Lessons from a trip to China

Lessons from a trip to China
Source: FitzRoy Brown | Email: fitzroynbrown@gmail.com 
Date: 26-08-2019 Time: 09:08:29:am

I am part of a Bible study group with a few friends and we are currently reading the book “Goliath Must Fall”. Before our summer break last week, we were discussing what the next topic was going to be like - the chapter is on “Addiction Must Fall”. I didn’t think l had any addiction at all and so was going to breeze through this chapter quite easily. The previous one on “Anger Must Fall” had really gotten into my skin and helped me to see how much work l need to do in that area. I wasn’t prepared to add anymore - at least not for now. 

I haven’t started to read that chapter but l guess God saw through my pride and thought he’d teach me an unforgettable lesson or as it ended up being, a myriad of lessons. 

The week after we took the Summer break, l was on a trip to China - my first time was in 2005 and l wanted to see how far the Chinese had reached on their development and growth trajectory. Hearing it was one thing but l was blown away when l landed in Beijing in August 2019. “What a wow” was my remark as we say these days in Ghana. My respect for the Chinese have gone some 1000% points higher.

My words will do injustice in the way they have developed. My sentiments are both Joy and Sadness - the former because it makes me believe humans have the capacity to do wonderful and extra-ordinary things but the latter because it really makes me wonder about my race and people. How could the Chinese Government organize close to a billion people and yet we can’t seem to lead a few millions?

There’s so much order in everything, their housing their transport, their businesses. Yes, the Chinese are known to be very corrupt - infact one tour guide told me while going up the Great Wall that the majority of the billionaires and millionaires are not business people but rather political office holders and their family and cronies. So in terms of corruption, we don’t come nearly as close; however, it is very obvious that in spite of the heavy corruption - these leaders care about their people. There is social housing, transportation is very well developed, they don’t build roads with open drains, everywhere l traveled to was so neat and l could use both the public transport and public bathrooms.

Even in their “chop-chop” - they have built a country that anyone else will envy; they show how wise they are by investing in their people and taking care of the social needs of the people (Education, Housing, Transportation, Access to Healthcare, Sanitation etc). The People’s productivity is high because they are not spending unnecessary hours in traffic - their family lives are enriched because they can come home early and spend time with their children.

There are parks everywhere and playgrounds in almost every community where you could see parents playing with their children while the grandparents are exercising through dance, martial arts and walks - it was just beautiful to see the harmony, happy faces and joyful people. 

I used an under bridge to cross over to the other side of a major road and that’s when Adenta/Madina came to mind. I thought to myself, so we had options on how to solve the problem of the rising accidents on the road and the high death rates and we chose to build an overhead bridge to punish our people? This is very sad indeed. Do our leaders also see these things when they travel or are they just occupied with signing loan documents that push our economy into being in debt until we die? 

A few weeks ago l heard stories of some politicians whom l thought were going to inspire hope in the next generation; but stories of their “greed” pushed me to really consider not voting ever again. In Ghana, it seems both the NDC and NPP are from the same parents and they are united in only one thing - to fleece the people just like the so called Pastors are fleecing their sheep. Why vote when they are just two sides of the same coin, who can you trust? Are there any alternatives? On the other hand, what do l lose or what might we get ourselves into when we allow the frustrations of the system/government to get to us and so give up exercising our franchise? Is that really a wise option? These were part of the lessons God had brought me here to learn.

This piece is to share how l learnt first hand how politics affect our individual lives and also to show how reliance on the wrong things will fail. 

I haven’t really sat to examine what l have become so dependent on - l know l have heard talk on people’s dependency on their cell phones and addiction to Social Media etc but l have never considered myself to be one of those. I however use email and WhatsApp in almost all my communication with business colleagues, family and friends on a daily basis and l enjoy playing songs from YouTube and using my Amazon Echo (Alexa). When l need help in finding a place, Google Maps is what l look to. Google helps me to also find stuff and answers all my questions - l didn’t realize how much of a god google has become to me until now. l often tell my kids “just google it”. In a subtle way, l am making them grow to believe that google has all the answers without even realizing it. 

All my emails are registered under the same Google Mail (GMail) including my work account. Almost everyday, l go back and forth these apps on my phone/laptop and l have become so dependent on these demi gods. I boast of them being my assistants; they attend to every need of mine anytime - when l call, they must answer. 

I must confess l haven’t followed closely the trade wars between US and China - my own problems overwhelm me not to think of adding those l can’t do anything about. Lately l decided not to tune in to the radio or TV and just live like a “monk” in a monastery - but now l know we are not ever isolated from anything in this world. We really don’t have an excuse but to know what’s going on -  now l know that it all has an effect on you [in the long run]. Now l know it for a fact - Politics affect our daily lives. 

