Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Road to Wenchuan

This is a testimony written by Dr Christopher Shun, who identifies himself as an anglophile (lived and studied 6 years in USA, 6 years in England and 3 years in Australia). He has been attending Calvary Church, KL since 1991.

PRAISE THE LORD I had a truly remarkable summer in China (6 weeks) and I was most surprised to find myself sighing when it was time to return to my immediate family and corporate responsibilities at home in Malaysia.

God has truly done a transformation in my heart because 3 years ago, I had NO love for China and even DESPISED her peoples, now I can’t wait to get way from China’s behemoth metropolis (Shanghai and Beijing) and head into China's Interiors to meet REAL down to earth and often UNEDUCATED Chinese nationals! Most still do not have much social graces and charm but they are HONEST and SINCERE. What a joy and delight to understand them and most importantly be UNDERSTOOD by them! They don’t speak any English at all, but with halting Mandarin, lots of gestures and comic relief and a great sense of humour is the trick!

Also, the Holy Spirit is SIMPLY AWESOME..paving the way all the time with much favour with locals, besides what great use is my PhD if you meet farmers from Gansu Province with a primary six education ?? Many Chinese parents were amused by my comic antics in especially when Chinese children would burst out laughing at my clownish demeanour. This provided numerous opportunities to break the ice and engage in serious conversations and establish a rapport. Being alone in a strange land was never a concern because I often recall that it is better to be "WEAK and DEPEND on a POWERFUL God" then to be the other way round. All my CALVARY CELL members can attest to my WEAK Mandarin!

I first spent 5 weeks in mid July in Shanghai undertaking an intensive Mandarin course at Shanghai Jiao Tong University to improve my halting Mandarin. The course was rigorous however the teaching's pedagogic methodology left much to be desired, still the intense desire to learn to communicate enabled me to persevere so that every day in the afternoons, I could walk and walk and walk (approx 3-5 miles) meeting people and understanding in depth the true nature of the Chinese peoples in side alleys, tenements and low cost slums. It was fun to be a student again!! Whilst I am chronologically 43 in age, I felt and even looked 28 years old in class! It was only at the end of the 5 week term when our backgrounds were read out did my classmates know of my British Doctorate qualification and my true age! ;-))

A visit to Sichuan province to Wenchuan Earthquake zone (Dujiangyan – one hour outside Chengdu) was heart wrenching to say the least. Three months after the massive 8.0 quake on 12-05-08 (still experiencing numerous aftershocks), and I still saw 4-5 story schools reduced to 2 stories of rubble where hundreds of children died and left there as a grim reminder or massive tomb site!

Beside them were badly cracked but still upright building testifying to shoddy workmanship and sub-standard concrete designs in the construction of the schools. Now the children only have container shed for classrooms. Many houses were destroyed and people still live in basic makeshift accommodation. Many lost their only child and often their only son, all their possessions and their hopes.

Whilst I enjoyed viewing the adorable Panda's in the Panda Research Breeding Centre in Chengdu, I felt troubled that the local scientific community was rather anxious over the loss of some Panda's (4 Panda's killed in the Earthquake!) and less over approx 87,000 needless lives lost, many of them young Children and aged citizens. By now, I had grown so used to seeing children all over Shanghai and Beijing, that the stark contrast in Sichuan Province is actually mind numbing.

I will share this, you will NEVER NEVER be the SAME again when you comprehend how little these affected souls live on and how much they strive to pull together their shattered lives. Never was a moment more ripe for the Gospel then now in Sichuan Province!

I spent one week in Beijing to meet members of the underground church and it was a precious time of fellowship. I had the opportunity to behold all the modern architectural edifices (Beijing's construction Budget in the run up to the Olympics was USD $ 42 bn). Still within 2 blocks from the Forbidden city, I walked through many impoverished alleys (hutongs), met locals in open singlet and flip flops casually playing Chinese chess and a brief visit to their homes revealed a very basic and humble existence.

Their lives were neither touched by the rapid development nor visited by tourists. I was a different kind of tourist! "Zhong guo de fazhen, yi nian bi yi nian kuai buguo renmen de xinzang yue lai yue kongr" (China’s development year by year is increasingly rapidly but the people’s heart are more and more empty).

