Missions Trip 2009 Travelog


July 16 – Joanna took Caleb and Stephen and me to RDU. We arrived just in front of Kyle and Christina. Her mom was going to keep their children. The little one was crying. This upset Joanna. We went inside the airport and proceeded to check in. We had no problems. I had two suitcases. One was mostly clothes. The other had booklets, fans, air mattresses and extra food. I also had a carry-on bag that contained some extra food, my laptop, the camp notebook, and extra clothes. The camera that I brought was disappointing. I’m not sure that I ever quite figured it out. Stephen had one suitcase and a little carry-on. Caleb had a suitcase and a back-pack carry-on. The others started to show up and I helped get the kids checked-in and their bags checked. We had a brief meeting with Dan Bowers and then headed through security. I don’t believe anyone had any trouble although one of the ladies opened my bag and looked at the book on learning Cantonese. We then went to the terminal gate and sat down. Some went to get food. Several were on their cell phones with parents and I was still trying to figure out my camera. I talked to Joanna a couple of times. My phone rang and it registered unknown name. I answered and the Chinese voice on the other end asked if I was a pastor. What church do you pastor? Are you going to China? What is the purpose of your trip? I told him we had a student group coming. My phone was breaking up because I wasn’t getting a great signal in the airport. The man said he was from the Chinese Embassy. He said you know there is to be no relgious activity in China. I said that we were religious. No reigious activity in China. I hung up. I told Kyle and a couple of other adults what was happening. I was talking to Pastor Benson about this when my phone rang again. I couldn’t get close to the window for a better signal before the phone cut off. I was racking my brain thinking who could be playing a joke on me. It wasn’t one of church people. It wasn’t one of my brothers-in-law. The phone rang again. This is the Chinese Embassy. You are taking a group to China and don’t know what you are going to be doing. Let me let you talk to one of our leaders. I handed the phone to Kyle. He was very calm and professional. When the man asked for Kyle’s Visa number he said that he wouldn’t give it to him. He said that he didn’t know who was calling at that they should have all of that information. They hung up and then Mike Eccleston called Kyle to check in. Kyle told him how everything was going and then said we may have had a little set back. He told him of my receiving the call from the Chinese Embassy. He and Mike talked a moment and then Mike said he would need to get some more information from me. I grabbed the phone and heard “This is the Chinese Embassy.” It was Pastor Wong. Kyle and I both had been taken, but mostly me. With a sigh of relief and a forced smile I told the group what had just happened. We had a brief meeting with the team and then boarded the plane. It wasn’t a very big plane. I’ve been on smaller, but this one was fairly tight. It had a two huge propellers. We flew to Newark. The landing was a little bumpy. It was hazy out, but you could see the NYC skyline. We had a brief meeting and then went to grab some lunch. I hung out with Pastor Benson, Pastor Gotcher and Dr. Henry. We ate … Chinese. airportWe talked until past the time we were supposed to meet. I honestly thought Kyle said 2:30, but he said 2:00. We showed up about 2:20. We got everybody together and then met for a little bit. We boarded the huge 777. We all sat near the back as a group. We had another group from Ohio that was interspersed with our group. They were from Canton. They were going to Hong Kong to work with a church for the week. When I put my large carry-on in the storage bin above, I looked at the lady next to me (Carol) and said, “I’m glad you are not fat.” She was in her 60’s. She had been saved only about 10 years. On the flight over I asked her about her testimony and we talked about the Lord most of the time. The flight was brutally long. We had a decent supper. It was salad and beef and rice. Everyone tried to stretch their legs every couple of hours. Each seat on the airplane had an entertainment touch screen in front of it. You could choose to watch movies, TV shows, music, or games. I started to watch a couple of kids movies, but couldn’t really get into them. After a few hours, I actually watched the Pink Panther 2, with Steve Martin. I also watched a show about the Ryder Cup, a show about the monuments in Washington D.C., and a show about the Smithsonian. I really didn’t watch anything else. I believe everybody on the plane slept more than I did. I tried to stay awake the entire time so that I would be exhausted when we got to China. I dozed for about 15-20 minutes during the Ryder Cup program. I also dozed for about ten minutes shortly before we landed. We had a snack of pretzels and a drink. I drank orange juice each time. We also had a cheeseburger around midnight. At about 5:30 we had breakfast. We were flying into Hong Kong where it was actually 5:30 in the evening.

July 17 – We landed in Hong Kong and it was still light outside. We had to go through immigration, which wasn’t very difficult. We had to wait in a line for a few minutes. Stephen didn’t look like his passport photo so they did a double take on him, but he got through without any real problem. We got all of our suitcases without any problem and then met Mike Eccleston and Pastor Cedric Wong. When I saw Cedric, I gave him a big hug. Chinese people don’t usually like getting hugged, but I think he enjoyed this one. They took us outside where it was hot and humid. We waited on a bus and then put all of our luggage underneath. The ride to Pastor Wong’s church was about 20 minutes. We unpacked a little bit and changed into shorts and T shirts. We blew up about half of the air mattresses. Several of the people used Mike’s computer to talk to their parents through Skype. I talked to Joanna through text message a couple of times and also emailed back and forth. I had her call my phone because I wasn’t sure how to call out of Hong Kong. We went out with most of the group (Christina Sullivan went right to sleep), walked around the block to a restaurant. Several of the kids ordered a pastry which looked a little bit like a Little Debbie Cake. Several of us wanted to eat something authentic so we got a chicken and riceairmattresses dish that had an interesting relish. Pastor Gotcher told me about the hot pepper sauce which I put on my chicken near the end. It definitely opened my sinuses. We went back to the church. I called Mom on Skype. The guys then pumped up their air mattresses. Scott Olson was using a battery powered pump that was really slow. We also used a hand pump which could do three mattresses before Scott got one done. We had a meeting with the group and then every one settled down to sleep. I fell asleep fairly quickly. It was around 11:00 p.m. I woke up at 1:00 a.m. wide awake. I stayed awake for about an hour. I prayed for our group and for the Lord to use me. I really tried to focus on the Lord. This trip is about Him, not us. I fell back asleep and then woke up around 4:30. I prayed again and then went to the bathroom and shaved in the sink with cold water. There was a huge cockroach that didn’t react when I tried to shoo him away. While I was shaving I felt him crawl over my foot and I kicked him across the floor. I went back to the air mattress and tried to figure out my phone.

