Part V: On to the 'Interior'
Shortly before 10 p.m. we arrived in Handan and disembarked from the train. As we moved toward the van, several teenagers were just outside the station and were quite excited to see us. Obviously, Caucasian visitors were a rarity in the interior, non touristy areas of China!!
Our local guide met us and we quickly discovered his command of English was limited. To most questions his response was a confident, "Yeah, sure" even though the question might have demanded a specific answer such as "What time are we scheduled for breakfast?" "Yeah, sure!"
Eunice, Moe, Brock and her friend, Pat, along with a young Chinese girl who was going to Pittsburgh State in Kansas next year, were to be with us during our Handan/Diming/Gwanto/ Tungchangfu ( now Laoching) time. Since it was late I checked to see if they'd arrived, which they had but, because it was so late, I didn't call. However, shortly after checking in, John called our room and said Eunice had contacted him. He gave me her room number as 501 but there was no response. I called back telling him I was getting no answer so he connected me with her. Later, we found out the number was 510! Anyway, she had arrived and was eager to meet us and join us on our itinerary. Eunice came to China a year or so ago following the death of her husband. She is in her 80s and has a compassion for the Chinese. Her parents, the John Moe's, were missionaries with our folks but she was older than I and left for college shortly after I was born. She remembered seeing me as a one year old or so. She completed her degrees in nursing and taught at several universities in the states, then settled with her husband on a ranch in western Oregon. Because of her humanitarian activities since coming to a village near Laoching: buying computers for the elementary school, teaching English to adults and children, encouraging environmental awareness, etc. she has become well known in the community and has even been featured in several news stories and TV shows!
Pete, Ed and Ray meet with Eunice in the Handan Hotel
Next morning we met around 8:00 for breakfast at the restaurant next to the hotel. Lucy, the college student, was the daughter of a government official in Jinian with some influence, especially in regard to Eunice efforts to have a more long lasting visa. He had read about Eunice in the newspaper and contacted her to see if his daughter could spend time with her in an effort to improve her English before coming to the states for college. The fact that Lucy has been authorized to pursue an undergraduate program suggests something about her father's political status, as we had been told that undergraduate overseas college enrollment is discouraged by the government.
After exchanging greetings and breakfast we headed for Taming, now Diming, to see if the hospital and church were still there and if there was more we could find. The road was the same as last time, paved and well traveled. We arrived about noon at the gate which was probably the old west gate, and turned off the main street into a new hotel. As we turned in, Ray pointed to the top of a building which was visible over the wall on our left and remarked that it looked like the old hospital building. Sure enough, since we were there last time, this hotel had been built just past the area which the city uses for government offices, which includes the old Bresee Memorial Hospital. We asked at the hotel and were directed to go back to the main street and around the wall. Several of us proceeded to walk there and, of course, took pictures and explored the area. This time Chen, our local guide, was able to arrange for us to go inside. However, it was noon and the building was locked. We returned to the hotel for lunch, then back to the hospital, which was now open, and took pictures of the inside. Louise had her Polaroid so took photos of some of the people, then gave them the picture, which, of course, pleased them immensely!
We then went in search of the Christian church. Because of the narrow streets the van gave up and we had to get out and walk several 'blocks' to where it was. It is fairly close to the south gate and apparently has been continued more by people with Mennonite background than any other group. The pastor was new. 'Mark,' the pastor three years go still lives in Diming, we were told, but has retired. Someone tried to call him but found that he was in Handan and would not be back until later in the day. We did get a phone number but time did not permit us to make contact. We drove by the north gate, which is now quite developedwith stores and businesses. This was the area, just outside the gate, where the mission compound supposedly was.
The Diming pastor knew of Rev. Wu in Gwanto and told us he had retired a year or two ago but was still in the Gwanto area. Rev. Wu was the 84 year old preacher who had pastored in Gwanto all his life. He probably grew up in our Nankwantao mission compound, had gone to Bible school for a year or so in Shantung province at some school nearby, then to Tientsin Bible Seminary just after the war. There he had taken classes from my Dad, and it turns out, also from Rev. Moe, and remembered them well. Last time we had enjoyed recalling those memories with him. Since he grew up in the mission compound and his family had been Christians, it is quite possible that he actually was in the Gwanto compound way back in 1930 when my older brother and I, and our parents were there. It is also likely that his father was the young school teacher who came to the compound back in the 1910s or so and had been converted under my grandfather's counsel.
We drove to Gwanto, but because of the time we did not stop at the old compound downtown which would have been interesting. Instead we went directly to the Christian compound on the edge of town. In the three years since we were last there, the congregation has built a three story building in the middle of the area, with a large auditorium on the main floor and classrooms and/or living quarters above.
We found an elderly janitor in the building and a couple of women who, after some discussion between them and the guides, agreed to help us locate Rev. Wu. I'm not sure what the delay was in getting them to agree to do this, but got the impression that at first they weren't sure he would be around. However, after about 15 minutes, they came to the van and we headed for the little village outside Gwanto where he lives.
