Our Unexpected Visit Deep in the Heart of Rural China

Race Alum Zach Murphy is currently on a Kingdom Journeys Pioneer Team, traveling overland for six months from Beijing to Instabul. One night, their team decided to visit a small village in Northern China, not knowing where they would sleep or if anyone would even speak to them. What they found were 100 villagers welcoming them with open arms.

One night we went of to the middle of nowhere in rural Inner Mongolia, Northern China. We arrived at the Ulanqab train station at 2 in the afternoon, grabbed a taxi, and handed the driver a piece of paper that had a random village our friend from Hohot had told us about. The paper read: “Zhao Jia Cun”.

To most people in the world, this means nothing, but to about 100 villagers in rural China, this is their home.

After an hour of driving further and further from civilization, we found a road that lots like it had once been paved, but since run over by a hundred bulldozers. There was nothing but empty beer bottles and torn up pavement.

The taxi driver looked at us, probably thinking, “Why are you asking me to take you here?,” then slowly rolled his cab over the debris. Upon arriving at the village, a few curious villagers came over to watch to our arrival. We grabbed our bags from the trunk and went about meeting our new neighbors for the night.

We had no idea who we were supposed to meet or why, yet we felt called to be a part of this community and trusted that someone would be prepared to take us.

Eventually we stopped outside a gate and asked if we could sleep there that night. At that moment, an unassuming old man slowly meandered out of his home to see what the whole commotion was about.

After some Chinese we couldn’t understand, the man waved his hand, beckoning us to follow him. He welcomed us into his home and immediately grabbed his broom to sweep off a place for us to lay our stuff and sleep for the night.

Having found a place to lay our heads for the night, we decided to go out and greet the rest of the villagers. We walked around for about half an hour meeting shepherds, woodworkers, tree planters, and home builders, and were invited to a few homes for tea and walnuts. They treated us as honored guests, giving up all of the day’s responsibilities to make us feel at home.

At some points we even sensed that they were arguing over whose house we would sleep in! But we weren’t going to pass up on the hospitality of the elderly man who welcomed us into his home.

Though the people of this village had no warning of our arrival and didn’t know who we were or why we were there, they really treated us like family and made it a very special, memorable visit.

They cooked us a nice meal to eat at their kitchen table, which also doubled as the family bed at night. They shared stories of their families by showing tattered old photos hanging on the beaten wall. They added us to their photo collection by whipping out their brand new smart phones and documenting the strange guests they had received for the night. We brought out guitars and harmonicas and blessed them with worship music in the morning.

When we left, we exchanged hugs and faces of sorrow, unsure if our paths will ever cross again.

I learned a lot from this journey, lessons of faith, trust, culture, relationships, language, and humanity. Almost everything we experienced was so foreign to us. We couldn’t understand what was being said or what we ate. But we were able to share so much as well in our laughter, smiles, handshakes, and relationships with each other.

Of the 7 billion people in the world, there are so many we will never meet. But we are so blessed to have met these 100 villagers and I am sure they will be talking about their three strange visitors for years to come!

My prayer is that what they remember most won’t be our music or our skin color, but instead, the Jesus they saw in us.

Are you interested in traveling to some of the most unreached places of the world in terms of the Gospel? Click HERE for World Race Routes and HERE for Kingdom Journey Pioneer Teams.

For 2016 short term mission trips to Asia, Click HERE.