Monday, September 19, 2016

"If I Had 3 Days to See", Helen Keller (假如给我三天光明)

Ahoy from Amoy! (Historic Xiamen, China)

Helen Keller 3 Three Days to see blindness blind
Enjoy this classic by Helen Keller (Atlantic Monthly, 1933), who though blind could see more beauty in life than those gifted with eyesight. Keller (1880-1968) asks what you could look at if you only had three days to see? She thought it would be a "blessing" if those with sight were temporarily stricken blind to better appreciate what they take for granted. In the summer of 2015, the Transport Group performed a play based on this remarkable little work. And Chinese love this little classic, which in Chinese is called 假如给我三天光明. Below are excerpts. If you have time, scroll to the bottom for the entire article.

Enjoy Amoy!

    Dr. Bill

Excerpts from Helen Keller's "If I had 3 Days to See":

"Sometimes I have thought it would be an excellent rule to live each day as if we should die tomorrow. Such an attitude would emphasize sharply the values of life....Only the deaf appreciate hearing, only the blind realize the manifold blessings that lie in sight. ...

"I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life. Darkness would make him more appreciative of sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.

"Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see. Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and I asked her what she had observed. "Nothing in particular," she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little. How was it possible, I asked myself, to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough shaggy bark of a pine. In spring I touch the branches of trees hopefully in search of a bud, the first sign of awakening Nature after her winter s sleep. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions; and something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me.

假如给我三天光明 If I had three 3 days to see"Occasionally, if I am very fortunate, I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song. I am delighted to have the cool waters of a brook rush through my open fingers. To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. To me the pageant of seasons is a thrilling and unending drama, the action of which streams through my finger tips. . . . "

If I had Three Days to Live
(entire article)

All of us have read thrilling stories in which the hero had only a limited and specified time to live. Sometimes it was as long as a year; sometimes as short as twenty-four hours. But always we were interested in discovering just how the doomed man chose to spend his last days or his last hours. I speak, of course, of free men who have a choice, not condemned criminals whose sphere of activities is strictly delimited.

Such stories set us thinking, wondering what we should do under similar circumstances. What events, what experiences, what associations, should we crowd into those last hours as mortal beings? What happiness should we find in reviewing the past, what regrets?

Sometimes I have thought it would be an excellent rule to live each day as if we should die to-morrow. Such an attitude would emphasize sharply the values of life. We should live each day with a gentleness, a vigor, and a keenness of appreciation which are often lost when time stretches before us in the constant panorama of more days and months and years to come. There are those, of course, who would adopt the epicurean motto of 'Eat, drink, and be merry,' but most people would be chastened by the certainty of impending death.

In stories, the doomed hero is usually saved at the last minute by some stroke of fortune, but almost always his sense of values is changed. He becomes more appreciative of the meaning of life and its permanent spiritual values. It has often been noted that those who live, or have lived, in the shadow of death bring a mellow sweetness to everything they do.

Most of us, however, take life for granted. We know that one day we must die, but usually we picture that day as far in the future. When we are in buoyant health, death is all but unimaginable. We seldom think of it. The days stretch out in an endless vista. So we go about our petty tasks, hardly aware of our listless attitude toward life.

The same lethargy, I am afraid, characterizes the use of all our facilities and senses. Only the deaf appreciate hearing, only the blind realize the manifold blessings that lie in sight. Particularly does this observation apply to those who have lost sight and hearing in adult life. But those who have never suffered impairment of sight or hearing seldom make the fullest use of these blessed faculties. Their eyes and ears take in all sights and sounds hazily, without concentration and with little appreciation. It is the same old story of not being grateful for what we have until we lose it, of not being conscious of health until we are ill.

I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life. Darkness would make him more appreciative of sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.

Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see. Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and I asked her what she had observed. 'Nothing in particular,' she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.

How was it possible, I asked myself, to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough, shaggy bark of a pine. In spring I touch the branches of trees hopefully in search of a bud, the first sign of awakening Nature after her winter's sleep. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions; and something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me. Occasionally, if I am very fortunate, I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song. I am delighted to have the cool waters of a brook rush through my open fingers. To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. To me the pageant of seasons is a thrilling and unending drama, the action of which streams through my finger tips.

At times my heart cries out with longing to see all these things. If I can get so much pleasure from mere touch, how much more beauty must be revealed by sight. Yet, those who have eyes apparently see little. The panorama of color and action which fills the world is taken for granted. It is human, perhaps, to appreciate little that which have and to long for that which we have not, but it is a great pity that in the world of light the gift of sight is used only as a mere convenience rather than as a means of adding fullness to life.

If I were the president of a university I should establish a compulsory course in 'How to Use Your Eyes'. The professor would try to show his pupils how they could add joy to their lives by really seeing what passes unnoticed before them. He would try to awake their dormant and sluggish faculties.

Perhaps I can best illustrate by imagining what I should most like to see if I was given the use of my eyes, say, for just three days. And while I am imagining, suppose you, too, set your mind to work on the problem of how to work on the problem of how you would use your own eyes if you had only three days to see. If with the oncoming darkness if the third night you knew that the sun would never rise for you again, how would you spend those three intervening days? What would you most want to let your gaze rest upon?

I, naturally, should want most to see the things which have become dear to me through my years of darkness. You, too, would want to let your eyes rest long on the things that have become dear to you so that you could take the memory of them with you into the night that loomed before you.

If, by some miracle, I were granted three seeing days, to be followed by a relapse into darkness, I should divide the period into three parts.

Day One   On the first day, I should want to see the people whose kindness and gentleness and companionship have made my life worth living. First I should like to gaze long upon the face of my dear teacher, Mrs. Ann Sullivan Macy, who came to me when I was a child and opened the outer world to me. I should want not merely to see the outline of her face, so that I could cherish it in my memory, but to study that face and find in it the living evidence of the sympathetic tenderness and patience with which she accomplished the difficult task of my education. I should like to see in her eyes that strength of character which has enabled her to stand firm in the face of difficulties, and that compassion for all humanity which she has revealed to me so often.

