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China donkey

Recently on Facebook someone shared a video of a Flash Mob at Dublin Airport. A team of young Irish dancers, tippy-tapping and bouncing to a fast Irish jig, it was delightful and couldn’t fail to set your toes tapping and watching the faces of the onlookers it was clear that it was a welcome interlude and lifted spirits in the sterile no man’s land that is an airport. Of course it wasn’t a true Flash Mob, an unplanned social event, because there was no immediate security alert unless the authorities in Ireland are so laid-back to the point of irresponsibility and in these troubled times we know that can’t be true. It was encouraging to see the young people following in the Terpsichorean steps of their ancestors, forgive the pun, the young often get such a bad press.

Ian and I have been going to China since 1994, twenty-two years if you don’t count a flying visit in 1979. Watching the exuberant event at Dublin Airport reminded me of our two week visit to China in 1996. We, a team of about twenty Christians accepted an invitation to be “Donkeys for Jesus” Ref:1 our task to deliver bibles across the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, in the Special Economic Zone. Bibles were in short supply in mainland China in 1996; Just call me Jane, Jane Bond 0051/2. On our last day in Hong Kong we packed our traps, said our fond farewells and set off for our Cathay Pacific late evening flight at Kai Tak Airport. We arrived early wanting to check in as a group, we were first in the queue but the young woman on the check-in clearly didn’t want to cope with twenty boisterous Brits and she asked us to wait so a colleague could check us in together.

When we had arrived departures was relatively quiet but soon it was teaming and we hung around chatting and people watching. Kai Tak was built in 1925 there was little comfort. We watched the hands of the clock inexorably crawl around the dial and we were getting no nearer to being checked in. Being good little Christians we waited patiently, uncomplaining, but the minutes turned to hours and each time we asked about check-in we got knocked back. With the queues disappearing and the crowds dwindling, lights going out and our flight time imminent we made a last modest remonstration and were informed that we would have to wait until the following morning now, the flight was full! To add insult to injury they offered to allow us to sleep on the floor of the departure lounge. The airport was closing for the night. Our happiness knew no bounds. We had arrived early, we had been patient and uncomplaining. We got in a holy huddle and prayed and decided to stage a protest.

We started singing to praise God with some of the great worship songs: ‘As I survey the wondrous cross’ Ref:2, ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound’ Ref:3, ‘We want to see Jesus lifted high’ Ref:4. It’s so long ago now I just can not remember them all but within seconds we drew a crowd.   We had been working with Chinese Christians who were prepared to take a risk to be able to have a Bible. To quote Hudson Taylor ‘Unless there is no element of risk in your exploits for God there is no need of faith’ Ref:5. We weren’t timid or whispering Christians, happy clappy would describe us nicely, we sang with all our hearts. A few more seconds saw us surrounded, like hostiles circling the wagons, by thirty to fourty armed security guards their guns in their hands. We ignored them, we kept singing, their faces expressed puzzled hesitance then they stopped to listen too. A few more verses and the most senior official on site was begging us to explain our behaviour and ultimately full of apologies.

I’d like to say that we were upgraded to first class but we weren’t, but we did fly out that night with British Airways, the last flight of the night, divine intervention we were sure. Were we the original Flash Mob? Possibly.

Ref: 1. www.christian-faith.com/revival-dennis-balcombe

Ref: 2. Isaac Watts 1674– 1748, 1707

Ref: 3. John Newton (1725–1807), 1779

Ref: 4. Doug Horley,  1992

Ref: 5. Hudson Taylor 1832-1905 China Inland Mission now OMF