I arranged with a cell leader to visit a remote part of the Great Wall away from the maddening crowds, we drove 90+ km northwest of Beijing (Direction of Inner Mongolia) to the Huang Hua (Yellow Flower) valley. And we stopped and parked our car by an irrigation dam, where we walked on foot for an hour down a stream and up a hill to finally reach the Great Wall and to enter and walk on it. As I gazed to my left and right, I saw the Great Wall snake for miles and miles and not a single soul in sight! We walked for 4 hours and it gave me time to establish a rapport with this cell leader and we prayed on the Wall. It was an INSPIRING Prayer WALK.

When I was in Xi’An, Shaanxi Province on 8th August 2008 (home of the terracotta warriors) had a chance to watch the Olympics Opening ceremony’s symbolic unveiling of the historical scroll in the main square of a 500 year old wall (fortress intact) city. I meet many Chinese Muslims (the Hui people) and the fact that I hailed from a Muslim country opened doors for serious thought provoking conversations.

I met some farmers from Gansu Province…they actually stared at me, came to within 2 feet and pointed their finger and asked somewhat crudely “ni shi na guo ren??!!” (you are what country person– direct translation). Ahem.. with their crooked finger 2 inches from my nose, I stepped back two steps and replied haltingly in Mandarin.. “wo shi Malaisiya ren, yi ban huaren, yiban Yindu ren denyu “Huatu ren!!” (I am a Malaysian; half Chinese and half Indian..equals “Chindian”).. They don’t have an equivalent word for Chindian in Mandarin, I just made that new word (Huatu) up!! they burst out laughing hysterically.

However, when they found out how much I know Chinese Geography (I knew their specific hometowns in Gansu and Qinghai and also their approximate distance from Xi’an) and their rich and colourful (“fengfu duocai”) Chinese History…they warmed up very quickly!...The point is……..always play the clown first……..then later they will listen to sagely wisdom JJ.

Nonetheless, when these “simple” rural Chinese folks accept the Gospel and receive Jesus as their Saviour, their infectious enthusiasm, focussed dedication and deep commitment is almost unparalleled in any of the Western Churches I have visited….Truly..”they love not their lives even unto death” (Rev 12:11). The Chinese HC’s (House Churches) are the closest I have seen to the Early Church in Acts 2-3. Their earnest belief encourages me!, their unwavering faith inspires me! This I want to see in all of Calvary Home churches!

In summary, it has finally taken Father God 43 years to prepare me to set foot on Chinese soil! Whilst, I did have some frustrating moments and some of the inscrutable and wily Chinese were boorish and rude BUT on the whole I finally began to appreciate the HEART of our FATHER GOD. Imagine only 200+ million are rather prosperous, the remaining 1.1 billion souls are just at the poverty line or slightly above it.

To understand China, you must never take a tour group! Take LOCAL busses, meet LOCAL people, eat LOCAL cuisine, pray with the LOCAL church and finally you will have a LOCAL heart for China!

Should any of you be free next spring and summer (Northern Hemisphere - March & June 2009) to want to seek an exciting eco tour in some of the most spectacular landscape in South-Western China, I know a great place in Yunnan province called “Xiangelila” – Shangri-La) where accommodation is very reasonable (basic and rustic), better walking exercise than Clark Hatch (10 km daily) and more thrilling rides across raging rivers than Theme parks and Disneyland. Food is fresh (veggies - no pesticides) and the fish (well you have to catch them). The best part is you get rapidly acquainted with Khamba Tibetans and the Lisu peoples (two of 490 minority tribes in the Chinese hinterland)

If you are have 9 months to prepare your hearts and gird up your loins.... and JOIN ME! Step out in Faith, be WILLING and see where God TAKES is SIMPLY TOO EXCITING to BEHOLD. AGE is no barrier but you need to have lots of exercise for the climb up the hills and down the valleys.

Be richly Blessed

Chris Shun

Note : If you wish to contact Dr Christopher Shun, please write directly to him at