I do not know what it is to see into the heart of a friend through that 'window of the soul,' the eye. I can only 'see' through my finger tips the outline of a face. I can detect laughter, sorrow, and many other obvious emotions. I know my friends from the feel of their faces. But I cannot really picture their personalities, of course, through the thoughts they express to me, through whatever of their actions are revealed to me. But I am denied that deeper understanding of them which I am sure would come through sight of them, through watching their reactions to various expressed and circumstances, through noting the immediate and fleeting reactions of their eyes and countenance.

Friends who are near to me I know well, because through the months and years they reveal themselves to me in all their phases; but of casual friends I have only an incomplete impression, an impression gained from handclasp, from spoken words which I take from their lips with my finger tips, or which they tap into the palm of my hand.

How much easier, how much more satisfying it is for you who can see to grasp quickly the essential qualities of another person by watching the subtleties of expression, the quiver of a muscle, the flutter of a hand. But does it ever occur to you to use your sight to see the inner nature of a friend or acquaintance? Do not most of you seeing people grasp casually the outward features of a face and let it go at that?

For instance, can you describe accurately the faces of five good friends? Some of you can, but many cannot. As an experiment, I have questioned husbands of long standing about the color of their wives' eyes, and often they express embarrassed confusion and admit that they so not know. And, incidentally, it is a chronic complaint of wives that their husbands do not notice new dresses, new hats, and changes in household arrangements.

The eyes of seeing persons soon become accustomed to the routine of their surroundings, and they actually see only the startling and spectacular. But even in viewing the most spectacular sights the eyes are lazy. Court records reveal every day how inaccurately 'eyewitnesses' see. A given event will be 'seen' in several different ways by as many witnesses. Some see more than others, but few see everything that is within the range of their vision.

Oh, the things that I should see if I had the power of sight for just three days!

The first day would be a busy one. I should call to me all my dear friends and look long into their faces, imprinting upon my mind the outward evidence of the beauty that is within them. I should let my eyes rest, too, on the face of a baby, so that I could catch a vision of the eager, innocent beauty which precedes the individuals consciousness of the conflicts which life develops.

And I should like to look into the loyal, trusting eyes of my dogs - the grave, canny little Scottie, Darkie, and the stalwart, understanding Great Dane, Helga, whose warm, tender, and playful friendships are so comforting to me.

On that busy first day I should also view the small simple things of my home. I want to see the warm colors in the rugs under my feet, the pictures on the walls, the intimate trifles that transform a house into a home. My eyes would rest respectfully on the books in raised type which I have read, but they would be more eagerly interested in the printed books which seeing people can read, for during the long night of my life the books I have read and those which have been read to me have built themselves into a great shining lighthouse, revealing to me the deepest channels of human life and the human spirit.

In the afternoon of that first seeing day, I should take a long walk in the woods and intoxicate my eyes on the beauties of the world of Nature, trying desperately to absorb in a few hours the vast splendor which is constantly unfolding itself to those who can see. On the way home from my woodland jaunt my path would lie near a farm so that I might see the patient horses plowing in the field (perhaps I should see only a tractor!) and the serene content of men living close to the soil. And I should pray for the glory of a colorful sunset.

When dusk had fallen, I should experience the double delight of being able to see by artificial light, which the genius of man has created to extend the power of his sight when Nature decrees darkness.

In the night of that first day of sight, I should not be able to sleep, so full would be my mind of the memories of the day.

Day Two  The next day - the second day of sight - I should arise with the dawn and see the thrilling miracle by which night is transformed into day. I should behold with awe the magnificent panorama of light with which the sun awakens the sleeping earth.

This day I should devote to a hasty glimpse of the world, past and present. I should want to see the pageant of man's progress, the kaleidoscope of the ages. How can so much compressed into one day? Through the museums, of course. Often I have visited the New York Museum of Natural History to touch with my hands many of the objects there exhibited, but I have longed to see with my eyes the condensed history of the earth and its inhabitants displayed there - animals and the races of men pictured in their native environment; gigantic carcasses of dinosaurs and mastodons which roamed the earth long before man appeared, with his tiny stature and powerful brain, to conquer the animal kingdom; realistic presentations of the processes of evolution in animals, and in the implements which man has used to fashion for himself a secure home on this planet; and a thousand and one other aspects of natural history.

I wonder how many readers of this article have viewed this panorama of the face of living things as pictured in that inspiring museum. Many, of course, have not had the opportunity, but, I am sure that many who have had the opportunity have not made use of it. There, indeed, is a place to use your eyes. You who can see can spend many fruitful days there, but I, with my imaginary three days of sight, could only take a hasty glimpse, and pass on.

My next stop would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for just as the Museum of Natural History reveals the material aspects of the world, so does the Metropolitan show the myriad facets of the human spirit. Throughout the history of humanity the urge to artistic expression has been almost as powerful as the urge for food, shelter, and procreation. And here, in the vast chambers of the Metropolitan Museum, is unfolded before me the spirit of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as expressed in their art. I know well through my hands the sculptured gods and goddesses of the ancient Nile-land. I have a few copies of Parthenon friezes, and I have sensed the rhythmic beauty of charging Athenian warriors. Apollos and Venuses and the winged victory of Samothrace are friends of my finger tips. The gnarled, bearded features of Homer are dear to me, for he, too, knew blindness.

My hands have lingered upon the living marvel of Roman sculpture as well as that of later generations. I have passed my hands over a plaster cast of Michelangelo's inspiring and heroic Moses; I have sensed the power of Rodin; I have been awed by the devoted spirit of Gothic wood carving. These arts which can be touched have meaning for me, but even they were meant to be seen rather than felt, and I can only guess at the beauty which remains hidden from me. I can admire the simple lines of a Greek vase, but its figured decorations are lost to me.

