Esther’s entry in to China was through Shanghai, a port city where many Europeans and American lived and worked. It was a good place for her to buy supplies before traveling all the way inland to Sichuan.
Our first stop in Shanghai was also Esther’s first stop some of the times she entered China. The majestic gray brick house was the Lutheran Hostel. The address now is 310 Changde Lu, but then was 310 Hart Road.
At the front door are mailboxes for the current tenants, whose landlord is the army. The dusty front entry hall is the garage for the tenants’ vehicles–bicycles. They are parked on old crosses woven into the pattern of the mosaic floor.
The once-grand stairway has been stripped of the carpet it probably wore and the vista bottom-to-top is blocked by plain wood dividing walls. But the steps are still wide and the bannisters ornate. The day’s gloomy light is still colored by some remaining stained glass in the landing windows.
The one tenant we spoke with was annoyed at having his breakfast interrupted, so we didn’t see any of the rooms.
On the front door is a tiny red plate that says the building is of historical value. The plate is old and not the same as current historical preservation notices. So it isn’t clear whether this building can survive with high rise apartments and offices looming around its prime real estate.
Later we looked for the Baptist Guest House where Esther stayed other times. Maybe we found it, maybe we didn’t. It seems most likely that it’s beneath a golden glass tube of a high rise.
So, for these to be our first stops of the Esther Expedition is a good reminder: We will find tangible reminders of Esther’s life in China, but tangible remains are not the important things to look for. We must have our eyes open for the eternal that remains.
You can see photos from the Lutheran Hostel.
Now we’re off to worship at one of the churches where Esther visited at least once passing through Shanghai.
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