THE RICH MAN AND THE PRAYER WARRIOR
THE BEGINNING – CHAPTER 1 (read the whole story here)
The tightly packed dirt floor was framed by cold stone walls, punctured here and there by grimy windows that were slick with frost and ice. The glow of morning’s first light was still far off, and the room was silent. His prayer was barely a whisper.
“God, thank you for loving me. It’s cold, and my stomach is twisted with hunger, my family doesn’t know where I am, and these frozen fields and strange villages are lonely places. I’m tired of running from police, getting beaten and thrown in jail. Sometimes I want to give up, but I know you’re with me, and I’m always warmed and blessed by you. Thank you for your many blessings. Continue to give me the strength to endure whatever comes my way.”
Wu Ming opened his eyes and peered into the early morning darkness and mist of the deserted village house where he’d taken refuge the night before. He half expected to see someone standing there, but quickly remembered that he was alone. But he wasn’t. He could feel God’s presence surround him like a heavy quilt – warm, protective and reassuring.
Brother Wu’s stomach rumbled. The shriveled, frozen potato he’d dug up the night before hadn’t fully digested, and he longed for some hot tea. But Liping Village was still a half day’s walk away, so he braced himself and ducked through the door as he pulled his thin coat around him.
The icy wind shocked Wu into focus. He was a stranger here, and didn’t want to answer anyone’s questions, so he cut across the frozen rice paddies and quickly stepped through an ancient stand of bamboo. Suddenly he heard … a cat? A wild animal? It was eerie, but sounded vaguely familiar. Like a baby … but it couldn’t be. It was so cold.
Who would leave a child out in this weather? “Oh, Jesus,” he slowly exhaled, “If that’s a baby, lead me to it.” Brother Wu sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit, so he stood perfectly still, barely breathing. Through his wispy breath he saw something move.
And there she was. Or at least there were two big, tear-filled eyes, blinking up from what must have been eight layers of blankets. The bamboo basket that cradled her was carefully placed on the path to the village well. Obviously, someone wanted her found quickly. As soon as Wu lifted the basket from the frosty earth, the little girl stopped crying. Immediately he thought, “How can I care for a child? I’m a fugitive on the run, with no home, food or shelter. I’ve got to find this baby a family.”
“Honey, where’s the checkbook?” Christopher Blake asked his wife. “I need to make out our tithe.”
“It should be right where you left it Chris,” Penny instructed. Chris Blake fumbled around the top drawer of his desk and felt the familiar plastic cover. He pulled out the checkbook, flipped to the last entry and noted the balance – $12,312. He quickly scribbled out a check for $312, stuck it in the tithe envelope, licked it and stuffed the envelope in the left inside pocket of his sport coat. “C’mon, let’s go! We better leave now, or worship will be over.”
“Alright, alright – I just have to finish my hair.”
The Blakes had returned late the night before from a hard-earned mid-winter cruise in the Caribbean, and were tanned and fit. But this was February in North Dakota, and it was cold outside. Chris clicked his key fob and started Penny’s Lexus in the garage. “Finally!” he teased, as Penny came downstairs with every hair in place. “Let’s go!”
At their favorite restaurant, after church, Chris and Penny ordered the French toast. ”The warm syrup will taste good on such a cold day,” Penny told Chris. Just about every Sunday, the Blakes and their close friends enjoyed brunch and fellowship together. It was a great way to relax, hear about each other’s week, and occasionally discuss that day’s sermon.
It was appropriate that today’s message was on listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Chris had a lot on his mind. His job took him all over the world, but lately he’d been flying the Fargo-Minneapolis-Beijing route. As a pilot for Northwest Airlines, he liked the convenience of living in a smaller city like Fargo, close to Hector Airport, with quick connections to Minneapolis and beyond.
But life seemed bland lately. Even though Chris and Penny worked hard, owned a nice home in a great community, went to a vibrant church and had wonderful friends and family – something wasn’t quite right.
This nagged at him to the point where he was having trouble shaking it. Chris prayed as he knelt next to his bed after a long day. “I really am thankful for everything you’ve blessed us with, and I don’t want to complain, but I really want something more.”
“Honey, are you OK?” Penny asked as she moved toward Chris. “Why are you shaking?”
“Penny, I don’t know – I just feel something deep,” Chris answered. “Lately, whenever I pray I sense God’s call on my life. It’s not a bad thing – but it does feel serious. I think He’s got something for me to do.”
“Well, you’re flying to Beijing tomorrow. Maybe He’ll show you something then,” Penny said.
The 747 reached 35,000 feet with ease as it started its track over the Arctic Circle on its way to the other side of the world. Capt. Chris Blake turned the controls over to his co-pilot, Bernadette Brown and excused himself. “I’ll be back in a few minutes, Bernie. Do you want anything from the galley?”
“Sure, Chris. I’ll take a cup of that good airline coffee – but when are they going to add Starbucks to the menu?” she teased.
After getting Bernie her coffee, Chris took the pilots’ elevator down to the bunk – all 18 square feet of it – and knelt down. The tight quarters actually gave him a sense of comfort and privacy, and he began to pray. “Father, I’m open to your will. Whatever you have for me, just make it clear and I’ll walk in it.” The peace of the Holy Spirit enveloped Chris, and he wanted to stay there forever … but he had a plane to fly!
This had to be one of the strangest situations Wu Ming had faced as a traveling preacher. It was one thing to be on the run, responsible only for himself, but how could he care for a baby? He had nothing – he couldn’t even change the baby’s diaper. He prayed silently, “Lord, I know you led me to this child, so you must have a plan for her. I trust you’re going to reveal that to me soon.”
As Brother Wu searched through the few belongings that were stuffed in the basket under the baby, he felt something metallic and pulled out an old, rusty tobacco tin. As he pried loose the lid, bits of stale tobacco fluttered to the ground, covering the snow like pepper. Wu carefully pulled out some papers and squinted to read them in the early morning murkiness. MY NAME IS LI YING, AND MY PARENTS ARE DEAD. “Li Ying – Beautiful Flower,” Wu thought. “So, I’ve been given a beautiful flower in this strange place, out of the frozen earth.”
Brother Wu emerged from the tiny hamlet as it slowly came to life, but well before its residents discovered he was there. He needed to get to Liping Village today, so he quickly set his feet in that direction. The wintry morning mist blanketed the icy earth as far as he could see, but the rising, hazy February sun teased the fog, threatening to banish it far from the Middle Kingdom.
Li Ying cooed, swaddled in bamboo and blankets, and Wu suddenly remembered the real weight of what lay in the basket. What should he do with this baby? Before he could finish a short prayer for wisdom, he sensed God’s peace and determined to find her a home at Liping. There were good brothers and sisters there, and surely they would be willing to care for little Ying Ying.
Brother Wu trotted across the slippery fields, carefully making his way through the haze and around the icy spots, tightly clutching the bamboo basket. “Dear God, prepare the way ahead of me!”
To be continued … (go to CHAPTER 2)