July 18 – At about 6:30 I walked out into the lobby and talked to Kyle and Mike. It was now Saturday morning. We got the group together and took everyone about five blocks away to an athletic club where we took showers. It was a really nice complex. We then walked back to the church. We then walked about a mile away for breakfast. Most of the group went to McDonalds. About eight of us went to Fairwood, a Hong Kong chain restaurant. It was really good food. I got a soup that had chicken, macaroni noodles, and diced tomatoes. It tasted Italian. It was really good. We walked back to the church passing through a park. People were doing Tai Chi in the park. We had a meeting in the lobby area of the church. The church was a lobby room which was probably fifteen feet by ten feet deep, a work area behind that. To the right was an assembly room where the ladies stayed, there were two bathrooms and a workroom and kitchen behind that. Next to the ladies room was another assembly room which is where they had church services, which also serves as a study room for area students during the week. At the meeting Mike told us what to expect as we went to China. He also gave each of us a small pack of toilet paper. We then packed up everything. I packed everything I needed from the three bags into one bag that was extremely heavy. Someone named my bag the herniator. We loaded our luggage on a bus. The luggage was stacked in the first few seats. We then drove to the border where we divided up into four different groups. We were given Octopus cards which gave us access to the trains, like a Subway. It was a little difficult getting all of us with our luggage through the different changes we had to make. We then divided up to try to go through the inspections to get into China. We had to fill out a health card statement. We also had to fill out an immigration card. Jesse Evans and I went to the restroom while Mike was talking to someone in another group. We were trying to spread out so we didn’t look like such a big group. One of the groups had already tried to get through. Mike was concerned because the people in the other group were made to wear masks. Each was taken in to a place where they had there temperatures taken and they were asked questions. Jesse and I came out of the bathroom and turned down the wrong hall and came out on the other side of the first check point. One person in the other group saw us and asked how we got over there. We then realized what we had done and went back the other way. When we got back to Caleb, Stephen and the other Jesse, Mike walked up to us and told us that they weren’t going to let Jared in because he had a fever. He wanted us to go ahead and try to get through. He and Robert were going to stay back with Jared. The other groups were trying to get through. The two Jesses went off together. Caleb and Stephen and I went ahead. We had to fill out the immigration cards and then stand in a little line. When we go to the front of the line one of the Chinese examined our papers and then read our temperatures off of our foreheads. The three of us then took our papers over to another table where three different people looked at our passports. They asked us how long we had been in Hong Kong. I replied one day. They were scurrying around together. I could tell what was about to happen. masksThey grabbed our papers and said “this way.” We went off together down that same back hall I had seen the other group in earlier. Now, Caleb and Stephen and I were in the nurses area, wearing masks and having our temperature taken. We sat calmly. Jared was in the room next to us. He also had on a mask. He was at the nurses desk. You could tell he was a little bit scared. Jared said, “They are not going to let me in. I have a fever.” Caleb asked “what was it?” Jared said, “They said it is 102 degrees.” I looked straight ahead and told Caleb not to talk. We didn’t need to look like we were with Jared. Cameras and microphones were everywhere. I said, “I was hoping we could do some shopping,” just in case some Chinese person on the other end of the cameras and microphones could understand our English. We sat with thermometers under our arms for about ten minutes. The nurse then took our thermometers. She looked at me and said, “You have fever?” I replied, “No!” After a minute or two she grabbed our stuff and handed it back to us. We went out into the main concourse area again and talked to several of our group. Mike and Robert were there. Robert was part of Jared’s group. When Robert had his temperature taken one of the Chinese nurses asked, “Why you so red? You have fever.” Robert said, “I live at the beach, I’m always red.” “You have fever.” He looked and laughed and said, “No, I’m always red.” Mike and Robert were going to take Jared back to Cedric’s house in Hong Kong. Stephen and Caleb and I were supposed to try to get through. Mike gave me the Chinese money he had for us. It was about $1,000 American. I put it in my pocket and we went back through the line where they take your temperature on your forehead. We walked back to the table where our luggage was left right before they took us to the nurses. I pointed at the workers at the table when I showed them the passports. The Chinese man nodded and took our three passports and stamped them. We went to another line. Jesse Sellers was still in the nurses office. We didn’t see Jesse Evans. We got to the front of the line and the Chinese man looked over my stuff, hesitated a little, and then stamped my passport. I went through and then waited at the other side off in the distance where I could see Caleb and Stephen. Stephen went through next. He was really calm and cool. They let him through without any problem. Stephen came and stood by me and we watched Caleb in the distance. This time it was Caleb that they thought didn’t look like his passport. They showed the passport to a couple of people. Caleb was really cool about it. After a tense moment, he had his passport and immigration papers stamped. Stephen and I turned to walk away and Caleb caught up with us. We were almost there. We had to put our luggage through the screener. I put “the herniator” on the conveyer to go through the X-Ray machine. I had my laptop computer, the booklets for the workers, and my main camp notebook in the suitcase. It came through the screener without any problems. Stephen had his suitcase, plus a bag full of MissionSports T Shirts. His luggage went through without any problem. Caleb was last. No problem either. We got through and I said, “Let’s go, don’t look back.” And we walked briskly into China. When we walked out of the building you could feel the heat and humidity. It was around 1:30 p.m. We were in Shenzen on the border of China. It was a big street that was covered, somewhat like an parking deck. There were vendors and little stores all around, selling food, cell phones, and travel information. We saw our group off to the right about one hundred feet away. We had everyone, but Robert, Mike, and Jared who we knew were not coming, and then Pastor Alan, Jessie Sellers, and Megan, and Tonya. I gave the money to Kyle. Michael and I walked over close to the exit and waited. I was concerned for Jessie. I felt like the others could handle themselves. After about twenty minutes of nervous concern, Pastor Benson and the others walked up to the group. They had walked all the way down to the train station about a half of a mile away looking for our group. They were all together, including Jessie. We then walked down to the train station. Here we were given a little purple plastic coin shaped token. We walked through the turnstile after it scanned the token. It must have had a micro chip of some kind in it. It was difficult again getting everyone with their luggage through the different stations. The doors started to close on one and we had about four of our group still on the train. Stephen stood between the doors so that the rest of our group could get off. We rode a couple of different trains to where we came out into Shenzen. We then gathered together again. I turned my phone on to see if it would work. I received an email so I knew I had data. We then got on board the really fast train that would take us to Guangzhou. By this time everyone was hungry so Kyle went to order us some food on the train. They didn’t have a whole lot left. They had some wings, a thigh and leg, a rice and chicken meal, and then dumplings in a cup. It took us about an hour on the train to get to Guanzhou.The train was moving at about 90 mph. We passed millions of people on our way. It was quite the experience just to ride along the railway. We did see some farms, but along the train tracks there was never a real countryside. When we got to Guangzhou we walked out of the train station to the street where Cedric called the bus line to reserve a bus for us. We walked up a street that was full of people, several restaurants and stores, and as Kyle described, “the smells of Iquitos.” You could smell the sewage and waste. We turned a corner and arrived at a large intersection with huge buildings and much bigger stores. We saw a McDonalds across the street. I wish now we would have gone in and grabbed a hamburger or two. There were two Chinese ladies that were really excited to be in the “big” city. They were taking pictures of each other and Michael would get behind them about twenty feet away and just grin so he would be in the picture. We walked a couple of blocks down to the bus stop. There was a group of about twenty Chinese who had come to go to the camp. They arrived in Guangzhou about the same time we did. They were from the country and had never seen the big buildings. Kyle talked to a several of them trying to get their names. luggqgeThe bus arrived and we started to get on. They were taking all of our luggage to the back. The bus driver was on the cell phone. He was upset and yelling into the phone. Cedric said that he was ashamed because he didn’t understand that we would have this much luggage. He was embarrassed to treat the foreigners that way. We packed in to the bus like a can of sardines. A couple of seats had three to them. Pastor Gotcher was in the back throwing luggage and stacking it to the ceiling. Jessie Sellers stood the whole way. Kyle and Alan were standing or sitting on the front step of the bus. I stood in front of Billy (Pastor Gotcher) who was laying across some of the luggage in the back. After about 40 minutes of riding I finally wiggled down to the floor and laid down with Stephen’s carry on behind my head. When we arrived at the camp, it took us less time to unload the luggage. Most of it went through a window in the back. One of the campers and I carried “the herniator” out of the front. We then settled into our rooms. We had air conditioning in the buildings. It took a little bit for them to cool everything off, but after a little bit it actually got cold. We went down for supper. It was very authentic. We had duck with the head staring at us. A couple of green dishes, like spinach, or something that tasted like asparagus. It wasn’t that bad, but I don’t think I had anything that I thought was realy good. After supper we had a team meeting and tried to settle down a little bit. It was late when we got to bed. Everyone slept fairly well.