So on this, my second day of sight, I should try to probe into the soul of man through his art. The things I knew through touch I should now see. More splendid still, the whole magnificent world of painting would be opened to me, from the Italian Primitives, with their serene religious devotion, to the Moderns, with their feverish visions. I should look deep into the canvases of Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Titian, Rembrandt. I should want to feast my eyes upon the warm colors of Veronese, study the mysteries of El Greco, catch a new vision of Nature from Corot. Oh, there is so much rich meaning and beauty in the art of the ages for you who have eyes to see!

Upon my short visit to this temple of art I should not be able to review a fraction of that great world of art which is open to you. I should be able to get only a superficial impression. Artists tell me that for a deep and true appreciation of art one must educate the eye. One must learn from experience to weigh the merits of line, of composition, of form and color. If I had eyes, how happily would I embark upon so fascinating a study! Yet I am told that, to many of you who have eyes to see, the world of art is a dark night, unexplored and un-illuminated.

It would be with extreme reluctance that I should leave the Metropolitan Museum, which contains the key to beauty - a beauty so neglected. Seeing persons, however, do not need a Metropolitan to find this key to beauty. The same key lies waiting in smaller museums, and in books on the shelves of even small libraries. But naturally, in my limited time of imaginary sight, I should choose the place where the key unlocks the greatest treasures in the shortest time.

The evening of my second day of sight I should spend at a theater or at the movies. Even now I often attend theatrical performances of all sorts, but the action of the play must be spelled into my hand by a companion. But how I should like to see with my own eyes the fascinating figure of Hamlet, or the gusty Falstaff amid colorful Elizabethan trappings! How I should like to follow each movement of the graceful Hamlet, each strut of the hearty Falstaff! And since I could see only one play, I should be confronted by a many-horned dilemma, for there are scores of plays I should want to see. You who have eyes can see any you like. How many of you, I wonder, when you gaze at a play, a movie, or any spectacle, realize and give thanks for the miracle of sight which enables you to enjoy its color, grace, and movement?

I cannot enjoy the beauty rhythmic movement except in a sphere restricted to the touch of my hands. I can vision only dimly the grace of a Pavlova, although I know something of the delight of rhythm, for often I can sense the beat of music as it vibrates through the floor. I can well imagine that cadenced motion must be one of the most pleasing sights in the world. I have been able to gather something of this by tracing with my fingers the lines in sculptured marble; if this static grace can be so lovely, how much more acute must be the thrill of seeing grace in motion.

One of my dearest memories is of the time when Joseph Jefferson allowed me to touch his face and hands as he went through some of the gestures and speeches of his beloved Rip Van Winkle. I was able to catch thus a meager glimpse of the world of drama, and I shall never forget the delight of that moment. But, oh, how much I must miss, and how much pleasure you seeing ones can derive from watching and hearing the interplay of speech and movement in the unfolding of a dramatic performance! If I could see only one play, I should know how to picture in my mind the action of a hundred plays which I have read or had transferred to me through the medium of manual alphabet.

So, through the evening of my second imaginary day of sight, the great figures of dramatic literature would crowd sleep from my eyes.

DAY Three The following morning, I should again greet the dawn, anxious to discover new delights, for I am sure that, for those who have eyes which really see, the dawn of each day must be a perpetually new revelation of beauty.

This, according to the terms of my imagined miracle, is to be my third and last day of sight. I shall have no time to waste in regrets or longings; there is too much to see. The first day I devoted to my friends, animate and inanimate. The second revealed to me the history of man and Nature. To-day I shall spend in the workday world of the present, amid the haunts of men going about the business of life. And where one can find so many activities and conditions of men as in New York? So the city becomes my destination.

I start from my home in the quiet little suburb of Forest Hills, Long Island. Here, surrounded by green lawns, trees, and flowers, are neat little houses, happy with the voices and movements of wives and children, havens of peaceful rest for men who toil in the city. I drive across the lacy structure of steel which spans the East River, and I get a new and startling vision of the power and ingenuity of the mind of man. Busy boats chug and scurry about the river - racy speed, boats, stolid, snorting tugs. If I had long days of sight ahead, I should spend many of them watching the delightful activity upon the river.

I look ahead, and before me rise the fantastic towers of New York, a city that seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy story. What an awe-inspiring sight, these glittering spires, these vast banks of stone and steel - sculptures such as the gods might build for themselves! This animated picture is a part of the lives of millions of people every day. How many, I wonder, give it so much as a second glance? Very few, I fear. Their eyes are blind to this magnificent sight because it is so familiar to them.

I hurry to the top of one of those gigantic structures, the Empire State Building, for there, a short time ago, I 'saw' the city below through the eyes of my secretary. I am anxious to compare my fancy with reality. I am sure I should not be disappointed in the panorama spread out before me, for to me it would be a vision of another world.

Now I begin my rounds of the city. First, I stand at a busy corner, merely looking at people, trying by sight of them to understand something of their lives. I see smiles, and I am happy. I see serious determination, and I am proud. I see suffering, and I am compassionate.

I stroll down Fifth Avenue. I throw my eyes out of focus, so that I see no particular object but a seething kaleidoscope of color. I am certain that the colors of women's dresses moving in a throng must be a gorgeous spectacle of which I should never tire. But perhaps if I had sight I should be like most other women - too interested in styles and the cut of individual dresses to give much attention to the splendor of color in the mass. And I am convinced, too, that I should become an inveterate window shopper, for it must be a delight to the eye to view the myriad articles of beauty on display.

