Monday, April 30, 2012

Feeding 5000 in Gaoli Village

We have never seen anything like this anywhere else. Charly came to Gaoli Village for a Memorial Festival back in November and showed us pictures when he got home that fascinated us. Since we've been living in the village this month we've had the privilege of participating in three festivals ourselves. The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 has taken on new meaning after experiencing the amount of food preparation and the orderly system for feeding up to 5000 people here!

This video clip shows women in the kitchen making steamed buns called baozi, with a sweet filling (served as one of the first courses) and with a potato filling (served as a later course). Steaming racks are stacked on top of each other with fires going underneath to cook them.

Steaming racks of baozi

Cooking beef in big pots

Frying flatbread

Arranging the fried flatbread called "momo" on straw with a slice of beef on top for every guest at the festival to take home.

Putting dates in bowls for each table of 12-14 people. The first course is dried fruit and nuts. (The last course is beef noodles, one of the local specialties.)

Our first festival on April 2: Joshua (with red sweatshirt hood) and CJ (to his right) are in the bottom left corner. Jordan and I are toward the middle, a little more to the upper left corner. Charly took pictures from the roof and ate in the second shift.

The young men of the community serve the food, and the older men fill up the cups of tea with hot water. People sit directly on the green matting rolled out on the ground or on short stools around tables that are about 5 inches high.

Women refilling the trays with plates of baozi just outside the kitchen. Generally, people from other towns and villages (up to 3000 people) are served first. Most of those from Gaoli Village (just over 2000 people) wait to eat in the second shift. Some of the workers wait until both shifts of people are done eating before they eat themselves and then begin the clean up. Everyone knows their work and their role to play in this important community event, and it runs like clockwork.

This video shows a portion of the people eating at the most recent festival on April 29, for the dedication of the newest building of the Memorial Tombs. The other two festivals were to honor the current Sufi leader's great grandfather's death (who was the founder of this Order) and the current Sufi leader's mother's death.

I wanted to share these pictures and videos first. Next time I will share some reflections about Jesus' feeding of the 5000, related to the feeding of 5000 in Gaoli Village, and what God is teaching me through stories of drama and through birds...

Friday, April 27, 2012


Some of you know that our lives were filled with more drama than normal last week. On Monday we realized that there were problems with our living in the village that needed to be resolved right away. Many phone calls were made. Charly took a trip to the county seat. There were ups and downs, but overall it looked like we could get the needed documents without having to travel back to Lanzhou (a 5 ½ hour trip).

Until Thursday. Then it became clear that our situation had become more complicated. Two officials came at that day to tell us that we had until to get it resolved or else we needed to travel back to Lanzhou the next day. All further communication made our situation seem impossible to be resolved before .

So we started cleaning the house. Packing our stuff. Saying goodbyes. Discouraged with not knowing when or even if we would be able to come back to the village. At Charly started writing a text note to the official who gave us the deadline, explaining that our situation was still not resolved. So we would plan to leave the next morning on a bus back to Lanzhou. But before he finished writing the note, he received a text from someone at the county seat who said that if we could get three chops on a document explaining the purpose of Charly’s research, we could apply for temporary resident permits. Fifteen minutes to spare.

There was a way for us to stay.

The next morning Charly traveled back to the county seat and got the three different chops at three different bureaus in just two hours! No other explanation than God’s provision and granting of favor.

Then he took the document to the office in a different town to apply for our temporary resident permits. He was told they would be processed Monday or Tuesday of this week. On Wednesday the main official called Charly to say that he was out of town and would take care of it when he got back to the office on Thursday or Friday. We are still waiting and trusting. God is in control of our situation.

This story reminded me of another story of drama that Charly and I experienced at the end of December on our way back to Lanzhou. We had gone by ourselves to Beijing on a three day trip to renew our fingerprints at the American Embassy to update our adoption paperwork. Our kids were on their own for their first extended time at home. After we finished our fingerprints appointment at the Embassy, we had plenty of time before our train left from the Beijing West station. So we decided to splurge on a leisurely lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant. As we were waiting for our dessert, we became aware of the time and acknowledged that we might be pushing it a little. We were close to a subway stop, but made the choice for a taxi, thinking it would be the faster option. We had exactly one hour before our train left.

We asked the taxi driver as we climbed into the back seat how long it would take to get to the train station. He said it should take 40 minutes. Charly let out a relieved sigh and said, “Oh, then it should be no problem.” We settled back into the seat, comfortable with our 20 minute cushion. But it was not to be.

As Charly was talking with our kids on the cell phone, the driver looked at us apologetically in the rearview mirror and said, “There’s a problem. I won’t be able to get you there on time. There is too much traffic backed up on the road ahead. Your only hope is to take the subway.” So Charly quickly ended the call by alerting the kids that we might not be home the next morning. The driver pulled over at the next intersection, which was a subway stop, and said we had better hurry. We handed him the money. The door flew open and we were on the run.

We rode about four stops, had to change subway lines, and then travel for another ten stops. The minutes were ticking. But there was no way we could make the subway go any faster. Charly looked at me when we had about twenty minutes left and said, “There’s no way we can make it.” I looked back at him and said, “I think we can. Maybe the train will be late.”

We dashed off the subway, flew up the stairs, asked someone for directions, and ran as fast as we could (which unfortunately wasn't that fast!) toward the train station. As we headed through the first intersection, I happened to look to the left. The building looked familiar. “Wait!” I yelled to Charly. “Isn’t that the train station?” It was. We made a 90 degree turn and thought the long block between us and the train station looked especially long.

Still on the move, we tried to flag down a taxi. But no one was stopping for us. Finally a taxi pulled over to let someone else out and we jumped in the back seat. Out of breath, we explained that our train was leaving in 10 minutes. He drove us a couple of minutes toward the station and said that was as close as he could get us. As we paid him, he advised us next time not to cut it so close. Thanks. We slipped out of his taxi with our bags and sprinted up the steps to the passenger crossing over the road.

As we were approaching the train station, I decided to take a risk. I have noticed that baggage scanners don’t seem to be that important at most train stations. No one really seems to pay much attention to the X ray machine. I knew that taking off my backpack and waiting in line for my two bags would slow me down. And we had no time to spare. So I ran right through security, yelling, “来不及!” My own translation of this great Chinese phrase is “not going to make it, no time!” No one stopped me.

Charly was confused when he came through security and waited for me, thinking I was still just behind him. Then he looked around and saw that I was actually ahead of him. He quickly caught up with me and we found our gate. Normally the check-in gate closes five minutes before the train leaves. We had less than five minutes, but thankfully someone was still there checking tickets. We were so close now. The finish line was in sight.

Down the stairs and along the train to find our car, we leapt on to the train just moments before it pulled out of the station. Then we collapsed onto the bottom bunk of our compartment, unloaded our bags, and peeled off layers of clothes that were drenched in sweat (to the great amusement of the Chinese grandma on the bottom bunk across from us). Once we could breathe again, we called our kids to tell them.

We made it. Praise God.

Stay tuned. I have an idea of connecting these two stories of drama with my recent reflections of the feeding of the 5000 and watching birds in flight. (To Believe and Know)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Life in the Village

We have been in the village for two weeks now. Life is different. But it’s good. And it really helps me to appreciate what we have.

Just after we arrived, we took part in a local festival of more than 5000 people. Jordan made friends there with a 14 year old girl from another city.

After our meal together, this girl asked Jordan,
“Does your family have a lot of money?”

Jordan deferred the question to me.

It was an easy question, and I didn’t even have to think before I answered, “No, we don’t have a lot of money.”

And then I started thinking.

Comparatively, we do.

Here are some of the girls I was blessed to meet and to talk with at the festival. Who helped me to realize just how much we have.

A 12 year old girl (right) who may have to drop out of school to help take care of her baby brother.

An 11 year old girl (left) who lives with her deaf mute mother. She just met her father once, and  doesn’t know if he died or if he left them. Her uncle helps them with money as her mother cannot work. Her mother motioned to her as we were talking. When she came back to the group, she said that her mom wanted me to take her picture.

A 12 year old girl (right) who is still in school, and wants to continue on to high school and hopefully even college. Her 14 year old sister stays at home to cook for them and to look after their baby brother as their parents had to go to another city to find work. Their grandmother lives with them, but is unable to cook or to help with childcare.

An 11 year old girl (right) from the orphanage of a nearby city. Both of her parents died when she was 5, and while she visits her grandparents in the village, they are unable to care for her full-time. She had one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen, and I told her that after I showed her this picture of her.

Many children here have difficult lives. Their families do what they can to survive. Parents often have to leave the village to find work. Older children have to help take care of younger siblings. Many have to drop out of school in order to help their families. I noticed a sign on a building as we were out walking the other day that said, “Finish junior high before you go out to find work.”

I'm touched by these faces. And the stories behind them. Realizing how much we have, in comparison. It is so easy to take our many opportunities for granted.

Until we see those without.


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