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The Value of Suffering 3

Not a Cock’s Crow for a Thousand Miles

We went to Xuzhou first, then north onto Lincheng. The Lincheng Railway line was the center of intense guerrilla fighting against the Japanese. Only after arriving at Lincheng did we discover that all northbound railway routes had been suspended because Communist troops were garrisoned there. An area of about eighty miles between Lincheng and Tengxian was designated as a ceasefire zone for both armies. In other words, we had to walk across to Tengxian. It was a freezingly cold day in the lunar twelfth month, after the winter solstice. Darkness was setting in early as we trudged along.

It was as though we had walked into an uninhabited area. We did not see a single soul during the whole day’s walk. As was written in ancient books, in times of war, not even a cock’s crow could be heard for a thousand miles in the central plains. We experienced exactly the same sad circumstances. We did not see any troops, but we sometimes heard gunfire nearby. Sometimes, shots even flew past our heads! As we walked, I said to my sister-in-law, “We must pray to God. Had he not saved you, you would never have got out of the detention camp. Now, we must beg him to lead us forward.” So we prayed as we walked. And finally, we arrived at Tengxian deep in the night.

Pastor Li Zai Dao accommodated us with warm hospitality. My sister-in-law could hardly contain her excitement at returning to a Communist garrisoned area. Early the next morning, as she ran to the Communist county committee hall, she saw her husband walk out of the same building. My brother was stunned when he heard her calling his name. He stood, mumbling repeatedly, “I’m not dreaming, am I?”

I had only stayed at Tengxian for one day when my brother said to me, “This is not a place for you to stay long. Our troops will pull out soon. Leave as soon as you can.”

Early the next morning, my brother sent his bodyguard to walk me home. We took the same route by which I had come. Again, not a soul could be seen along the way. After about twenty miles or so, the bodyguard seemed to sense something and did not want to go any further. He said, “It’s too dangerous ahead! I just can’t chaperone you anymore. You’ll have to continue on your own.” With that, he turned and left me – a defenseless young lady -- all alone on the road! What was more, it was getting dark. I called on God: “O Lord, please save me!”

Just then, I saw a weak, flickering light far in the distance. I told myself that it was probably Lincheng. I headed towards the light, praying as I went. “O Lord, please don’t let me run into any bandits or wild beasts,” I cried. “Please bring me safely to Lincheng.”

About two and a half kilometers from Lincheng, a few men jumped out of the dark. Apparently, they were Nationalist soldiers on sentry duty. They began to question me: Where was I from? Where was I going? Why was I still on the road in the dark? I was very calm. I told them that I was on my way home, and I showed them that I had nothing except a Bible. They looked inside my cloth bag and hastily waved me on.

Only after arriving at Lincheng did I realize that although this was a fairly large city, there was not a civilian in sight. The streets were filled with troops. Worried, I wondered where I would spend the night. I began to cry out to God. While in prayer, I saw an elderly man walking past me. I ran up to him and shouted, “Sir, where can I find a guesthouse?”

Looking at me, he replied, “You’re looking for a guesthouse? I don’t see any civilians around. Do you?”

“You’re right,” I said. “But I’d like to find a place to stay overnight.”

He pondered deeply for a while and said, “At such a time, where can you find a guesthouse to stay in?”

“Any kind of place will do. I just need to rest,” I said.

The kind old man replied, “It looks like you’ll have to stay with me.”

The old man’s ‘home’ was a run-down thatched hut. There was only one bed. After lighting the kerosene lamp, he said, “Behind the door, there’s some hay you can sleep on.” As he spoke, he handed me a torn quilt. I sat down on the pile of hay, drew up my legs in front of me and covered myself over my head with the torn quilt.

In the middle of the night, there was a thunderous banging on the door. The old man jumped out of bed to open it. Six or seven soldiers entered, asking him if anyone had come to the house. “Nobody!” he replied. They said that if they found anyone staying with him, he would be in serious trouble. During that night alone, soldiers barged into the house three times. Because of the tiny size of the hut, the soldiers stepped on my feet whenever they opened the door to walk through. Yet I was never discovered. I have to thank God for this because I know that it was he who blinded their eyes so that they did not find me, even as they stood right beside me. Since I did not want to endanger the old man, I said, “Let me leave – otherwise, I’ll bring you trouble.”