As we drew near we recognized the area again. Rev Wu was not in his hut so, as had happened in '98, someone went in search. Shortly, he came down the little dirt street, very much looking like the same saintly 'warrior of the cross' we'd met last time! I started to show him some pictures of the seminary and Dad to remind him who we were but he waved the pictures away-his cataracts are so bad he said he couldn't see them anyway-and let us know he well remembered us, commenting that last time my brother had been with me! We introduced Eunice and Ray to him. He remembered Rev. Moe, who had also been one of his seminary professors.
This was a very special meeting for us. He seemed so appreciative and impressed to think we would return to see him. We went into his hut, and talked back and forth through Pat as interpreter. This time I put my arm around him and told Pat to interpret as I prayed with him. She did so and he seemed very moved by our prayer time. His 'amens' were heartfelt and afterwards, he said 'God bless you' several times. His granddaughter in law was there with his great granddaughter and she came up beside him. She was a neatly dressed, attractive young lady, who also seemed very touched by our return and our taking time to visit with this patriarch of their church and her granddad in law. As we went back to the van she walked beside Marj repeatedly saying "Thank you" and "God bless you." There were tears in her eyes, as well as in Rev. Wu's and others as we reluctantly said our good bys and drove slowly away.
Ed, Eunice and Mr. Wu
It became my hope to raise the $2500-3000 or so which would be enough money to provide cataract surgery for Rev. Wu and enable him once more to read his beloved Bible.
On our return to Handan, we encountered a traffic jam on the highway which resulted in some delay. Construction required traffic to cross a narrow bridge and several trucks, in the process of turning, were unable to pass but all refused to back up.
Eventually, after considerable jockeying, the front truck would squeeze by, to be promptly followed by another truck and the same struggle recurs!
Most of the group were too tired, both physically and of Chinese food, to eat dinner. So Pete, Ray, Eunice, and I wound up in the buffet with Chinese choices. A couple days later we discovered that Handan did have a couple of western choices but Chen, our local guide, apparently hadn't understood what we were requesting when he had told us such choices were not available.
The mission home in Tungchangfu, now Liaochong
Tuesday we left about nine for Liachong, the former Tungchangfu, where the National Holiness Association work first began with Grandpa My grandfather and great uncle and Uncle Cecil. We arrived around 11:30 and drove past an extension of the Grand Canal which is an attractive area with a park like atmosphere. On the east side near the canal we found the original church and mission compound. The old three story house that my folks, and other missionaries lived in back in the first days of the mission was still standing and occupied by the pastor and his family. I walked through the same little halls and rooms with thoughts of what it must have been like back then. The roof was flat with an entry to it and was probably a pleasant porch for our folks on warm summer evenings!
Next door was the church, very run down. It has been declared an historical site by the government but the stone marker in front labeled it as a Catholic church much to the irritation of the 'Christians' who were living nearby and showing us around. In China, protestants are 'Christians' or 'believers' to distinguish from 'Catholics'. In fact, when I started to video the marker, the pastor, who was showing us through, asked me not to video the sign and stood in front of it to be sure I didn't because it said 'Catholic' instead of 'Christian!'
The church had been used as a community library but recently had been returned to the local congregation for them to restore. We went inside and could picture my grandfather and my uncle preaching from the platform. The auditorium probably would seat well over a thousand, with a balcony on three sides that undoubtedly held another five or six hundred people. The old church bell was still in the belfry although not hooked up.
The first church building of the World Gospel Mission in Tungchangfu
From there we went south to the little village where Eunice lived. She considers herself a universalist and is very active in humanitarian concerns. Her political and social philosophy would be considered quite 'liberal' by the evangelical sector, especially the fundamentalist element. Her concern for others and for the Chinese has resulted in her being very well received and welcomed in schools and hospitals in the area where she usually works at teaching English as well as advocating better health and experimenting with plants and crops. She had an experimental garden she and others were working nearby. She has seen no problems as far as religious worship is concerned and no effort to stamp out churches although denominational alliances are prohibited.
When Eunice first came here she gave the elementary school a gift of ten thousand dollars to buy computers and also volunteered to help teach English to the kids. Her sponsor is the mayor of the little village which is really a company town with a large chicken factory as its sole industry. The mayor, who was also either the owner or manager of the factory, told us they produce a million pounds of chickens annually for McDonalds and KFC. The villagers are given pullets to raise until the appropriate size when they are taken to the factory.
The village has no sewer system, at least not underground which gave the atmosphere, when walking down the street, a distinct aroma!. There were open gutters along the street although there were probably septic tanks in some houses.
Eunice had a very nice home all things considered. It was stucco or white stone/brick with a pleasant entry courtyard where she had a small garden and was in the process of making a little waterfall. The home is a two bedroom with living room and kitchen/eating area. All of the rooms open into the courtyard and can only be reached by going outside as there are no interior halls. The living room was especially pleasant, large, cool, with nice furnishings.
She had invited her sponsor to meet us and he arrived shortly, driven by a chauffeur in his long black limousine! Several of us, along with Eunice and the mayor, went down the road a block or so to the school where we visited an English speaking class of probably 3rd or 4th graders. They used listening stations and had a young teacher who barely spoke English herself and certainly didn't understand it! No wonder they are so eager for Americans to come over and teach English.
