Behind The Stories: Floor Of Heaven, Roof Of Earth
I've always been pretty sentimental and nostalgic. And places - like people - can leave lasting impressions. This is why our family always returns to Carpinteria Beach when we're visiting southern, California, and why we spend summer after summer back at Lake Dillon in Frisco, Colorado. And why I moved back to a very special city in southwest China after having spent two summers leading short-term mission teams there. What can I say? The place just seemed to call to me! So I pitched an idea to the sending organization I had been serving with for years - I will move to China and live year-round in the city and welcome, host, and lead future teams from there - they agreed and GoYear was born! Two brave female college students even signed on to go with me. For the next 18 months, this amazing city and the fascinating surrounding countryside would be my home and giant backyard.
From the preface to "Floor Of Heaven, Roof Of Earth": I was first introduced to the untamed rivers of southwest China when I spent two years as a foreign exchange student at a small university there. Catching a bus from the city for a half hour’s ride out to a large bridge at the foot of a Miao village and then swimming, floating, and hiking my way back to town was one of the recurring highlights of my time in that special place. Years later, my wife, children, and I would call that city our home. We spent countless hours, alone and with friends, splashing in the currents (sometimes with water buffalo!), barbecuing over hot coals on rocky shorelines, and exploring endless trails from one village to the next. Our oldest child was even baptized in one of our favorite streams. The beauty of the landscape was only surpassed by the beauty of the people who call these mountains, valleys, and rivers their home. We will never forget them. — D.C. Lee
I don't even remember when I wrote my original version of "Floor Of Heaven, Roof Of Earth". It could have been after one of my first summer trips to southwest China, or during my time as the GoYear leader, but most likely I wrote this story after moving back to the States to get married. What I do remember was once again missing my old home away from home and writing this story was both therapeutic and a way for me to return - at least in my mind. What's interesting is that the original version was just a secular - not at all spiritual - story about the relationship between a grandson and grandfather and the river they both loved. It was more about the Circle of Life and how knowledge and wisdom are passed down from one generation to another. There was no redemption, no lasting hope in the end and that always bothered me a little. As satisfied as I was with the overall original story - especially after discovering and adding the Chinese water-color landscape images - I felt like something was missing. Perhaps this is why I never tried to publish the story, but just kept it safe and tucked away...like a personal and private journal entry.
Then in early 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic, our family decided to leave China and return to Texas thinking that we would be safer in America. We left behind our home, almost all of our personal belongings (5 years worth), and many, many dear friends with whom we never even had the chance to say goodbye in person since the entire country was on lockdown. We had no idea at the time, that we would never step foot in our home again. A few months after our return to the States and living in my in-laws' house, I discovered a box tucked away in a closet. Inside that box were a lot of my old journals, spiral notebooks, and manuscripts. And that is where I found my original version of "Floor Of Heaven, Roof Of Earth". I quickly read through the story and it brought back so many memories of my time in China: as a summer missionary, as a GoYear leader and foreign-exchange student, with my wife and children serving together as a missionary family. The story still spoke to me, but immediately I knew what was missing. Over the years I had spent many hours in many villages speaking with many Christian villagers who all shared the same kinds of stories of God coming to them through the testimony of a visiting evangelist, or smuggled copies of the Bible, or miraculous healing, visions, and dreams. And so now I knew how to finally finish the story of Yanqi and his grandfather and give them the ending they deserved.
I'm very excited that "Floor Of Heaven, Roof Of Earth" vividly and authentically captures the reality of God's ancient and ongoing work in southwest China and around the world. The story, like the main characters themselves, has been redeemed!