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The Value of Suffering 4

The Lord Holds My Hand

In 1959, I moved to Beijing after my brother successfully applied for my resident status there. I tutored his eight children and took care of the housework. The children were very obedient and respectful, and I loved them. Despite my exhaustion, I was very thankful. The political climate in Beijing was tense but the Lord’s leading was wonderful as always. Fortunately, I was granted resident status in Beijing because that saved me from many dangerous situations and abusive treatment.

In 1960, many, many people died from the famine in the provinces of Anhui and Henan. There was no job or land to farm. Suffering from hunger, my mother sought refuge with my brother in Beijing. Fortunately, the Lord led me to Beijing first, or else my mother, my son, Zan Mei, and I would have had to starve again. Isn’t it always true that although I do not know what the future holds, the Lord always leads me by his hand. I really must thank the Lord for his protection.

At last, my husband was released
from hard labor camp!

In 1961, my husband was suddenly moved by the prison authorities to Qinghai Lake to fish. At that time, famine was everywhere in the country. Countless numbers of ordinary people had died from starvation, not to mention hard labor camp convicts. Fish was my husband’s favorite food, and he was filled every day with this extremely nutritious food: steamed bread

fried in fish oil. He went to Qinghai with 2,000 inmates but only 200 survived. After four months at Qinghai Lake, he was very fit, in fact the heaviest he had ever weighed. Oh, what a wonderful Lord! All glory is his and he gives his glory to his children. Later, everybody offered up thanks to the Lord when my husband finally returned home.

That winter, his fellow hard labor inmates were released to go home. However, my husband was not on the name list of those who were to be released. The day came when everybody else took their seats on the bus to return home. He stood nearby, waiting to see how the Lord would lead him because the Lord had told him that those who had been captured would return home. At the last minute, when things began to seem hopeless, his name was called and he was told to get on the bus speedily. He was filled with thankfulness. Nobody can obstruct the Lord’s will because he is in command.

It happened, therefore, that one early morning in December, my husband suddenly appeared before our eyes. He had not previously informed us when he would return, so I felt as though I was dreaming. I was absolutely incredulous and thanked the Lord for his wonderful working. The Lord delights to allow his servants who revere him to return peacefully.

Through Dr. Chen’s recommendation, my husband began working in the Central Hospital of my hometown. There were altogether four doctors in the Department of Internal Medicine. They were all Christians who had been persecuted for their faith. The Lord especially blessed them with his protection in the short days they enjoyed together so that they declared his lovingkindness to be sweeter than honey.

My second son was born in August 1963. Then came the Si Qing (Four Cleanups) Campaign. Once again, my husband had to attend brainwashing sessions in a political school. As before, he constantly suffered verbal attack and received ruthless criticism for many things, such as his “bourgeois thinking” and belief in God. Eventually, he was sent to work at a printing press as a form of “correction through labor.” Although the job was designed to torment him, he overcame difficulties and whatever he did, he did well. Even the most experienced workers could not match his agility and skill. The Spirit of God was with him, blessing him with wisdom because he revered God in all that he did.

That same year, I was fired while I was teaching in the county kindergarten because of my faith. Yet I thank the Lord for giving me two hands to provide for the family through knitting. I knitted with two other sisters and was unspeakably happy. Thank the Lord who provided strength for each day so that my heart remained steadfast and my feet stayed on his path.

Becoming a Spectacle to the World

In 1965, the Cultural Revolution began. We had to be “re-educated” all the time. Once we understood what we were taught, we had to launch public taunts and criticisms against “bull spirits and snake gods,” an expression used to describe superstitious religious beliefs. I could not bring myself to participate and therefore quickly became a target. Every day, we had to brace ourselves against bullying and insults.

On July 17, 1965, in the early morning, I gave birth to our daughter. My husband named her Chen Shi, which means ‘Angel of Dawn’. She was born with boils all over her body. So much medication had to be applied on her body that she hardly looked like a baby. What is more, we were struck by a heat wave during the following month, with temperatures reaching 40oC. Our small room was so hot and stuffy that we could not sleep. So we sat outside in the yard all day, feeling dizzy and stifled by the heat. On top of that, my baby was sickly due to malnutrition. Yet after two months, thank the Lord, she gradually improved and color returned to her cheeks.

Between 1965 and 1969, there was not a day of peace for us. If it was not listening to violent verbal abuse and accusation, it was parading on the streets wearing tall dunce hats covered with shameful incriminations. My husband stood out because he was tall, to begin with. We were made a spectacle to the world because of unfounded charges.

I often prayed and had fellowship with a sister who was living in the same neighborhood. So our persecutors accused us of carrying out secret activities and brought that sister, my husband and me, for rigorous public interrogation. Furthermore, they charged us with a baffling accusation -- sending telegrams to Taiwan! So they imprisoned us and repeatedly searched our homes. During this time, my husband suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure and stomach ulcers. If it were not for the Lord’s compassion, it would have been very hard for him to endure these ailments. Indeed, if the Lord had not stayed by us, we would have lost courage very early on.

In the winter of 1969, we were xia fang, that is, sent to a rural area.* We told ourselves that it was not that bad. At least we would escape the political turmoil in the city. Little did we know what was coming.

One day, a truck drove up beside me and some men told me to get on. “Wait until my husband and children return and we’ll leave together,” I said. But they refused and dragged me along the ground like a dead pig. My hands were scraped and cut and my body was bleeding badly. Just at this time, my husband and children turned up and our persecutors pushed us all onto the truck. They took us against our will to a place about fifty kilometers away. They then instructed village officials and farmers to tighten surveillance over us, saying that we were top-level spies and counter-revolutionaries. Again, we were paraded in the streets wearing dunce hats on our heads and placards around our necks and once more, we became a spectacle for all to see. Our persecutors in the village were as bad as the ones in the city. If the Lord had not given us superhuman strength, those days would have been unbearable. Every thought of the Lord brought much sweetness and comfort. How deeply I felt that I could not, even for a moment, do without the Lord who loves us.

After some time, the village folk changed their attitude towards us, becoming more warm and friendly. We no longer seemed so frightening to them. My husband treated many difficult medical cases, thus winning their hearts and favor. Later, some farmers started a community clinic and invited him to be the doctor in attendance. There, he successfully treated many patients and the country folk were delighted because many of the ailments troubling them were healed.

Sometime later, however, the wife of Secretary Li of the production brigade fell ill. After attending to her, my husband charged her a fee, just as he did all the villagers. The Secretary was extremely unhappy, as he had not been shown special favor. So he found an excuse and said, “Old Xia, you still have problems with your political standing and ideology and need to undergo self-criticism before going back to your job.”

During the torrential rain,
every part of our ceiling leaked
except for an area about the size
of a desk. Our whole family
squeezed into that corner
and my husband led us in
singing songs of praise.

Secretary Li was seized with such a terrible rage that he ordered the Head of the production department to impose tighter restrictions on my husband and to give him the most difficult and the most strenuous manual labor to do. As a result, my husband’s old illnesses resurfaced. He was so ill that he could not get out of bed. From then on, all the farmers thought very highly of their Dr. Xia and he was regarded as a man of integrity and fairness. He established a reputation for godliness among the villagers and so won their trust. We give thanks to the Lord for this.

Eleven years after we were sent to the village, our house burned down. We rebuilt the house the following year, only to have it torn apart again by a hurricane. During the torrential rain, every part of our ceiling leaked except for an area about the size of a desk. Our whole family squeezed into that corner and my husband led us in singing songs of praise. Our voices rang with joy. The villagers, however, thought that we were wailing because our house had collapsed. But when they came over to comfort us, they were surprised to find us singing! They ridiculed us. We understood, however, that all things work out for good for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28). We rejoiced, relying on God’s promises as he put his peace in our hearts.