“Of course not!” he replied. “You’re just a girl! If they arrest you, you’ll be ruined!”

It was close to the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) when I arrived home. Lying in bed, listening to the occasional sounds of firecrackers, and thinking over the events of the past few days, I felt as though it was all a dream. I thought to myself, “Had it not been for the Lord’s protection, I don’t know where I would be!” So I was determined to love the Lord ever deeper, just as he had shown his love to me.

In 1947, during the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists, there was a time when I took my students to hide in a room. A bomb landed on a house not far from us and my leg was injured by shrapnel. Many others were injured too. Yet the Lord had compassion on me so that I recovered swiftly after the operation to remove the shrapnel. I thank the Lord for saving me from death.

When I entered seminary,
I was rejoicing as though
I had entered the new heaven
and the new earth!

Rejoicing in My Heart

At the end of 1948, China was liberated. I did not want to continue teaching because I wanted to focus on the Lord. God remembered my heart’s desire the following year, giving me an opportunity to enter China Theological Seminary.

In this new period of turmoil, nobody could travel within the country without a letter of recommen-dation or travel permit. Railway operations near my home were suspended, so I had no choice but to walk ninety kilometers in two days to Bangbu. There, I took a train to Nanjing, where I stayed with my elder sister. Soon after, through Pastor Xie’s recommendation, I entered the seminary. I was rejoicing as though I had entered the new heaven and the new earth!

It was as though every blade of grass and every plant in the seminary were inspiring me to press on for the Lord. I found my schoolmates to be friendly, with many admirable qualities. In those three years, I learned something about the truth, and my life was renewed to a certain degree. Yet, I was far from satisfied. I still endeavored to pursue Christ Jesus with all my strength that I might gain him.

During the time I spent in seminary, I volunteered to go to the leprosarium every week in order to lead the Sunday worship. Many of the others in the seminary were unwilling to go because the appearance of the leprous patients struck fear into their hearts. Nevertheless, I was not affected. These patients lived at the foot of a hill and they exerted their diseased bodies in every way in order to get to the church at the top of the hill for worship.

Whenever they saw us coming, they would welcome us as though the Lord himself was coming to them. Each time, I was moved to tears. The Lord kept drawing me closer to him and giving me deeper compassion and love for them. In fact, I felt that it was not I that was helping them, but rather they who were helping me to love the Lord more deeply. Unfortunately, when the government took over the management of the leprosarium, I lost the opportunity to visit them.

I especially cherish the memory of a teacher from England at the seminary. Indeed, she was a faithful servant of the Lord and lived out the image of Christ in her life. God’s power and wisdom of speech so dwelt in her that every encounter with her brought a vivid teaching from him.

I saw her off at the train station when she left Hangzhou in 1952. Not knowing when I would ever see her again, my heart ached and I could not hold back my tears. When some soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army saw me, they called me a “running dog” for the foreign imperialists – in other words, a traitor. How could they ever understand spiritual things?

Our hearts were knit into one,
even amidst trials.

Knit Together with One Heart

In 1952, when I was working with the China Inland Mission, I met Brother Xia. He had graduated from university and his family had very high hopes for him. He not only became a Christian, but also dedicated himself to serve the Lord and went to the seminary. Infuriated, his parents drove him out of the house for good. He started to preach at Ling Liang Church in Hangzhou in 1952. With Brother Peter as our matchmaker, Brother Xia and I were married on March 15, 1953. Under the Lord’s guidance, together we shared Paul’s goal: For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (First Corinthians 2:2).

My husband was particularly keen to help young people, and he was able to communicate well with them. Subsequently, he became known for his youth ministry. This drew a lot of attention, and began to bring us trouble.

