Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Aug 28th
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

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

His Dinner With David

Author + reporter = brainy talk in ‘End of the Tour’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual