The last couple of days in Beijing allowed for some time to shop in a place called Red Bridge. Talk about cheap! You could get a real, genuine, iPod knockoff for $25.00. I called them CryPods, knowing that after a few weeks, you’d be left with a $25.00 paperweight. Tommy Bahama shirts that sell for over a hundred bucks in the states were only $12.50; I didn’t buy any because I get better deals at Goodwill. Silk scarves were as low as three smackeroos, and the coveted Mao lighter that plays the Communist National Anthem when opened, was only a dollar. I instantly wanted to open a store—a Chinese shop with lots of cheap stuff, everywhere—then I remembered Costco.
Watch out for the salespeople in China—barracudas are subtler—and never make eye contact with them. If you meet their gaze, you’re stuck; you will buy something. I inspected some dresses then walked away, but the saleslady grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go. “Pleeease buy something,” she pleaded. I tried to fling her off, but she held on even tighter. “Pleeeease, sir. Lower price? Nice? You like?” She held on tighter than a Taiwanese LIVESTRONG.
I broke free and found a gimmick shop. I hung out for a while, playing with the gooey rats, “shock” gum, and other silly things… it was Heaven! A man from Israel took my “shock” pen, BZZZZZ! but it didn’t even faze him, so he tried it on his wife. In the meantime, team member Cynthia gave a Million-Dollar Bill Gospel tract to the Israelite while his wife stormed off. As he read it the shopkeeper pulled out a dollar bill and signaled to us something we couldn’t understand. We called for “Evie” (not her real name), a new- believer and successful restaurateur, to come over and translate for us. “He wants a million dollar bill.” Of course, they all want them!
“Evie,” I said, “give him the Gospel.” I told her to read the back of the bill to him since she had never done this before. A little wiser after being in a Communist dictatorship for two weeks, I moved away from the encounter and scouted for the Public Security Bureau. There’s one! Nope, just a tourist… Ahah! That guy with the broom…no, the stern looking man in plaid… the older gentleman with sideburns? Darn! They all look like PSB!!!
I noticed that as Evie was talking with the shopkeeper a mysterious woman appeared and stood right next to her, listening intently. What’s this? They got us! She’s female PSB! Turns out she’s the shopkeeper’s sister, and she’s very interested in the conversation. Suddenly, the shopkeeper repents and wants to trust the Lord. Evie convinced him with her newfound weapon of the Ten Commandments. “I want to be a Christian too,” says the sister. Everyone holds hands, closes their eyes, and starts praying like it’s the Old-Time Gospel Hour.
Ohhh, nooooo. Don’t they understand that they cannot pray in public and act like they’re at church in an evil dictatorship? Do they want to be arrested, killed, and have their corpses sold to the good doctors of Body Worlds? I must stop them… “Hey you guys!” I whisper loudly. “Open your eyes and stop holding hands! Pray with your eyes open; you’re not in the U.S.”
This was the first time that Evie had ever led anyone to the Lord. She was so excited; she just plain forgot where she was. She wrote down their emails, and then we all said good-bye.
I gazed longingly at the iPods as we left the market. I took one last look around to make sure that we weren’t being tailed. It was all completely safe. God had protected us once again.
Still, the suspicious Chinese man sitting on the steps of the entrance and staring at the sidewalk didn’t fool me one bit.