My voice came back to me with a slight echo. Still, no response. I was definitely in the right place. The entire left side of the room was cluttered with golden statues, elaborate pictures, and bundles of incense.
Could it be that no one was there? I turned back around to make sure my eyes hadn’t deceived me. Sure enough, there was a pair of shoes laying close to mine just beyond the many pairs of slippers strewn about the porch.
I was actually a bit surprised there were slippers my size available – well, sort of. My size 12 feet aren’t exactly commonplace among Chinese people. I could make size 11 slippers work in a pinch such as this in China, and I knew I could make them work here.
Turning back around and sticking my head back through the door, I gave it one more try. “Hellooooo?”
Almost ready to leave, I noticed a sliding door to the right hand side of a back room slide open. A short, bald figure slowly emerged.
“Hello!” I repeated again, realizing this monk was a woman – NiGu, as they are called in China.
The NiGu inched closer and only mustered a smile.
“Hello,” I said yet again, this time extending my hand for a greeting.
“AMiTuoFo,” she said, slightly bowing with hands in a ‘praying’ position just below her face.
“I’m sorry, do you speak English?”
Switching to Chinese, “Do you speak Chinese?”
“Yes, I speak Mandarin,” was the reply as she motioned for me to sit at a table over in the corner.
Sitting down, I explained that I am a Christian and was looking for a place to bring some Christian students to learn basic information about Buddhism.
“Oh, you are a Christian?”
“All religions are very good, aren’t they?” she asked, trying to politely indicate that she didn’t mind my being there.
Wishing to return the gesture but not agree with the statement, I replied, “Well, all religions teach us to do good, but Jesus actually said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that the only way to God is through Him.”
Taken a bit aback, the NiGu chuckled slightly, not knowing what to say.
“You have heard of Jesus Christ before, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I know of Him. Many years ago, two other Chinese speaking Americans came here and showed me a Bible. They kept wanting me to read different parts, but after about fifteen minutes, they said something came up and left in a hurry.”
“They said they would come back, but never did.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Five or six years ago.”
A story like that might be more passable in China. Maybe the Americans ended up having to leave the country. The problem was, we weren’t in China. We were in the heart of Atlanta.
“How long have you been in America?” I asked.
Wow, I thought. She has lived in Atlanta for 13 years and has only encountered the gospel once. Unbelievable!
While that was sinking in, she decided to change the subject. “Buddhism is a very comprehensive religion. Yes, we worship buddhas,” she continued, glancing just over my shoulder at the large golden buddhas lining the wall behind me. “but we also practice meditation to get out of reincarnation. Life is tiring. Reincarnation and living in this world over and over again are tiring. But if we work at it, we can break the cycle. We can become buddhas.”
I sat silently trying to process. During all of my few years in China, I rarely encountered pious Buddhists and never really had many in-depth discussions with them. This was essentially new territory for me – especially for my Chinese vocabulary.
The NiGu continued. “That’s very different from Christianity, isn’t it?”
“Yes, you are saying Buddhism says we can become a buddha. The Bible says that God became a man. He became like us and dwelt among us. The Bible calls this incarnation.”
Since the Chinese word for incarnation can be literally translated into English as “Way Become Body of Flesh”, I was careful to spell that out and connect it back to what I had mentioned previously about Jesus calling Himself the Way.
“Once incarnated, He lived among us, died upon a cross for us, was buried, and rose again.”
Now it was her turn to try and process, but she didn’t. To change the subject, she instead took a long, slender book from the shelf behind her and began explaining that this particular “scripture” was about reincarnation. Then switching it out for another, she explained that this one detailed how to meditate.
Looking up, it dawned on me that the stacks upon stacks of books behind her must all be Buddhist ‘scriptures’. “That’s a lot of books!”
“Yes, I told you Buddhism is very comprehensive.”
I looked around the ‘temple’. Though it wasn’t a proper temple in that the exterior looked more or less like a typical American house, the inside was a different story. Statues of Buddha at one end complete with bundles of incense filled out about a third of the room. Then here on our end was ‘scripture’ after ‘scripture’ about gaining wealth and wisdom on the way to achieving nirvana.
Here is this NiGu – in the middle of Atlanta, in the middle of the American South, in the middle of the Bible belt, and yet she has lived these thirteen years in almost complete isolation of that Bible.
“You said you were wanting to bring a group of students here?” She interrupted my train of thought.
“Yes, we are planning to…”
I began to explain that we at my church are holding an event toward the end of the month during where will host Christian students that are interested in learning more about serving God. I further explained that we would be taking them to various religious sites so that they can understand a bit about what many people around the world believe.
Expressing that she would welcome us if we wanted to bring the group by, she gave me her ‘business’ card and thanked me for stopping by.
“AMiTuoFo!” she said again assuming the previous ‘praying’ position with her hands.
“Goodbye, and thank you!”
Stepping out of the makeshift ‘temple’, I put my shoes back on and made my way back to my car. There is another temple on the East side of Atlanta that is more of the Southeast Asian variety, and I wanted to see if that might be an option for the camp as well…
From Monday, July 30th, through Friday, August 3rd, the Our Generation Training Center will be hosting the Our Generation Student Leadership Camp. The camp is designed to allow interested students 18 and older to meet with missionaries and learn about how to get involved in world evangelism. One aspect of the camp is to travel to various religious sites (temples, mosques, etc.) around the metro Atlanta area to get a glimpse of how many people around the world live their lives in ignorance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Would you please pray for the NiGu described above? Would you please pray for her and the thousands upon thousands of other Buddhist monks around the world that have yet to believe the gospel?
Would you please pray for the Our Generation Leadership Camp? Would you please pray that the Lord would use it in the lives of young people to stir their hearts toward world evangelism?
Would you please consider being a part of the camp? If you are at least eighteen years old and are curious about how you can be involved in getting the gospel around the world, then this camp is for you! For more information and a place to sign up, please check out OGSLC.com.