Bishop Jon wants me to carry on, and I will. I will continue to share with you all what I am seeing and learning.
To that end, today we visited the heart of Chinese society, history and culture. Our first stop was Tian An Men Square. Tian An Men -- literally the gate of heavenly peace. It is the entry point into the Forbidden City. On the square the monument where Chairman Mao's body lies in a crystal coffin had hundreds, perhaps over 1,000 people lined up to enter. Here is a view from across the street looking towards the moment.
And part of the line of people once we crossed the street:
And from the other side of the square:
Once we entered the part of the square past the Monument we had a better view of the gate itself:
We walked closer:
We reflected on and prayed for those who lost their lives that fateful June 4th in 1989. I could not get the image of that person standing in front of the tank that was shown in all our news broadcasts out of my mind as I stood in the square.
We then proceeded through the gate and made our way to the Forbidden City. Here are a few photos:
My favorite place was the garden in the Forbidden City. It is beautiful as well as peaceful and best of all the peonies were in bloom. Peonies are my favorite flower, so I couldn't help but take some photos in the garden:
Here's Joshua Ng:
Here is Ada Wong-Nagata:
And me among the peonies:
We then headed over to the cloisonné factory. We saw cloisonné being made in its various stages:
It is painted and fired many times and then polished in different stages before it is "done". Of course, given that I just came for the Forbidden City garden I had to buy this plate:
The blue is very traditional for Chinese cloisonné and the peony is the national flower of China.
Joshua wanted me to buy this vase but I didn't think I could fit it in my suitcase:
We then headed over to a part of the Great Wall. There is Chinese saying, "if you don't go to the Great Wall you are not a true person." To say that the sight of it, even if only a section, takes your breath away would be an understatement. Here are some photos:
In the following picture, we are at the bottom of where we started our climb looking up -- look at that first tower straight up:
This is the view from that first tower looking down:
It was an amazing climb. The steps were extremely uneven in height and some very worn:
It reminded me, as I slowly made my way to that first tower which you can see in the above photo, that life is uneven. We have our steps that are easy and those that are more difficult. We have some steps that we trod that are new and others that are well worn. Then there are the steps that seem just impossible to climb up or to climb down. As I was making my way up, and as I came down, I saw this graffiti scribbled on the wall, which I think says it all about where we need to keep our focus during all the steps of our lives:
Jesus reigns, and walks with us through all the steps of our lives.
We then visited Ashbury Church, which is the oldest (and largest!) Church in Beijing. Before the Cultural Revolution this was a Methodist Church, and at the time of the revolution the Church was closed and the pastors taken to jail.
Every Sunday 5,000 worship there in 5 services--4 services in Mandarin, 1 service in Korean. They utilize audio and video feeds in the side chapel, basement and patio to take care of the crowds. There are currently 4 Pastors and 3 seminarians working there.
The pastors can't keep up with the growth, and are struggling with ways to pastor such a large group. This is our guide Judy's Church, and she is very proud to be a member there.
I wonder when I return to Beijing what the numbers worshiping in this Church will be, and how will the pastors accommodate all those who God brings to them? I look forward to that day!
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Location:Beijing and environs