Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
May 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Two Lights in the Dark

AE_BoCaldwellBay Area author Bo Caldwell illuminates the harrowing lives of missionaries in pre-Communist Revolution China
Having personal experience with missionaries—my sister is currently a missionary in Taiwan—I have an understanding of both the risks and rewards that a life devoted to serving others entails. Spiritual rejection, sleepless nights and lack of funds are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to challenges that must be daily faced. However, to see the smiling faces of those who would have otherwise remained hungry or sick without receiving assistance is a reward, I’m told, that far outweighs even the most difficult hurdle. So when I saw that Bo Caldwell’s newly released novel, “City of Tranquil Light,” is a tale of missionaries serving in China, I was immediately drawn in. Luminous, heart wrenching and intricately detailed, the novel—told through the eyes of both Will and Katherine Keihn—is based loosely on the author’s real life grandparents as well as on other early missionaries to China.

To leave one’s own country and travel halfway around the world—particularly during a time when travel took weeks, not days—was a colossal undertaking; one that Will Kiehn did not take lightly. As an immigrant farmer’s son living in the heartland of America, Will did not expect that he would ever leave the family farm, let alone the country. But when a traveling missionary visited the family’s country church and told of the great need for Americans to serve in China, Will experienced a profound change of heart. “I felt a presence that seemed to surround me and pursue me at the same time, a presence that I knew was God, and I had the sense that I was deeply loved and cared for. I had been told of this love since I was small, but on that morning it seemed to move from my head into my heart; knowledge became belief.” And with that indelible message from above, Will sets out on his remarkable journey to China.

The trip is a long and arduous one, but during it Will meets a fellow missionary, Katherine, who will become his future wife. Together they forge a life for themselves as well as an outpost for the Mennonite church in Kuang P’ing Ch’eng (translated to City of Tranquil Light and thus the book’s moniker), a poor city on the Northern China plain. As the couple struggles to integrate into the Chinese way of life—learning the language and customs, living in squalid conditions and adjusting to strange new delicacies—they are determined to begin the tasks they set out to do such as heal the sick, feed the hungry, build an orphanage and spread the Good News of their God to the Chinese people. Despite suffering a devastating personal loss, prolonged famine, earthquakes, Will’s abduction by bandits and a terrifying civil war—practically every hardship a human being can suffer—the Kiehn’s endured and continued to stay true to their original mission.

“City of Tranquil Light” is more than just a tale of missionaries; it is a love story that spans nearly six decades. The love between Will and Katherine, the couple’s joint love for China and its people, and the love the villagers harbor for the missionary couple illuminates an unrelenting interconnectedness of faith.

Even for those who don’t associate themselves with the Christian faith, one cannot deny that the missionaries portrayed in “City of Tranquil Light” rendered countless acts of kindness to the Chinese people they encountered by means of medicine, education and nutrition. True, the long-winded prayers and religious jargon Caldwell uses can be cloying at times, but add a heartfelt dimension to the characters’ depth of faith.

When Communist rule pervaded and missionaries were finally forced to leave China, Mo Yun, one of the Kiehn’s best Chinese friends said to the couple upon their departure from Kuang P’ing Ch’eng, “When you leave a place you love, you leave a piece of your heart. But you take with you the hearts of your beloved.” As I read the last page of this dazzling story, I too felt as though I left a piece of my heart in the book—in a historical China visited now only through the eyes of Bo Caldwell and my imagination.


Bo Caldwell will be reading from her new book, “City of Tranquil Light” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28 at the Capitola Book Café, 1475 41st Ave., Capitola. For more information, call Capitola Book Café at 462-4415 or visit capitolabookcafe.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival