Since last Sunday, the rain has been coming down non-stop. Drizzling, pouring, pelting, sprinkling, misting . . . you name it, we’ve had it.
It’s unusual for us to have so much constant rain for so many days. It’s also unusual for me to have overseas’ visitors but I did. Richard Lord, hired by the United Methodist GBGM, was here in Asia photographing personnel in their working environment. Richard has been used by the Board for 20 years and is quite familiar with the work of the Methodists and other denominations. Twelve years ago, he did a photo spread for GBGM of The Amity Printing Press and Amity projects in China. Now, more than a decade later, he returns to China to visit me in my little Yangtze river town, Luzhou.
Richard arrived late Wednesday evening from the airport in Chongqing, 3 1/2 hours away by bus. The next day, he spent time in my classroom taking pictures among my second year students. He was very impressed by their ability to follow my lessons, which naturally made “mother” (me) very proud! We were supposed to be touring the school, back alleyways and church for more photo shoots Friday and Saturday but the weather was just not cooperating. Aside from me, Richard was to do shots of poverty and healthcare in China. Richard did his best to catch drenched scenes among the Yangtze fishermen in their sampans, laborers, and dilapidated homes but the continuous rain basically canceled out any decent photo ops aside from me.
The Luzhou Church’s Gospel Clinic
We did hit the jackpot at the Gospel Clinic run in cooperation with the Amity Foundation, the Luzhou Protestant Church and the local government. The United Methodists have given money through Amity for this three-room Western and traditional Chinese medicine clinic, with adjacent pharmacy. Saturday morning, it was filled with elderly receiving Chinese medicine treatments for arthritic aches. Pungent poultices were applied to painful joints and then heated under lamps. Acupuncture was used on some. One gentlemen was receiving electric pulses from a machine which our Methodists help to purchase along with other funds from Amity.
Pastor Liao was with us for a short time in order to make sure everyone knew Richard was with me and not some foreign guy off the street looking to expose something sinister about their country. As a professional, Richard had to set scenes and poses, getting quite close to both patients and doctors in order to do his job properly. Everyone was extremely cooperative and didn’t mind his presence at all.
While Richard was busy with his photo shoots, I became busy with mine.
In church last week, some announcement was made which sounded to me like the church would be closed and we’d be having worship next door. I didn’t catch everything and thought I had misunderstood. Yet upon arrival at the clinic, which is next to the church, I found out my Chinese listening comprehension isn’t that bad after all.
Even in this dreadful rain, work was going about inside to make a new cement platform (a much larger one) for both worship and other celebrations, such as the upcoming Christmas pageants. Pews have all been moved out, ladders are everywhere, and a huge pile of sand sat ready to be mixed by hand for the concrete. Upstairs in the balcony area, the windows had been torn out, perhaps to make them larger or smaller.
With this rain, the cement was not drying well at all. Everything was damp, wet and smelly with workers coming and going.
The only ministry-related activity going on was one of our elderly Christian ladies in the outer area. She was making the communion wafers we’d be using in church tomorrow. I always wondered about our bits and pieces of torn-apart wafers. Where did they come from? Who made them? What exactly were these paper-thin things? Here was my answer.
Using coal cylinders to cook over, our communion wafer maker applied a batter to two iron plates. These were pressed together and heated over the hot coal for a minute or two, being turned from one side to another. After that, the thin crepe was peeled off and placed on a pile with others in a tin basin. Not only was she making for our church community (500) but the outerlying meeting points as well. I was told she needed to make about 200 of these by tomorrow.
Gracious! Those are a lot of communion wafers!
As I watched her carefully prepare these important items before Pastor blessed them, I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful way to serve your church. No matter how old or young you are, how much education or money you have, there’s always something vital that you can do for your church community. In America, it might be tidying up the nursery, cleaning out the kitchen cupboards, or making sure the altar is dusted. In Luzhou, here our elderly have the glorious mission of making communion wafers for the entire surrounding Christian community. What a great way to serve the Lord!
Certainly made me pause to think what I’ve done for my Luzhou church community lately.
Pastor Liao was keen to pull me away from the in-shambles sanctuary and lead me into the building next door where our makeshift services would be held. The second floor belongs to the church and has a Christian service center, senior citizen’s center, as well as a children’s daycare and language school. We tromped through the hallways to enter a huge concrete warehouse type area. The pews were tidily lined up for worship under an arched skylight of sorts.
The place itself was actually somewhat open to the elements as it wasn’t fully enclosed, only roofed. The restaurant located next door had me coughing as the open kitchen directed all the smoky wok smells and spicy stir-fried hot peppers directly over our heads.
We’ll be safe tomorrow morning for an hour or so but with communion, which usually closes our worship around 11:30 a.m. instead of 11, we’ll most likely be competing with food prep for the hungry lunch crowds a few doors down.
After Richard’s successful healthcare photo shoot, it was off to McDonalds for a quick lunch, a dash to the hotel to pick up his things and finally a taxi ride to the long distance bus terminal. Richard was leaving from the Chongqing airport for Beijing on Sunday afternoon. Since the ride was 3 ½ hours, we figured it was better to get him there a day early rather than chance a late arrival on Sunday, especially in all this slippery rain. The expressways in China are known for accidents, especially when the weather is bad and drivers speeding eagerly to get where they’re going.
Richard’s business with the Board is now officially over with me having been the last stop. His next job has him in Beijing, working for Coca-cola and doing some work for them. After that, he’s returning to the States.
When It Rains, It Pours
Now that Richard is gone, I’m forced to turn my attention to the bedroom ceiling.
Early Friday morning, I was surprised. while sleeping, by a very chilly drip that bolted me upright. Little Flower has very little drooling capability so I knew it wasn’t her. Sure enough, over my head the ceiling was lined with water marks. Huge drops were accumulating and falling downward onto my fluffy comforter, barely missing my cozily nestled Chihuahua.
After reporting this to Catherine (Yin Ying), the foreign affair’s director of our school, she called the building manager. It seems the poor man has been getting a lot of such calls lately. There’s a broken water pipe on the 5th floor which is now affecting all of us underneath. The building is so old that all the pipes need to be replaced but in this rainy weather, it’s virtually impossible. The workers have to tear out old piping to replace with new and then cement it in. Chinese cement just doesn’t dry well at all in wet weather so we are all stuck with dripping water for awhile.
Yesterday, the leak was a drop or two the entire day but we are now into a number of very large drops for every minute.
I’ve scrunched everything to one side of the bedroom and placed my bucket underneath the leak. I just pray the dripping water doesn’t spread the length of the ceiling. Currently, it’s just one isolated spot but the longer we wait, I’m sure the bigger that isolated spot will get.
I guess the saying is true that when it rains, it pours. In my case, it’s just a bit more literal than in most.
Here’s hoping you enjoy the pictures from the past few days, including our Halloween movie night along with Richard’s visit.
From Luzhou, here’s once again wishing you “Ping An!” (peace) for your weekend.