Recently a friend of mine likened post-revolution 1980’s China to North Korea. Really!? I thought… North Korea seems like a much more totalitarian regime. But when my parents describe the drab-colored attire, the rations, the police-watch on every street, the bugged rooms, the government-run churches, it starts to sound more and more like the land under the iron fist of Kim Jung Un.
That’s the China my parents moved to. Mom was in her late twenties and dad in his thirties, both of the on student visas. They walked through snow to the shower building, shared one phone with the entire dormitory, cherished the occasional slab of lard in their rice bowls, and appreciated that their windows were intact, unlike those of their local Chinese compatriots across the court yard whose frostbitten ears evidenced their frigid living conditions. They were thoughtful of their every move as they were among just 200 foreigners living in China at the time.
As a kid growing up with them in Hong Kong and Taiwan, they were always just my parents… old, not terribly adventurous (except for the occasional elephant ride in Thailand or stag beetle collection from Malaysia), thoughtful, even-keeled, just ordinary. But the view we hold of our own family members cannot be very objective. As I saw my parents through my friend’s eyes (the one who referenced North Korea), I started to see my parents more as daring risk-takers, following Jesus to the uttermost parts of the earth, journeying far from family and into an unknown frontier. Wow… my parents!
I remember when I was younger, hearing the stories of dad packing his bags with Chinese Bibles and other such contraband while going from Hong Kong to China, his encounters with a house church pastor who was imprisoned for his faith and tortured for over 20 years, his calculated evangelistic conversations with Chinese friends in the woods away from prying eyes… but I didn’t think it was anything too fantastic. Now I think differently. Now I am the age my mother was when she left her community in California to live in an unknown place and learn an unfamiliar language. That was pretty cool. That takes a lot of daring, sacrifice, and radical faith.
If North Korea was to open up it’s doors to the free world, would I sign up to go? I have to think about that one. But they heard a call from God and they said “Yes”! And God, in his awesomeness threw in a little surprise by allowing them to meet and fall into a loving ministry partnership that would last 30 years and running! I’m pretty thankful for that. Well, without it, I wouldn’t be here. So I’m glad they went to China.