MAKE HASTE WHILE THE SUN SHINES
Having spent a hot summer in Chongqing, commonly referred to as the ※oven,§ I was touched by the Lord＊s Spirit to go to Chengdu. One September afternoon, I arrived in City of Lotus (same as Chengdu). This old capital of the Shu Empire was then the provincial capital of Sichuan. It was a land with many places of interest and historical remnants. At this time, the surrounding areas had already been ※liberated.§ Alone on this land that I had never before set foot on, I just had to follow the leading of the Lord step by step.
Having alighted from the airplane, I bought a bowl of noodles in the airport restaurant. Having said grace, I raised my head and was about to eat when a lady standing nearby whispered, ※Are you a Christian?§ I replied, ※Yes.§ Again she asked, ※Which church?§ I replied, ※Christian Student Union.§ Gladly, she said, ※My husband, too, belongs to the Christian Student Union; his name is Paul Ding.§ ※Is he the Paul Ding of the Henam Medical College? I know him.§ ※That＊s right! Is anyone coming for you?§ she asked with concern. I replied in the negative. She said, ※When Paul arrives, he will take you along.§
The airport passenger car took us to the front of the airline company in the city. As soon as the car stopped, I saw Pastor Gordon Harman with whom I became acquainted at the Soozhou Shengguang Middle School summer retreat in 1948. At that time, he was the foreign-language professor at the Sichuan University. With much warmth, he took me to the Sichuan University.
Despite its affluence, the spiritual condition of this capital was very poor. Evangelism within the colleges was not as flourishing here as in areas like Nanjing and Shanghai. Noting this, Pastor Harman held an autumn retreat in the Kongyou School (kindergarten affiliated with the Air Force) near Guan County. By the Lord＊s grace and guidance, we left Chengdu in a large truck and reached the school without any problem. I was surprised to find that that there were, in fact, some God-loving members among the staff of Kongyou School. Thank God for His salvation in every corner, for His name＊s sake, those ※whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him§ (I King 19:18). With these brothers and sisters working in unity, the meeting proceeded smoothly.
Yet, among the hundred or so who attended, there was great difference in their levels of spirituality. Also, each had his or her own agenda: brothers and sisters in the Lord hoped that this meeting would better enrich their lives; unbelievers just wanted to tour Qicheng. One student even brought along a monkey to the meeting. All this caused many problems for the speakers. We could only earnestly look to the Lord to give repentant hearts and forgiving grace (Acts 5:31), so that sinners would repent and believers could be revived.
It was arranged that Pastor Harman would lead the morning sermon, that I would be responsible for the afternoon sermon, and that Pastor Bunyao Liu would lead the evening session. Thank God for showing His grace to many of the members through this meeting. In days to come, though they had to go through water and fire, they remained steadfast.
After the autumn retreat, sister Yunhua He hosted me in her home. At the time, Chengdu lost contact with the outside world and there was no means of communicating with other places within the nation. A few days later, I had used up all the money that I had brought along and could not pay for meals. What should I do? One mid-autumn evening with the clear moon in the sky, I was strolling in the garden and, as I looked up, I saw ※The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge§ (Psalm 19:1, 2). I prayed to the Lord, ※This moon in Chengdu is the same as the one in Shanghai and in Fuzhou. The God of Shanghai and Fuzhou is the same God of Chengdu. O Lord, you＊re my God! Please provide for me.§ Having prayed, I felt at peace and went upstairs to sleep.
Early next morning, someone knocked on the door. The visitor was an elderly sister from the Shanxi Guild Hall. As soon as she had entered my room, she handed me a gold ring, saying, ※This was prepared for you by God a few years earlier.§ Actually, this ring was lost several years earlier and could not be found. Last night, as the elderly sister opened a chest to take out a garment, something dropped that sounded like metal and the gold ring reappeared. She knelt down and gave thanks. After praying, she saw a fair-skinned chubby sister by her side and heard a voice within her heart saying that the ring was prepared for this particular sister. The elderly sister said, ※Lord! The fair-skinned chubby Sister Huiduan Zheng is so well dressed and even flew in from Hong Kong by airplane. She doesn＊t look like she has any need.§ As she continued to pray, she saw the same vision and heard the same voice. She said, ※Lord! I shall take this to her early tomorrow morning.§ After she had willingly made the offering, her heart was filled with joy and she went to sleep in peace.
