By Brother Eugene
I spent nearly all of 2003 traveling throughout China, learning the language, doing research, and sharing the Gospel. I remember one night in particular during the summer of that year that taught me more than I was prepared to learn.
I had been traveling alone for nearly two weeks, bouncing from city to city, sneaking out late at night to leave Gospel booklets all over town where they would be found the next morning by curious citizens. Late that summer night, after I had already spent several hours wandering around town, I came upon a man who looked to be homeless. He was poorly dressed and sitting next to a large sack of his belongings on a low concrete wall located in the middle of the towns main shopping street.
In China, almost every city has at least one street that is closed off to all but foot or bicycle traffic. This is considered the downtown area and is the commercial center of the city. In the middle of the night, the place became littered with trash from the previous day and completely deserted, except for me, this homeless man, and a few city workers sweeping trash far down the road.
I felt the urge to sit down next to this man to try to talk to him, my intent to hopefully share the Gospel with him in some way. I had only been living in China for about 8 months at the time and thus, I knew I would be limited in my communication, but still I thought it would be worth the try.
As I approached him and sat down, I remember being very surprised that he didnt seem shocked to have a foreigner randomly come up and greet him at 4:30 in the morning in the middle of a deserted street. He smiled and began to talk to me excitedly almost before I could even get a world in edge wise.
We ended up sitting together and chatting for quite some time, communicating somehow around the language barrier. I remember asking him where he was from, and expecting to hear that he was from a nearby village or town. I was amazed when he told me he was from a province located far to the south, nearly 1,000 miles away, and that he had walked from there on foot. He was in the north now that it was the middle of the summer and would head back south before the bitter cold of winter came crashing in from Siberia.
I have to admit that my memory of that night is beginning to fade, but I think I tried to ask him what he knew about Jesus, to which I received an answer that I couldnt really understand. I had to console myself with the knowledge that God is sovereign and pray that He would send some Chinese evangelist to clearly preach the Gospel to this man. I left feeling rather sure I had planted a seed in this man’s life, leaving him with some information on Jesus and offering him what little money I could.
The one thing that I remember so vividly about this man, as we sat and talked for at least an hour or more, was that he did not change his attitude or his way of talking just because I was a foreigner. He didnt seem to care at all or even notice our obvious difference. He was hungry for conversation and he talked my ear off as I nodded, trying desperately to decipher as much as I could from what he was telling me. Any other Chinese person would have stared in amazement had a foreigner randomly approached them for conversation, especially in such a small city located in a relatively unknown corner of China. Not this man; it was as if we had known each other for years, had walked there together from wherever it was that he had come that day.
I quickly came to feel very close to this man. He was homeless and seemed very content with his lot in life. At that time, I was also without a place to call my own, half-way around the world from my family and the world that I had always known. While this man wandered the streets looking for scraps of food or something that might be of value to him, I was wandering the streets as an alien in a foreign land, leaving portions of the Word of God for lost and hungry souls to find early the next morning.
Both the homeless man and myself were considered outcasts by the Chinese government and most of the world. We were able to become friends sitting alone in the dark early morning hours, watching the first hint of light begin to shine on the eastern horizon. As he wandered off down the street with his sack, I saw him immediately start looking for cans, bottles, or whatever might be of use to him. I hurried off in the other direction, anxious to finish distributing a few more of my precious Gospel booklets before the town came alive and the night would be no more.
Eugene is an entrepreneur and missionary in a small town in rural western China, nestled in the foothills of Tibet. He grew up in Oklahoma, but left home for Peru and then China soon after graduating high school in 2002. He has been married to Cindy, who is from Peru, for more than 4 years, and they have two children, Gabriel and Ariel. Eugene blogs regularly at A Voice in Asia’s Highlands.