I dreamt the other night I was in the reception area of a Concentration Camp. It was in Northwest China where the Uyghur and other Central Asian people are going through a genocide. It is a horrible nightmare for them. I left a bag for the young Uyghur man working there. In my dream I had forgotten to get my phone out of the bag so had to go back and find it. In the bag he’d already wrapped a small New Testament I had left in a piece of clothing. I grabbed my phone and left.
Later as I mulled over this dream I remembered my first trip to China in 1980 with my husband. We were in our early 20’s and working in Hong Kong for the Red Cross. We taught English in a refugee camp for Vietnamese people. During that year we took a trip into China. In those days it was hardly open to outsiders. We volunteered with a group that was smuggling Bibles through tourists into Guangzhou. Before our trip a big strong Texan in a cowboy hat and boots loaded up two suitcases and two carry-on pieces of luggage full of small Chinese Bibles. We could hardly carry the suitcases. We struggled across the border and of course caught the eye of the border security. They looked in those big suitcases and confiscated them. We could pick them up on our way out the next day. They did not look into our hand luggage. So we took them in and dropped them off somewhere in the hotel we were staying for someone to pick up.
We no longer smuggle Bibles into China. We only did that once, but we did move there to teach English in the mid 80’s. We lived in the northwest region and many of our students were Uyghur and Kazakh as well as Han Chinese. I can say we didn’t smuggle Bibles but we did smuggle hope. We had many conversations about God, the purpose of life and each of our belovedness. These conversations brought hope to people who knew there was more to life than what the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) was telling them. Even then their lives were extremely controlled. Where and if they would go to university. What they would study. Where they would work afterwards. They were told what to think and what to believe.
Now the circumstances are quite dire and dangerous if you happen to be Uyghur or Kazakh or any other Central Asian living in northwest China. Since 2017 over a million people have been interned in concentration camps, where they are constantly indoctrinated (brain washed), they are forced to labor for little or no wages, tortured, dehumanized, children separated from their families, sterilized, and the list goes on.
How can we smuggle hope to these people? It seems impossible, but if they could just know people care and are working in different ways to push back on China for these gross human rights abuses.
What if we shopped carefully trying to avoid products made in China? Many of which are made or sourced in this region. What if we personally boycotted the Olympics? What if we found the Uyghurs in our nation and reached out to them with some hope, letting them know we see them.
These are just a few thoughts wondering how regular people like you and me can help end a genocide.
When I was a young person coming back to faith in Jesus in the mid 70’s I was taught I had the answers to the questions of life. My experience as I traversed different parts of the world and met different kinds of people that this was not all together true. Yes, my young life had changed as I made following and learning about Jesus a priority, but I had a lot to learn from the people I met. Yes, I could offer prayers and encouragement from my perspective and I did see people encouraged, and even recovered from sickness. Yet, I learned to be quick to listen, slow to speak. Well, I had to be, because I was learning a new language! One of the many gifts of learning a new language. I also was learning and seeing beautiful things in the culture and people around me that I had not learned in my own culture. I learned to look for what good things God was already doing in a person’s life and in their culture. I learned to affirm those good things. Of course every culture has it’s light side and dark side, including my own. Now as I look back on those early years I think it was arrogant and naive to believe I had all the answers. Is it possible that Christians are hoarding Jesus? Saying and teaching that the way I interpret his life and teaching is the only way seems a bit narrow and exclusive. As if I know all the mysteries of Christ who died for the sin of the world, the very same who is reconciling all things, all people, all creation to himself. I do believe those points. I just don’t pretend to know what they mean exactly or how it will happen.
Here in the form of a poem are some reflections from Mark 9:38 – 41 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me…”