July 19 – On Sunday morning I woke up early and went into the bathroom to take a shower. I walked into spider webs. I was taking my shaving cream out of my bag and I heard the door loosen. The wind from the typhoon that came through had opened the door. I’m glad it did, because when I turned around I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen. spiderI thought it was a tarantula. It was big and hairy. It probably was a giant wolf spider. I grabbed him with a towel and flushed him down our toilet. Sunday was a great day. Breakfast has been the best meal of the day so far. We had a tomato soup with scrambled eggs in it. We also had rice. Each meal we have had some kind of big leafy green that is stringy, but not too bad. I like the really thin noodles. One meal we had little minnows that were crunchy and fishy. The fish we ate at least once a day came out of a little pond like you would have in your back yard. They just go snatch them out with a net and then at the next meal he is stairing at you on the plate. For the morning service we sang God is so Good in English and Mandarin. Luke preached from Jeremiah. We learned that when someone says good bye in Chinese, it means I will see you again. We need to say good-bye to sin, but not in Chinese. Luke is from Taiwan. He knows Christian Wei and has been to UBC once. After lunch we rested a little bit and then it rained really hard. We then walked from the bottom of the hill at the campfood restaurant to the top of the hill where the pool is. Several of us climbed up the little water fall up the side of the mountain. We had team meetings. I hung out with the Wilmington group because Robert wasn’t there. We went over some of the circle games and skits. We then prayed for the week of camp and for the team members that weren’t with us. Afterward, several of us played a couple of mind games. Stephen did some game about pink pigs and a game about a box. We got cleaned up for supper. That meal was the worst one so far. I gagged on a little shrimp. It was really small and you ate the head tail and all, but it was really fishy. At the end of the meal they brought out sliced watermelon. The Americans went crazy. Brittany threw up after she went back to her room. She doesn’t like sea food but she wants to try everything. I believe it was the same shrimp that did her in. After supper had another meeting with the Chinese. We sang Alleluia, Praise Ye the Lord. We then played a couple of other games. Everyone was tired and went to bed around 10 p.m.