From Fifth Avenue I make a tour of the city - to Park Avenue, to the slums, to factories, to parks where children play. I take a stay-at-home trip abroad by visiting the foreign quarters. Always my eyes are open wide to all the sights of both happiness and misery so that I may probe deep and add to my understanding of how people work and live. My heart is full of the images of people and things. My eye passes lightly over no single trifle; it strives to touch and hold closely each thing its gaze rests upon. Some sights are pleasant, filling the heart with happiness; but some are miserably pathetic. To these latter I do not shut my eyes, for they, too are part of life. To close the eye on them is to close the heart and mind.

My third day of sight is drawing to an end. Perhaps there are many serious pursuits to which I should devote the few remaining hours, but I am afraid that on the evening of that last day I should run away to the theater, to a hilariously funny play, so that I might appreciate the overtones of comedy in the human spirit.

At midnight my temporary respite from blindness would cease, and permanent night would close in on me again. Naturally in those three short days I should not have seen all I wanted to see. Only when darkness had again descended upon me should I realize how much I had left unseen. But my mind would be so overcrowded with glorious memories that I should have little time for regrets. Thereafter the touch of every object would bring a glowing memory of how that object looked.

Perhaps this short outline of how I should spend three days of sight does not agree with the program you would set for yourself if you knew that you were about to be stricken blind. I am, however, sure that if you actually faced that fate your eyes would open to things you had never seen before, storing up memories for the long night ahead. You would use your eyes as never before. Everything you saw would become dear to you. Your eyes would touch and embrace every object that came within your range of vision. Then, at last, you would really see, and a new world of beauty would open itself before you.

I who am blind can give one hint to those who see - one admonition to those who would make full use of the gift of sight: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. And the same method can be applied to other senses. Hear the music of voices, the song of a bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you would be stricken deaf to-morrow. Touch each object you want to touch as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail. Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again. Make the most of every sense; glory in all the facets of pleasure and beauty which the world reveals to you through the several means of contact which Nature provides. But of all the senses, I am sure that sight must be the most delightful.

Enjoy Amoy!

Dr. Bill

Amazon eBook "Discover Xiamen"

Thursday, October 9, 2014

YOU can help African children! (Kisses from Katie)

Ahoy from Amoy!
      In May, 2014, our youngest son Matt and wife Jessica visited Uganda to explore ways to use their medical interests and skills to help African children and the poor. They also saw the work of Katie Davis, who as an 18-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen in Nashville visited Uganda on a short mission trip during her Christmas break--and found her world turned upside down. Katie disobeyed her parents, who wanted her to go to college, broke up with her boyfriend, and moved to Uganda.
Whether you're interested in helping children at home, here in China, or in will be encouraged at just what one person can do by reading Katie's bestselling book, Kisses from Katie. Now in her mid 20s, Katie's working on actually adopting 13 children! Her Amazima ministries now sponsors 400 children, and they feed lunch to over 1200 children every weekday, as well as provide basic medical care, health training and bible studies.

Zhang Joni Bethesda Ministries Anshan China Quadriplegic doctor
Dr. Zhang, Bethesda Ministries, Anshan, China
Katie's book may inspire you to help her work with African children. Or Click Here if you'd like to help children right here in China with CP Sapling, or the work of Nathan and Anna Fields here in Xiamen, or Bethesda Rehabilitation Ministries in N.E. China by Dr. Zhang--the "Chinese Joni" (and a male Joni at that!). Sue and I, in fact, are visiting Dr. Zhang's work in about 10 days.


Dr. Bill
Xiamen (formerly Amoy) University

Amazon eBooks
"Fujian Adventure" $1.99

Matt & Jess' Uganda Blog

Bill Brown Xiamen University

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Worry is Agnosticism at Best, Atheism at Worst

Good Morning from Amoy!

When a friend or loved one is troubled, it is so easy to piously quote, "Be anxious for nothing," but when I'm facing a trial myself, I'd respond to that with,
"But Lord, this ain't nothing!" And certainly our Heavenly Father understands His children's doubts, fears, anxieties. After all, even Abraham, the man justified by faith, tried to shield himself from Pharaoh by lying about his wife and sending her straight to a harem! Most Biblical heroes, even those who saw Him face-to-face, had worries, despite Jesus' repeated admonitions to not worry--to "consider the lilies of the field, how they toil not, neither do they spin, yet not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these..." (Matthew 6:28, 29). Followed by the great promise of Matt. 6:33, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things [those things we worry about] shall be added to you."

Worry betrays our doubt that our Father can, or will, do anything about the issues facing us. But according to Lloyd John Ogilvie, worry is not only a lack of faith but also a "low-grade fever of agnosticism!" (in Ogilvie's 1980s devotional "God's Best For Our Life."--a powerful book with a cut-to-the quick sermon each day).

I can do no better than to simply quote part of that day's devotional, and trust you are as encouraged by it as I was (God's Best, by the way, has as a Kindle version, which unfortunately is a bit abridged, but still excellent).

Excerpt from Lloyd John Ogilvie's "God's Best for my Life," (1980)

August 12, Strangling the Soul 
"I say to you, do not worry about your life". (Matthew6:25)
"Worry is thinking turned toxic, the imagination picturing the worst. The word worry comes from the root “to choke or strangle.” Worry does choke and strangle our creative capacity to think, hope, and dream. It twists the joy out of life. Worry changes nothing except the worrier. It becomes a habit. At the core, it is a low-grade fever of agnosticism. When we worry, we express a lurking form of doubt that God either knows, cares, or is able to do anything. It is a form of loneliness—facing eventualities by ourselves on our meager strength."

Dr Bill's Amazon eBooks
"Fujian Adventure" $1.99
Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fujian Adventure eBook $1.99 special on Amazon! 魅力福建 over 520 pages and almost 700 photos (doubleclick to enlarge), many by Fujian's top photographers, Fujian Adventure is now an eBook on Amazon for $1.99 promotional price ($5.99 regularly). Click Here to download a copy and if you enjoy it, please rate it and share the link with your friends!