In 1955, the Su Fan (Grave Attack) Campaign began. Although the campaign had as its target the cultural arts, the church was brought into it as well. We were asked to criticize Mr. Wang Ming Dao, a well-known preacher at that time. Mr. Wang had previously come to my village to lead worship meetings. Because he emphasized holiness in his messages, I deeply felt that he was a faithful servant of God. How would I dare to aim unfounded criticism at God’s servant? Because we would not submit to these campaigners, we became their target. On top of that, the fact that we did not join the ‘Three Self’ Church Movement made us anti-revolutionists. So we had to ‘study,’ that is, undergo brainwashing and ‘confess our crimes’ every day.

One day, the Religious Affairs Department held a meeting and banquet for church workers in our city, inviting us to join government service. Pastor Rong Guang patted my husband on his back and jokingly said, “Brother Xia, it is thanks to you that we have this feast today!” Everyone was in a merry mood, eating and drinking, but my husband was terribly sad and did not even take a bite.

At the height of the merriment, he declared, “I will not join the ‘Three Self’ Church.” The shock brought a wave of deathly silence across the room. Next to speak was the Head of Religious Affairs. “If you won’t drink the cup of honor, then wait for the cup of punishment!” he thundered. My husband’s excommunication was announced the following Sunday. That was January 8, 1955, and it was also the day our eldest son was born. We named him Zan Mei, which means ‘Praise.’

We did not know where to turn after being excommunicated. One day, my husband went out for a walk and met Pastor Yu’s wife. When she asked where he was going, he said, “I’m looking for an apartment.”

“Come and stay with us,” Mrs. Yu said. Thank the Lord! He knew our need and prepared for us a very big room.

On October 26, 1955, my husband was arrested and all his books were confiscated. That very night, Zan Mei did not sleep a wink. He laughed happily and crawled from one end of the bed to the other until dawn! He had never been like this before. God filled my son with joy and in turn, I myself was filled with comfort and praise. Afterwards, I dedicated my son to the Lord.

My husband was put in a hard labor camp in Qinghai for five years and my days as the wife of a counter-revolutionary were also hard. Every day, I took my son along with me to attend brainwashing sessions. There I wrote confessions and received verbal abuse and physical punishment. My husband was fiercely attacked over the radio and in the Zhejiang Daily News as a counter-revolutionary. I could hardly eat during this grueling period of time. I thank the Lord for being with me, however. Relying on him, I had peace in my heart because he was my strength and help.

One night, despite strong winds, Brother Zhang, a young man who loved the Lord, came to visit and to comfort me. Soon afterwards, he was arrested. In 1996, forty years later, he visited me again. How happy we were to meet each other again! We talked endlessly about those dark and stormy days, the happy as well as painful experiences. It was miraculous that we could survive all this and meet again! I want to thank the Lord for his amazing grace.

Once, Zan Mei contracted serious bronchitis. He ran a high fever that would not subside and his life seemed to be ebbing away. But as I was penniless I could not afford to bring him to a doctor. I could only kneel before the Lord, pleading with him to have mercy on my son. This was at an hour when everyone was fast asleep. Suddenly, Brother Yang paid us a visit. “Why have you come at this late hour?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I just felt I should come to see you.”

Brother Yang saw how sick Zan Mei was and immediately picked him up to bring him to the hospital. At that very moment, Sister Xie arrived. She too had felt an urge to come to see me. So this brother and sister accompanied me to the hospital. The doctor said, “Had you waited another five minutes, your child would have died.” Timely emergency medical treatment had saved Zan Mei’s life. What a wonderful Lord! He makes no mistakes and he is the God who loves to show mercy. Once again, I dedicated Zan Mei to him, hoping that he would be pleased to accept my son to serve him in the future.

In 1957, I returned to Shanghai to live with my mother-in-law, and began teaching because I did not want to add to her financial burden. I only taught for three months because it was during the height of the anti-rightist movement. The school knew that I was both a Christian and the wife of a counter-revolutionary, and told me that I could not implement the principles of Marxist educational philosophy because of my idealistic thinking (that is, my Christian faith). Without any hope of getting a job, I had no choice but to leave Shanghai with my son, drifting from place to place. Throughout these times, the Lord kept me under his protection, saving me from many disasters and temptations. And every time there was danger and need, he found a safe place for me to take shelter. Although there was nobody to turn to, I could always turn to him to provide me with the security I longed for.