July 20 – On Monday we had a wonderful breakfast, scrambled eggs, ramen noodles, rice, etc. We met with the team as a whole and the Chinese, we sang some songs, Kyle gave a little devotional with Henry as an interpreter. I don’t think Henry has ever done that before. He struggled a little, but did fairly well. We then gave out the cabin assignments and prepared to meet the campers as they came in. It wasn’t long before a group came up to our room all excited. Two of them were pastors who spoke pretty good English. The two teenagers knew a little English, enough to communicate. 4tallLunch was fairly good. Kyle and I tried an herbal tea drink. It was really hot outside. We had filled the big balls, but didn’t have a needle to fill the basketballs and playground balls. We decided to go swimming at the pool. The pool was very large. The guys and girls swam at the same time, but they stayed on separate sides of the pool. We had some more campers arrive. On the way down the hill we saw a bus coming in. On the bus was Cedric’s wife, Mike Eccleston, Robert Upton, and Jared Poe. They still had a tough time getting Jared through. His temperature normally runs a little high. They had been to a doctor in Hong Kong and gotten a letter. The Chinese said, “If you no sick, why you go doctor?” Mike was about ready to bribe them, but they let them through. Tonya was really glad to see him. He had smuggled in some KFC. Caleb  was playing basketball with the Chinese while we were walking down the hill. I met with Mike and Kyle and we showed Mike the camp. We then gathered all of the campers and played a game of big ball volleyball. The team leaders did a great job of cheering. The Chinese really got into it. The green team won the game. We then got ready for supper. Supper was pretty good today also. The food has been good all day. After supper we went to the service. The lights were flickering on and off. The fans weren’t working so it was really hot. The Wilmington group began with a skit – the contagious disease ward. The Chinese laughed after each person came on stage. They loved it. We sang again. assembThe Wilmington group also led us in “Bind us Together” with the motions. I then gave the camp rules. We sang a little more and then I preached on “Knowing God.” Bob interpreted for me. He has an undergrad degree from BJU. He is a really nice man and did a great job interpreting. After the service we met with the team for a little bit then headed to bed. On a funny note, that morning, Alan had talked about a shaving oil that doesn’t lather up, but works great. He has used it several times, but on this day after he got through shaving he realized he had shaved with eye drops.  On Tuesday evening, I slept in the one room where the air conditioning worked. The room originally had Caleb and two Chinese teens in it. One of them didn’t feel well and wanted to be in the heat. I moved my air mattress from the front room to the back bed room. When we went to bed it was cool. During the middle of the night it got really cold. I woke Caleb up. He had the remote control for the air conditioner. I said, “Caleb, it is cold!” The Chinese boy said, “Cold!” Caleb gave me the remote and I turned it off for a while. I turned the air back on before everyone woke up.

July 21 – I was able to get a shower in the morning. After the shower I washed the squatty potty with the shower head and then sprayed it all with Lysol. The Chinese don’t have a lot so they wash out what they wore yesterday and then hang it out to dry so they can wear it again. Before breakfast, I was working on the calendar and journaling in the front room. Bob had all of the Chinese on our floor come into the room. They turned in their Bibles to a passage and took turns each reading a verse. Then after they read a couple of chapters Bob talked for about ten minutes and then prayed. Breakfast was excellent this morning. I walked up the hill to the service with Dr. Kennedy. He is with the Rawlings Foundation. They paid about $15,000 to help kids get to camp.  Kyle did a great job with the message on What I Believe About God. It is fun to listen to the Chinese sing and to see their joy. I told some of from our team that I wanted to take these Chinese back home with me. After the morning service we had God and I Time. We actually had the counselors take their group of kids and read over the devotional. The first one dealt with God as Creator. bigballCaleb and I were together with the group. Caleb wasn’t feeling well. He was a little dehydrated and didn’t talk very much. The Chinese took turns reading through the different sections on the devotional. Afterward I tried to learn to say the memory verse in Chinese. We then prayed silently. Next, came a giant game of steal the bacon. The Chinese love the competition and are very enthusiastic. While standing next to Mike, he told me that the cops had been asking about the camp. The night before they had asked what we were doing? Now, they were asking for passport numbers and descriptions of what is happening. Mike was telling them that we were a student group, that we are teaching Ameircan concepts and ideas. So far, we haven’t run into any major problems.I think the locals are wondering what we are doing? After lunch we had another decent lunch. Then we rested for a little bit, then cabin challenges (building as many 6 person pyramids as we can) and then up to the pool where we cool off. Pool time is shower time for many of the Chinese. We had a game scheduled for 4:30 p.m. While heading back down the hill for the game, Pastor Wong approached me and said we had to shut everything down. At first I wasn’t sure if he was joking again, but it didn’t take long to realize he was serious. The police were on the camp site as were several higher officials. They had been questioning Cedric about the camp. There were several reasons for them finding out about us. One was the camp was not set up to host foreigners. Apparently foreigners can only stay in 3 star and above. I’m not sure what our camp would be listed as. Also the owners didn’t have a license for business. Cedric said that they heard our singing. It may have been someone from the area village. The locals used the showers and bathrooms at the top of the hill and also used the pool. Maybe one of them tipped the authorities off. Cedric said that the different provinces knew that something was going on at the camp. He said there were many reasons. We went ahead and played the game, circle dodgeball. The Chinese really like big ball volleyball so Robert and I went back down to my room to get one of the big balls. We had pretty much destroyed both of them on the concrete court. One of them had a leak and the other one had a tear in the cover. We chose the one with the tear. It looked like the ball had popped out a hernia. While the kids played, I stood on the side trying to figure what was happening and what was going to happen next. I went down the hill to Mike’s room to get T-shirts. I also went to the top of the hill to get tracts (the Bridge). When I returned to the playing court I could feel the tears welling up. Word had started to spread through our group. Before long, several of our group were crying. I guess the Chinese picked up on it, because it wasn’t long before the cameras came out and just about everybody was taking pictures. I posed with the Chinese for several pictures. One groupperson said, “You very strong man.” The girls were really expressive and cute. One of them reminded me so much of Bethany with her expressions. She was a little shy the first night and then on the second day she was much more expressive. They said, “We love you so much.” “We really miss you.” Again, it was hard to choke back the tears. We decided to divide into boys and girls and play another game. We played circle dodgeball again with the girls while the boys were quizzed about stuff they had learned over the past couple of days. If someone got the answer right then they were given a Missions Sports T shirt. Luke did a good job of explaining the messed up phrase at the bottom. Your life doesn’t windowmake sense either unless Christ is in your life. We wanted to be able to give the gospel one last time. After Luke finished with the boys we switched sides and he quizzed the girls. We then went down to supper where more pictures were taken. I gave our campers Bridge tracts for their cabins. I also gave tracts to the workers behind the counter and those sitting over in the corner. They were so receptive. One of the girls behind the counter asked what the word and numbers meant on the bottom. She didn’t understand Bible references. I had Luke explain and then she went back to reading the tract. I looked over in the corner and saw others reading the tracts. We then went back up to one of the cabins and met with just our team to hear what had happened and how. I don’t know if we will ever understand the why. Kyle said that one of the campers told him “I miss you forever.” Kyle responded by saying that if he knew Jesus, he wouldn’t miss him forever, but that he would see him forever. The camper responded I know Jesus in my heart. It was humbling to see what God had done in such a short period of time. The pastors had great sessions. It was fun to see everyone interacting with the Chinese, but Dr. Henry was really fun to watch.

