On the Yangtze
My introduction to China began in 1950. Mother was a special education teacher and I was a very ambitious 2-year-old. The solution to night time jitters and sleep avoidance was bedtime reading. She had a stack of books heavy on A.A. Milne and an assortment of others published in the twenties and thirties. Before reading a story from my Children’s Picture Bible, we went to the Hundred Acre Wood with Pooh or down the Yangtze River with Ping.
For those uninformed (or attached to The Little Prince) Ping was a duck, like me the youngest in the family, who was always last in line to board their boat. Of course, she read and I looked at the pictures. They were China to me.
Much to my delight, we began traveling to and working in China thirty-five years later and the first thing that caught my eye were the duck farms. Thousands of little Pings running around. The lines were very real as the proud mama duck led the line from pond to shed and back. I soon found that duck eggs and duck meat were a favorite among the Chinese. In the South we ate specially prepared duck feet and, in the North, we enjoyed the ever present Peking Duck with a very special plum sauce.
We heard the news that the government of China was going to build the world’s biggest hydroelectric facility on the Yangtze river at the city of Wuhan. The report was that the riverside population numbering in the millions of people would have to be relocated and that the headwater city of Chongqing would become a provincial capital. With this information and timetable in hand we began a plan that would bring the Word of God to those people before they were relocated.
A team was formed from a church in Hampton, Virginia. They were teenagers and leaders who had been trained in pantomime. They performed a 45-minute show concluding in the Passion of Jesus. We worked with them for visas and passage and found ourselves boarding the river boat for the 4-day cruise down the Yangtze from Chongqing to Wuhan. Equipped with giant slingshots, we launched gospel packets from the boat to villages along the way and in the lounge of the boat, we supplanted the band and became the floor show.
Thousands of packets were launched and received with glee on the banks. There is no way of knowing how far that word spread, but it must have been significant given the growth of the house churches in the area.
Jeff Yonacello played Jesus in the drama. Each day I stood in the wings and watched as Chinese saw the resurrection of Jesus. They were so impacted by these youth, and so deeply touched by their devotion. They opened their hearts to the message, began to read the materials, wept with understanding at the next performance. At each stop on the tour, new people got on the boat. The Lord embraced many.
Jeff became a mission aviation pilot and has served the Lord all his life. Others on the team were called to and remained in China serving many ministries.