With asphalt back under our feet, Steve and I kept following the North Road. For a few miles we saw nothing but the road ahead, the expanse of the valley and the inquisitive faces of people passing us by on all kinds of vehicles, from motorcycles to trucks to the strangely designed tractors they used to till the land. Each face met us with the same confused look and lit up with the same childlike enthusiasm when we said "Ni hao."
We had still seen no sign of Village 1 when the paved road changed to dirt. I, for one, started wondering whether following the North Road was such a good idea. We finally had started to pass some areas of civilization. At a little restaurant/store, a lady tried to have Steve take her baby with him. Apparently she thought Steve could provide a better life for it. She may have been right, but Steve couldn't accept her offer, and we trudged on. We stopped for a moment at a school on our left where we heard the sound of children playing.
With Village 1 still nowhere in sight, we kept steadily moving. Steve never wavered about his decision to follow this road. He took a right onto a little driveway next to a fish pond. I wondered why we were turning right, when the first village on our map was supposed to be on the west side of the main road. Traveling north, that would have meant taking a left. I followed Steve quietly, but in my head and under my breath I was screaming, "Where are you GOING?!"
The detour led us into a labyrinth of villages, none of which could be found anywhere on our map. Each village had a signpost which could have helped us a ton if we had been on the correct side of the road. When I challenged him about his decision, Steve responded with something like, "Don't worry, these people need the gospel too!" I agreed, but I wanted to make sure we hit the villages on the map so that follow-up teams would have a charted course to follow with a relatively stable idea of which villages had already been exposed to the Good News. To me, each false turn had long-term implications for the future success of this mission.
After canvassing 6 or 7 of these uncharted villages, flinging VCDs over back fences and into vehicles, we came to a crossroads in our journey. We dropped our packs for a rest next to an old Buddhist temple on the outskirts of the last in a string of uncharted villages. We couldn't hear anything going on inside--no chants or anything--but we could see by the offerings laid inside the outdoor shrines posted at each door let us know that the temple was still active.
Propping our packs against the outer wall of the temple, we prayed together that God would break the bondage this temple had over its patrons, that the demons that distracted hearts from the true God would be totally deterred and that the Lord would be enthroned among these people.
A few times while praying this prayer, I had to stop and take special note of what my mouth was saying. Am I really addressing demons, those unseen creatures that follow the Father of Lies? Am I really trying to break down some wall in a realm my eyes can't even see? Being slow to comprehend this only reinforced the fact that I keep my mind on temporal things too much of the time. Acknowledging demonic powers is no less reasonable than praying to God or believing in the Resurrection. The same word that attests to God speaks of demons, and if I could believe the good promises of the Father with such ease, I must certainly accept his commission to fight a war going on in a different level of reality. Living in the full light of eternity is something that is still difficult for me. But God was teaching me to depend on him, that although I couldn't see the effects of my prayers, he was accomplishing things in the spirit realm.