Nana is not a missionary to China
Anyone who has heard about the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world knows that it is a very real threat to anyone who is a Christian, and especially to anyone who wants to share the Gospel. So, Nana of Carriere, is not her real name because if it would become known in China who she is, then her life would be in dire danger. Since Nai Nai is the word for grandmother in Chinese, and so many call her Nai Nai there, her name has been changed to Nana to protect her. Therefore, there are no missionaries in China.
Her sister and her husband have been in China since China’s doors opened up to the Western world, and after Nana’s husband died, her sister told her now is the time for you to come to China. She did. In January of 1999, Nana went to China to work with an orphanage that took care of handicapped children. The Chinese do not believe any handicapped person can be useful to society, because they are broken, so many children who become handicapped or who are born that way are put in orphanages. They do this because each family can have only one child. For five and a half months, she worked with this organization in Hong Kong. She fell in love with the people and with what God wanted her to do. When she was able she went back to China for three years with the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptists.
Now she comes home for six months then goes back for six months to teach English. Because of some health reasons, she can’t stay for the IMB’s required three years. This means she must raise her own funds for each trip.
“I’m grandma to about 50 kids over there and mom to 20-30 of the older ones,” Nana said. “They are very caring people and protective of me because I’m an older person.” The Chinese people reverence the elderly. She works mostly with high school students and they seek her out because they want to learn to speak and to read English. Her students will run errands and help carry things to her third floor apartment because the Chinese don’t have an elevators in buildings with fewer than eight floors.
Her mode of transportation is a three-wheeled cycle. It is old and dilapidated.
“Everyone calls it the family car. Someone will need to take something somewhere and will ask me for the family car. It’s old and ugly, which is why it hasn’t been stolen,” she said. “They (the Chinese) will lie, cheat and steal. Other than that, they are great. They’ll look right at you and tell you what they think you want to hear. I’ll say, ‘Meet me at the bench this afternoon at two?’ and they’ll reply, ‘Sure, sure.’ Then they may not show up until 2:30 or 3 p.m. or not show at all.” She just grins and shakes her head. “No, they aren’t all that honest. But, I just love how caring and loving they are.
“They steal bicycles like crazy, all the time. One girl just bought a brand new bicycle, she was staying with me and the very next morning, a blood curdling scream erupted from the stairs. ‘What’s the matter?’ I called down the stairs. ‘Somebody stole my bicycle!’
“I started laughing, and she said, ‘That’s not funny.’ I said, ‘Yes, you now own the record for the shortest length of time owning a bicycle. Most of them have it at least a week, sometimes for two weeks. My three-wheeler was dilapidated, and not prestigious enough so no one stole it.”
Nana needed a dress mended so she found out that the best seamstress was a street vendor.
“I mean literally on the street. She had her sewing machine right on the street and borrowed her electricity for her steam iron from the shop right there. It was an old treadle machine, she didn’t have an electric sewing machine. When I went back to get my dress she asked if she could have an American dollar as payment. All of this was through an interpreter, mind you. I said I didn’t have one with me but could go get one from my apartment. She wanted it for her daughter who wanted to learn English. She called her and told her that she would have that American dollar, and they were so excited. Of course, that was way more than what it should have cost me, but it was worth it to me to have that dress fixed.
“That whole family started coming over regularly. The seamstress would come in and start cleaning up my place. One time, she took something out of the washer and carried it to the sink to start cleaning it. I had to tell her, ‘No, no, I want that cleaned in the washer.’” She laughed and added, “I just love it. They are very possessive and so bossy. They are so nice and sweet. I just love it.”
Soon the whole family was going to Nana’s study so they could learn English and study from the Bible. The only one that learned English was the daughter, but the whole family heard about Jesus.
“You can’t leave a Bible in the hotel rooms or laying about. The bell hop would report you and you’d wind up in prison or worse,” she said.
Most of the Chinese haven’t a clue where to go buy a Bible. In the city of 13 million where she teaches English using her Bible as a text book, there are only two Protestant churches and one catholic church. They use the English Bible for practicing reading and speaking English, but for them to understand what it is saying, they really need to read it in Chinese.
“They’ll read it in English and then read it in Chinese, and I’ll see them light up when they understand what it’s saying. There are a lot of words they don’t understand. ” she said.
The government churches are sanctioned by the Chinese government and some have pastors paid by the Chinese government others have bivocational pastors. For the past two years, Nana has been working with a government church.
“Those churches are the only place where you can buy Bibles. They have Christian book stores, but you can’t buy a Bible in them, only at a government church. I buy all my bibles from this one government church. It’s my biggest expense,” she explained. “But finding it was quite a challenge.”
She knew there was a church close by, but couldn’t find it. She would carefully ask everyone she met if they knew where the church was. Many would say there was a church, but did not know where it was. Several times a week she would walk to the Kodak place to get her film developed. She would have to pass three motorcycle shops to get there, and every day this one young man at one of the shops would beg her to come in and sit.
“’Qing zuo, Qing zuo,’ he would insist. I’d tell him I didn’t speak Chinese and for two years I’d walk on by. Then one day, this is how God works, my film wasn’t ready when I went to pick it up. So this young man followed me into the Kodak place begging me to ‘Qing zuo’. I told him, ‘You are a persistent bugger, aren’t you,’ and of course he couldn’t understand me. But we managed with an interpreter.
“I asked him if he knew where the church was. He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘What?’ All this time I’d been searching for this church, and walking right by the person who could show me where it was. Well, the next Sunday, he walked me right to it. He used to live beside it, so he knew where it was.”
In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s the Cultural Revolution kept the doors of China closed to the Western hemisphere. Technology zoomed passed the Chinese people. All the educated people and those who were going to school were sent to the fields, Nana said. They couldn’t finish their schooling and all the churches were destroyed. Every church, and every Buddhist temple were demolished except the Muslim mosques. They were intact.
This church is in such deplorable condition. It has only three walls, a concrete floor, and this is also where the pastor and his wife and children live. He does not get paid by the government. He chose not to so he would not be obligated to the government.
“Yet, they love the Lord and it’s okay,” she said. “The pastor got permission from the government for me to attend the church. That way they won’t get in trouble and I won’t get in trouble. Before I came home, he asked me to pray for his church. What is funny is that when I first started going to China, we were asked to pick a district and pray for it every day. Well, I chose this very district, and have been praying for it ever since. When I told him about that, he said, ‘So you are the reason we are here!’ I told him, ‘No, God is, but I’ve been praying.’”
She thought she would be doing discipleship training while there this last time, but God had different plans.