After hearing this elderly sister＊s testimony, I felt very grateful to the Heavenly Father who could turn nothing into something and who never failed us. His promise was: ※I will care for them＃ that they will be benefited§ (Jeremiah 24:5). Under the Lord＊s care, we shall lack nothing.
The next year, taking advantage of the summer vacation, we organized a short-term Bible school that lasted for one month. The 20 or so students were leaders of Christian fellowships in various colleges. The curriculum included, besides the Old and New Testaments, evangelism, worshipping, Sunday-school teaching, church history and such. I was responsible for the Bible and church-history lessons, the latter with introductions to experiences of past saints that benefited the students themselves as well as fellowships later on at times of persecution.
Since then, these blessed students returned to their own colleges, witnessed to other students and invited church workers to preach in the colleges. At least one prayer meeting was held in each college every week. With the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, evangelical work in colleges flourished day by day. In the winter of 1950, taking advantage of the winter vacation, we requested the use of the local Methodist Church for a winter retreat for all the Christian college-students in Chengdu, with the purpose of further building them up.
The preparatory committee had scheduled me for Bible study, so I began preparing for it. I prayed and prayed, prepared and prepared, yet the Lord had given me just one message in the book of Acts. Even as the day drew nearer and nearer, the Lord had not given me any more words. I was becoming so anxious, like an ant in a hot pan 每 the hardest thing for a preacher is having no message to deliver! I felt that my spirit was like a tightly closed faucet, with not even a droplet of water apart from just one message. I earnestly cried out to the Lord, ※Oh God! What＊s the matter? What sin have I committed that you should leave me and not use me? Today I pray not for myself but for the needs of the sheep; have mercy on your servant! This is your work, so please personally take charge.§
The first day of the meeting started with sister Gongtao Dan teaching the hymn entitled ※The Father＊s Will Be Done,§ from the Christian Students＊ Hymn Book 每 Hymn 130, which we had mimeographed:
In the still, black night
Before His crucifixion,
The Lord Jesus knelt to pray
I n the G arden of Gethsemane 每
Father, Thy sweet will be done.
Be my future bitter or sweet,
Your choice only I desire;
Not as I please or scorn,
But, always 每 Father, Thy sweet will be done.
We sang and sang, some crying and some praying as they sang.
Following this, I led the study of Acts. With the presence of the Lord, the message was powerful and authoritative. Thank God! The meeting that day was guarded, led, graced and blessed by the Lord. What should I speak the following day? Secretly, I was perplexed.
The next day we received an order from the government: stop the meeting. We did accordingly. The omniscient God deserves our praises. He is in charge of today and tomorrow. Like an incapable colt, I did not know the plan of the Master and had carried the burden in vain.
Despite the order to stop the winter retreat, the Holy Spirit continued to work. In fact, the stronger the pressure, the more brothers and sisters loved the Lord. Prior to this, except for taking turns holding combined services in various colleges every Sunday afternoon, the college fellowships had little contact with each other and were mostly independent of each other. This order to stop the meetings was a turning point that had hastened the fellowship groups to unite in the Lord, namely at the ※Chengdu Christian Students＊ Meeting,§ which met at the Chinese Evangelical Church in Huanhou Lane, by Jiangxi Street off the Southgate. I was staying there at the time, and so it was convenient for me to work. There were a number of meetings every week: after the Sunday morning communion, the students returned to their own churches for Sunday worship, choir, or Sunday school; Sunday afternoon combined worship; fellowship meetings or evangelistic meetings at night; Bible study and prayer meetings on Thursday night. These meetings enabled brothers and sisters to ※take root downward, and bear fruit upward§ (Isaiah 37:31). The number of believers continued to increase.
The meeting place soon became the home for Christian students, and everyone learned the lesson of loving each other; just as said in I John 3:18: ※My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth,§ and at the same time enjoying the sweetness of family life, just as the psalmist had said, ※Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity＃..there the Lord commanded the blessing 每 life forevermore§ (Psalm 133:1, 5).
In both Fuzhow and Chengdu, I especially stressed on the true meaning of loving each other in the Lord. The Lord had enlightened me that what really mattered was not how much I said or how well I spoke, but, rather, whether I could practice what I preach. As written in ※I Corinthians 13:1,§ ※Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.§ The Lord enlightened me and caused me to search myself to see if I was like a Pharisee who could only speak but not practice: ※For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laid them on men＊s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers§ (Mat t hew 23:4). The Lord asked me, ※You told others to love one another; but are you doing it yourself? You call others ＆brothers＊ and ＆sisters＊; but do you, in your heart, really treat them as your own brothers and sisters? Are your mouth and your heart in total agreement, or aren＊t they? If you call someone a ＆brother＊ simply because he＊s a man and someone a ＆sister＊ simply because she＊s a woman, then how would it differ if you simply call them ＆Mr.＊ or ＆Miss＊? §
I confessed before the Lord and asked for His forgiveness. I also tried my best to learn the lesson of serving in love. In Chengdu, the Lord gave me various opportunities to learn. For instance, some brothers, holding torn clothes and stinky socks, requested, ※Sister Zheng, do the mending for me§; another brother said, ※Sister Zheng, give me 50 cents. I need to buy a straw hat for a parade (organized by the government) to shade myself from the sun.§ A sister asked, ※Sister Zheng, give me a dollar to buy wiping paper.§ I was able to fulfill all such requests. One time, however, a brother lifted his leg exposing the hole in the sole of his shoe and said, ※ See, Sister Zheng, my foot actually touches the ground.§ Since I could not repair shoes, I took him to buy a pair of shoes. When I saw a brother wearing a coat with mending work all over, I had a suit made for him. A sister who had lost both parents was going to be married. The Lord said to me, ※What will you do if your own sister is getting married?§ I then took out the broken gold flakes that I had brought from Fuzhou and had them made into a gold ring for her. I also prepared an embroidered wedding dress for her. A sister from a poor family, the daughter of a Lord＊s servant, was appointed by the centralized placement board to teach in a medical college in a big city. For her, I had renewed her belongings, from clothing to bedding needs. For another sister who had to go to Lanzhou to study in the Bible school, I also provided thin clothes, lined clothes, quilted clothes, bed-sheets and such.
I did many more such acts and thought that I had learned my lesson of love quite well. However, the Lord made me realize that ※though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.§ (I Corinthians 13:) When I was placed on the scale of the love of the Cross, my own inadequacy was apparent. Oh Lord, have mercy on me and give me a loving heart!
In their lessons of mutual love, brothers and sisters in Chengdu had set many touching examples. They called those members in fellowship groups who were more loving and caring ※big brothers§ or ※big sisters.§ When school began, these ※big brothers§ and ※big sisters§ went to each school to pay tuition fees for those members who had financial difficulties. Part of this money came from regular offerings of individual members, with the rest from the contracted work at a minister＊s home. Every Saturday, the members, wealthy or poor, worked in the minister＊s home; those who could clean did the cleaning, those who could sew did the sewing, those who could write did the writing, those who could draw did the drawing, each one working to the best of his capability. The money earned was then placed in the care of the ※big brothers§ and ※big sisters.§ When a member had a need, he would write a note stating his name and the amount needed and then approach the ※big brothers§ and ※big sisters§ for issuance.
After some time, the members were able to love each other more, resulting in the ※big brothers§ and ※big sisters§ becoming less necessary. The member who had need and hardship would, without ceremony, go directly to a wealthy member to ask for assistance, thus experiencing the love of spiritual members that was even greater than that of kinship. Every Sunday, they all assembled in the meeting place. The brothers swept the floors, while the sisters cooked. They worshipped in one accord, enjoyed the feast of love, were spiritually linked and lived a family life full of joy.
Our faith and love agitated the principality of the air, and tribulations followed one after another.
One afternoon towards the end of spring 1952, I experienced, for the first time in my life, an episode of wild, consorted criticism and accusations by numerous church workers at the combined pastoral conference of these churches: Chinese Evangelical Christian Church, Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, Baptist Church, Holiness Church, Inland Mission Church, and Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Without any prior notice and justification, those members present accused that I was ※a spy commissioned by the imperialists to set up an espionage web in the south-west.§ They tried their best to rebuke me, fabricating that I was ※a wolf under sheep-skin who was poisoning youths§ 1 ＃. . .
The statement of Dr. Lianke Li of the Methodist Church was especially full of contempt, and I was scornfully bombarded. In fact he became so agitated that he even fainted before he could finish speaking. Others then began shouting at me, ※If you were not so sinful and vicious, Dr. Li would not have been so agitated!§
Confronted with such violent attacks by this vicious party, ※I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother§ (Psalm 131:2). My soul was very close to the Lord. ※I will lift up my eyes to the hill 每 from whence comes my help? From the Lord, who made heavens and the earth§ (Psalm 121:1, 2).
