Mao Zedong was born in Shaoshan village in 1893. This village was just one hour by car from the birthplace of Cumberland Presbyterian missions in China in 1898. Dr. Lawrence Fung and I led a group from the USA to visit Hunan, Shaoshan village, Changsha, and the infamous mountain atomic bomb bunker of Mao in the Water Dripping Cave near Shaoshan in 1998.
Our visit to Shaoshan village came in the early years of China opening their doors to foreign tourism so all the displays were simple. Everything looked so dusty. The presentation yelled, “We don’t care about tourism.” It was easy to see that capitalism had not embedded in the Chinese culture. But we saw it raising its head with the building of huge amusement parks that aimed to bring the Disney mentality to China.
The village demonstrated how a young boy, born in poverty, could catch a fleeting spark of hope for change that led to the overthrow of the Chinese government. And, how good intentions for the populace would mutate into another form of government that limited the freedom, peace, and joy of the common people.
I was most impressed when we stopped to see the process of the rice harvest. When I saw the sheaths of rice, I became overwhelmed with the immense task of reaching the millions of people in China and other unreached parts of the world. And, the words from Matthew popped into my mind–“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Mt. 9:38).
Additionally, on that day trip, we were able, accompanied by Chinese government officials related to the Three-Self Patriotic Church of China, to visit a village church not far from the Water Dripping Cave. We had to walk about a half a mile from a country road through rice paddies to get to the small church perched on a small hill overlooking the fields we had just traversed.
This was our only opportunities to relate with the poor working class, the farmers, of China. These were the people that had eked out a living for their full life and had no doubt heard about the evil materialism and colonialism of America through the propaganda machine of communist China. There we stood in the wee church singing praises to God and laughing with these warm smiling people that had seen very few foreigners. And, I thought, “Why must there be war?” None of us present, neither Chinese and American, would ever want that. And for a moment we all forgot our separate patriotic loyalties and we were one people under God.