We can learn a lot from people if we are just willing to open our heart. Sometimes it’s people we see often who just become part of the scenery for us. I want to share what I learned from a security guard at our apartment compound in China several years ago.
“Not how long, but how well you have lived is
the main thing.”
(c.4 BC – AD 65)
[Chapter 39] : Spiritual Amnesia
There is a security guard in our apartment neighborhood whose spirit to learn inspires. The odds are clearly stacked against him. The opportunity to go far in school when he was young was missed, like so many during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution. Years later though, when we met, his desire to learn new things never stopped. Our family calls him 朱保安 (Zhu Bao’an) which literally means, “Security Guard Zhu” (sounds like “Jew”) as our way to distinguish him from the rest of the guards and accord him respect.
I found it peculiar that anyone would notice me when I first set up house in our China neighborhood. I had spent a great number of years doing many things myself, just like many Americans. I would pull up in our driveway, unload my groceries, herd my noisy boys back into the house all on my own. On occasion, there might be casual chats between neighbors but no one would come and help me carry in groceries even if my body was battered from fatigue and a kid had just spilled Goldfish crackers in the minivan.
In Shanghai, however, the frequent greeting from Zhu Bao’an changed all that. I was reminded that there were really living people around me, whether I care to acknowledge them or not. Perhaps we were such an oddity, but Zhu Bao’an would regularly leave his sentry post to come greet us.
“Markus! Titus! How are YOU?”
He would yell out in his halting broken English, every word an exclamation.
Sometimes he would hasten his steps to help us open the lobby door while we were fumbling for our keycard.
Unlike other fancier apartment neighborhoods in our area, our guards were supposed to stay at their posts and only respond to us when we asked for it. The fact that he bothered to greet us, often hurried toward us and wanted to open the door for us showed me that he really wanted to make contact. For Zhu Bao’an, his desire to learn a few English phrases was strong.
When we met he knew how to say, “Tank you.”
你这么讲 “不客气”？ (“How do you say, “You’re welcome”?”)
“You…” I said. Zhu Bao’an was all ears and repeated after me slowly.
“…are…welcome,” I continued. He followed slowly, trying to work his Chinese tongue into the right vowels.
“Wel….” He struggled and paused.
“…come,” I encouraged. But silence met me back.
“是个”k”声音,” I offered. (“It’s a “k”.)
“kkkkkk,” he finally repeated after me. And after a short while, he ventured further and said, “Come”.
My boys watched the whole episode. In time, they also became his tutor.
I have often thought about my encounters with Zhu Bao’an.
Here is a man who wants to
learn a few simple English
How badly do I want to know the Bible?
How badly do I desire to know God’s heart?
Perhaps that is why Zhu
Bao’an appeared in my life.
When I first became a Christian, I too was an eager student of the Word. I wanted to know everything there was to learn about the Bible. Wednesday midweek, Sunday Bible classes and sermons were not enough. I attended any seminar possible, asked my teachers myriads of questions and studied materials that deepened my understanding of the Book.
Somewhere along the shuffle of faithful church attendance, I moved from an eagerness to learn to polite listening to critiquing what I heard and saw. I found myself more concerned over what to eat after service or what to wear on Sundays. The sermons were great to hear. I listened, I applied, but nothing so great that I would alter my world completely for radical change. In other words, somewhere in the coming and going, I began to suffer from spiritual amnesia.
I had forgotten what the
Message was all about.
Volunteering at church, ministering to widows and singles, choosing to be a home-maker mother were some things I did. But did I also realize that I, a follower of Christ, have the power to send “Satan falling like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18)?
There is only one goal.
For him, it is to learn English.
For Christians, it is to love the Lord.
There is a movement among some in China to be God’s light here on earth. I believe the same is happening elsewhere as well.