Archives For Travel

journey thousandWhen I was a missionary to Asia there was a profound sense of joy in my life because I knew I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. I was making sacrifices for God, but they did not seem burdensome.  They seemed easy, in fact they were joyful. I remember hearing a missionary preach about suffering for Jesus. He brought his wife and three children to Africa and a few months after they got there, they all got sick. They were too sick to get out of bed. He said “Be happy, rejoice because we are suffering for Jesus!”

I feel a little bit like the apostle Paul. There were times in my life when I had so much money I didn’t know how to spend it all, and there were times in my life when I lived in deep poverty. They say that rich people are not necessarily happier than poor people.

Mother Teresa lived a very simple life. She always seemed to be happy. She knew her purpose in life and she constantly stayed on track to fulfill the purpose. What a joyful life that is. There have been thousands of people, probably millions who were as dedicated to God as she was, but did not get the publicity that she did. They did not need publicity to make them happy. Serving God and having a passion to please him was all they needed to be joyful. The apostle Paul said that he learned the secret of being content in any circumstance whether he had plenty or very little. He had completely dedicated his life to serving God.

When you realize that your purpose is to love God and serve him, you know that nobody can take that away from you. They can put a person in jail the way they did the apostle Paul but they could not take away his purpose in life. Instead of hindering the gospel it promoted the gospel. There have been many times in my life that I felt distressed or sad. One thing that would always make me feel better is to realize that no matter what happens to me, my purpose in life is still the same and God will make sure that I can fulfill his purpose. There is no force powerful enough, no person persuasive enough, no circumstance bad enough to force us to quit fulfilling God’s purpose in our life. To really latch onto this idea and let it sink deep into our soul is a very joyful thing.


Guangzhou by night

Guangzhou by night (Photo credit: micmac9a)

  The color that describes China best might be red. The flag of China is red with five yellow stars. But in southern China where I lived for ten years green was also dominate. Trees, grass and foliage were green all year because it didn’t freeze there.

  Imagine a country so different and so far away that it is completely unlike the world we live in here in America. China is a country of ancient customs, traditions and religions. It was much different in 1989 when I first arrived there than it is now.  

  Foreign countries have traded with China through the southern city of Canton (also called Guangzhou) for over 2000 years.  Travel northwest up the Pearl River from Hong Kong about four hours by boat or two hours by train to reach it. Green rice paddies and brown muddy water of the flooded fields are everywhere.

  Even after living there ten years, I found that it was more mysterious than the travel books describe. The sights, smells, sounds, and experiences are like nothing I ever imagined. The streets are jammed with people. It is amazing to walk down the street and see the sights:  huge red Chinese characters written on walls; bright red, green, and yellow clothes; ancient architecture; shops that sell tea, Buddhist idols, kites, colorful pottery, tropical fruits of all kinds, many green leafy vegetables as well as melons of all kinds, or toys. Each shop sells something different. Once, while walking down the street, I smelled the pungent combination of teas from a tea shop.  I went in and looked over the dozens of different kinds of teas and finally decided on a variety of green tea called “Special Gunpowder” which makes a brown tea which looks almost like muddy water.

    Some of the most interesting places in Canton, a city of ten million people, are the back alleys. Grey apartment buildings, usually eight stories or taller, are built close together with only a narrow alley between them. The alleys are rather dark because the buildings shade them from the sun and are damp from the high humidity. Walking through them near mealtime, one can hear the hiss of garlic being thrown into hot peanut oil in a wok. The smell of peanut oil, fresh ginger root and sesame oil is often the dominant scents in these narrow passageways. One can hear conversations in many different dialects that form the sing-song languages of Chinese. During the hour-long break after lunch that everyone takes, you can often hear the click-clack of mahjong tiles being shuffled together. Mahjong is played with tiles similar to dominoes but the game resembles Gin Rummy.

