I'm sitting here in my 26th floor hotel room in Hong Kong—high rises towering into the sky all around me. I don't think I will ever forget the anguished, nearly despairing look on her face last Friday afternoon—a desperate face not even my iPhone camera could possibly have captured.
We flew in this afternoon from Xiamen, China—where we (my two translators and I) spent the last nine-plus days and nights in that thriving seaport city of Fujian Province—a city once remembered in British annals as Amoy (one of the five Chinese ports opened to foreign trade by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842). Our mission in Xiamen—to conduct a public evangelistic series. I say "public," though government officials overseeing religious affairs allow no public marketing of the gospel through evangelism, thus leaving word-of-mouth and discreetly hand-distributed printed pamphlets as the only advertisements for this series of meetings.
Actually, that we were there at all is a tribute to the influence and respect the pastor of the Xiamen Seventh-day Adventist Church enjoys in the government circles of the city and province. A humble, deeply spiritual and loyal Adventist pastor and leader, he also sits as a leader on the Three Self Patriotic Movement council (a government oversight board established for government sanctioned Protestant churches/congregations). It is because of his relationship with governing authorities that the church received tacit (but necessarily unwritten) permission to invite a foreign preacher to preach in his church for this series, the first time such permission has been granted in Xiamen and the southern provinces of China.
And the woman with the anguished and pleading countenance—I spotted her Friday afternoon as we were touring the large ornate Buddhist temple in Xiamen (across the street from Xiamen University with its commanding 30- or 40-story administration tower). The temple precincts were bedecked with bright red festive hanging lanterns, banners and floral bouquets for the next day's celebration of Buddha's birthday. Shining golden images of Buddha were everywhere you turned on the hillside temple grounds. But as part of the birthday preparations, the entrance to the "most holy place" shrine within the temple was cordoned off from the public with yellow traffic/crowd control tape, leaving all of us sightseers and adherents alike on the outside looking in.
That's when I saw the woman, oblivious to the people milling around behind her, on her knees beneath the yellow tape, her hands clasped, her lips moving, her head bowing repeatedly toward the now inaccessible golden image of Buddha across the cordoned off courtyard. But it was her face—a face etched I think forever inside of me now—a face I can still see even here as the Hong Kong sun vanishes and the high rise lights below and above me now twinkle in the night—a face of such absolute despair and anguish welling up from a heart that appeared to be breaking in real time while I silently watched—breaking for what, I will never know—but breaking in front of a cordoned off idol that I swear never heard her pleas—and will never answer her prayers.
Back in my Xiamen hotel room two hours later, my heart broke for a nameless Chinese woman loved by the God whose own heart broke for her on a cross, on another Friday afternoon much longer ago than last week.
"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all people to Me" (John 12:32).
But who will go—to her, to them, to all the broken hearted—and lift Him up—there, here, wherever? Only the broken hearted, of course—God, you, and me.
Join me this Sabbath morning for a personal picture and testimony report on the China mission in both services (9 and 11:45).