MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 29th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Enlarging our vision.
Sometimes Americans are guilty of having an America-centric view of the world. We see God primarily working through American missionaries and agencies to evangelize the world. So, for example, when we think of Chinese Christians, we may think of them only as victims of persecution in need of American help.
REICHARD: WORLD Radio’s Susan Olasky brings us this story of a young Chinese journalist who flips some of those assumptions.
SUSAN OLASKY: Shanghai is home to 24 million people. From the top of its tallest building, the city seems to stretch out forever in every direction.
Shanghai is where I met Chung Yo Lee. She goes by the English name Ray, so that’s what I’ll call her. She’s tall and slim with dark hair that falls to her waist.
Ray comes from Guangzhou, population about 15 million. She’s a college graduate who speaks and writes English well. With those skills, she could have a high paying job in one of China’s booming big cities. But instead she lives in the bush in Tanzania. A place she dreamed about from childhood.
RAY: It was just like it’s like a mysterious place. Yeah, full of wild things animals things like that.
At first she thought she’d satisfy her African dreams by working for the UN or the Red Cross.
RAY: I find out it’s really hard. But because this organizations, they have a very high standard, like you must be like social worker major, things like that, and a lot of people go for that.
The dream persisted and Ray figured it must be from God. One of her pastors was teaching Bible in Tanzania and he learned about her desire to go.
RAY: Ahh, so he said if you really would like to stay there for long periods and really do something especially in a way, which you know pleases God, I really recommend you to go to this organization because they really deal with the very local people, not just go there and take some notes and write a report and leave.
Ray first went in July 2015. She stepped off the plane in Dar es Salaam—the largest city.
OLASKY: And what’s the first thing you notice?
RAY: A lot of Africans. [LAUGHTER]
But before long, she made her first visit to the bush.
RAY: Yeah, like no electricity. No running water. No, no any highway or tarmac roads and phone connection. So that’s really in the wilderness. And yeah, that’s the Africa which had been in my head.
Her new home was hilly, lush, and filled with color and exotic birds. She’d hoped to connect quickly with students, but instead found them suspicious of yet another short-term foreign teacher.
RAY: They have seen so many volunteers coming and going and so many, you know, visitors, different people who stayed for short-term. So actually they are not so open to strangers. They can just chat with you, you can have fun, but they won’t tell you much about what is really inside of their heart.
Though she tried to breach their emotional defenses, the children didn’t really connect until they saw she was staying long term.
RAY: So at that time the second year when I went back to Tanzania, they started opening to me. So actually this problem is solved now—now we are very good.
This openness means Ray is learning about the heavy burdens some children carry. Many have been exposed to death and even dead bodies. And sometimes it’s a little thing that prompts conversation. After one reading comprehension lesson that mentioned Heaven, a 10-year-old boy came to her.
RAY: He said, “Madam Ray. Do you think Heaven is big enough for all of us to fit in?” He had been thinking about death actually, because he was thinking, oh if I go there and I find there are so many people that I cannot enter, what should I do?
Ray and her pastor are the only Chinese persons most of the children have ever met. Other Chinese people live in Tanzania, but most came for business or government. So they stay in the cities.
Ray says Dar es Salaam has two Chinese churches with about 100 members total. Even those Chinese Christians find Ray’s job surprising.
RAY: They seldom hear someone comes here to volunteer and saying she’s a missionary. So for them, it’s something very very new. Yeah, even for Chinese Christians, because all those Christians they are not going there for only like the sake of gospel, the sake of mission, but they go there to do business.
Sometimes Americans volunteer at the orphanage. Ray says they have interesting discussions. Most Americans assume that Christians in China face two major obstacles: persecution and communism. But Ray says the obstacle is more universal.
RAY: Our biggest enemy is not communism, but it’s materialism. Yeah, it’s the desire in people’s heart to get a better life to get a better salary.
It’s the same obstacle facing Americans and even well-educated Tanzanians.
RAY: There’s no communism, there’s not any oppression from the government, actually, you know, but they still don’t want to go to Christ. Yeah, so it’s not about a system, but it’s about our desire.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Susan Olasky reporting from Shanghai, China.