Last Saturday I experienced something surreal. I just got back from almost two weeks in China at an orphanage with a missions team. The entire experience and everything about it was new to me and amazing, but for this post I’m going to focus on one thing we got to do.
Full from dinner, happy from an eventful day with the kids and filled with love for this amazing orphanage and the people who live in it, our team decided to go for an evening bike ride around the village. Five of us from the team - Joel, Sandra, Dave, Erol and I - each grabbed a bike. Rusty and old, most of them were smaller than the adult bike I am used to riding, but they would do the job. Naturally, we had small people jump on the back seats each of our bikes had for this specific purpose. Hong Hong climbed on with me, Sandra had Teddy on hers, Joel pedaled out the gate with Jerry perched on the back of his, and Dave towed the non-existent weight of Danny’s tiny frame. Erol and his video camera documented our journey; Esther, Walter and Jimmy, all children at the orphanage, came with on bikes of their own. Jimmy is one of the older children there; I think he’s 19.
Once we had filled all the tires and made sure everyone was holding on tight, Jimmy led the way out of the orphanage’s main gate onto the uneven dirt road that is so familiar to him. Pedaling through the village past homes, we saw old women sitting on the front step getting some evening air, families discussing the day’s events around a fire, piles and piles of corn cobs and husks from the endless rows of corn that took up what seemed like every available piece of soil, and little dogs that may have had homes, but acted like they owned the streets. We rode passed shops still open for business, young and old men still hard at work even as the light began to fade. If not surprised to see Americans, since Americans visit this orphanage every summer, we at least got curious looks from every person we passed. “Kni How,” we greeted them; most greeted us back with a smile and a quiet, “Kni How.”
Leaving all buildings behind us, the scenery changed, and we found ourselves riding down a long stretch of dirt road bordered with tall trees and corn fields as far as the eye could see. We laughed and made jokes, avoided the potholes in exaggerated, silly arcs and raced to catch up with each other. Exhaust hung heavily in the air each time a car passed us honking it’s horn - some to kindly alert us of their presence, and some possibly to say, “Get out of the way!” The evening was cool after the hot day, and the air that glided in a steady stream over my cheeks was mercifully bug free.
Marveling at the scenery and the fact that I was riding a bike through a poor, beautiful village in China with a bunch of orphans, Hong Hong quietly began to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” behind me. I joined her song; my voice rising in the air in English, hers in Chinese. I was struck by the beauty of our bilingual melody; each singing the same words but differently, all sounding identical to God’s ears. She got louder when she realized I was singing too, and as we sang together first that song then “Jesus Loves Me” and a couple others, I watched the corn stalks whipping past our unlikely party on the other side of the world from my every day life, and my full heart said a prayer of thanks.
Note: I did not take pictures on this excursion, but when I get a hold of some from the people who did, I will post them.