A few years ago, I traveled to China on a short-term trip. One day on the trip, we had a chance to tour a portion of the Great Wall of China just north of Beijing. There were hundreds of people near the gate entry point… tourists, locals, vendors…all types. Souvenir shops were abundant… including food and beverage vendors.
As I started climbing the steps of the wall, I began to notice my surroundings. The steps were obviously old and non-uniform. Each step varied in height by several inches. The rail on the sides of the wall was very minimal. It is truly a historic and rustic wall.
As I traveled up higher on the wall, I began to pass people who were coming down the steps. Several began to communicate with me as they made eye contact. An 86-year-old Chinese man used his fingers to tell me how old he was…. An older woman did the same… they were proud of their accomplishment climbing the wall, and I could sense they were saying… “Look at what we can do, you young, out-of-shape American”.
The smog was thick in the air and the temperature was rising but I was convinced I would go as far up the wall as I could in the time I was given. After 15 minutes of climbing, I noticed that the crowds that were so prevalent at the base of the wall were thinning out considerably. That’s when I met my challenger.
A pot-bellied, middle-aged Chinese man who I had never met bumped my shoulder as he came by me and made eye contact in a way that only a man can know… He was saying, “I challenge you to a race up the wall.”
I quickly sized him up and noted that in addition to his extra girth, he also had a package of cigarettes in his shirt pocket and before a word was spoken between us, we took off simultaneous in an all out run up the steps. The race continued for several minutes as we zigzagged up the stairs at a break-neck speed. Finally we reached an open area high on top of the mountain and I have to say, that pot-bellied, middle-aged, chain- smoking Chinese man beat me.
Both of us were doing our best to breath in the smog-filled air and we were exhausted. I reached into my pack and pulled out a water bottle and began to take a drink. That’s when God started to speak to me.
Almost immediately the guy who had raced me caught my eye and he began to look at my water bottle. As I looked around, I realized that all the crowds, the vendors, and the souvenir shops were nowhere to be seen in the high area we had reached. In fact, there were only a few people in the area where we were.
He obviously didn’t have water and I did. I thought to myself, “you may have beaten me in the race, but I have the water”. About that time, he pulled out his wallet and began to offer me a sizeable amount of money for my opened half-empty water bottle. God spoke to me and directed me to give him the water bottle. He didn’t know English and I didn’t know Mandarin, but we communicated in that brief moment. I took the water bottle and placed it in his hands and waved off the money. He continued to offer and eventually I was able to communicate that I was giving him a gift. He gratefully accepted and drank the water and headed back down the steps.
I stood there for several minutes pondering what had just happened and God continued to speak to me and conveyed a very simple, but profound concept that can be summed up in the following sentences.
There was plenty of water at the base of the wall. In fact, there was an overabundance of water bottles on display. However, at the top of the mountain, no water bottles could be found.
It’s the same way in so many areas of the world when it comes to the Gospel message. God has called us to be water stations in every corner of the world. In John 4 Jesus says
“…Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
One version says we will become an artesian well.
God challenged me to be an artesian well wherever He leads me and I was profoundly impacted by that memorable experience on the Great Wall.
Are you allowing that “spring” to flow in your life today? Let’s all strive to be water stations for the tired and thirsty that are around us. He’s commissioned us to reach the lost.
Let’s go do it.