will be busy as usual. He may have to take a day trip to another city where we will conduct the medical mission in August. Jackie has found a hospital that he feels we should use for the mission, but Ron needs to survey it and sign a contract with the hospital.
We have all had so much fun. Exhausted from the travel? Yes, and age is no factor. I warned David and Jonathan that it’s like the Amazing Race to travel with Ron. We run from bus to train, skipping some meals and sleeping on noisy and dirty trains, getting very little rest and few showers. I don’t think they really thought it would be this difficult. Jonathan goes to sleep every time he gets still. The hard beds, the long train rides, buses and vans, are not his everyday experiences, not to mention the food! David has traveled back and forth to England with his job for many years so he has been very flexible on this trip. They have seen many different cities and the countryside, experienced government dinners, eaten strange food and seen things beyond their imaginations. It will be a trip they will not forget. It is something to “write home” about.
Sharon Webb, a friend from Montreal, Quebec, now living in Waterloo, Ontario, asked if I could help her son with a school project. There’s a children’s book about Stanley Flatt, a boy that was crushed flat by having a bulletin board fall on him. Since then, he is sent by mail to people and travels to many places. Stanley came with me to China. I have Judy, our Chinese worker in Atlanta, write Stanley’s story in Chinese. I share the cut-out of Stanley and his story with different Chinese children and get a picture of him in various cities. He will be returned to Canada along with some pictures and souvenirs. The children will enjoy the story of Stanley’s travels to China and learn a lot about this large country.
We used to see slogans in public places “Kilroy was Here!” There is a lot of construction going on everywhere we go and inevitably, our hotel will back up to a new building going on. There is always drilling and construction noise until late at night and starting early in the morning. The first night in China, I told Ron that Kilroy had already arrived. He didn’t know what I meant until I asked him if he heard the drilling going on. On our last trip, it was the same and when we arrive in Shanghai to return home, Ron said he thought the driller had taken an earlier train because he was already there working in our hotel!
When we were riding in a van with the government workers in Lu Xi, one of the men moved back to a seat near me and started staring at me and talking. Of course, it was beyond my comprehension so I just smiled and nodded. Finally, a government worker behind me asked me my age in broken English. I told her and she repeated it in Chinese to the man. He then pointed at Jonathan’s hair (a few grey hairs showing up), and then to David’s and Ron’s (both very grey) and then to mine. Of course, he didn’t see a single grey hair in my head so I knew what he was talking about. I laughed and said (knowing he could not understand) “It’s my secret and I’m not telling.” Later that night at dinner, the same man got Jonathan cornered and a translator quoted him as saying, “You are one handsome man.” All the government women agreed. David, Ron and Ronald have all teased Jonathan since then about him being the handsome one in the crowd. Jonathan has been a great sport during the trip and we have had some good laughs together. It has been good to get closer to these fine men and now we will appreciate them even more for taking their time to come see the work firsthand.