The school had been built by the mayor. Apparently the mayor of a village has almost complete discretion in expenditure of a significant part of the local tax income as a similar action had been described when I visited with Bruce in regard to the proposed university in Beijing.
The school just a block from Eunice's house. Eunice supplied a computer lab for them
The school system is 5-3-3 with primary, junior middle, and senior middle as the designations. From the senior middle students move on to specialized schools or to the university. It appears that their school system is not really an education program but more of a training, and to some extent, an indoctrination experience.
About 3:30 we left to return to Handan, bidding goodbye to Eunice, Pat, and Lucy. While at Eunice's, Ray and Pete got on her internet to check on any email messages and discovered there was no printer. Pete and I decided to resolve that problem and later, arranged to send her $150 so she could get one.
Interestingly enough, the van driver didn't know the roads from the village back to Liachong or how to get on the road to Handan. As a result we spent about an hour or more back tracking, asking directions, which most of the time apparently were inaccurate, before we finally got back on the main east- west highway. The Liachong to Handan road is a turnpike a good share of the way, about as far as Gwanto, then two lane the rest of the way. However, we again ran into the construction area outside Gwanto and the same sort of traffic jam! As a result of all that our two and a half hour ride was extended markedly and we didn't get back until eight!
Ed and the pastor in front of the original Nazarene Church in Handan
Wednesday, May 16, 2001, would be our last day in Handan and we spent the day in the city. I had asked Chen to identify a Christian church for us to visit, along with time in their big park and in the major department store which we had visited last time. By now Chen had become more accommodating. I think he was a bit overwhelmed and confused at first by our assertiveness, expectations, and insistence on planning our own agenda at our own pace.
After breakfast he took us first to a church. Much to our shocking surprise it was the original Nazarene church still very much in existence! The original church sanctuary had been enlarged with an addition to the front half of the original unit turning it into an 'L' shaped building with the back of the sanctuary being the front part of the old building then extending into the addition. It was about 10 a.m. when we entered and there was a prayer time going on with about a dozen people praying in the front of the church. Pete promptly stepped in and joined those who were praying at the altar.
We took some videos and asked if the pastor would be available. He wasn't there but someone called and indicated he'd be there in about 15 minutes, so we went into the office area to wait. As we entered the area Chen exclaimed, "Oh, look, the last dinner!" One wall was almost covered with a large mural of the Last Supper. I said, "You're close. It's the last supper." Chen and John both wanted to know which one was Judas! As we waited we were served tea.
The pastor arrived and we visited for about a half hour. He had attended the seminary in Beijing and knew the last principal who was still living in Tientsin. I mentioned some names from the past such as Wen moosher, Moe moosher and Pan Ze fung, but they didn't register with him. However, he knew of Rev. Wu and had pastored in Diming before coming to Handan six years earlier. In Handan he had started a Bible school which he invited us to visit but time didn't allow us to. I would guess him to be in his mid 30s.
Ray had drifted into their book shop as we visited and came back with a very nice leather bound Bible, [maybe imitation] which only cost about $1.50 [twelve yuan]. As we finished visiting and went back into the courtyard Pete went into the bookstore and bought four bibles an Louise decided to do the same, as well as buying a children's illustrated Bible which she gave to Marjorie to use in her children's missionary lesson back home. We needed to leave but as we went out into the courtyard the pastor asked if we would pray for them. So all of us got in a big circle of about 25-30 people and held hands as I prayed. The pastor was very appreciative and joined in the 'amen'. We left with the people waving good by and eyes filled with tears.
From there we went to the Grand Wall park, a beautiful park set in a river area with flower gardens, walkways and a large fortress type edifice which had been a city wall. The governor, centuries ago, had built a large city wall for protection. When the emperor visited, he was so impressed with the wall that he adapted it for his own defense system and it became the model for the Great Wall of China. At the wall we ran into a young bride and groom and took their pictures, including Polaroid's which Louise gave to them. Then we encountered a father and daughter who played a unique set of musical instruments amazingly well. The little girl couldn't have been more than eight or nine but performed like a pro!
By now it was past noon so we went to the large department store which included the 'Happy Tom' fast food place, an attempt at imitating McDonalds. Interestingly enough, while I was the middle of May, 'merry Christmas' was still printed on one of the windows with a small, decorated Christmas tree nearby.
We spend a couple of hours wandering through the store with some making purchases then headed to a computer complex which Chen knew of as we wanted to price printers for Eunice. Chen knew the manager of one of the stores and we arranged, after a little bargaining, to be assured that Eunice could get a printer for the equivalent of $75. Eunice had given us her bank account number in Lincoln City, Oregon, where she deposits funds for withdrawal to her bank in China. When we returned to the states, Pete and I deposited $150 to cover all costs and I wrote and e mailed to her information on the arrangements we'd made for a printer.
By now it was late afternoon and, since we were leaving the next morning for Shijazhuang we chose to return to the hotel, get ready to leave and have an early dinner.