“So this is life on the frontlines.”
This is what crossed my mind as I sat on Nai Nai’s couch, enjoying a hot cup of eight treasure tea and snacking on delicious bread, waiting for her to finish cooking dinner. Nai Nai is my seventy year-old neighbor who has taken it upon herself to take me in and love on me like only a grandmother can.
There are lots of differences between China and America. (This may perhaps be the understatement of the century!) I remember learning during my first visit to China that many families live apart from one another; husbands and wives often work in different cities, and children often live with grandparents in laojia, or their hometowns.
One day, I found myself eating breakfast at a local Muslim restaurant, and I prayed before my meal. Noticing this, the restaurant owner came to me and asked if I was a believer. I told him that I was and then asked him about his family, a natural conversation topic in most any culture. As we talked, we began discussing the fact that our two faiths share many of the same prophets, and we enjoyed discussing many of the Old Testament stories.
Alicia and I have grown quite close over the past few months. I go and hang out in her family’s noodle shop with her in the mornings and we have time to chat, study some English phrases that will help her as she serves the large international student population that likes to frequent the restaurant, eat delicious noodles and develop a friendship.
Down a small dirt alley hidden in the middle of the city are old broken down apartment buildings with no running water, no toilets and no central heating or air. My friend, Li Hua, lives in one of these small studio apartments. Half of the apartment is taken up by a kang, a wooden box that is used as a bed as well as place to eat and sit. A small wood stove sits in the middle of the room surrounded by a few stools.
When Ma Ying’s six-year-old daughter came home from school one day saying she believed in Jesus, the reaction she received was of dismissal. “Who? What? No. We’re Hui. We’re Muslim,” she told her daughter. That was the first time she heard Jesus’ name. And thankfully, it wouldn’t be the last.