It was impossible to look at An Xiang (pronounced awn-shy-awng) without feeling pity for him. He was lying on a crude wooden bed in the corner of the room, his arms and legs contorted and atrophied. We had just hiked into his remote village in China’s Yunnan Province, up miles of narrow mountain paths, arriving in the darkness. Xiang’s room was illuminated by a cooking fire beside his bed, over which a blackened tea pot was suspended. Smoke filled the room. Although Xiang had limited ability to control his arms, legs and facial expressions, he smiled as he looked at us, his unexpected visitors.
His mother and father told us that he had been healthy as a baby and toddler until he received a polio vaccine. Polio has almost been eradicated worldwide through vaccination, but unfortunately, a tiny minority of those who are inoculated contract the disease from the vaccine itself. Xiang was one of those unfortunate people. So for the past twenty years, he has been unable to walk, and he has been confined to his family’s simple compound in a tiny, mountainside village of Lisu tribal people.
Earlier that day, I had hiked with my long-time missionary friend, Todd Matthews, to another Lisu village, where Todd had previously won several families to the Lord. Heaven’s Family had subsequently assisted those poor families with much-needed water reservoirs that I had come to see for myself. We also had brought with us—with the help of a donkey—two unassembled wheelchairs. Asking where they might be a blessing, one of the Lisu believers told us about Xiang. So after dinner, as the sun set over towering mountain peaks, we set off on the ascent to his village.
Along with his extended family who gathered to meet us that night, Xiang heard Todd and a few of our Chinese team members share the gospel. Xiang and his family all listened intently, and they expressed such eagerness to believe in Jesus that Todd and his team repeatedly clarified the call to repentance and the price of following Christ. Other families in that same region whom Todd has led to the Lord have endured harassment by atheistic local authorities and ancestor-worshipping village elders. Still, Xiang’s family wanted to follow Christ, and everyone prayed in unison to receive Him. Then we prayed specifically for Xiang’s healing. Afterwards, his family offered our team their beds, and we stayed the night.
The next morning we assembled one of the wheelchairs we’d brought with us. Xiang’s father then carried him from his bed and securely strapped him in, and his uncle took him for his first ride before a growing crowd of curious villagers. Xiang did not hide his excitement, and we all rejoiced with him. We could not help but think of how happy he will be when he walks again, either on earth or in heaven—and how blessed we were to be able to trek on tired legs to visit his remote home.