Sunday, October 7, 2012

Darlin’... I’d Come Find You.

The Forbidden City
Nine days. We have already spent nine whole days in a world that was only possible to imagine through movies like Mulan and pictures in a history book. We are currently in Beijing, China. What in the world? It has been nine days since we arrived in China but my mind still cannot fathom exactly where I am. It feels like a constant state of bewilderment and fascination.

Today was our first full day in Beijing after leaving Qingdao, and I had no idea the same country could be so vastly different by city. The population in Beijing is about triple that of Qingdao. As I walked in awe through a sea of people at the incredible sites of Tienamen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven I felt a bit overwhelmed, yet completely safe as a man that has so quickly captured my heart only gripped tighter and tighter to my hand. This man’s name is Don Sexton and every day as I have sat and soaked in every bit of his stories, I thank the Lord for men like him, and the blessing to get to know him.

Carissa Westfall and Don Sexton walk
 together through The Forbidden City
I am naturally a pretty possessive and territorial person, which I know can come across as a flaw, but I have come to the conclusion that it all depends on perspective. Before this trip began I made a goal to return to my kindergarten roots and be a good sharer. Yet, it never dawned on me that someone else could possibly be just as territorial and possessive as I am. Mr. Sexton actively seeks Nathan Hartsell (who was also paired up with Mr. Sexton), and I out. His bright blue eyes light up and he comes to life when he talks to us. He will come up beside me and grabs my hand or holds out his arm to escort me. His comments of, “Where have you been darlin’? I have been lookin’ everywhere for you,” melt my heart. Don truly cares for us and wants us to learn from his mistakes. He tells us all about Charlie and the war, but he makes it a point to talk to us about life in general. Don tells us stories about his life before he gave himself to Lord, and of the impact the Lord has made in his life since then. God is given the glory always and He reiterates the importance of this always. Don is even the master of marriage advice and Nathan and I can only stare and say, “Yes sir.” His beautiful wife, Thelma, is on the trip as well and seeing their relationship and the way he treats her and talks of her validates all that he has to say.

Students shared a spot at "the center of the universe."

Walking through the gardens at The Temple of Heaven
 
There were many beautiful architectural features in The Forbidden City.

I feel beyond blessed to be in China where I have the amazing opportunity to see sites where so much history that is so important to an entire nation took place, and to not just have the opportunity to get to know and love a man like Don Sexton, but also be loved by him. A moment on this trip that I will never forget was on Pagoda Pier where Mr. Sexton had a death grip on my hand. We were trying frantically to weave through a sea of more people than either of us had ever seen before. Don was leading the way and we were squeezing through people trying to keep up to the group as best we could. I was a little girl again trying to stay close to Don. I yelled out that I wouldn’t know what I would do if I got lost in this place. Don stopped dead in his tracks and I obviously did not get the memo and ran right into him. He solemnly stood his ground and intently said, “Darlin’... I’d come find you.” This eighty-three year old man is a veteran, yes of course, but Mr. Don Sexton is now MY veteran and my hero.


Carissa Westfall


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