YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF THEY COMFORT ME
The Camp at Tianjia Hut
After 8 months of hardship at the power station site, many cellmates had already died, and we, the remaining survivors, were transferred to the Tianjia Hut in Nine Dragon Ridge in the city of Huainan. Originally the most deprived area, the Anhui Province Water Conservancy and Electrical Power Bureau planned to develop a farm in order to implement ※substitution with vegetables§ (using vegetables as substitutes for other foods to tide over the famine). The Tianjia Hut Camp was, in fact, more like a large melon-field than a farm.
Here, the labor force was divided into 4 categories, as was the food supply. This was a fair and reasonable arrangement; however, even the first class food supply was not enough to prevent starving. Food theft had, therefore, become a common menace. I was among the weakest laborers and was entitled only to the fourth class food. I prayed that God would ※give me neither poverty nor riches 每 feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny you, and say, ＆Who is the Lord?＊ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God§ (Proverbs 30:8, 9). In the past, the words in the Lord＊s Prayer ※give us this day our daily bread§ (Matthew 6:11) did not evoke any special feelings; yet, at this time, they seemed much more compelling and real. In the past, I hoped for better food after a full meal; now, hunger-stricken and no longer finicky, I simply asked: ※Lord! Just fill my stomach today!
More than 70 fellow-sufferers were living in our temporary work shed and all agreed, ※If anyone finds someone stealing buns, he should grab the thief＊s thigh.§ One night, I suffered a heart attack and wanted to call the doctor but could not cry out. Right at that moment, a fellow-sufferer passed me by to go to the toilet, and hoping to have her call the doctor for me, I grabbed her leg. She kicked me away and said, ※Why did you grab my leg? I did not steal your bun!§ At the time, a bun was a precious possession 每 we would take just one bite when the hunger was unbearable. Everyone in the tent was awakened, thinking that the thief had been caught.
There were all kinds of melons in the farm, such as watermelons, honey melons, muskmelons, golden melons, white-skinned melons, green-skinned melons, green melons with green flesh, and others. When melons were about to ripen, the fields were guarded day and night to prevent theft. The cadres patrolled the area carrying long rifles at night. My job was to guard the fields in the daytime. The bright and sunny sky, together with a lack of drinking water, made my eyes dazzle. It was actually a challenge to be faced with bountiful harvests that were ※pleasant to the sight and good for food§ (Genesis 2:9).
To avoid temptation, I decided not to enter the melon-fields but chose instead to sit by the roadside. I was teased, ※Only a ＆foolish melon＊ (in Chinese, ※foolish melon§ means a fool) would watch melons without eating them!§ I managed to remain steadfast.
Satan, though, would not let me go. Right by the roadside where I sat, a wild melon plant began to grow. This wild plant, which the local people called ※horse cannon-ball,§ was like the vine that Jonah saw (Jonah 4:6). It grew especially fast and bore yellow flowers and fruit in just a few days. The one who tempted men said, ※This is not a melon plant grown by the government but merely a wild plant. It＊s a crime to eat melons belonging to the government, but what does it matter to eat a melon that＊s wild?§ Thinking this made sense, I reached out to pick the melon and took a bite每 it was awfully bitter!
I regretted deeply and remembered what was written in the Book of James: ※But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death§ (James 1:14, 15). I did not pull out this wild melon plant when it was a seedling but had allowed the desire to conceive and result in sin. ※Lord! Forgive my sin. Deliver our souls from death and keep us alive in famine§ (Psalm 33:19).
1. To maintain a good and blameless conscience is extremely important. (Acts 23:1 & 24:16; I Timothy 1:19)