If you (like me), don't have a Kindle, download  Free Amazon Reading Apps to read it on Android and Apple devices,or Mac and Windows computers.
Thanks so much for helping to get the word out. I hope to have some of my other 11 books online this summer. 
Enjoy Amoy! 

Dr. Bill 

Amazon description of Fujian Adventure.
Columbus' goal was not a New World but a shortcut to India and to Marco Polo’s fabled Zayton in Fujian, China. Columbus never made it to Zayton, but you can.

Over 500 pages and almost 700 photos, many by award-winning Chinese photographers, bring to life the people and places of Fujian (Fukien), the cradle of Chinese seafaring (200 B.C.), start of the Maritime Silk Route, port of departure for Marco Polo and ibn Battuta, and ancestral home of most overseas Chinese.
Meet Admiral Zhenghe, the "real" Sinbad; the ancient Southern Shaolin Kung Fu Temple’s youthful abbot; the Hui'an maidens who cover their heads, bare their bellies, and only sleep with their husbands 3 nights a year; the firewalkers who dance across the flames bearing heavy idols; melancholy Miss Mo who became the sea goddess Mazu; Zayton’s famous marionette makers; the Anxi farmers who produced the tea tossed overboard during the Boston Tea Party. Visit China’s first Protestant church and the planet’s last Manichean temple. Explore Gulangyu, the Roaring 20s’ “richest square mile on earth,” which even today has over 1,000 “Amoy Deco” mansions. Discover the secret of Hakka roundhouses that Nixon and the CIA thought were missile silos, and then visit the nearby Amoy tiger preserve. Enjoy scenic Sanming, with China's 4th largest gem beds, China’s largest sleeping Buddha, Ming Dynasty villages, enchanting caverns and underground lakes. Marvel at Wuyi Mountain’s 2,000-year-old Min Palace, and the Eden-like biological diversity that drew French naturalists in the 1700s to study the rare plants, king cobras and 33 foot pythons.

And of course there’s the Fujian food. Moliere said "Man should eat to live, not eat to live," but Dr. Bill says, "Moliere never ate Chinese food—especially Fujian food.”

Locals say Fujian is “8 parts mountain, 1 part water, 1 part field”. This torturous terrain not only gave rise to an innovative and tough people but also to more local dialects and greater cultural diversity—including cuisines—than any other province. Every hill, valley and river has a story behind it, and Dr. Bill invites you to explore them.

Author Bill Brown, Prof. of Organizational Behavior and Business Strategy at School of Management, Xiamen University, was Fujian's first foreign permanent resident and has driven over 200,000 km. around China,even through the Gobi Desert and Tibet,幸福福建),but still considers Fujian the most fascinating province for foreigners. In addition to textbooks such as Art of Business Warfare (Beijing University Press), he has written ten books about Fujian. He has also written and hosted several TV documentaries, including a 62-episode mini-series, "Fujian in a Foreigner's Eyes". In addition to teaching MBA, he hosts the weekly "Xingfu Fujian"《幸福福建》。
 Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Help Children in China!

Good morning from Amoy!

Children of Promise CP Sapling Xiamen China
CP Sapling
Several have asked us how to help Chinese children, especially orphans or disabled, in Xiamen and Fujian. There are many ways to do it, but we suggest the following groups or people because of their integrity and heart for serving:  Jianhua Foundation (founded 30 years ago in Hong Kong), Bethesda Ministry, and CP Sapling. Of course, there is also World Vision International, which my wife Susan Marie worked for when we married; the founding of WVI was inspired by the White Jade incident in Xiamen in the 1940s!

Jianhua Foundation, founded in 1981 by Chinese businessmen and academics in Hong Kong, serves the people of China in numerous ways. We've been JHF associates almost 20 years, and appreciate their sensitivity to the unique needs and opportunities in China. Visit the Jianhua web site to learn how you can get involved short- or long-term. But you can do much more than give--you can go, as Nathan and Anna have.
Jian Hua Foundation China

Nathan and Anna Fields
Anna and Nathan
Nathan and AnnaIt is so much easier to Give than to Go--but Nathan and Anna did Go! They have dedicated their lives to serving others in many ways, including through our Xiamen International Christian Fellowship (XICF). Learn more about this wonderful couple's work by visiting: Fields of China.
Joni Eareckson Tada helps China ministry of Dr. Zhang in Anshan
Joni Eareckson Tada

Bethesda Rehabilitation Ministry of  Anshan, China. My wife loves Joni, the Christian quadraplegic famous for her artwork, books and motivational talks, and treasures the devotional that Jonie signed and sent her because of Sue's support of "China's Joni", Dr. Xu Zhang (Joni's books are popular in China too, and sold at Xiamen's Nissi Christian bookstore  ).

Dr. Zhang Bethesda Rehabilitation Ministry Anshan China
Dr Zhang, Bethesda Ministry Anshan
Dr. Xu Zhang, also became a quadraplegic after a diving accident and was abandoned by his family. He now helps the disabled and  poor in N.E. China, and cooperates with Joni. We urge you to support Dr. Zhang, who undertakes this great ministry in a relatively remote area, lacking the resources of larger, more publicized ministries.  To learn more, visit Bethesda Ministry's website or email Dr. Zhang at

CP [Children of Promise] Sapling is a Xiamen ministry helping children who have cerebral palsy. They also teach the children's families how to care for these special children. Visit their website!

Thanks for helping these wonderful people and organizations.  And read more about Xiamen, and Fujian Province, in my eBooks available on Amazon!


Dr. Bill

Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Mother of Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day from Xiamen (former Amoy), China!
   This is dedicated to my mom back in the U.S., who has so patiently put up with having her son 12,000 miles away in China for half of his adult life.