   Guangzhou is famous for food. Dim Sum is eaten in the morning. It is not one kind of food, but an assortment of many different low- priced delicacies such as wontons, hand-pulled noodles, tiny yellow egg custard pies, specially flavored meat balls, duck eggs salted in the shell, special cuts of sautéed meat, pastries, and many other foods. It is fun to sit in a teahouse in the morning and drink tea and eat Dim Sum. Waitresses push carts loaded with small bamboo baskets full of many kinds of delicious foods.

   Looking out the window of a tea house, one can see the beautiful sub-tropical foliage such as the wide green leaves of banana plants and the even larger elephant ear plants which can be several feet wide.   There are slender tan bamboo stalks taller than buildings, white orchids, palm trees, and a wide variety of plants sprinkled with bursts of red, pink, yellow flowers. Many of the parks have dozens of kinds of interesting trees, shrubs, plants and flowers. One of the beautiful things about Southern China is the abundance of bamboo. I have never seen more delicate leaves than the long, slender light-green bamboo leaves. Guangzhou was voted one of the top ten Garden Cities in the world. Because the temperature doesn’t go below freezing, they can grow many different kinds of plants and trees not found in other areas of the world.

Happy no matter what

Brad Stanton —  July 19, 2012 — 41 Comments

Ceiling fan (photo taken in an hotel in India)

I once visited an underground house church in a country in Asia where that sort of thing was illegal. I heard that it was a secret church, but I found as soon as I got close to the house where they met, vendors who were sitting near the street selling their wares motioned me over and asked me if I was looking for the house church. I guess it wasn’t so secret after all. About 3000 people met there on Saturday and Sunday in several services. His house was 3 stories high, but not nearly big enough to hold that many people at one time, so he had several different meetings.

I went in, and was warmly welcomed. I sat down on a small stool, sandwiched tightly between other people. It seemed that every bit of space was taken up by stools of eager people waiting to hear Pastor Lamb. The ceiling fans were on, blowing the hot, humid air.

I sat making small talk with those sitting beside me, wondering what Pastor Lamb looked like. I knew that he was in a prison camp for over 20 years because he shared the gospel. I knew he was very old, so I assumed he would look old, feeble, and have lots of pain showing on his face.

Some time later a man sprang out onto the platform. I couldn’t believe it was Pastor Lamb! He looked much younger than I expected. Not only that, his face was radiant, very happy. He looked happier than many other people who had lives much less full of problems than him. But he was an over-comer, he remained happy no matter what happened to him.

To be happy everyday it can really help to sit down and write at least ten things you are thankful for, ten blessings in your life. The more you do this the easier it will become to think of things that are good in your life. For example you probably have someone that loves you. You can be sure God loves you. You probably have enough to eat every day and a bed to sleep in, a roof over your head and maybe even a car to drive. You have your eyes and your ears, many people do not. You may be able to walk, some people cannot. If you’re like most people your health is not perfect, but you can be thankful for the health that you do have. One of the really big things to be thankful for is heaven.  People that have no hope for the future are very sad people indeed. To people with hope, every day can be great.

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Guangzhou by night

Guangzhou by night (Photo credit: micmac9a)

It was sometimes overwhelming to see the crowds of people on the streets, knowing that very few of them knew Jesus. The most prominent religion in southern China, apart from atheism, is ancestor worship, a sect of Buddhism. There is often the eerie fragrance of incense being burned in various sorts of Buddhist practices of ancestor worship. Many people there claim to worship the ghosts of their ancestors. I often saw oranges, apples and other food that had placed in a bowl in front of a small statute with four incense sticks nearby. This is food offered to the spirits of ancestors.
The pink, yellow, green, or gray houses in Canton are very small and crowded together. The furniture is simple, usually made of wood. The bedroom has a bed and mosquito net shaped like a rectangular box. The walls, floor, and ceiling are cement, but the floors are often tiled with colorful square ceramic tiles.
Canton, like most Chinese cities, is a series of thousands of walled areas. Every school, apartment complex and factory are surrounded by thick cement walls which are often studded with broken glass at the top of the wall to discourage thieves. The old buildings are enchanting as they combine a mixture of modern international styles and traditional Chinese architecture with the four corners of the roof arching upwards.