eclipseJuly 22 – On Wednesday morning, we packed up a little and then headed to breakfast. More pictures were taken and the same boy called me to sit by him again. I had given him a Nike cap the night before that I tried to give him the first day. Breakfast was pretty good. We then met as a group and Pastor Gotcher spoke to our group. He challenged us with the power of the gospel and reminded us of the Thessalonian believers who received the Word amidst great persecution. We then sang a little: To God be the Glory, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, I Love You Lord. We walked out and saw the solar eclipse. Wow! I never thought I would see a solar eclipse in China. I’m still seeing a dot in front of my eyes. Dr. Henry used one of the water boxes and put two holes in one side so that we could look through one and see the eclipse. Pastor Gotcher took several good pictures with his Sony camera. We then packed up and cleaned our rooms. When the bus arrived we packed the luggage again and started for Guangzhou. I saw the Chinese countryside for the first time. When we came to camp I was on the floor. We traveled down a dirt road for a little bit before we made it to the road. It wasn’t very long before we came to a small village. People were out working on their farms. The mountains around reminded me of being near the Wilds except the trees were different. It took us about an hour to get to Guangzhou. When we arrived at the hotel we unloaded the bus and stood in the lobby while Mike registered. After a minute, there was too much commotion from our group and he told us to go back towards the elevators. Then a few minutes later he came back and said that he needed 19 passports. Several of us were told then to go to the 29th floor. guangWe had a registration for 19, but we had 25 because the other three pastors were not going to be able to go North to visit their missionaries. We also thought that they were going to be able to teach some of the house pastors in Guangzhou, but that wasn’t going to happen either. We had already attracted the attention of the Chinese officials and didn’t want to jeopardize any future ministry for them. A few anxious moments later the rest of the group came up. Mike paid with a credit card. On the back he had written “Please Ask for Identification.” The lady behind the counter made him sign the same thing “Please Ask for Identification,” so that was his signature all week at the hotel. We got settled into our rooms. I was with Pastor Alan. The rooms were nice. The beds were very hard. We had our own bathroom with a real toilet. We also had an incredible view. Those on our side of the hotel could see the Pearl River and the incredible bridges. Skyscrapers could be seen as far as the eye could see in any direction. We went to Mike’s room and he told us the plan. We looked out his window and could see buildings everywhere. He showed us the Buddhist Temple. That was our first place to visit when we went down stairs. We walked up a narrow alley and smelled the incense burning. People were selling the incense all along the side of the road. When we approached the Temple we realized we were looking at a building that is several hundred years old. There were three huge statues of Buddha in the front. Each had its hands in a different position. People would walk up with their incense and wave it to the statues and then pray. It was so sad that it made me cry watching them. We split up and walked around the Temple. The mood from our group was solemn and respectful. On buddaheach side their were other statues and paintings. On the back side the entire wall was covered with what looked like book marks in the states. Each of the little cards had a picture of a loved one and some words on it. People were bowing and praying to these relatives. I could see that the teens were moved like I was. I saw Leighton in the front and told him that I first was really sad, but then I was mad. We saw several take their incense and throw it into a bag of trash. He said, “That is where it all goes. In the trash.” We stayed for just a few more minutes and then walked through the busy streets up towards one of the malls. We took an elevator up to the fifth floor and then walked into the biggest Pizza Hut I have ever seen. We sat as a group and looked at the menus. The menu was the largest I had ever seen either. Mike ordered several pizzas for the group and I drank a 7-Up. It was wonderful just to have ice. The pizza was thin crust and greasy, but it was probably the best tasting pizza in the world. At least it tasted that way after several days of camp food. After supper we divided into groups to walk around. Scott, Jesse E., Stephen, Caleb, and me walked through the other end of the Pizza Hut and entered into an eight story mall. It was unique in that it looked like a guang2large department store, but each department was a separate store. The prices were not that good. We went to the top floor of stores and walked our way down. We stopped and sampled some Gelato. Caleb ended up buying a cone which cost him almost $4. It only had one little scoop. We walked out into the street and saw people everywhere. The street was lit up like Times Square. It was amazing to see all of the commercialism. There were stores everywhere. Chinese men would walk up with little catalogs and say “Watchy, watchy.” We would try to tell them no but they were persistant. “T shirt, T shirt, Armani, suit-ee.” We walked up the road and saw a glass covered area that showed the roads that were underground. Each one dating back to different Chinese dynasties. Some were over a thousand years old. We had a few people asking us for money. We didn’t buy anything, we just looked. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a McDonalds and the other guys bought an ice cream Sunday. It cost $1. I couldn’t resist the four piece spicy chicken combo. It was four wings that were fried but very spicy, more so than Bojangles. The french fries were the best in the world. I shared those with our group. We then went back to the hotel and to Mike’s room for a meeting. When we walked into the room. Mike looked at me and said, “I thought I left my bag over there.” We didn’t say anything to the kids, but we were all a little paranoid. We had a good meeting and laid out the plan. We were going to have to be tourist the next day. We would start the day with breakfast and then return to the hotel. The four pastors would take about thirty minutes each to teach four different groups which would switch between the pastors. We then would go to a water park or the zoo.

