Last night we decided to live by faith and do everything your mom told you not to do! Testing our disciple skills of going to a place with nothing but our sandals as we are told in Matthew 10 and finding a Man of Peace, we went of to the middle of nowhere in rural Inner Mongolia, Northern China. We arrived at the Ulanqab train station at 2 in the afternoon, grabbed a taxi, and handed him a piece of paper that had a random village our friend from Hohot had told us about. The paper read Zhao Jia Cun. To most people in the world, this means nothing, but to about 100 villagers in rural China, this is their home!
After an hour of driving further and further from civilization, we come across a road that lois like it had once been paved, but since run over by a hundred bull dozers. There was nothing but beers and torn up pavement. The taxi driver looks at us probably thinking “Why the heck are you asking me to take you here??” He persevered though and slowly rolled his cab over the debris to accomplish his mission. Upon arriving at the village, a few curious villagers were drawn to this strange arrival of uninvited, alien guests. The villagers and the driver begin to banter about who knows what. We only watched and assumed the conversation went something like this: Villagers: “Why in the world are you dropping these 3 in our village??” To which the taxi driver might have shrugged, pointed his finger at Aidi and exclaimed “She told me to!!” Anyways, we grabbed our bags from the trunk and went about meeting our new neighbors for the night.
We had no idea who we were supposed to meet or why, yet we felt called to be a part of this community and trust that someone will be prepared to take us. Eventually we stopped outside a gate and decided to gesture that we intend to sleep here tonight. At that moment, an unassuming old man slowly menders out of the front of his home and to the gate to see what the whole commotion is about. After some gibberish we couldn’t quite understand, the man waves his hand beckoning us to follow him. He takes us in his home and immediately grabs his hand broom and sweeps off a place for us to lay our stuff and sleep for the night.
Having found a place to lay our heads for the night, we decided to go out and greet the rest of the villagers. We walked around the small place within about half an hour meeting shepherds, woodworkers, tree planters, home builders. We were invited to a few homes for tea and walnuts. We were offered their cigarettes and beer. They treated us as honored guests breaking all of the rules and giving up all of the days responsibilities to make us feel at home. At some points we even sensed that they were arguing as to whose house the honored guests got to sleep! But the old man was the man of peace who had originally chose us and welcomed us and we were not going to pass up on his hospitality.
Though these people had no warning of our arrival, and had no idea who we were or why we were there, they really treated us like family and made it a very special, memorable visit. They cooked us a nice meal that we ate sitting on the kitchen table, which then also doubles as the family bed at night. They shared stories of their families by showing tattered old photos hanging on the beaten wall. They added us to their photo collection by whipping out their brand new smart phones and documenting they strange guests they had received for the night. We left them notes and traded them our currency so they can remember us. We brought out guitars and harmonicas and blessed them with worship music in the morning. As we left we exchanged hugs and faces of sorrow as we don’t know if our paths will ever cross again.
A lot was learned from a journey like this. Lessons of faith and trust and culture and relations and language and humanity. Almost everything we experienced was so foreign to us. We couldn’t understand what was being said, what we ate, or how these people occupy 24 hours in a day with so little to do! But we were able to share so much as well in our laughter and smiles and handshakes and our relations with each other. Of the 7 billion people in the world, so many we will never meet, but we are so blessed to have met these 100 villagers and I am sure they will be talking about their 3 strange visitors for years to come!