 When Anna May Jarvis's mother died on the 2nd Sunday of May 1906, Anna May wished she had heeded the warning to, “Lavish your flowers on the living, not the dead.” Driven by remorse, the gentle, easy going Anna May became obsessed with the desire to see her mother and motherhood honored throughout the world.
      After a year’s planning, the first Mother's Day was celebrated on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, May 10, 1908, at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where Anna’s mother had taught Sunday School. A year later, Philadelphia became the first city to proclaim an official Mother’s Day. Three years later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed Public Resolution 25, establishing the second Sunday of each May as Mother's Day. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Anna May retired and spent the remaining 34 years of her life, and her fortune of over 100,000 dollars, fighting against Mother’s Day!
         The problem was that from day one, Mother’s Day had become a great commercial extravaganza to boost the incomes of card and candy makers, and a salve to soothe the consciences of those who each May made mother a “queen for the day” but neglected her the other 364 days.
       Anna May complained, “Mother’s Day has nothing to do with candy. Candy is junk. A maudlin, insincere printed card or a ready-made telegram means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world. You ought to go home and see your mother on Mother’s Day. You ought to take her out and paint the town red...You ought to give her something useful, something permanent...Is she sleeping warm at night? Could she use an eiderdown? Maybe the stairs in her home need fixing...”
        For 30 years, Anna May fought for the integrity of Mother’s Day. She finally died in a sanitarium — old, tired, deaf, blind, penniless, and having never married nor been a mother herself!
        Sixty years later, mothers may be more neglected than ever. Statistics show one half of Americans, which of course includes one half of our mothers, live in poverty. Where are the children? More than ever, mothers deserve more than cards and candy one day a year and anonymity the other 364.
Sue Brown on plane on way to Xiamen China with Shannon Brown 2 years old Matthew Brown 6 months old August 1988          My appreciation of motherhood only began as I watched my wife, in both sickness and health, unselfishly spend herself on her two sons--and her husband as well! (read how we met in "China--our Matchmaker!"). I also slowly came to better appreciate my own mother, and though she’s 12,000 miles away, I am now careful to not only send her the obligatory Mother’s Day card and flowers but also to regularly write and phone her.
           Fortunately, most Off the Wall Blog readers are not 12,000 miles away from home!  So as Mother's Day catches on both here in China and elsewhere on this little planet we so briefly call home, let us make sure that Mother’s Day is not a card-and-candy substitute for well-deserved love but the crown and pinnacle of a full year’s expression of love and appreciation for the one who gave us life: our mother. But while you're at it--send a card, and some flowers too--and pick up the phone and call her.

Matt and Jessica Shan and Miki and Sue and Bill            Below, by the way, is our new family cartoon, including Matt's wife Jessica (married in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, on June 30th, 2012, and Shannon's wife Miki, married in Xiamen on January 1st, 2009).

Now all that Sue and I need is a very good excuse (strong hint!) to start promoting Grandparents Day!
Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Friday, April 12, 2013

Amazon E-books --Instant Library for China!

 Ahoy from Amoy!

One of the things I really missed in the early years in China was having good English books.  We brought literally thousands from the U.S., and now probably have the largest library of its kind in our area (many borrow from it).  Still, even buying only used books, it gets expensive--but now our library is almost limitless!

I never thought I'd get used to eBooks, but now I love them because whenever I travel, I can carry a library of 100s of books on my phone.   I don't have a Kindle, but I did download the Kindle software to my Android phone (works with iPhone too), and now I can read Kindle books and they are kept synchronized with Amazon's Whispersync technology, so I can always pick up where I left off, whether on computer, my Samsung phone, or a pad.

It is absolutely amazing what one can buy on Amazon Kindle Store site--everything from modern books on special for free, or 99 cents, to great classics.  I've downloaded over 100 free books, including G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinis, (Summa Theologica) etc. I love Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries--think Sherlock Holmes, but instead of Holmes, its a dowdy priest with a shabby umbrella who bumbles around--solving the hardest of crimes. Quite a character. And I have James Hudson Taylor's long biography-- the two volume one -- which I bought for one dollar each (I have the originals, which my wife's father gave me, but they're a bit bulky to carry around).


P.S. The Everlasting Man is brilliant! Unfortunately, it is poorly formatted (typos, etc.), but I've found no better e-version of it, so still worth the 99 cents.And one of my favorite devotionals is the original 1980s version of Ogilvie's God's Best for my life."  Sadly, the eBook, like newer versions, is abridged, but still excellent. It is not, as the title sounds, a shallow "Prosperity preaching give me everything God, but you, book"  but solid teaching--a mini sermon each day." Still--if you can, get a used copy (as low as 63 cents on Amazon!) of the old version (I use both the old version and the Kindle version when I travel).

Bill Brown Xiamen University

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Payapa Pine Trees; By Their Fruits

Happy Sunday from Amoy! (Xiamen, China)

Papaya People   This morning, Pastor Gabe Orea, of the Xiamen International Christian Fellowship, talked about being known by our fruits.  Of course, we so often hear, "By their fruits you shall know them," that it has become a meaningless cliche and goes in one ear and out the other--especially my ears, since there is not much between my ears to impede the messages' rapid entry and even more fleeting exit.

But Gabe drove his point home by showing a papaya tree with papaya fruit, and asking how we knew it was a papaya tree.  Everyone said "by the fruit, of course" (though Sue and I grow our own papayas, so we recognize the trunk and leaves too).

Papaya Pine Tree? Gabe then asked, "If it is so obvious this is a papaya tree because of its fruit, then why do people "not get it?"--that we, people, are also truly known by our fruit, and our fruit shows exactly what we are.  Gabe then showed an evergreen tree on which he had pasted papayas, which got a big laugh--but it was sobering too, at least to those of us who took the humor seriously.  He also talked about the fruits of the Spirit--and how futile it is to try and force the fruits if that Spirit is not really within us...

