It's been four years since we first came across the story of Shimenkan Education Foundation, which captured my heart and resonated with my personal values deeply upon first hearing. The story shall begin with this special place, Shimenkan.
Shimenkan is located remotely in Guizhou Province. Away from the heart of China, the only path leading to it has been extremely daunting to any visitor.
There is a distance of a few thousand kilometers between Beijing and Guiyang (the capital city of Guizhou Province). Upon reaching Guiyang, another extremely bumpy and dangerous car ride over the uneven mountain routes is mandated for an entrance to Shimenkan.
Along the journey, we normally have to pass through a mountainous place named Wumeng Mountainous Zone . This zone is typically known for its seemingly unending "up-and-down" mountainous slopes. The car has to make its way through the slopes, causing people inside the car to feel extremely dizziness.
As such, none of my trips to Shimenkan has been smooth so far. Yet, I've never been daunted by the arduous journey but rather, begin to treasure Shimenkan more as a place close to my heart.
This remote place becomes so special to me because of many saints who laid their hearts and lives here.
In 1905, a Britain pastor called Pollard Samuel arrived at Shimenkan. He preached the gospel to the local people, founded schools, helped the rural communities make their livings, advocated cultural diversity and simply devoted his life to this place. After Pollard and his followers’ painstaking efforts, Shimenkan has been recognized as "the Heaven in the East" as gained accolade of the Leading Culture in Southwest Minority Group in China since early 1900s.
Shimenkan, is roughly 2 thousand meters above the sea level. Tough weathers are commonly seen all year round and the poor soil condition could barely sustain the community. As such, the local Miao minority group there have been seeking help from the outside simply for survival.
In 1925, a massive plague broken forth and swept across the land. Pastor Pollard, with limited medicine at hands at that times, used all the medicine left to save locals' lives. He himself passed away later as a result of sacrificing himself for the lives of the local Miao ethnic group.
Reginald Heber Goldsworthy is another pastor who was later sent by the same church as Pastor Pollard's. He came from England to Shimenkan in 1935. Upon reaching Shimenkan, a gang of robbers who heard about him attempted to rob him at night. In order to get rid of these robbers, Gao had to jumped off from the second level of the building, causing himself in bone fracture. After being caught, he was soon harshly murdered by those robbers and ended his life in Shimenkan. He passed away on 1938 in China.
Another pious Christian Zhu Huanzhang, who has been deeply inspired by Pastor Pollard's life, also came to Shimenkan as his mission. Though Zhu only went to the primary school at the age of 16, his was able to generate excellent academic results, which later enabled him to gain a direct entry into a college. After graduating from college, he was also appointed as a representative to deliver a graduation speech during the college convocation. President Jiang Jieshi at that time, was sitting among the audience listening to his speech. He was caught by Zhu's speech and spotted his special talent. After the speech ended, President Jiang readily gave him an offer on the spot to work for him. However, Zhu rejected this tempting offer and decided to go to Shimenkai to build a school instead!
In that school, he mentored and journeyed with many youths from native Miao group. Many of the youths he personally mentored have later contributed significantly to the development of Shimenkan.
Pniuo Bennoun is another Christian who came to Shimenkan. He is originally from Australia. In 1986, he was sent to Wumeng to impart plantation and farming skills on the locals under extremely cold weathers. Despite how the authority insisted him to leave China after June 4 broke forth, he firmly decided to come to Shimenkan to help the poor. In 1990, he was nominated as the leader of Hong Kong Leshi (means "sharing love" in Chinese) Institution. Through this inspiration, many programmes have been rolled out such as providing microcredit loans, family wells, potato and corn plantations, which have greatly improved locals' standard of living. However, Fei was later diagnosed with cancerous disease and passed away at the age of 51. His pass has been a pity but his whole like is such an encouraging testimony showing how has devoted a significant portion of his life to Shikenkan.
Another Christian named Bian Shimei, is a teacher who volunteered herself to serve in Shimenkan. She came from Shenyang, Dongbei Province. When she first discovered the dire need of children yearning for proper education, she readily decided to settle in Shimenkan together with her husband and her 3-year-old daughter. For the next 9 years, she selflessly devoted herself as a primary and junior high school teacher in Shimenkan despite the harsh physical conditions in this remote region.
In commemorating the stories of these saints in Shimenkan, sculptures have also been made to inspire people of their noble deeds.
For me personally, there are two levels of missions carried by Shinenkan. Firstly, more funding support is needed to help local youths acquire better education, thus gaining skills to earn better livelihood when they grow up. Moreover, noble values and inspiring faith of these saints should be spread out to more in order to transform people's inner life as well.
As such, what is the core value as seen in Shimenkan? The answer is simple- faith. From Pastor Pollard to Bian Shimei, there is such a shockingly similar and resonating faith among them all. That is- the tremendous power of faith that has propelled numerous people to give up their comfortable lifestyles in exchange for complete and radical devotion to serve the Miao group in Shimenkan.
What a living testimony of how faith can transform a society as seen in Shimenkan. Indeed, faith can break though the poverty cycle and help people restore their hope in life.
Oftentimes, I'm very much bothered by two severe issues plaguing our society right now- firstly, pollution and secondly, moral decline. Our Mother Earth has been very much polluted as seen from unstoppable haze, shocking water pollution, soil pollution and panicky food safety issue. Another major pity is the obvious moral decline happening in our modern times. Most people have obviously lost their faiths in absolute truth and higher power while the country is plagued with a lost souls and shaky moral stands.
Inevitably, these two profound issues have certain connections. The absence of faith in absolute truth and higher power has caused people to lose fear for judgment or hunger for righteousness, therefore leading to the decline of moral values. People's greedy pursuit after materialistic gains have gone too far at the cost of compromising one's moral compass. Devastation in nature and severe pollution are indeed consequence of people's lack of restraint in consuming resources from the nature. In have evil deeds, our society has gradually lost our convicted stand. However, spiritual void can never be replaced materialistic possessions. As such, faith must come in so as to cultivate convicted faith, rational and self-controlled minds. Be it consciously known or not, all souls are indeed crying out for salvation in their souls. Shimenkan might be the answer for the lost souls.
Translated by: Maggie Li