To reach Village 3, we had to follow a meandering path past a big tree and along a fork or two in the road. Two ponds located on the eastern side of the path would be landmarks to let us know we were getting close.
We ascended up a hill and veered left to enter a grove of bamboo trees. I stopped to look at a patch of tea trees climbing in distinct rows up a hill on the right side of the road. For some reason, this spot felt vaguely familiar, like we had been there before. For a second, I entertained the possibility that we had been traveling in circles. Then it hit me.
"This is the place we saw in one of the pictures," I told Steve, referring to our training session in which we had been shown various photos of the route to help us keep on track.
Grateful for the assurance, we followed the path into the bamboo forest. Steve and I felt dwarfed as we walked in the shadows. The sheer height and diameter of the shoots made them unlike any bamboo I had seen before. They compared better with our pine trees than the dainty bamboo hedges people plant in the states.
As we admired the giant stalks, we ran upon an obstacle. Two Chinese men had successfully felled a large bamboo tree and now undertook the daunting task of dragging it through the tangled brush and across the road into a pile they had already begun. Seeing them struggle, Steve joined them in their tug-of-war against the botanical behemoth.
Within a few minutes, Steve had helped them free the tree from a snag. The inertia from his pull helped him drag it (or was it dragging him?) by himself across the road.
This was the first of many polite gestures by Steve on this trip. He firmly believed that the gospel could only take root here if people associated it with the love of Jesus. For Steve, it was not enough to leave a message on someone's doorstep. He wanted to be the message. He wanted our interactions with one another and with the people to express in an unspoken language what the VCD's would explain in their native tongue: God is love, and a relationship with him will breed peace, joy, and love for one another.