8:31 PM Some general comments … Beijing is the most polluted city I’ve ever visited. Much worse than Los Angeles where we lived for almost five years. Most days a heavy gray pall rests over the entire city … Marlene noted that the traffic seems worse this year … People wonder about the status of the Christian movement in China. David Aikman provides the most authoritative current update in his Jesus in Beijing … For those coming from a Western standpoint, it is jarring to visit a large city and rarely see a house of worship of any kind. This afternoon we did see a Three-Self Church, one of five or six in the city … There are many home fellowships but no one knows the exact number … China and America have become increasingly interdependent in recent years. You hear American music, see American clothing, and can buy any American movie on DVD (usually long before it is available in the US). The Chinese people seem genuinely interested in all things American … Today Mark and Dave had several opportunities to converse in Chinese with shopkeepers and waitresses. Between them they can carry on a conversation with amazing ease … We happened to meet someone (totally by chance) who told us that he brings the Good Book into China in large quantities. I have no idea if he was telling the truth, but I thought to myself later, If you were really doing that, would you announce it in public in English to people you had just met? … Still later we met a man who told us that there are many believers in China. He spoke with joy and deep conviction, and it was a divine serendipity that we did not expect, like a snapshot from the book of Acts.
10:38 AM We’re on our way to the pearl market to do some shopping. Later this week we plan to visit the Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square. I am doing three book-related events on Friday and Saturday.
10:32 AM Beijing is booming, even more than last year. There are high-rise apartment buildings in every direction as far as the eye can see. No one seems to know the real population of Beijing. It’s an enormous area that would stretch from South Bend, Indiana to Dekalb, IL, and from Milwaukee, WI to Kankakee, IL. It’s more than twice as big as Chicago and considerably larger than New York City. The streets are clogged with cars. The whole city is one big traffic jam. It seems like there is a McDonald’s and a KFC on every corner. A report in yesterday’s China Daily says that Beijing’s economy, even adjusted for inflation, is growing at a rate of 9.8% per year. That’s beyond phenomenal. The population is somewhere betweeen 15-25 million, probably closer to the higher figure. Everywhere you see construction equipment demolishing old buildings and erecting new ones. In 2008 the Summer Olympics come to Beijing. Everything is pointing to that event as China’s “coming out party” to the world. The government is making a huge push to teach English to as many people as possible, thus the need for organizations like ELIC and the open door for our sons to teach here.
10:30 AM Last night was extremely cold. Evidently I had forgotten about truly cold weather because walking the streets of Beijing was a difficuilt experience. We slept well when we got back to our apartment at the Mac Center.
10:28 AM We enjoyed the Tex-Mex restaurant but the my chicken-fried steak bore no resemblance to the same dish I ordered in Dallas in November. Dave McKee (AKA “Scholar Dave”) joined us for supper. One highlight: Hearing Lee Greenwood sing “God Bless the USA” at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Beijing.