FATHER, IT SEEMED GOOD IN YOUR SIGHT!
Tilan Bridge Prison
O ne day in May 1959, the cadre in the First Detention Center transferred me to the Tilan Bridge Prison in the city of Shanghai. When cadres from both sides were present, the cadre of Tilan Bridge Prison asked me for my name, age, birthplace and occupation. I gave all the answers. He then asked me, ¡°What¡¯s the reason for your case?¡±
¡°I don¡¯t know,¡± I replied.
¡°You mean to say that you haven¡¯t received the verdict?¡±
¡°Since you¡¯ve already received it, how come you don¡¯t know the reason?¡±
¡°I haven¡¯t read it.¡±
¡°How long is the sentence?¡±
¡°I don¡¯t know.¡±
The cadre of the First Detention Center became so furious that his face turned red for a while and then white.
The cadre of the Tilan Bridge Prison, however, laughed and said, ¡°I¡¯ve never met such a prisoner who hasn¡¯t even read her verdict!¡± He added pathetically, ¡°Another believer! This place is already overcrowded.¡±
The verdict was certainly crucial; why did I not pay any attention to it? At the time of arrest, I had the attitude of ¡°taking it in stride¡± 1 . I knew I would not be released because I could not denounce my faith, or turn away from God, or betray brothers and sisters. Since I would serve my term willingly, it made no difference to me whether the term was for just one year or 100 years. I could only trust and obey, as written in Psalm 37:5: ¡°Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass¡±.
In the First Detention Center, because the verdict had not yet been passed down, relatives outside were allowed to send things to the prisoners only once a month but were not allowed to see them. After sentencing, at the Tilan Bridge Prison, relatives could, in principle, visit face to face once a month; this, of course, had to be pre-approved. For the first visit, Mrs. Niu and Miss Lo came early to line up and entered with the flow of people. There was no reception room inside the prison. Prisoners were separated from their visitors by a desk, and I sat at one end of the table while they stood at the other.
Although we had not seen each other for over 17 months, yet, through praying for each other in the Lord, we felt even closer as we met and our faces were full of smiles. We thanked the Lord for safeguarding and caring for each of us. The first question they asked me was :
¡°How long is the sentence?¡±
Their words reminded me of the incident when Peter was imprisoned and church members were so concerned that they prayed constantly for him (Acts 12:5). Despite my unworthiness, the Lord had filled me with His grace. Though He had not sent angels to deliver me from prison, He led members in Christ (not relatives but just as close as relatives) to visit me. He even personally accompanied me in the prison, talking intimately with me daily, allowing me to fully taste of His love. Nothing can separate me from His love ¨C this ¡°love is in Christ Jesus our Lord¡± (Romans 8:39).
After the interview, we used the serial number on the visitor¡¯s slip to pick up the things that they had brought us. Back in the cells, many prisoners wept uncontrollably after meeting with visiting friends and relatives. I just thanked the Lord for His grace and prayed that He would continue to safeguard members of the Church inside and outside the prisons.
The cell here was very small, with only one small nightstool, and could accommodate only 3 prisoners lying side by side. We sat and slept on the floors. One time, I came down with influenza along with a high fever and heavy sweating; when I woke up from the ¡°bed¡±, I found that my sweat on the cement floor had left a print of my body.
The meals provided in the prison were not free, for we had to labor in the prison factory daily, producing garments and pants for export. At the time, the country had started a¡°Leap Forward¡± Movement, and the prison factories were no different from the other factories in the society, having to ¡°mass produce and speed up¡± and to ¡°launch satellites¡± 2 .
My job assignment was sewing 20 pairs of pants daily. As my hands had not yet fully recovered from the hand-cuffing, they were still somewhat numb and could not hold fine needles. For this reason, even though I worked from early morning till late at night despite bleeding from needle-pricks, I still could not finish my assignment.
One afternoon, my teammates wanted me to speed up at the expense of quality of work, to which I did not agree. I said, ¡°Quality first. First, guarantee quality, then increase speed.¡± That night, I had finished 19 pairs.
Someone said to me, ¡°I have already exceeded my requirement. Let me give you one-and-a-half pairs. (That way, I would not only complete my assignment but would even over-produce!)
Another person said, ¡°I¡¯m not giving, but I can lend you one-and-a-half pairs. You may recompense me tomorrow.¡± To me, this sounded like acts of deceit and dishonesty 3 , and I did not accept their ¡°kindness¡±. As a result, the team failed to ¡°launch satellite¡±, though no one complained against me. To my surprise, someone even praised me at the team meeting that I should be ¡°commended for not making false report and for not cheating¡±.
Thank the Lord for making me a person of honesty! Oh Jehovah, ¡°Your faithfulness endures to all generations (Psalm 119:90)¡±.