When Dr. Li＊s wife was notified, she hurried to the meeting place and intensified the situation. She blasted, ※Lianke Li! Oh, Lianke Li! So you are actually such an unbecoming fellow! The person being denounced seems totally unaffected, and yet you even fainted!§ She also pointed at me with her finger and shouted, ※Look! Look! The person being denounced ＃.§ Noticing the agitation of the crowd and the persistence of Dr. Li to attack and fight on, Dr. Luke Pu, who had been sent for emergency aid, shouted, ※This type of circumstance is not good for the sick; we should let him rest peacefully.§ As ordered, the whole crowd immediately went downstairs to another location to continue with their criticizing and denouncing of me.
Even though I was the target of many attacks, yet, through the Lord who gave me strength and wisdom, I had not spoken one wrong word throughout the process that lasted 3 whole hours. In the end, they could not find my ※tiny braid§ (something to hold on to blame). As I was leaving, I rejoiced for having been ※ counted worthy to suffer shame for His name§ (Acts 5:41).
On my way home, I unintentionally (I believe it was the leading of the Lord) bought a ticket to watch a movie entitled ※Shangrao Labor Camp.§ I observed the fearless spirit of the brave soldiers who, not fearing suffering or death, chose to die standing rather than to kneel and live. I felt as though I had attended a great revival meeting. With eyes full of tears, I shamefully said to the Lord, ※Lord! I haven＊t been loyal and good to you and could not even measure up to people in the world. From now on, I＊ll live for you and die for you§ (Romans 14:8). To save the trouble of cooking dinner after watching the movie, I went into a small restaurant and ate a big bowl of noodles.
Back home, I met Miss Yunhua He by the door. I told her, ※Miss He, this afternoon I was denounced for 3 hours.§ Without taking it to heart, she said, ※How could you be so cheerful after having been denounced for 3 hours?§ Mrs. Du, the tenant, heard the news and said to me the next day, ※People talked about you and unanimously said that ＆Zheng was so terrific and looked the same as usual in that kind of situation. That woman is so refined.＊ Thank you, Lord! May glory be to God and shame to Satan.
The flame of antagonism continued to burn. A leader of the Chinese Evangelical Christian Church attempted suicide by jumping into a well but did not die. In another incident, an elderly pastor committed suicide by the church pulpit. There was rumor that ※the 2 masculine gentlemen are no match for a young woman!§ I truly knew myself to be an ordinary, timid and inexperienced young woman, a fragile vessel of clay. Yet, ※we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us§ (II Corinthians 4:7); I ※Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!§ (Psalm 150:2).
In 1952, all the Christians in the city held a grand meeting in the church on Shuhua Street to celebrate the opening of the Chengyu Railroad. Towards the end of the meeting, 2 staff officers of the YWCA (Young Women＊s Christian Association) suddenly dashed forward towards me, pushed and dragged me up to the pulpit to be met by all the Christians in the city. I hardly stood still when they began to act hysterically and announced, ※This is an extremely wicked person! Today we want you to recognize her face so that you will not be fooled and cheated by her in future!§ Once I stood still, God＊s words came to me, ※If God is for us, who can be against us? ＃＃ Who shall bring a charge against God＊s elect? ＃＃ Who is he who condemns? ＃＃ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?§ (Romans 8: 31-35)§ The presence of the Lord gave me unspeakable peace and joy. I watched the scene below the pulpit: some praying with their heads bowed, some silent, some whispering to each other and some making faces at me.
When the meeting ended, they ordered me to leave the pulpit. As soon as I descended, I was surrounded by a group of believers who loved the Lord, and I was greatly comforted. Those two staff officers of the YWCA immediately came over and warned again, ※You＊re all kind and good believers; do not be cheated and fooled by her.§ These words dawned on me, ※Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!§ (Isaiah 5:20). I pitied those who had been blinded by Satan. ※Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do§ (Luke 23:34).
