It was yet another very early start. The sky was a hazy brown when our group headed to church, Haidan Christian Church in NW Beijing. We attended one of the seven services they have each Sunday. That is only the tip of this church’s reach: they have 58 meeting places in other parts of the city. There was a praise band, lots of energy and a lineup out front for the next service. We were back there in the evening to watch part of their celebration to light the Christmas tree that graces their front courtyard. There were about 500 gathered along with a big choir, the band and the senior pastor—all decked out in Santa hats. This was an unusual event as public religious displays are not permitted. Meiying, who has accompanied us throughout the trip was standing jaw-dropped watching this spectacle as she had never witnessed such a thing in her whole life! Rev. Woo, the senior pastor, studied at U of W in the mid-1990’s. He attended Sturgeon Creek UC. The world is sometimes surprisingly small.
After church we boarded the bus and headed NW along the highway to a restaurant for lunch. From there it was another ride out to the Great Wall. Words simply fail to describe this remarkable structure. Some of us hiked while others took a gondola up the wall. It’s hard to imagine men without tools or tractors making this wall that goes as far as the eye can see. Once down to the parking lot we swapped stories on who got the best bargain haggling with the local shopkeepers for gifts to bring home.
We finally got back to our hotel at 10:15 pm. This has been the norm—long, long, full days.
On to a series of official visits tomorrow to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the Canadian Embassy and the Institute for the Social Sciences.
By the way, there has been no mention of Advent in the churches here, but Santa is very popular.