I’m not supposed to be here. And by that I mean I hadn’t planned on being here. I knew I’d be spending six months in Asia, and I had a particular city I intended to be in, but God changed the course of the trip about three weeks before I left the U.S. The assignment I’d requested had been changed to a city in a completely different region, with a team focused on a people group I had never heard of, the Hui.
Before I came to China, I imagined living in the middle of a Hui village and being totally immersed in their culture each and every day so that sharing the Gospel would be a natural part of everyday life. Instead, our family moved to a mega city where there are about 500,000 Hui – and that number is only a small fraction of the 22 million people living in the city.
In our city, it seems like all we have to do to meet Hui people is walk outside. We have Hui neighbors everywhere; they own restaurants, sell bread and fruit and vegetables (deliciousness of all sorts), ride their bikes to and from work. Every day, we pass by Hui women with their colorful head coverings and Hui men with their elaborately decorated caps.
Sometimes it’s all we can do to pray for those who we know need Him. In a recent trip to a neighboring city, I was able to experience just that. I went with a few teammates, two of whom can speak Chinese. It was a humbling experience to hear them share the Truth with people of that city, Hui people who live their lives believing they are good when in reality they’re in dire need of Jesus.
I met Ma on my first day of work as a professional in China. He was very kind to me and helped me feel welcome by speaking English with me as much as possible, and I was very thankful for his efforts. I think he and others could sense how overwhelmed I was with limited language skills in an almost all Chinese-speaking work environment. As I got to know Ma and others in our department, I realized that he was our only Hui colleague.
Ningxia is home to about six million people, which is about the same as many cities in China – But Ningxia isn’t a city; it’s the Hui Autonomous Region in northwest China, between Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. For decades it has been one of the poorest regions in China, a place people try to escape, and if it weren’t for the Yellow River, the region would be a completely dry, desolate desert.