July 23
– Most of the group went to McDonalds for breakfast, but about eight of us went to a local place. The local place had no one that spoke English. We saw some of the pictures on the wall. I saw what one of the ladies was eating behind us and said let’s all just get that. Mike ordered eight of those. It turned out to be rice noodles layered with sausage, onions, and soy sauce. It was kind of like a Chinese lasagna. It actually was very good. When it came out we still didn’t know what we were getting. One of the girls said, I hope it is not jellyfish. We returned to our rooms and got started later on the meetings. We were only going to have about forty-five minutes for Bible teaching. Alan and I took the girls. He did an excellent explanation on 1 Thessalonians 5 about the kinds of people you meet. He was very interactive and the girls were getting involved and asking questions so I encouraged him just to keep going with that thought. After the session we packed up for our trip to the water park and zoo. I got to talk to one of the girls about friends before we left. On our way out of the hotel, the kids and most of the adults had already boarded the bus when Alan, Kyle, and I walked out of the hotel. A police man stopped me and asked to see my passport. I told him that our passports were upstairs in our bags. Mike had told us to keep them with our luggage. We didn’t realize that there could be a fine if we weren’t carrying our passports and we were stopped. The policeman asked us what we were doing. Pastor Wong told him we were going to the water park. I felt like I was playing Charades as I tried to communicate to him that we were going swimming. The three of us had to go get our passports. In fact, everyone on the bus went to get their passports. But the three of us had to go with the policeman to the lobby of the hotel and he copied down all of our information. The bus ride over was incredible. We rode through Guangzhou. It took us about an hour to get to the parks, but we never left the city. We rode along the Pearl River and crossed the bridge. If you watched the road, you probably would have a heart attack. The driving was really aggressive, but a lot of give and take. Earlier in the morning I had looked out my window from the 29th floor and thought I was watching a game of Frogger. I just knew I was going to see someone hit by a car or two cars collide.  On our trip to the parks, I sat with Dr. Henry. We were talking about how we were never out of sight of a government vehicle. We could just imagine the Chinese playing their spy games. We stopped for lunch at Texas Burger which was a Burger King  logo with Texas Burger in the middle. We had a choice of chicken sandwich or hamburger. I will assure you that the hamburger didn’t taste anything like beef. After we got to the park, Pastor Wong went to buy our tickets. He tried to get group tickets to save us some money, but we ended up having to get individual tickets. One of the groups from camp showed up and we talked with them a little bit before going into the water park. About half of our group also went to the zoo. When we entered the park. The attendant asked us if we were a group and we replied no, just individuals. We went into the park where we changed clothes and then got lockers to store our things. The Chinese bought swim suits. I was surprised by the modesty of the Chinese women. Several of the men’s suits though are just gross. We then went as a group to the first ride. It was a huge, fast water slide. Four of us rode on a tube together. We then visited several of the other rides. I lost my sun glasses when I had to leave them at the top of one of the rides. I tried to go back up to get them, but after getting about half way up I hit the Great Wall of China. There was no way I would get through that crowd. On my way up, I had a couple of little boys and a woman stop me. They said “Hi.” I thought they must have been from the camp so I shook their hands and did the little snap. We all laughed and then the lady asked me “You go us, four.” She was pointing saying that I could be the fourth one in their group. Ooops, they were not from camp. I smiled and said no and walked away. We then went on several other rides. This water park is the largest in the world. I remembered seeing a show on the Travel Channel about the top 10 waterparks. Little did I know that I would get to visit this one. We had a great time being the silly Americans. Everyone was hollering and screaming on the rides. At the end of the day we had just a little bit of time so eight of us decided to ride the one up front one last time. On the way down, Caleb and Stephen’s tube buckled and the two of them hit heads. Caleb actually came off the tube and grabbed Jesse S’s arm. Jesse started to push Caleb off, but realized he was hurt. They tumbled into the pool atscar the bottom and Caleb came up with blood running down his face. One of the life guards at the bottom took him over to shed and called someone. Jake and I jumped in the pool and helped the Chinese coming down the slide get out of their tubes and then we put the tubes on the conveyor belt up to the top. We took Caleb to a couple of men from the park who said they wanted to take Caleb to the hospital. “You go with us to hospital.” We didn’t want to do that. Caleb said he just needed a bandaid when we realized they were wanting us to go to a first aid station. We walked over to the first aid station behind one of the rides. The doctor or nurse in there cleaned his wound and just put a bandaid on it. The gash looked like he could have taken about three stiches, but we didn’t want to mess with that in Guangzhou, so when we got back to the hotel Mike cleaned it again and put a new bandaid on it. We then boarded the bus and went to pick up the people at the zoo. The zoo, waterpark, and amusement park all were on the same massive piece of property. When the people from the zoo got on the bus, they couldn’t stop talking about how incredible it was. I remembered hearing about this being one of the best zoos in China. We went back to Guangzhou and then went to supper in the mall at a Taiwanese Steak House. All of our steaks were brought out on a hot skillet. I also had noodles and sauce (sort of like spaghetti), broccoli, carrots, and an egg that was frying on the skillet. It was incredible. I also got a 7-Up. Afterwards we walked around the shopping area again. Caleb bought a couple of shirts. We went back to the hotel.

