It was my first visit to rural China, and to a little town so obscure that I could not even find it on google maps. However, much to my surprise, there was a highway paved to it and adequate little shops where I could get needed supplies.
The town of Xiche was beautiful in its own way. You get this old China feel in the architecture, with breathtaking mountains as a backdrop.
But there was not much going on in this little town, and the outlying tiny villages were farming communities. Many of the teenagers, boys in particular, went into the internet cafes after school to play online games, perhaps escaping the cold, dimly lit houses they lived in, or the loneliness.
The Left Behind Children (LBC) that I visited were not entirely without adult supervision. One night, I had the privilege of visiting a family of three LBC girls, who lived with their grandmother in a small house. There was only one room in this house, with two beds, on opposite walls. They welcomed us warmly into their house, and we sat on tiny chairs while they chatted shyly with us. The oldest of the three sisters was only 14. Although poor, they were quick to offer us snacks of kiwis that they plucked from the forests themselves, and also sang songs to entertain us while distractedly watching a Chinese drama on their small box TV. When we finally left their home two hours later, I had a strange feeling in my heart. Although I came to this town expecting to have my heart broken by what I saw, my spirit actually felt light that night. Those lovable girls, despite living a simple life, made do with what they had and were happy. There was a lesson from God there somewhere.
On another day, we went to visit a 15 year old boy who had quit school in Xiche for personal reasons and returned back to his little village home up in the mountains. We had to take a bus and then after we got off, we walked for about an hour uphill to get to his house.
Once we got there, his grandfather woke him up and together the two of them lit up a fire pit to warm us. As we sat around the fire, we began to chat with him. His father had passed away, and his mother worked in a big city somewhere else, and only came back once a year to visit him. He said that when he was old enough, he too would leave the village, because there were no prospects here. After a while, his grandfather and him took some of us into the mountain forests to pick firewood and oranges. And when they got back, they got some vegetables from their farm and cooked up a huge meal for us. Such crazy hospitality! Especially since they were not expecting the ten of us to visit!
To be honest, the trip was too short for me to fully grasp the situation. I spent most of the two full days there just getting over some cultural shock, and adapting to survive. I felt that God had allowed me this opportunity so that I could get out of my comfort zone and have my eyes opened.
However, the problem of LBC seems so huge. We all know that the immediate need of these kids are adequate food and clothes. For this little town, CCI helps a lot in this aspect. But beyond the issue of money, without good role models, these kids might just grow up and follow their parents into the city, leaving behind their own future kids. And in the big cities, without the proper education to start with, they could struggle and end up falling into a life of crime.
But I know...although there are millions upon millions of these kids, if we could just impact one life at a time. Feed and clothe one kid, persuade one kid to go back to school, love and care for them as an extension of Christ...just make a difference for one child at a time. Those were my thoughts on my flight home.
(Paul Leong, a Canadian Chinese who visited the LBC at end Nov 2016 together with a group from Singapore. He is the young man in a white cap at the right hand corner of the photo)