Another time, while we were pounding wheat on open ground, strong winds arose, churning up the wheat and blowing it into the river. We had been looking forward so eagerly to the harvest and to being able to eat steamed buns. Now, all our hard work had come to nothing. All that we had grown disappeared into the water before us. The villagers sighed hopelessly, but we gave thanks to the Lord despite the endless difficulties we encountered. I recalled the Lord’s words in Luke 22:28, “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” When we relied on the Lord, our hearts felt relieved and contented. In spite of constant suffering, we could still leap for joy.

Rebuilding Our Home

After eleven years of exile, everybody was able to return home – except for us. We had thought of pulling some strings to get the permit, but we had neither the money nor the energy. So we decided that if the Lord so willed that we never leave the village, it would be good enough for us. Then, out of the blue, my younger sister from Hong Kong visited me. When she learned that I had been sent to the countryside by the government, she went to the authorities and asked, “What crime has my sister committed? Please tell me why has she still not been allowed to return home?” Thanks be to the Lord! It only took one day for the government authorities to process my city residency permit and to deliver it to my sister. I did not exert an ounce of energy and we were thus able to see his glory. Nothing is impossible for our God!

I started a kindergarten
in the city.
Our family worship also began at
the same time that we opened
the kindergarten.

On December 23, 1980, I moved back to the city. I thank the Lord that my sister built a three-room house for us to live in. Two years later, the Lord inspired me to open a kindergarten in our home. On the one hand, this solved our financial difficulties, and on the other, it provided schooling for the children in the neighborhood. Most children could not attend public kindergarten, as recommendation letters from three levels of authority were required. My kindergarten, therefore, relieved many parents’ headaches. They appreciated it despite its poor conditions. The government also supported us, and I was awarded the title of “Model Worker.” All things went smoothly because the Lord’s hand was in them.

Our family worship also began at the same time that we opened the kindergarten. Furthermore, my children began schooling and our hearts were filled with praise. With the Lord’s special blessing, our long-yearned-for dreams were realized – my husband preached and led Bible studies and we served the Lord together. We saw the Lord working to reveal his glory and many people were added to our gathering. However, we also drew the attention of the ‘Three Self’ Church. They invited my husband to preach there and also to work at their hospital, but he turned them down. Later, they made trouble for us by reporting our family worship to the authorities. Because our gathering was not registered and therefore had no permit from the government, we were not allowed to meet. The government authorities ordered that we stop holding meetings. And so the believers were scattered. However, we continued to meet in twos and threes for worship and fellowship, although we were kept under close surveillance. The Lord himself protected us.

The Spreading Fire

One night in February 1993, I dreamed that my husband went to be with the Lord. In my dream I saw us singing “God Be with You till We Meet Again,” “The Heavenly Father is Faithful” and “On That Glorious Shore.” I also saw a brother preaching, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. It was like a revival meeting. I had never seen anything like this before and I was very happy. The next morning, I told my husband that I had had a dream. He reproached me, saying that I should not be talking about dreams early in the morning. So I said, “You must listen to this because it is important and it has to do with you.”

“All right, tell me!” he replied. After he heard it, he was extremely happy. From then on, I had a premonition that something out of my expectation would happen to him.

On March 15, 1993, on our 40th wedding anniversary, my husband fell seriously ill. Our children were all by his bedside and donated blood to him. He could not drink but he was still very alert and logical in his speech. All our children respected their father and loved to listen to his words of wisdom.

On our 40th wedding anniversary,
my husband was struck with
a serious illness.

During the night of March 29th, my husband suddenly cried out, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”

Our children asked him, “Papa, why are you so happy?”

He replied, “I saw the heavens opening up for me. The Lord will bring me home soon.”

The other patients also heard his loud cry. And he asked them to believe in the Lord Jesus quickly. The following day, our whole family held a worship service at the hospital with my husband preaching. He exhorted us, saying, “After I depart, the church must resume worship again.”