That just came out!  Gabe shared a common Spanish phrase (wish I could remember it!) that means, "Oops, that just came out!"  He said someone said something to a pastor back home in Mexico and then quickly said, "Oops, that just came out!"  And the pastor smiled and said, "Yes, I understand.  But if it came out, that means it was inside--and probably still is inside!"

Gabe's messages are more on target, and vivid, than the messages of most pastors I know who have English as their first language--though he does stop here and there to ask how to pronounce a word.  Knowing Gabe Orea, he does it on purpose, just to see if we are really listening!  Well, I certainly do listen.  In fact--I found something in Gabe's sermon today that even Gabe did not know about!

XIV.  Today was Gabe's 14th talk on the "Red Words of Jesus." He is preaching on all of the "Red Words" of Jesus (because we are in Red China? hmmm... ). He is not skipping even the thorniest verses (love your enemies, give to all who ask you, etc... ), and he has given some fascinating insights.

But I asked him if he had made his own version of the Bible--if XIV (which he meant as Roman numeral "14") meant Xiamen International Version.  And why not? Xiamen (ancient Amoy)  had China's First Protestant Church; maybe we can start our own version of the Bible as well!  

Gabe said he was impressed at how closely I pay attention to his messages, even spotting XIV, which he had not noticed.  Of course, I always like to see the humorous side of things.  After all, life is too short too take too seriously (it is so hard to believe 24 years in Xiamen have flown so quickly).  And it is easy to have fun with Gabe's sermons; he is one of the best pastors I have known, but also one of the funniest.  So I really appreciate his humor, even when he is being serious.

Sense of Humor--but nothing else? Of course, someone once said that I too have a good sense of humor, and I said, "That's true.  I do have a good sense of humor, and I use it every chance I have because it is the only sense I have."

But in speaking of Gabe--he has found that the terrible cancer that he had, and which completely disappeared, has now reappeared.  Thanks for praying for Pastor Gabe, his wife Victoria, and their daughter and son Jaisis and Paulo.

Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Key of the Kingdom (or Keyboard of the Kingdom)

Keyed Up--or Off.    A week ago, I dropped a heavy battery on my computer and broke the three most used keys, including the "e", which I've used so much over the years that there is no longer an "e"--just a blank depression (I've worn the plastic down on half a dozen keys). 

Faith, not Sight.   Fortunately for me, typing my way through grad school for professors ($4 an hour) paid off, and I don't have to look at keys when I type (I have faith they don't move around when I'm not looking--though with today's technology, who knows?) But now the keys were broken altogether--a tough break, since I spend most of my waking hours at this old computer.

Childlike or Childish?  It was my own carelessness, but still, like a child, I fussed and fumed to the Father for letting me do something so stupid.  Of course, Jesus said you won't enter the Kingdom unless you become like a child--but I think He meant we should be childlike, not childish.  But I'm only 56; give me a few more decades.

Seeing the Light! I tried several days to fix the three broken keys. I even took apart a working key to see how it worked.  That left me with 4 broken keys.  Even with a magnifying glass, I just could not see how the tiny plastic pieces under the key fit together, and how to snap them to both computer and key. But finally, this morning, it occurred to me to pray (why, after years of prayer, and years of amazing Answers, is this still sometimes a last resort?)  And it was, quite literally, as if a Light went on in my head!

It's a Snap! I tried again, and the little plastic pieces snapped together almost effortlessly.  I then snapped them onto the keyboard, and they--and it worked perfectly!  One had a missing part, but I just took the part from a key in the N.E. corner of the keyboard (I'd never used it, and had no idea what it was for).  And now the keyboard is pretty much like new. 

Key of the Kingdom.  It was a good lesson.  I could keep complaining, and fretting, and blaming my guardian angels, my Father, and my wife and cats, for letting me do something stupid.  Or I could take the typical American approach and just buy a new computer (easy to rationalize, since this one has several things wrong with it--though I can work around them).  Or... I could ask for wisdom.  And as Solomon learned, Wisdom (not ours but His) is one of the great Keys to the Kingdom (especially when fixing a Keyboard). 

Bill in a China Closet.  We've all heard of a "bull in a China closet."  Well, sometimes I feel like "Bill in the China closet," blundering around and causing havoc.  And today, Who knows what I'll break--whether things or people, or....? So I am starting this new day by asking for wisdom to do the right things, to avoid the wrongs things--and for wisdom to fix those things that I will mess up. Because I most certainly will mess something up today.  But that's okay, because that is how we learn--and grow.

As Paul said, "Be anxious for nothing."

And as Bill says, "But Lord, this ain't nothing!"  


Dr. Bill

Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jeremy Lin--Emblem of Asian-American Christianity

My wife, Susan Marie, told me about this very encouraging article about Jeremy Lin after seeing my earlier "Our Daily Noodles" blog entry about him.  Hope you enjoy it.  Click the Link at the bottom to view Steve Almasy's entire article.  Bill

Jeremy Lin emerges as emblem of burgeoning Asian-American Christianity

By Steve Almasy, CNN (Feb. 21st, 2012)
(CNN) – When Jeremy Lin was a sophomore at Harvard, he was struggling emotionally. A good guard on an awful basketball team – the Crimson finished the season with an 8-22 record – he needed something more than hoops.

Lin, who had been baptized into an evangelical Chinese church near San Francisco in ninth grade and had come to value Christian fellowship through his youth group, was part of the  Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship group, regularly attending Bible study.

But most of his life was spent with his basketball teammates and other athletes, he later told the Student Soul, a website of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

“It’s a tough environment and if you don’t have appropriate boundaries, you’ll compromise your faith,” he told the website, run by a major Christian college ministry, in 2010.

So, during his sophomore year, Lin stepped up his involvement in the Asian-American Christian group, about 80 members strong, gaining a sense of community that had eluded him.

