Chinese Cave Lady and Church with the Cows

Welcome to Ron’s Adventures,” the podcast that highlights the lighter side of missions and international travel. With me in the studio are Ron and Charis Pearce.

Joy- Hello guys, and welcome back. So Charis, before we continue, I know this is called Ron’s Adventures,” but I think some of our listeners one day might want to hear your adventures. I’m just putting it out there, think about it, but until then we will focus on Ron. So Ron, do you have an adventure for us today?

Ron- We’re going to go to China and I’m going to talk about a couple of adventures that I had there. One was probably somewhere around the year 2000/2001 and I was going out with a national brother, who was a leader, into the rural areas. We were in the interior of China, way away from civilization, as in any big city, shall I say. It was very rural. And so all of a sudden he had stopped the taxi we had rented and we walked sort of up a bit of a hill into an area where we walked into a cave. In the cave lived an elderly Christian lady, she was probably mid-70s. She lived there all by herself. The cave in size was about 25 feet across and in depth went back about 40 feet into the hillside. There was a bit of a plateau out on the front, almost like it was her balcony, and when we stood out there and looked you could see an entire valley. This was a beautiful setting! I remember walking up the path, walking into the cave looking at this. There were a couple of sheep and I think a calf out on the patio you might say.

Joy- So the sheep lived in the cave with her?

Ron- Yes, so she would take them down the path to an area where they would graze and everything like that, but that’s where she kept them, up on the patio, the balcony. We walked inside and this was rustic! On the wall were little holes that she had dug in the wall and put candles in. She slept in a bed that was a single bed made of tree limbs, ropes across, an old, old mattress, and a blanket. This was a part of China that would get cold at night in the wintertime, not snow but cold. She had a bit of a table there and a chair. When we walked in she felt like she was entertaining us. She knew we were Christians. She talked about the little church that she walks to down below where a gathering is put together and she told us about her life and her adventures. How her husband had died, her children were no longer around, they had to move to a city. So she was making it all on her own. It was very much hand to mouth but God was supplying all her needs. So I’m sitting here looking at this rustic, almost out of National Geographic picture sort of setting. But this is the part that got me. As we were leaving, I wanted to slip her a few dollars, a few Yuan which is the local currency, just to help her out. She was a wonderful Christian lady but she needed a little bit of cash, just a small gift. I wanted to give it to her so I checked with the other brother, who was the guide and he said, Yes that would be wonderful, she would appreciate that.” But when I handed it to her, she took it in her hands and she looked at it and she said to the translator, What is this?” He told her it was money and she replied, I’ve heard about that.” She had never dealt with it. Maybe years prior she had seen it somewhere, but this was a part of China that was totally a matter of goods transferring hands between people. She had never had it or handled it. Maybe she had seen coins but never seen a bill? I don’t know what it was, but she was unfamiliar with paper currency. I walked out of there that day and I’m thinking I’m going to meet this lady in Heaven. I see her situation, she is faithful to the Lord, she had a little old Bible that was all worn and dirty and tattered. She was a strong believer, she walked down all crippled up and bent over. Took her cattle and her sheep and went to church. This is as simple a lifestyle that you could ever find and I thought wow! This is exciting to see how Jesus is taking care of her. And that was an adventure for me.

Joy- I have so many questions that you probably cannot answer. I just wonder how one ends up living in a cave? Were there more people around?

Ron- Well, they were down below. I didn’t see any more caves up there for her to live in or anyone else to live in but there were people in little huts and little shelters and everything down in the valley.

Joy- So really she had the most beautiful spot.

Ron- Oh yeah, I don’t think many people would live necessarily in a cave but she was quite happy there.

Joy- And her children had left.

Ron- Her one child, I think if I remember correctly, she had a boy that left. Now usually they take care of the parents and I don’t know what the family situation was, he probably wouldn’t have abandoned her unless there was something going on but I don’t know.

Joy- And when you went up to the cave, did you know what you were walking into?

Ron- No, they didn’t warn me. Actually, when we came down we were heading to a little church below and the taxi driver who had waited for us got in a car accident and we were in this little village and the brother I was with said, Grab everything, let’s go,” because he hit a motorcycle and we would get pegged for it. He threw some money on the front seat and a crowd started gathering and we thought oh boy, we’re in trouble, cause we’re Westerners, they are going try to take all the money, they just smell cash. So he found another guy and he walked over to him quickly and dragged me by the arm and says, Get in the car!” He paid him some extra money because it was just a normal farmer or something who had a car, and we got out of there as quick as we could.

Joy- And so you’re just going along with all of this.