First thing l wanted to do (naturally) when my flight touched down in Beijing was to let my family and friends know that God had brought me safely. That was to be the beginning of how God was going to teach me to rescind my decision to not get into politics and also to expose my reliance on “gods” that can’t save. 

When my WhatsApp didn’t work - l thought perhaps it’s a temporary glitch, it might come on back later. When l checked into the hotel l had previously booked, l was given my bill in Chinese Yuan (RMB) currency so l did the calculation and handed the hotel attendant the US dollar equivalent. He looked at the money and back at me and said we don’t accept foreign currency. I was like, what? Do you know how valuable this is and how everywhere in Ghana, we would prefer being paid in dollars than our own currency?

The Chinese are very disciplined, focused and resolute, it didn’t seem like he was giving me any option so he patiently waited on what l would do next. I gently folded my dollars and put back in my wallet and gave him my bank card so he could charge it. So l thought to myself - so even the US currency can be of no use somewhere? I quickly understood why the dead don’t and can’t take their wealth with them - so it’s true that all the money you acquire and or steal here will do you no good on the other side? Hmmmm - food for thought! 

Throughout my long flight, l kept playing back in my mind a favorite song of Maame Serwah my daughter - she had been singing and had it on repeat on her tablet all through the weekend before l left town. So l decided to check the video out on YouTube while l was relaxing in my hotel room - that too didn’t come up but still at this stage l hadn’t drawn any deep conclusions; l just thought these were all minor technology glitches. 

Later, l proceeded to use Google Maps to find out the location of the China International Exhibition Centre where an event l was attending was going to be held the following day - that too showed no results, l felt very ridiculed by my assistants not responding to my requests. 

I thought to myself, l just got a SIM card from China Mobile and l have a lot of data - what could be wrong? I got on the hotel WiFi just incase my data was acting up but that didn’t help either; even after restarting my phone several times. I decided to use email and my gmail won’t even open up - this is terrible, what on earth could be happening? Have l been singled out by the Chinese Government to monitor my moves? Is that why they have cameras with facial recognition almost everywhere? 

Finally, l try to use google to interpret and ask a Taxi driver a question and he too is mute - he won’t talk as he often is so quick to answer - how come, You too? 

Turns out that, the Chinese Government has blocked access to most American apps and unfortunately these are the very ones that l use each single day for all my transactions and communication. It felt like everything that my “life” so depended on is falling apart. What do you do when the things you lean on begin to fail you? Your currency has no value, your technology doesn’t help you and your “god” doesn’t answer, google who never sleeps nor slumbers - how do you do life when all your arsenal fail you? 

I was drawn to Jesus’ words in Luke 14:25-33 especially where he asks “Consider a king with 10,000 men going against another king with 20,000 men - will he not send a delegation to ask for terms of peace? In the same way, anyone who doesn’t give up EVERYTHING [emphasis mine] can not be my disciple”. 

Surrender was the next thing on my mind - let me just admit that my way, my resources and tools won’t work here and ask for what works here in China just so l can survive my few days here. Obviously, l have to do what they want me to do - in asking for settlement and peace, they have to dictate; it’s not about what l want. 

So, me living in my small corner minding my own business not caring about what Trump does, how am l being made to suffer this way? That’s when the lesson came to me that - if l could suffer from what an American president says and does, then how much more what the government in my own country does?

It seems to me that the time has finally come that we no longer sit aloof and watch a minority of people in Government mess up everything for the rest of us. All the good people who have taken solace and comfort in their small corners, your comfort must fall [In the words of Louis Giglio in his book “Goliath Must Fall]. Let us arise and gang together to fight for the good of our nation. What the Chinese have built is enviable and l believe as Ghanaians, we can do it too (if we love each other and want the best for each other) - we just can’t do it sitting down looking to a few politicians - We must all get involved. 

Regarding my miserable false god’s - the lessons for me (and perhaps you) is to watch what we are leaning on, these crutches will fail us (position, wealth, social status, power, political connections etc) and it might happen at a time when you most need to be bailed out - better to lean on the rock that is unmovable, better to let God be your Rock, He alone is God and He alone never fails. 

Finally and l guess to my biggest lesson - In Isaiah 9:6-7, we hear about Jesus reign:

6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this”.

If an earthly Government like the Chinese can ensure that all my “crutches” and the things l find valuable and depend on in life be ruined and made of no use in just one day, then how much more the Government of the Son of God? Watch out for his Government which is coming and has come; where your corruption, looting and riches will not help you; where your friends in high places and cronies can not save you, where your gods won’t  respond to you and your attendants/assistants and those who once hailed you honorable, boss, Sir/Madam will turn and ridicule you. 

Where is your anchor? Will it hold you firmly in time of trouble?