July 24 – The next morning we went out for breakfast. Several of us went to what must have been the area’s equivelant to K&W. There were older people all throughout the restaurant. We walked through the main dining area and then through a kitchen area. On the other side was another dining area and a room off to the side. No one spoke English and the menu was completely in Chinese. Mike went out to the dining area and pointed to different people’s food. One lady kept wanting him to choose what she was eating. It was almost like a game show with the Chinese getting excited over what Mike chose for our group. It was a good variety and everything was good. I actually am getting pretty good with chop sticks. We returned to our room for our devotional time. This time I taught the boys from Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. We had a really good discussion and the topic tied right in to everything that we had been experiencing. Just before Alan began to speak there was a knock on our door. We were going to have to leave right away. We had about thirty minutes to pack and get out of the Lido Hotel. I had most of my stuff ready. I was saddened that we wouldn’t be able to see the museum. I had heard that it is incredible. As the teens packed their stuff,  Alan, Michael, and I left the hotel to go look for sunglasses for me and a couple of T Shirts for Michael. Michael found a pair of fake Oakley’s with four different lenses. He got the lady down to $11, so I bought the glasses. We looked at some watches, some pearls, some other jewelry and then headed back. We went into the jewelry store just underneath but the prices were way too pricey. We saw Mike and Billy crossing the busy road in front of the hotel.  Michael tried to go catch them, but the light turned red and the traffic cop held Michael back. I’m sure if anyone was watching us then they would have gotten worried. The three of us  in front of the jewelry store; one stays, one cuts across the street,and one goes in to the hotel. I found out that we were supposed to be out of the hotel by noon. It was going to be close. We went down to the lobby and stored our things in a side room. Everyone then went to McDonalds. It was way too crowded so Mike just asked us if we wanted chicken nuggets or cheeseburgers. We waited in the back of the lobby. We were not sure when the bus would arrive, but we had to be ready at a moments notice. They brought our lunch to us and we ate in the back of the lobby, trying not to make too much of a commotion. When the bus arrived we again packed all of our luggage underneath and headed out of town. This time we weren’t going to take the train to Shenzen. We were going to try to cross the border another way where we wouldn’t draw as much attention. When the nice big motor coach pulled out, we saw the awesome skyline of Guangzhou. Buildings stretched as far as the eye could see. Photos and words cannot begin to describe how incredible it was. Everyone sat in the back of the bus, because we were picking up some of the Chinese workers from the church and a Jake and Chad. They were staying at a military hotel that was very nice. Before we picked them up, Pastor Wong came to the back of the bus to tell us what had happened. Apparently someone in Hong Kong had alerted the Chinese government that we were coming. They believed that there were two emails that tipped them off. Of course the Chinese government can monitor any cell phone calls or emails. Pastor Wong believes that someone was deliberately trying to sabotage the camp. There was a group from the North in China that was planning on going to the camp, but they were turned back by the authorities so somehow the officials knew there was going to be a camp. Pastor Wong said that they had been watching us since we first entered into China. That may explain some of the problems we had getting everyone through on the first day. Maybe they were trying to rattle us a little. I noticed that it was all about intimidation. Their intimidation apparently was working on Cedric who normally was very calm. He had indeed been rattled. We had no idea at the time, but he said that there were eighty cops that were assigned to follow and watch our group at the waterpark. They had video. We had a political connection that I won’t say a whole lot about, but this person came to our defense. This person had threatened to send in the military if the local police did anything to us while we were at the camp. The head of the religious department churches in China (he was referred to as the  Pope of China) even came to our defense. This person that is in a position of power in the Chinese governement is a believer and they said that the Communist proclaim their belief system and that we Christians are going to defend our belief system also. I look back now on the entire episode and I see little things all along that point to the fact that we were being targeted. The officials were ready at the waterpark to arrest us for unlawfully assembling a group if we bought a group ticket. Pastor Wong wanted to buy a group ticket, but the park made us buy individual tickets. God in His sovereignty worked everything out for us for our safety and protection, and also for His glory. It is amazing to think that our witness went all the way to the top, and when heliI say top I mean the top of the Chinese government. It took us a little longer to get to the border this time, because we were riding a bus. Along the way, we saw huge buildings and neighborhoods the entire way. We stopped to use the bathroom at a gas station. A military helicopter was following us. It circled over us five times while we stopped. When we arrived at the border the helicopter buzzed over us, making his presence known. We were leaving from Shenzen, but this time not the big tourist area. We had to wait in a long line for immigration. We went through the thermal scanners and stopped at the counter to show our passports and our health declaration sheet. Everyone made it through without incident. We loaded our luggage in another bus and boarded it this time for the journey into the city of Hong Kong. All in all it took us about eight hours to get from the camp back to the church in Hong Kong. We unloaded our luggage and went out to one of the area restaurants to get something to eat. This time Pastor Wong ordered several dishes for each table. The food actually was very good. We went back to the church and had a testimony time before going to bed. Everyone in our group shared a testimony. It was amazing to see how God was working in all of our lives.

July 25 – The next morning, we returned to the area where we had breakfast our first full day in Hong Kong. Several of us ate at Fairwood. I got the same soup, but this time it had a pork chop in it. We then went to the bank to exchange our trainChinese money for Hong Kong money. We all then went to Pastor Wong’s church to see what the plan was going to be for VBS. We took the train over and stopped at a Chinese laundromat where they do your laundry. We then stopped at a bakery on the corner and got some lunch. Pastor Wong’s church was a couple of blocks away. They meet in a YMCA building. The classrooms were air conditioned and felt very good in the hot humid weather. While several finished up the VBS plans, a group went to distribute tracts and VBS invitations. The other group went to the basketball courts. We shot around a little bit and I met several of the Chinese men and boys that were playing. Caleb and I joined up with three Chinese to play five of our team members. We ended up beating them, primarily thanks to Caleb, but I scored several including the winning basket. We played a couple of games. Unfortunately I strained a muscle in my left calf so I sat out the next games. I was talking to Simon, a nice Chinese man that I met on the court. He was about 50 years old and in great shape. He works as a teacher. I told him what we were doing in Hong Kong. pizzaAfter a little bit, I commented on how thirsty I was. Our clothes were soaked and our lips were parched. We all needed water. Simon asked for two strong guys to go with him so he took Jessie E. and Caleb to the corner market where he bought us 10 waters. They tried to thank him and he said, “No, no, (like no thanks needed) you are Christians. We then changed into some dry clothes and met with Cedric’s church for a baby shower. We had a blast getting to know the Chinese people better. An American from California was there named Danny Thomas. He works at a Bible college as a professor in music. He played several songs on the piano and our group sang along. Joanna called me during the shower to ask about Caleb’s head. The food was really good at the shower. They had a sushi, dim sum, noodles, rice, eggs, and several kinds of pizza.