{laughter}

Ron- You just watch it happen and you go home at night to your hotel and you lay down and think about the day’s adventures.

Joy- I wonder what she did with the money? I wonder if she ever did anything with it.

Ron- I don’t know. She would probably learn how to use it, find someone below that used money and she would buy something with it, but this is way out {of civilization} and so it was an adventure. Then the other one that I wanted to tack on to the back of this story is a little different. That was a woman by herself. I was in another church setting, we went out into the wilderness and went into this village with one of the major leaders of the house church movement in China, a good friend of mine. He has a group of about 6.5 million. So he was taking us around to this area and we marched into the village and he said, Okay, we have about an hour, hour and a half before the police get here.” So the clock was starting, because we were so far out, that’s how far the police station was away, so maybe someone was going to inform on us that there were strangers here, probably Christians, and they’d be coming. So we knew we could have an hour church service. We went into this barn and, apparently, they knew we were coming and it was anything but a cave with one person. This place was packed. And I mean down below and upstairs in the hayloft, there were people up there. It looked like a balcony. The cows were still in the stalls. There was a wall up and I was sitting beside a wall where on the other side there was a cow who would snort through the cracks between the boards at me all the time. And I’m sitting there at the edge and they’re having church. Well, we had church! There were no musical instruments but I think there was a guy in the corner with some sort of Chinese violin.

Joy- And the cow snorting.

Ron- And the cow snorting, yes. So the guy would start us off and then the music was so loud with the singing and the hymns and they were dancing around. These are people that just came right out of the fields and so if you can picture them in their work clothes. This was as ancient China as you could ever get, probably nothing has changed there in the last 500 years. And here we are having church together, and time went on. They wanted us to share a couple of words so I gave them some words of encouragement. There was a bit of a sermon that was translated for me, scripture was read, singing was done. When praying everybody drops to their knees. Everybody in the upstairs balcony were joining in but they weren’t allowed to dance. I still remember that someone started to dance and all the straw started coming down and they just stopped everything and said, No dancing up there!” My translator was laughing about this because it was just too dangerous, there were too many people up there. We kept having church but then we had to get out of there. So we were ushered out and I turned around and waved. Well, everybody stood up and waved, big smiles as if to say goodbye brother, so wonderful to have you! No language was necessary.

So I went from one woman by herself in a cave to the biggest gathering in the smallest setting that I have ever been in in my life out in rural China. Then we got in the car and we drove off. We didn’t see the police but I remember we saw some cars in the distance with lights and so we turned left and we went across a field then came upon another road. I don’t even know where we were. Literally, if I had to tell somebody where we were I couldn’t even come close.

Joy- Do you think the police ended up trying to find you?

Ron- Oh sure, no doubt about it. But everybody would have scattered and they would have come into an empty barn. I don’t think the cows would have told anybody. It was just one of those situations and they are used to that. They are used to having church and disassembling in seconds like mice when the cat comes on the scene. So here we were and that was a moment that I will always remember.

Joy- So Charis, given the choice between seeing the cave and the lady and the gorgeous view or the barn church service, if you had to choose one, what would you choose?

Charis- Well, I’ve been in many church service settings different than that but similar and you can’t beat that. It’s like having a slice of heaven. You get in with them and it is pure joy in worship. So I would love to meet the lady but there is nothing better.

Ron- It’s a spiritual electricity that you feel and it’s almost surreal. Now, that does not downplay our church services over here. Wherever Christians gather to praise God, that is wonderful, that’s fantastic! It’s just, over there, because it’s so different from our cultural style and stuff like that, and I will tell you this, the intensity is greater than ours over here. The intensity of the worship, the intensity of the prayers most times. The message isn’t going to be as polished but it’s sincere and it’s pure Scripture and that’s what makes it a bit different for me.

Charis- Also, I think that when you don’t understand the language and you aren’t listening to the words that are being spoken but you’re sensing what God is doing, so you don’t understand what is happening around you but you do because it’s the Holy Spirit doing it.

Ron- Spirituality is noticeable on faces. Expressions on our faces really tell what’s in our heart, and our mind, and what we are thinking. That’s why, as you were saying, Charis, the translation and the words you can’t pick up on, but I can look at a face and I know what’s in their minds and what’s in their spirit and that’s what makes it special.

Joy- Wow, isn’t that something. What a great image for all of our listeners.

There you have it folks, thanks for listening to another Ron’s Adventures,” the podcast that reminds us, you know you’re having church when you’re next to a cow breathing through those boards! I’m Joy Kita, thanks for listening.

Okay, we have about an hour, hour and a half before the police get here.

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