All our children were there at the scene when their father said this. Our younger son then said, “I want to dedicate myself for the Lord’s use. Please pray for me, Papa.” So my husband laid hands on his head to pray for him and dedicated him to the Lord.

On April 1st, the Lord took my husband. His face looked radiant, as though he was asleep. Peacefully, he went to see Jesus. Never again would he have sorrow and tears as he would be with the Lord from then on.

On April 5th, three hundred people came to the funeral home for the memorial service. Even before that, many had come to keep vigil, pleading with the Lord to safeguard us from any disturbance. The Lord was, indeed, with us, and the Holy Spirit’s power was at work on that day.

The preacher and the brother who prayed were both empowered by the Holy Spirit. Never before had we seen such a Spirit-filled scene and we were inspired. The Manager of the funeral home said, “In all my years here, I have never seen such a solemn and godly sight. The hymns were so touching and I have never heard such beautiful music. Who is the deceased? Why have so many people come to pay their respects? How very moving! It must be wonderful to believe in God as he did. We would like to believe in God too.”

The following day,
our whole family held a
worship service at the hospital
with my husband preaching.

The police were present at the memorial service. They had kept watch over my husband for all these years. Thank the Lord for protecting him continually from these men until his death.

When the Lord took my dear husband away, I was left in deep sorrow. We had been fighting the spiritual battle together for all these years, sharing the same heart and mind. I was at a loss without my co-worker. Although my children loved the Lord, they were immature. With many brothers and sisters in the church to care for, I felt limited in strength and begged the Lord for a co-worker. I thank him for hearing my earnest pleas. From that time onwards, brothers and sisters began to visit and help me regularly. My younger son also had the opportunity to be trained to serve the Lord. He loved the Lord so much that he resigned from his job at a research institute in order to learn to serve him single-mindedly.

After my husband’s death, my eldest son also began to love the Lord. He said, “Papa has died, but I have come to life.” He sincerely hopes that one day, he too, will be trained to serve the Lord. May the Lord grant him that opportunity! During these few years, the Lord has been with me, and a dear pastor has been showing his concern for me in many ways. Many brothers and sisters have been wholeheartedly helping me. The church has grown a great deal. And my younger son has returned home after his training. When he saw that I was not in good health, he told me to make sure to get enough rest. I thank the Lord for my son’s love. The Lord has allowed me to draw near to him in quietness during these final years of my life. How truly wonderful he is!

Presently, I am a white-haired,
old lady who suffers from
a range of illnesses.

Conclusion

I recall the difficult times in my life when, through the many tribulations and sufferings, I did not forget my Lord Jesus Christ who died for me on the cross. I did not disobey his words and I gained comfort from this. So I could still leap with joy in the midst of constant suffering.

Suffering has been good for me. Suffering has caused me to learn his commandments. The Lord has allowed me to taste much bitter sorrow, which has turned to be my blessing today. My sons, daughters-in-law and daughter all believe in the Lord and are very filial towards me as well. When Christians and non-Christians greatly admire the harmony our family enjoys and tell me how blessed I am, I thank the Lord, who shows mercy to me and gives me grace which surpasses my understanding and needs.

Presently, I am a white-haired, old lady who suffers from a range of illnesses. But I am still just as determined to love the Lord as much as I did in my younger days. May he uphold me until I see him face to face! As I complete this testimony, I sincerely hope that it will be helpful to brothers and sisters who intend to serve the Lord. Please remember, however, that I am just an ordinary elderly sister. Do not think of me more highly than I deserve because that would beinappropriate.

Because of the Lord’s compassion, he will not quench a smoldering wick like me (Matthew 12:20). Therefore by his grace and through the leading of the Holy Spirit, I hope that brothers and sisters will encourage each other to run the race together, to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

A weak member of the Lord’s body,

Jing Rong

October 1999

 

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