Hello Friends and Family!
Many people have asked to hear all about our mission trip to Tibet…so, to kill many birds with one stone…here it is in blog form. Pictures to come later! (And, I plagiarized some of this from one of my team mates email she sent out…hope that’s ok Whit!) And remembere...this is the World Wide Web...so, I'm using a lot of "safe" spellings. Here you go:
Arrived in "Bayshing" and was immediately whisked away to the “Bao Ding” hotel. A “4 star” Ch*neez hotel…which is about a “2 star” in America. But, it was a nice place to call home for about 48 hours. During those 48 hours we ran, walked, hustled and bustled through the “touristy” things in Be*jing. Gr8_t Wall, Tien_anmen Square, The F0rbidden C*ty, and the Summ*r Pal*ce. It was all really amazing, but tuff to do in the little amount of time we had.
We then caught a flight to X_ning. After some altitude acclimation in (around 8,000 feet or so), we visited the rug factory and English school. It is really an amazing system they have set up over there. The workers of the factory get a pay check, a place to live, medical help and a school to learn English. It is REALLY a great benefit…even in the states. The "C" government knows who we are, knows we are believers and knows every detail of the work we are doing…and welcome us. But, unfortunately, we can not just go out and “witness” or “preach”. We have lead by example and pray that the people start asking questions…THEN, we have the freedom to talk to them. And, it IS happening. The workers are becoming loving friends to us and they are always asking questions.
After a few days, we left on the sleeper bus for Y.shu prefecture (13,000ft). A group of 13 of us hitched a ride on the infamous sleeper bus. It didn’t take too long to get used to the smells of yak butter, feet, and cigarettes as we rode 19 hours on mostly unpaved mountain roads. We had to stop once because of a landslide and another time because our bus broke down, (and of course…Justin and I barfing out the window) but altogether we were only delayed a few hours and we arrived in Yushu around 9:30 in the morning.
Despite our tiredness and lack of oxygen, we were immediately awestruck by the beauty of the place we were in. The town is flanked by rolling hills and mountains with a river running through the outskirts. The sky is the clearest blue I’ve ever seen, and with summer months, come all colors of wildflowers. But I think what struck us most were the people there. As we walked down the streets, nearly every person we saw flashed us a genuine smile and called out “tashi dele!” which is a greeting Tibetans give to foreigners. Other common greetings included very broken English: “hello!”, “okay!”, “I love you!”, “goodbye!” and “demo!? (hello in Tibetan).
We were very thankful when we arrived at the youth hostel and the rooms we had reserved were still available. The beds were clean, the squatty potties flushed (which immediately made me question why they didn’t just go ahead and put a seat on it), and there was usually electricity. We ate three good meals a day consisting of either yak yogurt & fruit, yak meat baozi (dumplings) & fried bread, sweet & sour chicken with rice, or yak mian pian (noodle soup) and cucumbers. (Side note: yak tastes a lot like deer, so I’m really thankful my parent raised me on deer meat.)
While in Y.shu we visited the three spiritual strongholds / temples of the town. When Chen Temple, Mani Stone (prayer stone) Temple, and the Big gigantic temple up on the mountain overlooking the town. That is the monastery home to all the monks…the monks that drive land rovers, bmw’s, and Lexus’s. The monks that take money from the crippled and old people of the town who are trying to earn merit / good kharma. I’m a little saddened / ticked off at that aspect, can you tell???
The influence of those places on the entire area, and on the people in X.ning that are from there, is unmistakably obvious. We ran across hundreds of men and women spinning prayer wheels, walking around the sites clockwise, tossing carved prayer stones onto the numerous piles, and mumbling mantras to gain merit. I was hit each time with many thoughts and emotions that I still haven’t been able to process through, and I don’t expect understanding to come any time soon, if ever. I was deeply saddened as I watched old men and women who could barely walk climbing mountains to walk around the idol shrines, and realized that their pain in walking came from thousands upon thousands of walks around them to gain merit that doesn’t exist. (There are many dark and sadistic things I learned while I was there, that I don’t feel I should share on this email. If you want to know…I’ll tell you one on one.) Intense fear of idols, human effort to appease them and gain a better life after this one, was never more blatantly obvious to me than the time I spent in Yushu. But the hope I felt when I looked at the children there, knowing that a light is beginning to shine and they can get the opportunity to embrace the perfect life, sacrificial love, and hope in Christ, seemed more of a reality than the darkness that presently binds and oppresses them. At all the sites we visited, we took time and hiked to an area overlooking each and sang praise / worship songs, remembering Christ’s sacrifice and His glory in places where it seems forgotten…because after all, He has not forgotten the Kham people.
We were bombarded with the realization of homeless, starving and deformed people in the streets of Ch*na. Something I’ve never seen in the states and that is: A deformed child being put out in the streets on display so that he can raise money and food to support his family. And also, many homeless adults that were deformed or stricken with Leprosy needing food.
A portion of the money we raised for this trip was used to buy food at the market and go out in the mornings and give it to these people. Also, at night, we would take our left-overs from dinner out to them. Unfortunately, a lot of times, when they receive money, they will turn around and give it to a T.betan BVddhist monk in order to gain merit or good karma. We didn’t want to see our dollars go to that, so we ministered through food.
The Shackelford family we stayed with have 3 wonderful children. Two girls and one little boy. Every time we would go out on the streets, people would swarm us to look and touch the kids faces. Those three kids are amazing! They would use the opportunities to make friendship bracelets and hand them out to the children. I helped the girls out one night when they were making a bunch of them…and we handed them out the next day to all the little children at the Mani Stone temple.
The project we were with has one medical person on staff; Bonnie. She told us stories of a leprosy colony that she works with. Leprosy is still very active and shunned in Ch*na. She talked of an older woman that lived in a cave all by her self who didn’t have the use of her legs. Bonnie was able to minister to her through the medical help, and built her a cart on wheels in order for her to get up off the ground so that her wounds would heal. Bonnie is a one person team out there…meeting her was a delight and I would love it if in the future, our church could send a short term medical mission team out to help her. In the mean time…please pray for Bonnie. She was recently attacked by a T.betan Mastiff (or maybe it was just a mean wild dog…I’m not sure.) which fractured her back and broke her arm in numerous places. She is having to fly back to the states to have surgery. We’re praying for a safe journey, surgery and a quick return for her.
We returned to X.ning after 5 days in Y*shu on a pretty uneventful sleeper bus ride. YEAH! We were able to get some good R&R before heading back to "Bayshing" and then on home. We arrived in Fayetteville around 9pm Saturday night exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to rest.
Love you,Shelli and Justin