Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Keep Walking

My early morning jog tired me out considerably. It isn’t that I go that far; I guess it’s the early start. Five a.m. comes earlier than it used to when I was younger. The morning was foggy and drippy, too, and my flashlight only cut a thin beam ahead. When I tired of running I stopped to catch my breath, and then told myself, “Keep walking.” The words triggered a memory that transported me half a world away—-to Canton, China.

In the fall of 1984 Helen and I, with our two teenagers Brad and Brian, attended a Discipleship Training School on the Mercy Ship Anastasis. Following the lecture phase, our school went on outreach to the Philippines and then Hong Kong.

From Hong Kong, we traveled by passenger train to Canton, China. Nearly everyone on the team carried a backpack filled with Bibles or Bible study books. I had personal visions of capture at the border and subsequent torture, like slivers driven under my fingernails, but it never happened. When we all arrived in Canton with luggage intact, the team checked into a hotel and backpacks were placed in “left luggage” racks.

Later, part of my job was getting these backpacks full of Bibles into the hands of Chinese Christians. This took place in various discreet and clandestine ways, most of it late at night. I had detailed instructions for each drop off. I’ll mention only three.

1. Pick up a backpack from the hotel, cross the lobby, and you’ll meet a man on the steps outside wearing a red scarf. Give him the backpack.

2. Take a backpack, get in a waiting taxi outside the hotel and ride. At the next stop, a man will get in the back seat with you. Let him have your backpack.

3. The last one was the most memorable. I was to carry a backpack out of the hotel lobby and down a certain street. I was told a man would follow me. When we were out of the street lights, I should give the bag to him.

I walked down the street. Soon I could hear footsteps behind me. It got darker. Without turning around I asked, “Is this far enough?”

“Keep walking,” a voice answered.

Finally, far beyond the gleam from the last streetlamp, I asked again, “Far enough?”

“Yes,” he said.

In near total darkness, we shook hands and I gave him the backpack. With a hurried “Thank you,” he took the Bibles and disappeared into the night. I retraced my steps to the hotel.

Although my life was never in danger while delivering the Bibles, the lives of the Chinese Christians receiving them were very much at risk. I would only be deported—they could be put in jail or executed. Knowing this, I took my part very seriously. I knew Helen and our sons were upstairs in the hotel praying.

It’s possible that today you may feel like you’re “walking into the darkness.” Please remember that the Lord is walking right there behind you. Isaiah 30:21 says, “You will hear a voice behind you, saying ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

So friend, whatever the circumstances you’re facing, don’t be discouraged or give up—just Keep Walking.

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