As I am flying along on this high speed train (271 km/hr!) between Nanjing and Shanghai, I have awhile to myself. It has been a full week traveling with our family to retrace the journey our grandfather traveled 100 years ago before he settled in Xuzhou and lived there for 40 years. The stories that I have heard in the past about my grandparents and parents in China have become real in meeting people that remembered them and what they did, hearing their stories, and being in the places where they lived and worked.
Yesterday we went to visit the church that our grandparents went to in Xuzhou. It was a big warm welcome there and a sermon on friendship and exuberant singing! After the service we were taken into the head office, an old high ceilinged small room where we crowded in and were served tea, nuts and fruit. The pastor and others told us all about their vibrant church and all the things they are doing (clinic, nursing home, volunteers, youth group, every night a gathering at the church, two church services since there are so many people).
Then a tall older gentleman, about 80 years old, Mr. Deng, stood up and began to speak in a deep heartfelt voice. He had come up from Shanghai to meet us. He said I want to tell you about my growing up in Xuzhou. My father was the body guard of your grandparents in Xuzhou. He lived in one of the houses of the missionary compound. He said in those times there were bandits and theives and foreigners needed protection. We were all moved to tears as he told his story
In 1938 when Japanese invaded Xuzhou, (Nanjing and other cities and areas of China) it was extremely difficult war times. He remembers Gramma and Grampa taking into their home and compound many many Chinese who were desperately looking for protection from the brutal Japanese invading forces. Every day they let in more people, as many as could fit in. Mr Deng remembered his father going with Frank Brown to the Japanese with a truck to buy food as the food was cut off to the Chinese. Frank Brown paid in US dollars for flour and rice to feed the people in their compound. Mr. Brown even went to the Japanese headquarters and told them that they were doing wrong. The Japanese did not enter the compound and the people there were safe. Gramma and Grampa saved the lives of 2500 people. They are regarded as the Rabe of Xuzhou. Rabe was a well known and honored German Nazi who saved the lives of thousands of Chinese in Nanjing during the time of the massacre there by the Japanese.
Mr. Deng asked if we wanted to know any more about grampa and gramma. He remembered planting vegetables with Gramma, tomatoes, beans. He remembered they would get their water from the rain. We didn’t have more time with him but had the feeling there was more to hear.
We thanked him for telling us this about our grandparents and acknowledged that our grandparents couldn’t have done their work without the help of his grandfather.
Sunday morning at the church our grandparents used to attend in Xuzhou.
(the 3 men, left Mr. Deng, middle Mr. Wang, right, Mr. Wang’s nephew who is fluent in English)
Mr. Deng speaking about his and our grandparents.