Thursday, July 25, 2013

Off the Beaten Path there is a Church in the Wild

Today we awoke in northwest Yunnan Province.
This is one of those days that has been in the making for nearly a decade as we planned to travel to a remote village where SCF and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church have partnered on a significant project.  Also, on these trips we learn as much about ourselves as we do the people we encounter, and today was just that kind of day. 
We started the journey in two taxi vans for a trip we anticipated to take about an hour.  In about 20 minutes we had arrived at the road that would take us to this remote village.
As you can see from the pictures in the previous posts, "road" is a generous term for what was more of a rock pathway.  We decided this was an exceptional path for a donkey or horse.  Unfortunately we were in small minivans.
After the first of what were more than 50 switchbacks, it was clearly evident we were not going to get to the village in the minivans so we started to walk up the path as the vans made progress without us.
As we walked, we encountered many friendly Lisu villagers who were working hard to repair, or in places, build the road.  After about an hour the vans started shuttling a few at a time up the rest of the mountain as the path became more firm. 
Steve, Jake, Max and Scott had worked their way ahead (slow and steady wins the race was the encouragement that Steve provided several times) so they were the last to get a ride up.  In fact, Steve and Jake walked the furthest today, and after some fairly loud and demonstrative "international communication" between Scott and the driver – Steve and Jake were picked up to ride the remainder of the way in the same van. 
Shall we just say it was a ride we will never forget!   We did arrive safe and actually created history as Cindy, Max and Jake, were the first foreigners of their age (Jake and Max) or gender (Cindy) to ever visit these friendly people – in the history of humankind.
Our first stop was their new church for a quick visit before making the hike to their village home complex which includes all aspects of living including their livestock.
We entered the complex to them flushing out their pig-pen which it appeared had not been done in some time.  Timing is everything.
They treated us like royalty  fixing a very large meal. So much food that our leftovers fed the rest of this multi-generational family of many members.  We had eggs, pork, bamboo, chicken, pickled something (we think beans), and fish (Scott ate the very large eye, all on his own, and was just able to keep it down).
After the meal we went back to the church where he villagers (who were not repairing the road) joined us for worship and praise.  The Lisu sang to us – Stand Up, Stand Up, for Jesus; and we sang Amazing Grace, and together we sang Jesus Loves Me.  There was then a series of prayers, and we Raecker boys offered up our traditional family prayer.
Following prayers we presented infant quilts made by the Gloria Dei Quilters and infant hats made by Cheryl Gilg.  Of course the Wartburg Orange balls came out to make the children happy as well as Iowa pins for the elders.  We also distributed red wrist bands that say, "Keep the Faith" that have been a rallying prayer for our SCF founder and board member, Brad Peyton, who is standing strong and keeping the faith as he experiences the healing power of prayer in his battle against cancer.
We then received beautiful Lisu bags as gifts and parted our ways after a closing prayer and a receiving line of all members to bid us goodbye.
We had an uneventful minivan ride down the path in less than 30 minutes and made our way to the road for the 6 hour, or more, bus ride to LiJiang.  Which is where we are now, high in the mountains, where it is raining and our driver is doing an exceptional job.
Closing today with our family prayer that we offered at the village church and to those of you following us:
"Heavenly Father, hear or prayer. Keep us always in thy care.  Help us always to be good, and to do the things we should. Loving those who love us so, and kind to everyone we know. And bless those who are near and dear to us, wherever they may be. Amen.