Christ shall give thee light. (Ephesians 5:14, KJV)
Brilliant afternoon sun bored down from vividly blue Tibetan sky; and bronzed, ripe barley fields spread below us. Six miles distant, encircled by towering Himalayan peaks, lay the dusty city of Lhasa. Our China Project training team had just emerged from a tour of the 600-year-old Drepung monastery, the largest of three monasteries near Lhasa. Multistoried stone-block walls leaned into the mountainside. This enormous building once housed 10,000 lamas; but now only a few hundred lived there.
Ambling slowly along the dark hallways on several levels, we peered into prayer halls and libraries and gazed at salt-dried embalmed remains of Dalai Lamas encased in richly decorated upright coffins. Pungent aromas wafted from incense burners and the ever-burning bowls of yak butter. Passing monks turned prayer wheels. We were overwhelmed by the firm grip the worship of dead lamas had on their minds and hearts of many of God’s children.
Disturbing our minds were weighty questions. “How can the Good News of living Savior ever penetrate the centuries-old layers of tradition that so effectively obscure the eternal truth of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ?” “How can we, as health education trainers-of-trainers, break through the seemingly impenetrable cultural barriers?” Open espousal of Christianity is restricted here.
Subdued and a little downcast at the apparent human impossibility of even a little success in such an effort, we slowly followed our Tibet Health Education Institute hosts out into the eye-squinting, high-altitude sunshine.
Suddenly, at a landing, an unusual sight arrested our attention. In the middle of the square stood a small tripod of thin branches bound together at the top with cords. Hanging from the apex was a tin teakettle, which would hold about four cups of water. Wispy steam floated from the spout. But under the kettle was no fire. Like Moses before the burning bush, we ventured closer to see hoe a teapot could be apparently boiling with no obvious source of fire beneath it.
Puzzled wonderment gave way shortly to delightful appreciation for the ingenuity of the teapot’s owner. Behind us, against the wall, sat a thin old man– cross-legged and scantily clad–holding a concave mirror about one foot in diameter. Carefully adjusting its angle and attitude to the westerly sun, he reflected the solar heat and light to the side of his teakettle, thus keeping his water hot.
Instantly there came to mind Jesus’ instruction to “let your light so shine” (Matthew 5:16, KJV)– not to “make your light shine.” And tumbling through my memory were Ellen G. White’s various commentaries explaining that our minds, our lives, must be to positioned in the right attitude to the Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ, in order for us to perfectly reflect His warmth and His light of love and truth.
At the conclusion of another training workshop we conducted in the northwest city of Urumqi, our host earnestly declared to the audience: “These people are Christians. They come with a love-heart to China. We should be more like Christians!” As the Bible says: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16,KJV).
– Hervey Gimbel, LLUSM class of 1955