We worshiped this morning at the oldest Christian church in Nanjing, and it was amazing. More than 1,000 people packed into the sanctuary, and another 1,000 watched the service on screens in the Sunday school building. And this was just one of six services they do every weekend. The people were friendly, the fellowship good, and the music beautiful. I didn’t understand a word that was said, but I felt like I had worshiped God today.

Later, we visited the Nanjing Massacre Memorial, a truly haunting place. In just six weeks at the end of 1937, Japanese soldiers killed more than 300,000 Chinese people in Nanjing, in what is often called the Rape of Nanjing. The Memorial offers photos, news clippings, and art depicting the horror. But the most gut-wrenching part of the experience is the excavation of a mass grave. Nearly 300 bodies were unearthed when they began excavating for the Memorial, and the government decided to leave them where they lay, to bear silent witness to the tragedy.

The skeletons are numbered, and the numbers are color-coded — red for women, blue for young people, and so on. Yellow numbers are for the children. More than 60 small corpses bear those yellow numbers … 60 small children murdered in a single night in just one location. It’s an image I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

But there were moments of hope, even here. Two of our Disciples missionaries were instrumental in setting up a “safe zone” in Nanjing. Working with missionaries from other churches and with foreign newspaper correspondents, these brave souls literally put their lives on the line as a shield between the Japanese soldiers and hundreds of Chinese civilians. After the war, their testimony helped to convict several Japanese officers of war crimes.

It’s hard to imagine driving around Nanjing today — with its shining office buildings and huge shopping malls — that such horror took place only 70 years ago. It’s even harder to imagine that the 1937 massacre is only one of the slaughters that have happened here. So much history in China — some of it spectacular, some of it gruesome. And yet, through it all, the people survive, rebuild, raise families, and go on.

And the church is here with them, today as in years past. We saw that today in the faces of the thousands of people gathered at the church. We heard from church leaders of the transforming effects of Jesus’ love in the lives of new Christians. And we feel so blessed to be witnesses to the faith in this ancient land.

Sherri

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