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!

Yibin: Then and Now

The first bell that I found in China was in the city of Yibin, in Sichuan Province. The American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society began work there in the late 1800’s and in the early 1900s they built a church and hung a bell that had been brought over from the United States!

Here’s what the city looked like in 1940:

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Here’s what it looks like today:

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The bell I write about would have been present for both photos! You can read about it in The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China.

Image source: clickme.net

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Published: The Bells Are Not Silent

 

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.”

Climbing Home

Last week one of the hottest stories flying around the inter-webs was about a village perched on top of a mountain in China where the children have to climb an 800-foot cliff to get to and from school at the bottom of the mountain.

cliffschool

Here’s how The Guardian reported the story:

To attend class, backpack-carrying pupils from Atuler village in Sichuan province must take on an 800-metre rock face, scrambling down rickety ladders and clawing their way over bare rocks as they go.

Images of their terrifying and potentially deadly 90-minute descent went viral on the Chinese internet this week after they were published in a Beijing newspaper.

Numerous media outlets (CNN, The Washington Post) published the photos and excerpts of a video news report report about the village.

But they only show glimpses of the story. The full-length video report can be seen here in its entirety:  (Chinese with English subtitles):

(email readers: go here to see the video)

Reports are that local government officials have been so embarrassed by the domestic and international attention that they have promised to do something:

Uproar over the students’ hair-raising commute brought promises of government action. The region’s Communist party secretary said a steel staircase would be built to connect the deprived hamlet with the outside world while a permanent solution was found.

Jike Jinsong, another official, said authorities did not have sufficient money to build a road between Atuler and the outside world but warned it was also not feasible to relocate the community since its residents would lose their land.

A third local politician has suggested turning the area into a tourist attraction.

The power of face can be amazing.

Image credit: news.163.com

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Friday Photo: Cooking Ham

Four years ago today I was in the city of Ya’an, in Sichuan Province. Ham is popular in that region of the country, and everywhere we went we saw little “ham shops” – storefronts where people were not just selling ham, but actually cooking it. If you’re looking for a new way to cook your Easter ham, give this a try:

cookingham

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All Aboard!

This post is for all you train lovers. The Guardian recently published a wonderful photo essay of China’s last steam train line,which runs along a rail line in Sichuan province.

steamtrain

Here’s the introduction:

It’s a bumpy ride, and it takes over an hour to go 12 miles. But the trip from Shixi to Huangcunjing in rural Sichuan is one of the last regular passenger steam train services in the world – and a lifeline to locals, who could not travel to nearby towns without it.

Click on over to The Guardian to see all the photos.

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Image credit: Kevin Freyer, Getty Images, via The Guardian