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The Ends of the Earth

By Dan Baumgartner on
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Feb 28 in Musings
“Share where you were born, and then the farthest you have ever been from that point.”  It was a simple assignment for dinner conversation when the Deacons and Elders met together for an hour this week.  It made me think about distant places I had been.  My first thought was “Inner Mongolia.”  Upon review later, I was actually much farther away from Seattle when I was on Lake Victoria in Kenya. But Inner Mongolia had occupied my thoughts, and I was remembering a trip in 2002.
A mission team from our church had gone to Hong Kong, carried bibles into China and then met with members of the underground church.  On the second half of the trip, we trained through large industrial cities I had never heard of and then drove a small bus for many hours.  When I stood on the red dirt of rural Inner Mongolia, I thought I had found the ends of the earth.  As we drove the one highway, we saw people walking or biking, sheep, tractors and a few delivery trucks on the road–not one private automobile in an entire day.  To be honest, though the physical topography was beautiful, it was a little depressing. Life was clearly very hard on people. At one point, we pulled off into a tiny village in the middle of nowhere…totally unplanned, just to take a look and stretch our legs. We ducked into a courtyard with a few dingy duplexes around it.  Sitting in the window of one of them was a “granny,” which is what they called an older Chinese woman.  Her caregiver motioned us inside, and we gathered around her. 
Our translator noticed that the only thing on the wall was a Christian calendar, and asked about it.  It turned out that Granny was a Christian, converted by a visiting pastor when she was 21.  We met her when she was 84.  She pulled out an ancient bible and got on her knees to pray with us.  When we asked if we could sing a song, she misunderstood, and thought we wanted HER to sing.  So she spit out her false teeth and launched into a hymn!  It was a remarkable moment.  As far as she knew, she was the only Christian for 30-40 miles around.   Out of all the vastness of China, all of Inner Mongolia, we randomly step into a random tiny village, and randomly walk into a random courtyard, and randomly meet this Chinese Christian saint.  It was a huge encouragement to her and to us.  And of course, it wasn’t random at all.  We are never alone.  Like the Psalmist (139) says,
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

   See you soon,
                 Pastor Dan

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