Nowadays, many people believe that 2012 will bring the end of the world. On the internet, you can find countless predictions of doom and predictions of when it will all end. For some Chinese, speaking about death is a taboo, but they still think about it. With all this fascination with death, we perhaps don’t think enough about the miracle of being alive. A few weeks ago, my family and I went for a vacation on the Nu river (known outside China as the Salween) in southwest Yunnan province. Our car drove along the winding road of steep mountains alongside the river, which is 2,815 km long, flowing from the Tibetan plateau into the Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia. All through the trip, my heart was pounding, especially when the driver told us casually that vehicles had been known to go off the cliff into the river, simply because of a driver’s moment of carelessness. Their bodies were never found in the rushing waters. We stayed in a cottage on the river bank. After the rain, the roaring of the river made it difficult to sleep that night. Despite my faith, I couldn’t shake off the fear that “the end of the world” was not far off. In the Church we read about prophecy, not only in the Revelation to John; Jesus also mentioned signs of the end of the world in the Gospels. He did not reveal its specific time but reminded us to stay awake and pray, so that no matter when the end of the world comes, be it today or tomorrow, we are not afraid because we have inner peace. During our journey, I chatted with several drivers who transport logs across the Sino-Burmese border. They said, “every day we face death because whenever you are in the mountains, you are in danger.” I was told how some drivers pray for safe-keeping whenever they get behind the wheel; others have had the experience of watching helplessly while their companions fell off the cliff along with their vehicles. One of them recalled a time he was trapped in a landslide. While he was waiting for help, stuck on the cliff-edge, he realized it was the first time he had ever appreciated the scenery; at all other times he’d had to use all his concentration just to drive. At that moment, the driver recalled, he saw a panda climbing up the cliff laboriously. It nearly fell down a few times but still kept climbing with all its might. He told me, “that panda inspired me a lot – it showed me that life is so great and so precious! Being alive is really a miracle. I must live my life in a meaningful way.” Another driver shared his experience of being trapped in snowdrifts several meters deep last year. He and the other drivers were tired and hungry, but if anyone fell asleep he might not be able to wake up again. Police and soldiers finally rescued 14 of them; only one died. “I was lucky I escaped death,” he said. “When I was saved, I was so excited - I thought how great it is to be alive.” I asked him why he continues to work in the mountains now that he knows how dangerous it can be. “For a better living for my family,” he answered. Talking with these drivers reminded me the hardships of the foreign missionaries who came to China to spread the Good News, centuries ago. Some died halfway because they had not acclimatized or because of all kinds of dangers that they faced in their journey. But that did not stop the rest. Thanks to their persistence, we have the chance to receive the Gospel and God’s salvation. Their selfless dedication is a good example for us to follow. They epitomized the miracle of life and their spirit lives in our hearts for ever. Teresa Wang is a Catholic laywoman from Nanchong diocese in Sichuan province.
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