July 26 – On Sunday morning, a few from our team stayed back at the church where we were staying. Pastor Gotcher preaching2preached, and a couple of the teens shared testimonies. Most of us went to Cedric’s church. Alan showed slides of Israel and I preached on Mark 1, where Jesus rose early to pray and then when the disciples came to get Him to go back to Capernauum because everyone was looking for Him, He said that He had to leave. We left on a bus and rode into Hong Kong where we divided into groups and shopped. Everyone was glad to see a Starbucks. We walked down a street with very expensive stores. It seemed that the cars driving down that street were really expensive. Several of us finally found our way over to a side street where the stores were more reasonable. On one street there were several golf stores and sporting goods stores. The group I was with ended up at Pizza Hut. In Hong Kong and China, Pizza Hut is a nice restaurant. Afterward we walked around a little before heading back to the waterfront where we met our group. It started raining, but we were on the lower side of the patio and we didn’t get wet. The lasers were impressive, but probably would have been better without the clouds. We had a few minutes to shop after the light show and then we met at the bus.

July 27 – On Monday morning, the VBS group went to Grace Baptist Church, Pastor Wong’s church. The pastors hung peakaround the church where we slept. We then took the train over and met up with our group at the end of VBS. One of Pastor Wong’s men grabbed lunch and prepared it in the kitchen for our group. We then had another bus pick us up, but this time the bus took us through Hong Kong and up the mountain to the Peak. We shopped a little while and then took the escalators all the way to the top and the lookout over the Peak. It cost $20 Hong Kong to go to the lookout. The view was incredible. There is no way that photos or words can begin to describe how beautiful the city was at night.

July 28 – On Tuesday morning, the VBS group went a little ahead of the Pastor’s group. We met up with them at McDonalds just as they were finishing.  Mike then took the pastors and Dr. Henry via taxi to the area where Cedric lives. We had to take two taxis. Dr. Henry, Pastor Gotcher and I were in the first taxi. Mike had given the driver the address where we wanted to go. We had no idea where we were going and we were a little concerned that we could end up on the other side of Hong Kong separated from the other pastors. The driver dropped us off and Dr. Henry and Pastor Gotcher walked down to the waterfront. It was a beautiful view. After a few minutes, Alan, Mike, and Michael werewalk dropped off by their taxi. We walked around a little turn in the road and came to an ancestral temple. It was similar to the Buddhist Temple, but it was smaller. The idolatry was still evident. We then walked up the road a little and took a path up 300 steps (Dr. Henry counted them) to what was supposed to be a white dolphin overlook. We didn’t see any white dolphins but we saw several cargo ships. The lookout also over looked the ancestral cemetery. We stood there for several minutes enjoying the breeze and taking a few pictures. We considered walking down the path to look at some of the graves, but no one wanted to get bitten by a snake on our last ful day in Hong Kong. It was probably good that we didn’t because a couple of dogs came up the trails to check out the strangers that had invaded their territory. We walked back down the steps and then walked on the beach for a few minutes looking for unique sea shells on the black sand beach. We took a double decker fballbus back to Ferry Pier where we then boarded a train back to Cedric’s church. We then grabbed lunch with our group at one of the little restaurants on the street. We met back at the church in order to meet another bus. The bus picked us up and we drove about an hour to the football camp.  We spent the afternoon playing ultimate frisbee, working on basic football skills (very basic) and then the Mission Sports team scrimmaged the other mission team. We then took a bus back to one of the malls where we enjoyed another meal at Pizza Hut. Our group presented gifts to the Chinese team members that helped us (Vincent, Christina, and also Cedric and Candy Wong). We shopped for about 45 minutes and then went back to our church via bus. When we got back everyone was happy to be able to get a shower. After the shower we met for devotions. Kyle reminded us of the great week that we had experienced. He then took us across the street up to the third level of the shopping area. On the top level was a large patio with benches that covered the entire building. We stood there and looked 360 degrees around us and saw huge housing complexes surrounding the shopping area. It was sobering for all of us. Several of the teens remained on the building taking it all in. We went back in the church for a little bit and then went out to a little convenience store for snacks. Several people tried to stay up a little bit later so they would sleep on the plane the next day.

July 29 – On Wednesday morning we packed up and were ready to go when the bus arrived to pick us up. It took us about a half an hour to get to the airport. We had to get our bags checked and go through the departure process. On the flight, I sat next to Scot and a man from Hong Kong named Jonathan who was going to theairport2 USA to work for three months. I slept some on this flight. I kept falling asleep during the Chinese movie that Mike had recommended. Before we arrived in the USA I found one of the tracts from Pastor Wong’s church and gave it to Jonathan. It took us right at sixteen hours to get to Newark where we again had to get our bags, go through immigration and recheck our bags. There were thunderstorms in the area so they grounded all flights which pushed ours back to a departure time around midnight. During the wait, Caleb slept on the floor underneath the seats for about four hours. Several people in our group slept in the seats or on the floor. Kyle and Christina laid on the floor underneath the pay phones. Most of the people in our group went out for supper to a food court area on another concourse. I waited and went about half an hour later with Dr. Henry. We had a really good talk over supper. We then went back to the gate. Dr. Henry laid on the floor in front of the benches and went to sleep. I looked at all of the photos, almost 16 gigabytes. It was a long night. Gennette left around 9:30 p.m. Dr. Henry and Pastor Gotcher left around 10:30 p.m. We finally boarded our plane around 12:45 a.m. We then left the runway at 1:20 a.m. It was a shorter flight back to RDU. Several parents met us at the airport. We had no trouble getting our luggage. Hugs were shared by all and we all started home. I was really glad to see Joanna.


God’s Word to America

In Deuteronomy 8, God gives a message to Israel that could have just as easily been delivered to the founding fathers of the United States of America. On Sunday morning, we celebrated Independence Day with a patriotic service at Tabernacle Baptist Church. The message was from Deuteronomy 8, entitled “God’s Word to America.” We saw that God Planned America, God has Protected America, God has Prospered America and God will Punish America. You can listen to this message by following this link or visit our sermons page.