Putting Our Burdens Down

There is a story told about a farmer in rural China who would harvest his vegetables, put them on a pole, and carry them into the city to sell. There was a beautiful valley between the village and the city that the farmer would cross everyday.

One night, there was a heavy downpour and the valley was flooded. When the farmer reached the valley, he realized that it had turned into a river! Anxious, he started pacing up and down along the banks of the river to figure out what to do. He noticed a boat cruising through the water. He shouted out to the boatman: “Hello sir! I need to cross to the other side of the valley to sell my vegetables, otherwise they will go bad. Would you be able to give me a lift across this river please?”

The boatman agreed as he was headed that way too, and steered the boat towards the farmer. Thanking the boatman, the farmer got onto the boat, and the boatman started crossing to the other side of the river. Halfway to the other side of the river, the boatman suddenly turned around, and shocked, he asked the farmer: “Mister farmer, the sun is shining brightly down, and you are carrying such a heavy load and sweating so much, why don’t you put your goods down instead of standing and carrying them?”

The farmer profusely replied: “Mister boatman, I am already so thankful that you are bringing me across the river, I don’t want to put more load on your boat by putting my goods down!”

Most of us would accuse the farmer in the story of being thickheaded. However, how often do we as believers continue to hoard our cares, even after coming to Christ? How many of us do not put our burdens down even after stepping onto the boat? Is that why the Bible needs to tell us (1 Pet 5:7) to cast our cares on him? What are you holding on to that is taking its toll on you?

Accidents of Creation?

A friend recently shared with me the plight of a little girl, who I shall call Jenny. Without searching online or asking around, I am sure that her story is not unique, and that there are very possibly thousands or even tens of thousands of girls like her all across China.

Jenny was born about 8 months ago to parents who didn’t plan for her. In fact, her parents weren’t even committed to each other and her mother has left, leaving her father to fend for the family. As they come from the countryside, her father is frequently away from home, leaving his mother to take care of his child. When he returns home, he doesn’t take care of Jenny, but instead smokes, drinks, and gambles.

Though she is born into a bleak situation, her eyes tell of the hope that is within her. Her eyes are bright and radiate all that is in her heart. She can’t wait to grow up and explore the world.

According to Wikipedia, there were 58 million children in villages across China in 2008 who were not under the care of both parents. They are either raised by one parent, grandparent(s), or even sometimes a relative or family friend. They are so many of them that there is even a specific term coined to describe them—”留守儿童”, the “left-behind” children. Here is an article by the LA Times.

As my friend tells me about Jenny’s story, there is this desire in my heart to visit her. Perhaps she won’t understand a word I say. I’m not even sure that her father would let me see her, but the words of Brooke Fraser’s song Albertine keep ringing in my mind: now that I have seen, I am responsible; faith without deeds is dead; now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go till you are.

58 million children, nearly a quarter of the nation’s children. Children who will never know what it means to have a complete family. So many that it may be easy to think that they are accidents of creation. Children born without hope. In a country without God, in a country where you need to fight or get left behind, it is so easy to shrug the problem away. If you are a Chinese and you are reading this, you are blessed.

I do not believe that these 58 million children are accidents. And the same goes for the many millions more who were born into broken families in cities all across China. Every child is a miracle conceived against the odds when a sperm successfully fertilizes an egg. It is also very likely that many mothers of these children contemplated abortion when they found out that they were pregnant, but the fight for life won over in the end, and a child was ushered into this turbulent world.

What can I do for all these children? That’s probably too ridiculous a question to ask. Perhaps I should start with, what can I do for Jenny? Or rather, what can I do for Jenny that is within my means? The first thing that I want to do is to give her hope. Oh how I wish to tell her that there is hope is a hopeless world, that she is not an accident from an unplanned pregnancy. How God has a plan and a future for her life though her parents may have forsaken her. How I wish I could cradle her in my arms and tell her that Jesus loves her and that he formed every fiber of her being.

How I wish I can give her a name that means hope, so that every time she goes to school, every time her teachers talk with her, they talk about hope. Every time she looks at her bleak condition, she can be reminded that she has hope of a bright future. Or what about love, that she may come to know God’s love for her one day? That though her father may not care about her, she has a father in heaven who loves her with an everlasting love and gives her the breath of life every day?

Without God in the picture, these 58 million children are nothing more than a number, a statistic, an accident of nature. I don’t have an answer for what God’s plan and design is. But perhaps I can end off with the chorus of a song I wrote back in 2008:

You’re not just a name
You’re not just another
Person on this planet
Hidden in the billions

You’re not just a name
You’re not just another
Person on this planet
Hidden in the billions
But the apple of God’s eye