Most prisoners in the factory entered the First Detention Center about the same time as I did but, as we did not share the same cell, we did not know each other. As I was often rebuked by the cadres whose voices could be heard throughout the cells and the hallway, the others knew that 1443 was penalized. The fact that even though my hands were numb and disabled, yet I would not falsify production had become news within the factory, as well as a topic of discussion. This was how people found out that the former 1443 who insisted on praying and had to wear hand-cuffs over a prolonged period was the present 1295.
Many people secretly said to me, ¡°So you were the 1443!¡± 4 The supervision of prisoners here had never been lax. During a sudden inspection, 2 large bundles of silk yarns for making pants were found inside my bag ¨C the theft of public property was a crime that could not be washed away even by immersion into the Yangtze River! I silently prayed, ¡°Lord! Everyone knows that this child is your maid; today, for the sake of your name and your glory, please vindicate me (Psalm 26:1) and clarify this matter!¡± Calmly, I said, ¡°I didn¡¯t take them.¡±
Yet, who could prove it?
The Lord caused the team-leader (also a prisoner) to speak out, ¡°1295 has low production, so I let her use only the regular yarn. These 2 bundles of raw-silk yarns were allotted to those with high production. Someone must have secretly put them into her bag because she¡¯s known for her honesty.¡±
This storm was thus brought to an end. Thank the Lord for answering prayers!
I was guided by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. First I preached to the cellmates, teaching them Bible verses and short hymns; later, I used the opportunity of ¡°airing¡± to preach to the people in other cells.
Someone had secretly informed the authority about this, and so the cadre wanted to talk to me, ¡°Why do you preach here just like you did when you were outside? To preach here is in breach of prison rules. If you want to believe, just keep it to yourself; don¡¯t preach to others.¡±
I said, ¡°I could not bear the pressure if I don¡¯t preach.¡±
He said, ¡°Don¡¯t pray; you may pray at home but not here.¡±
I responded, ¡°If I don¡¯t, then faith has no meaning.¡±
He said, ¡°Even if you have to pray, do it in the heart and don¡¯t show it.¡±
I said, ¡°I have to be in one accord inside and outside.
Doing it in secret is cheating the government; I can¡¯t do that.¡±
The cadre admonished me and ordered me to write a self-criticism statement and a pledge; guaranteeing that I would not preach to anyone from then on.
¡°Lord! How should I write it? Please guide me.¡±
Having prayed, I began to write. I admitted that I had been preaching in the cell as well as during the time for ¡°airing¡±, and that I could not stop preaching because the treasure that filled my heart flowed out once I opened my mouth. 5
In order to prevent me from preaching to others when I came in contact with them, I requested that I be locked up alone in a cell.
When the cadre read my self-criticism statement, he flatly declined, ¡°To let you have a cell all to yourself ¨C you¡¯re asking too much! Just stop preaching from now on!¡±
Noticing that some fellow-sufferers were too poor, I gave them bed linens, clothes, towels, toothpaste, cups, and ¡°scrip¡± 6 . The guards were again secretly informed 7 .
Consequently, not only I but also fellow-sufferers were put in confinement.
The cadre ordered me to explain, ¡°Why did you give things to others? What was your intention in doing so?¡± He also demanded the receivers speak out, ¡°Did she give you things in order to preach to you?¡±
The latter firmly denied, ¡°She gave me things because she noticed that I was pitiful. She did not preach to me.¡±
God had mercy on my weakness and made void the threat that the cadre wanted to use to increase my penalty. The matter was then settled.
The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; But as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. (I John 2: 27, 28)
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me . (Galatians 2:20).
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world . (Galatians 6:14).
Jesus said to His disciples, ¡®If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save His live will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it . (Mat t hew 16: 24-25)
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ .(II Timothy 2:3)
1. Sister Zheng had said, ¡°Since I have been locked up in prison, I do not hope to come out of it.¡± This contributes to an immunity to temptations, a crucial step towards dying to ¡°self.¡±
2. ¡°Big Brother¡± Soviet Union sent off man-made global satellite, and China used the term ¡°launch satellite¡± to symbolize high production and record-breaking.
3. II Timothy 2:21 ¡°If anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.¡±
4. The number 1443 used in the First Detention Center was changed to 1295 after arriving in the Shanghai Tilan Bridge Prison .
5. ¡°For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel¡± (1 Corinthians 9:16).
6. Prisoners were not allowed to carry cash and could only use the cash to exchange for scrip used in the prison.
7. Within the so-called ¡°Proletarian dictatorship¡± units (prison, labor camps, etc.), ¡°informing secrets¡± (or ¡°making small reports¡±) was a very common practice. This was to report to cadres on those around who were in breach of discipline or who had spoken reactionary or counter-revolutionary words. Such acts were regarded as drawing close to the government; yet, there were numerous cases of unreliable reports with selfish motives, causing harm to others.