This is one of the first blog entries that I wrote on the road, but I was unable to post it because of China's Internet restrictions. I found it in my notes last night and while it is over a month late, I felt it was still worthy of being shared. Thanks for joining me on this journey!
Sitting in the comfortable arms of the Leija's couch, the soft sounds of the city reminding me of my jet lag, I find myself contemplating all that I have seen thus far. Wet markets, fake markets, old temples, and some of the tallest buildings in the world.
Shanghai is a big, beautiful, polluted city (and I do mean polluted...) The CDC has listed the city at their second highest warning level, cautioning the young and elderly not to engage in outdoor physical activities. But despite this warning, you see many people out, enjoying the current heat wave, and enjoying their lives.
China has placed many restrictions on its people. From banning Facebook and Google, to only allowing a limited selection of movies to be shown in theater. But despite all this, the people I have seen appear to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. However, it also appears that something is missing.
One thing you do not see is a religious presence. No statues of Buda, no Mosques, no Crosses. Outside of the ex-pat communities, you don't see any Church presence. And even then, it is for foreigners only.
I find this disheartening, not only because of my personal belief in God, but my belief that all should have religious freedom. It is evident that these people have a desire to explore and strengthen their faith, but have no outlets to do so. What limited avenues they do have are well hidden out of fear of imprisonment.
It intrigues me how a country that desires a clean, responsible, and almost virtuous way of life for its citizens restricts the very thing that offers it. While restrictions may be in place, the faith of the people is stronger than ever and I am told that the underground church in China is incredibly strong, and would probably put many of our congregations to shame.
Sinuses all in a frenzy from the smog, I am enjoying what may be one of my last moments of comfort and respite in the upcoming weeks. This trip has started off amazingly well, and I am so grateful the Leija family has welcomed me into their home, easing me into this trip, and showing me this great city.
There is a lot more to see, and I am really looking forward to it. But right now, I'm looking forward to a nap.