My Husband in Hard Labor Camp

In my husband’s hard labor camp, three months were set aside for “winter training” every year. During this period of time, very stringent, critical attacks were carried out on the inmates. They questioned my husband on the subject of his faith, asking, for example, “Why are you still hanging onto your faith? Why do you still believe in Jesus? Come on, speak up!” He then began giving testimonies such as, “Before I believed in Jesus, I was a bad person. But after I believed in Jesus, I became a new creation -- all because the Crucified Lord saved me, transformed me and gave me eternal life.”

Each time he witnessed, they would lash back at him more fiercely because they were furious that he dared even to “preach superstition” to them in their territory. They stripped him at temperatures of -30oC. But his body could not withstand the cold, and he collapsed and froze. So they carried him off to the morgue. He surprised them all, however, by regaining consciousness a week later. Every time the attacks became brutal, he would faint. Thank the Lord that he did not have to listen to the “howling of these wolves.” He took a long and peaceful rest in the morgue instead!

In 1958, I went to Xian and stayed there for half a year. There, I received a very long letter from my husband. It was written while he was on night duty in the hospital on a rainy night. All the patients were fast asleep. It was very peaceful and there were no interruptions.

He was inspired by the Spirit of God to write this letter about how he pined for the Lord:

…O Yahweh, I love You! I thirst for you! In a parched and withered land, I thirst after you. My heart longs for you as a deer pants for water by the stream. When will I be able to return and dwell in your house? I often feed on my tears, O Lord, but at the very thought of you, sweetness fills my soul. At the very thought of you, my sorrow turns into joy. You are the Lily of the Valley, without whom I cannot live…

When he finished the letter, he asked the guard who was in charge of him to post it. Not only was the letter not posted but he was also berated. “Your bourgeois mentality is too strong. You are writing love letters! What’s all this “Yahweh, I love you! I thirst for you!” business? Who is Yahweh? Is Yahweh your wife? Will she understand your letter? Do you know that you are a hard labor camp convict? You have no right to write love letters. Take it back!”

My husband then baptized the
prison guard in a clear creek and
they both rejoiced greatly.

My husband did not despair. He fully understood that the Holy Spirit had inspired and constrained him to write this letter. He knew that God must have his own perfect reason for this. So he persisted in begging the guard to send this letter. In fact, this letter left an indelibly good impression on the guard. He admired what he saw as my husband’s creativity and academic ability. In fact the letter so drew his attention that his mind could not rest for a long time. He recalled how he was orphaned and raised by his grandmother. She was a devout Christian who would take him to worship God at church every Sunday. Whenever she fasted, she would also tell him to fast. He regarded her as a fine Christian since she worshipped God with such sincerity of heart.

After reading this letter, he thought about my husband, who was well-educated and good-looking, who gave up everything for his faith in God. Not only that, he was willing to suffer much for his faith. There must be some truth and reason behind his determination to do this. Thus, the Holy Spirit worked in the guard’s heart. He thought of his grandmother again and was convinced that she was a Christian who worked together with God. In this way, he began to seek the truth about God.

After a period of time, the Chief Justice of the court took ill and he specifically asked for my husband to attend to him. However, as a hard labor convict, my husband had no freedom to travel alone. God arranged matters so that this very guard was assigned to accompany him on the journey. They traveled together on horseback. Reaching a plateau between the hills, the guard suggested that they take a rest. Then, he took hold of my husband and began to weep.

“I owe you the greatest apology,” he said. “I want to believe in God. I want to repent and turn

to Jesus. I have been observing you throughout these years and you have God’s Spirit in you. No matter what you do, you do it with all your heart and mind. Your conduct is extraordinary and I can see that God is with you.”

It was evident that the Spirit of God was present with both of them. My husband then baptized him in a clear creek and they both rejoiced greatly. What a wonderful God! Doesn’t he work in an amazing way?

(c) 2021 Christian Disciples Church