What happened next was that the landlord terminated the lease of our place of assembly. We were compelled to rent a small room above a teahouse on Tianzhu Street near West China University as the meeting place. The stairway was narrow and steep, and the whole room shook when the steps were slightly too heavy. There were many undesirable wanderers around and meetings were often interrupted. The Lord stirred our hearts and made us decide to purchase our own place. Each of these poor students offered heartily: some offered bed-sheets, some offered cloth, a brother offered a small knife that he himself needed, some were like the widow (Mark 12:42-44) and offered their life savings of a few pennies. Even though it only amounted to $800 or $900 (Chinese currency), the Lord favored and accepted our dedication. Stretching out His hand of mercy, He let us personally experience the wonderful promise of ※If you ask anything in My name, I will do it§ (John 14:14). We purchased, through a smooth transaction, the premises at 33, Shangnam Boulevard. This was a building constructed of brick walls and tiles, with 2 stories both in the front and in the rear and a large courtyard in the middle. We knocked down the partitions of the room on the first level to turn it into one meeting room, and used the upper room as the reception room.
The Lord had given us a place to worship Him, and had also sent down spiritual manna. Not only were the Christian college students provided for, but other Christians from various societies and organizations were also drawn together and were shown grace by the Lord. The attendance increased day after day, inevitably drawing a great deal of attention.
Soon, with ※prohibiting illegal activities§ as the reason, we were ordered to stop further meetings. Brothers and sisters knelt before the Lord in tears and earnestly cried out to the Lord. A few months later, we were permitted to hold Sunday services. Everyone felt like they were experiencing rain after a long period of draught and treasured the wonderful opportunity to meet. Soon, however, we were again ordered to stop. This happened several times until our meetings were finally forced to cease.
Brothers and sisters remembered the touching experiences of past saints who dug caves underground in order to lead spiritual lives inside the caves. Unanimously, they said, ※Do not stop assembling, for this is the instruction of the Bible§ (Hebrew 10:25). And so, places such as parks, teahouses, homes, scenic and historical spots became our places of assembly. Just as Jesus said, ※The hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. ＃＃the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth§ (John 4:21-23). In these transposed gatherings, the Lord was always with us; ※For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them§ (Matthew 18:20). Since the Lord was with us, we lacked nothing; nor would we fall or go astray.
1953 was the year of the first general election of the whole nation. I, however, was not able to obtain a voting certificate, and the reason for this was unknown. Interestingly, soon after the election I was recompensed with one as if to indicate that my citizenship had not been cancelled. In fact, I had become well known throughout the nation. There was a nationally popular periodical, named ※ New Hope,§ issued by Chengdu Christianity and edited by Jingquan Ma, which was at the time attacking the spiritual sector. Soon after my denunciation, this periodical had openly listed my name and called me ※the head of the spiritual sector in the city of Chengdu.§ It contained a lengthy report of the process of criticism and denunciation that I went through and disclosed my ※wrongful acts.§ When members who were concerned about me heard this, they earnestly prayed for me. When Zunxian Cheng and Mr. & Mrs. Xiangyun Ma of the original Shanghai Fudan University students＊ fellowship succeeded in locating me and learned of the circumstances of my denunciation, they immediately sent me a letter extending their willingness to receive me and to relocate me to Wuhan.
Thank God! The pillar of cloud ascended, the ark moved forward and I was led to a place where I could find rest.
In the series of political movements that followed China＊s ※Liberation§ in 1948, there were ※accusation meetings§. During the Cultural Revolution period (1966-1976), ※accusation meetings§ were called ※Criticizing & Denouncing Meetings§. For instance, in the ※Land Reform Movement§ (1950-1952), land owners and rich farmers were accused of acts of deprivation; and at the religious ※Elimination of Counter & Revolutionaries Movement§ (1955-1957), certain leaders of the Catholic and Protestant churches were accused. Such gatherings were extremely terrifying and hostile. They were planned by the authorities prior to the event, with persons to be accused pre- identified and speakers at the meeting arranged. (At the religious ※Criticizing & Denouncing Meetings,§ speakers were mostly young believers who had reverted.) The accusation documents were studied and approved. Meantime, great efforts were made to gather the general public to participate in the meetings. When the time arrived, those persons to be criticized and denounced were led out and tried on the stage. One by one they were accused by the speakers while certain people led the crowd to cheer ※Down with＃x＃x＃!§ The crowd had to applaud and cheer as a gesture to indicate their firm stand as citizens. At the end of the meeting, some of those accused, criticized and denounced were warned and granted delayed treatment; some were arrested right on the spot to await sentencing; while those found to be serious criminal offenders were executed right after the meeting .