Twin Bells?

The second bell that Noël Piper and I found in China was at a church in Ya’an, Sichuan Province. Like the bell we had found the day before, this one was cast in a foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio. The pastor didn’t know what had happened to the bell during the Cultural Revolution, and how it had survived. She did know, however, that it had been taken from the old church building (no longer standing) in the 1960s and returned in the 1980s.

BW yaan bell

Inside the main entryway of the downtown campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis sits a giant black bell tucked unceremoniously in the corner. Unless you’re paying attention, you will probably not even notice it. But as you can see, there is a striking similarity to the bell in Ya’an. Hmm…

BW bbcbell

Is that just a coincidence, or is there an actual link between the old bell at Bethlehem Baptist Church and the one in Ya’an? In order to learn the answer to that question, you’ll have to read my book, The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China OR come on out to the north campus of Bethlehem on Saturday, February 11 at 6:30PM.

I will be telling the story of these bells as well as few others I found in China. As fun as the stories are, however, the bells also serve as vehicles for telling the story of God’s faithfulness to the church in China.

And speaking of fun, here’s a bonus photo of a very young Pastor John Piper with the old Bethlehem church bell! (Thanks, Noël!)

old bbc bell

Event details:

Bethlehem Baptist Church (north campus)
5151 Program Ave.
Mounds View, MN
Time: 6:30PM

If you’re in the Twin Cities, come on over!

Bell Talk and Book Signing

I have two “Bell Talk and Book Signing” events coming up in the Twin Cities this weekend and next weekend.

The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China

Here are the details:

Saturday, February 4 @ Bethlehem Baptist Church (downtown campus)
720 8th Ave. S. Minneapolis
Time: 7:15PM (following the evening service)

Saturday, February 11 @ Bethlehem Baptist Church (north campus)
5151 Program Ave., Mounds View
Time: 6:30PM

Noël Piper will be my special guest; we will share background on the genesis of the book and some of the stories..

Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:

Pastor Zhao fetched a ladder but refused to let Noël or me climb up there. He was happy that we were there, but no way was he going to risk having two injured foreign women on his hands! Ben, who is younger and much more athletic, grabbed his flashlight and scampered up to get a good look at the inscription. It was from this perch, high up in the steeple, that he read the inscription to us.

I will have copies of the book to sell, and will even sign them if you want!

If you’re in the Twin Cities, come on out! If you can’t make it to these, I’m hoping to have more such events schedule in March.

 

Recommended: “The Dust of Kandahar”

On a mid-April day in 2013, I heard a news report about an attack on US State Department personnel in Afghanistan in which 5 Americans were killed. I held my breath and said a prayer because a friend of mine from childhood, Jonathan Addleton, was at the time a diplomat in Afghanistan. In due time details of the attack emerged and I learned that, although he had been in the group that was attacked, he was unhurt. Unfortunately, however, his interpreter, a fellow diplomat, and 3 soldiers were killed. I was relieved that he was OK, but grieved for those who had lost their lives.

Jonathan has written about his year in Afghanistan in a book titled,  The Dust of Kandahar: A Diplomat Among Warriors in Afghanistan.

The Dust of Kandahar: A Diplomat Among Warriors in Afghanistan

Here’s the description:

The Dust of Kandahar provides a personal account of one diplomat’s year of service in America’s longest war. Ambassador Addleton movingly describes the everyday human drama of the American soldiers, local tribal dignitaries, government officials and religious leaders he interacted and worked with in southern Afghanistan.

Addleton’s writing is at its most vivid in his firsthand account of the April 2013 suicide bombing attack outside a Zabul school that killed his translator, a fellow Foreign Service officer and three American soldiers.  The memory of this tragedy lingers over Addleton’s journal entries, his prose offering poignant glimpses into the interior life of a U.S. diplomat stationed in harm’s way.

This book is not about the policy or politics of the war in Afghanistan; rather it is a an account of the people who all play their own role in the unfolding events.

We often imagine that the life of a diplomat is glamorous, but what comes through in this book is a certain ordinariness of duty. His days are filled with meetings, briefings, and trips on Blackhawk helicopters. The duty brings sadness as well; most days end with ramp ceremonies to honor those who have been killed in action.

For a fascinating glimpse into the life of a diplomat, I highly recommend this book.

Thanks, Jonathan, for your service to our nation!

Related Posts:

One More Photo

Friday Photo: Xishiku Catholic Church

This is one of the churches that I write about in my book The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China. The Xishiku Catholic Church was founded in 1703 and was originally christened The Church of Our Savior.

Xishiku Catholic Church

My fellow bell-hunters and I somehow convinced the priest to let his assistant take us up into the towers to see the old bells. We climbed up the dusty stairs into the east steeple (on the right in the photo) to see the bell hanging there. But where was the second bell?

