Chinese New Year is the most celebrated holiday of the year. Celebrations tend to be muted in the large cities, but the traditions are well maintained in the countryside. Families unite for large banquets, hours of games and visits, and dramatic home firework displays that blast late into the night.


Today begins the Year of the Horse. We greeted each other with a common expression, ma dao cheng gong, which means, "I hope you win immediate success." This idiom, which literally means to be victorious the moment the battle horse arrives, is commonly used to wish others well. As we recovered from the new year festivities, the late afternoon clouds gave way to the sun's rays. The cabbage patch and the valley beyond took on a golden glow. We took this sunburst as a sign from God, reminding us of his love and grace.