My grandfather came from the Indiana/Kentucky border,
went to war during World War I
and came down with the influenza virus.
When he returned he taught school in Montana.
Someone wrote him a letter,
“why are you in such a sparsely populated area
when millions of Chinese people need someone to tell them about Jesus.”
He got on a boat, and he went to China.
He lived there for eight years,
traveling to Mongolia at least twice
and converting a bandit who insured his safe passage.
He would enter a new town,
sit under a tree, and sing hymns until a crowd gathered,
then he would tell them about Jesus.
He had 24 hours’ notice before the Cultural Revolution,
so he managed to escape China when other missionaries didn’t.
Never one to stay put, my grandfather moved to Ethiopia
where he became the headmaster of a girls’ school.
Later he moved down the coast of East Africa,
stopping in Kenya, Rhodesia, and finally South Africa.
At the end of his life, when I knew him, he lived at a home for wards of the state
in Oklahoma, not far from the Arkansas border.
There he kept chickens, trapped raccoons, and still read his Chinese bible.
This work of art with images of Jesus and a map of the Holy Land all swirled together
reminds me of my grandfather.