Those kinds of stories are becoming increasingly commonplace as more second generation Asian-Americans like Lin join campus Christian groups, said Carolyn Chen, who directs Asian-American Studies at Northwestern University....

Asian-American Christianity, experts say, is growing along with that population boom, especially among second generation Chinese-Americans. Jeremy Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan and who talks openly about his Christian faith, has become a symbol of that trend.

Pyong Gap Min , a sociology professor at Queens College in New York, said there has been growth in the number of Asian-America Christian churches, though it is hard to get reliable numbers on the size of the community.

But Min said the number of Pan-Asian churches is increasing, especially on the West Coast, where congregations that have traditionally been dominated by one ethnicity have become multiethnic. Many of those churches are adding services specifically for second generation Asian-Americans, many of whom want services in English.

Chen said more Asian-Americans are also joining traditionally white evangelical congregations.

“You see Asians gaining more visibility in American evangelical circles,” Chen said. “What you are seeing is more integration.”
Lin grew up in Chinese churches. On college campuses, Asian Christian groups have grown up separately from the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Jeremy Yang, a senior at Harvard who sits on the board of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship, said his group offers a place where faith and culture intersect. Students feel comfortable being with and sharing their faith with other Asian-Americans, he said.

The Harvard group began in 1994 as part of the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship. So many Asians joined their Bible study that the founders decided to form a separate entity, he said.
“The growth was really explosive,” he said. “There is something about being Asian-American that attracted people into the fellowship.”

Fenggang Yang, author of “Chinese Christians in America: Conversion, Assimilation, and Adhesive Identities” and a professor at Purdue University, said Asians are drawn to Christianity partly by values that dovetail with Asian culture, including thrift, education and family.

“In that way it helps them assimilate into the U.S. culture while preserving important aspects of their cultures,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Evangelicals tend to have a value system that fits a widely held Asian desire for order and success, he writes in his book, adding via e-mail that Lin is being lifted up as an example of those values.
Despite being a superstar in high school, Lin received no scholarship offers to college. And despite being a high-scoring player by his senior year in college, he didn't get drafted by the NBA.

Lin signed a free agent contract with the Golden State Warriors and seemed to get in the game only when his team was way ahead or far behind.

The Warriors sent him down to a developmental league, where he fought emotional battles while on long, late-night bus rides, he told an audience at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara, California, last year.

Lin, who until last month was sitting on his third bench in his short pro career, was given a chance to play when some fellow New York Knicks were injured. He responded with a record-setting stretch of games in which he scored more points in his first five starts than stars like Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson had over a similar number of games.

As a student, Lin led what the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship calls a "family group," a small group devoted to Bible study and praying for others.

"A lot of people looked up to him because he was good at sports and really solid in his faith," said Yang, the Harvard senior.

Lin, who has said he may become a pastor someday, credits his rise as a professional athlete to understanding the way God was working in his life and developing a trust in God’s plan.

"I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore," he told the San Jose Mercury News last week.

But there have been plenty of struggles.

When he was sent down to the minor league the first time, Lin told a church group last year, he turned to his pastor, Stephen Chen, at the Church in Christ in Mountain View, California. Chen told him to spend an hour a day with God.

Lin memorized a few Bible verses, Chen says, including a passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament that reads in part: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Chen told CNN's Sandra Endo last week that Lin doesn't believe in a prosperity gospel, where having great faith means everything will always work out.

"It's true hard things may come and you're not guaranteed an outcome but through it all, there'll be joy because you're walking with the Lord," Chen said. "The greatest joy you could have. Greater joy than being a professional NBA basketball player all-star."

Michael Chang, a Taiwanese-American who was once the second ranked tennis player in the world, said Lin will need to keep a balance in his life that can be hard in the world of competitive sports.

Sports stars are offered a tricky platform, said Chang, who now plays tennis on the Champions Tour and runs a Christian foundation that administers several sports leagues. People will listen to your every word, but they also watch your every move, waiting to see what you will do in public, he said. They  equate your value with your success or lack of it in the spotlight.

"As believers, we don't measure it that way," Chang said. "For us, it's going out there, knowing the Lord, and being able to take all the talents and gifts that you've been given and use that as a platform to  touch lives and touch hearts."

Lin told the Mercury News that his own battle as a believer continues.

"There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now," Lin told the paper. "To try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that's not how I want to do things anymore. I'm thinking about how can I trust God more? How can I surrender more?

"It's a fight,” he said. “But it's one I'm going to keep fighting."
- Producer/Writer
Click Here to View Entire Article on Original Page

Bill Brown Xiamen University

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jeremy Lin Linsanity, God's Fingerprints?

Jeremy Lin God's Fingerprints?
Click for great CNN article on Lin!

Linsanity is catching on even here in China!  Of course, it's nice to finally see an athlete who is solidly grounded and Centered--and I don't mean self-centered, like most of the athletes the media fawns over.  Just what is Jeremy Lin's Center?   Jeremy said of his  meteoric rise to fame, "God's fingerprints are all over the place."

Of course, we all have the stereotype of the calm, inscrutable Asian (and after 24 years in Asia, I've learned to marvel at Asian's generally admirable sense of propriety and control, but I've also learned they too have their limits),  but Jeremy Lin, for all his athletic prowess, seems a model of cool, Centered peace, even in the midst of Linsanity.   What a model for youth today.

Below is an excerpt from the Guideposts website.  Keep soaring, Jeremy Lin--and keep Centered!

Jeremy Lin said,  "If you look back at my story, doesn't matter where you look, but God's fingerprints are all over the place. You can try to call it coincidence, but at the end of the day, there are 20, 30 things when you combine them all that had to happen at the right time in order for me to be here. That's why I call it a miracle.”

Bill Brown Xiamen University