It was in the west tower, which meant in order to see it we would have to climb into the space between the sanctuary ceiling and the roof of the cathedral and crawl across some ancient dust-covered beams. Spring did her best to talk me out of it, fearing that I might fall through the ceiling and land on the parishioners praying in the sanctuary. But I was not to be thwarted; I was determined to see this bell, her pleadings notwithstanding. (p. 76)

You can read the whole story in the book!

The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China

 

Published: “The Bells Are Not Silent”

For a long time, friends and colleagues of mine have urged me to write a book about China. “You lived in China for nearly three decades,” they say. “Surely you have something to say.”

My standard reply has been that there are so many books written about China each year; I don’t want to write one until and unless I have something new to say — some angle or perspective or story to tell that hasn’t been told.

In March 2012, I travelled with my friend Noël Piper to Sichuan Province. We dubbed our trip “The Esther Expedition” because we were researching the life and work of Esther Nelson, a woman from our church who had served as a missionary in that region from the 1920s to the 1950s. It was during that trip that I stumbled onto an untold story.

It was the story of an 126-year-old American bell hanging in the steeple of a church in a remote city of Sichuan. If you were reading my blog then, perhaps you remember my post about that discovery.

In the months between that discovery and moving back to Minnesota, I travelled around China looking for more bells. I found bells from Germany, France, and Russia hanging in Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Well, it has taken me almost five years, but I have finally put the stories of these bells into a book: “The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China.”

The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China

Here is the description from the back cover:

When Joann discovered a 126-year-old bell hanging in a church in southwest China she knew that there was a story to tell. Who had decided to ship it? How had it been transported? How had it survived the political turmoil of the 1950s and 1960s? She also knew that if there was one bell, there must be others. Over the course of eight months she travelled around China looking for old church bells, finding ones from France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. This book is a collection of stories about those bells. But more importantly, they are stories of God’s faithfulness to his church in China.

It is now available on Amazon in both print and kindle editions.

Additional photos and information can be seen at my public Facebook page. Click on over and give it a “like.”

Homesick for Manchuria

Since I lived in Beijing for the last 15 years of my time in China, it’s not often that I get nostalgic for Changchun, the city in Northeast China that was my home for most of the 90s. Recently I found myself thinking of my time there and the experiences I had. I am, dare I say, homesick for Manchuria.

I blame (well, give credit to, really) Michael Meyer and his book In “Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China.”

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China

Here’s the description from Amazon:

For three years, Meyer rented a home in the rice-farming community of Wasteland, hometown to his wife’s family. Their personal saga mirrors the tremendous change most of rural China is undergoing, in the form of a privately held rice company that has built new roads, introduced organic farming, and constructed high-rise apartments into which farmers can move in exchange for their land rights. Once a commune, Wasteland is now a company town, a phenomenon happening across China that Meyer documents for the first time; indeed, not since Pearl Buck wrote The Good Earth has anyone brought rural China to life as Meyer has here.

Amplifying the story of family and Wasteland, Meyer takes us on a journey across Manchuria’s past, a history that explains much about contemporary China–from the fall of the last emperor to Japanese occupation and Communist victory. Through vivid local characters, Meyer illuminates the remnants of the imperial Willow Palisade, Russian and Japanese colonial cities and railways, and the POW camp into which a young American sergeant parachuted to free survivors of the Bataan Death March.

I particularly enjoyed his forays into the history of Manchuria, a place that most in the west have never heard about. Derived from the Chinese word Manzu (满族), which refers to the Man people group, Manchuria as a “nation” was a puppet state established by the Japanese during their occupation of the territory during World War II. Today the region is known simply as Dongbei (东北) – the Northeast.

Meyer (who, I might add, is a fellow Minnesotan) captures so well the sights and sounds of the region that I had begun to fade: wide-open spaces; the uniqueness of the northeast dialect; the blunt communication style, and glimpses of history at every turn.

If you have lived Dongbei, are planning to live in Dongbei, or perhaps simply know someone who does, this book is a must-read!

(Note: this post was originally published at ChinaSource)

Related Posts:

The Great Manchurian Scarf Incident

Manchurian Catholics

Night Train to Manchuria

 

Road Trip Reading List

Many of you have written asking for a list of the 11 books I mentioned in the last post, that the four of us knocked off on our road trip. Here it is. I will leave it to you to figure out who read what!

A Man Called Ove: A Novel, by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove: A Novel

A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow: Book 3 Part 1 of a Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow: Book 3 Part 1 of a Song of Ice and Fire

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, by Michael Meyer

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China

Myself a Mandarin (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks), by Austin Coates

Myself a Mandarin (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks)

Of Earth and Sea: Laughter and Tears, by Roy Dwyer

Laugh_Tears_grande

OLD HARBOURS: A Fisherman’s Legacy, by Roy Dwyer

OLD HARBOURS: A Fisherman's Legacy

Old Harbors: The Turn of the Tide, by Roy Dwyer

Turn_Tide_grande

The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or the Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments, by Andy Bannister

The Atheist Who Didn't Exist: Or the Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel, by Wayne Johnston

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale

Orphan Train, by Kristina Baker Kline

Orphan Train

Happy Reading!