YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF THEY COMFORT ME
Huangshan (¡°The Yellow Mountain¡±) Tea-Grove Camp
The 3 Labor Camps mentioned above were all work sites of the Anhui Province Water Conservancy and Power Bureau. After more than a year at the Myriad-Pigs Camp, we were escorted to Huangshan Tea-Grove Camp in Taiping County, which was under the jurisdiction of the Anhui Public Security Bureau.
We traveled from Dingtang Lake to Luqiao Town by bus, and slept on the ground that night. We switched to train the following day. It was a hot summer day, and the high temperature inside the train was most uncomfortable. The dryness of the lips and tongue were especially intolerable. Drinking water in the train had to be purchased. Unlike the minor delinquents (young delinquents on Labor-Education Reform) in the same train, Labor-Reform prisoners were not allowed to carry cash. I remembered that I was carrying some stamps, so I exchanged them for some cash from the cadets. With that, I bought water to quench my thirst as well as that of some fellow-sufferers.
It was evening by the time we disembarked from the train. We switched to a bus, and after a night¡¯s rough ride, arrived at the Huangshan Tea-Grove Camp headquarters.
Finding themselves surrounded with mountain ranges under the wide blue sky, the minor delinquents broke down in tears, ¡°There¡¯s no way, for the rest of my life, that I can be emancipated; and there¡¯s no escape!¡± As for me, I liked the poetic Huangshan. Up on high, I felt much closer to the heaven; with such a setting, I sang out loud: ¡°Closer! My Lord, My God.¡±
There were 4 female Labor-Reform teams in Huangshan Tea-Grove Camp. A group of southerners had recently been transferred out of the fourth team, and so we were used as replacement. This mountainous region was lush with lumber, and we were provided with wooden beds. For the first time since our arrest and confinement in the Detention Center, we enjoyed the special treatment of sleeping in beds. However, we were bitten by mosquitoes, and especially by bedbugs. Hordes of bedbugs rushed out from bed planks and walls, making it much more uncomfortable sleeping in beds than on the ground.
I complained to the Lord, ¡°I¡¯ve to labor in the day, but can¡¯t sleep at night. What shall I do?¡± The Lord replied, ¡°Don¡¯t you want to be a martyr for me? Why are you pleading about bedbugs and mosquitoes?¡± Immediately, it struck me: oh, how weak and rotten the flesh is! ¡°Lord, please strengthen me that I may truly deny myself, take up the cross and follow you!¡± ( Mark 8:34)
Another special feature of this place was the prevalence of mice. They blatantly ate and lived with us ¨C they snatched and ate the food left over by us while we ate the food they left behind in the kitchen; practically sharing the food in common! On New Year¡¯s Eve, a big mouse not satiated by the New Year¡¯s Eve feast even took a big bite off the tip of my nose, causing the blood to drip!
One day at work I had a heart attack, and the fellow-sufferers helped me back to the quarters. For several months after, I was tied to the bed. The most cumbersome experience during this time was making trips to the toilet as it was very far from the quarters. I thought: how nice it would be if I had a small nightstool. At the time I had this wish, a fellow-sufferer, Da Wang, received a package from her family that turned out to be a wooden pail! This Catholic nun immediately gave it to me for use as a nightstool. How amazing it was that a wooden pail from the city was timely sent to the lumber-rich and mountainous region! I can never fully recount the Lord¡¯s love for me.
When my health improved, I was transferred to the female team in Shikengkou. The day after my arrival, a medical mistake was made. A member of the medical staff, an inmate, gave me medicine that immediately caused me great discomfort. I could hardly go up the stairway and fell to the ground as soon as I arrived upstairs. It took all my energy to crawl to my bed, and then I fell unconscious. A sick fellow-sufferer happened to be resting in the quarters, and hearing my cry, thought: ¡°Huiduan Zheng never cried; why is she crying today?¡± She came over and found my skin as red as red paper, my limbs twitching, and that I was unconscious. Frightened, she called the doctor right away. The doctor notified the cadre who immediately telephoned the doctor of the other 3 teams to come and examine me. Unable to come to a diagnosis, they then intended to send me to the hospital. However, my team doctor, afraid that the mistake would be disclosed, refused to comply. He then ordered someone to carry me to the clinic and lay me down on a plank. When I slowly came to, I was unable to speak at all.
I remained in a state of unconsciousness the next day. I even took off the shoe that I was wearing and put it in the mouth to bite, and searched for things to eat among rubbish. On the third day, all that I saw when I opened my eyes were bugs ¨C clothes, blankets, walls and ceilings all covered with moving bugs big and small. Frightened, I ran out of the quarters; yet, I still saw bugs. In an effort to catch them, I had torn up 2 blanket covers.
Teamsters found me missing and notified the cadre. A team was then dispatched to the mountains to search for me. I was found sitting all by myself under a big tree in a forest. Afraid that beasts would harm me, they dragged me back. (There were many beasts in the mountains; in fact, at the time, the government had stationed a lion-hunting team there). A little while later, however, I was again nowhere to be seen. Half a day later, they found me sitting quietly by the stream. By God¡¯s mercy, I was healed, without any subsequent complications.
Through this illness, I had somewhat experienced what it was like to have ¡°the maggot ¡spread under you, and worms cover you¡± (Isaiah 14:11), and truly appreciated the preciousness of salvation.
One day, the discipline cadre of the main Camp 1 came to talk to me,
¡°Huiduan Zheng, what¡¯ve you been thinking these few days?¡± I replied, ¡°Nothing.¡±
He went on, ¡°Has your mind rusted? You really should think about the past and the future.¡±
I said, ¡°My future is a pile of loess. I don¡¯t think about yesterday or tomorrow; for tomorrow is a mystery, and mysteries are matters for Jehovah.¡±
Again, he asked, ¡°What do you talk about in your political study?¡±
I replied, ¡°I really admire those illiterate old ladies who could speak endlessly during political study whereas I can¡¯t find anything to say; once the class begins, I feel like riding in an airplane and dozing off.¡±
The cadre said, ¡°It has to do with age and a day¡¯s strenuous work, but the main reason is that you have no passion for the new society.¡±
I simply smiled.
He continued, ¡°I heard that your brother has sent you a Hero brand gold fountain- pen. Have you used it yet?¡±
I replied, ¡°That pen is still inside the package hanging on the beam. I haven¡¯t used it.¡±
¡°Because such words were engraved on the pen: ¡®awarded to the advanced worker by the Health Bureau of Fujian Province.¡¯ Given my brother¡¯s financial condition, he could very well have bought me a pen. Why has he given me his prize instead? I¡¯ve no idea what he was driving at: is it to encourage me, or to infuriate me?¡±
¡°It could very well be to infuriate, or it could also very well be to encourage.¡±
This cadre seemed rather intellectual, though he did not understand that Christians stood on the Truth and walked the path of eternal life; they needed not worry about tomorrow (Mat t hew 6:34 ), and ¡°have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ¡± (Philippians 3:8).
Of course, the path of eternal life is not a wide and smooth avenue but a bumpy, narrow and winding path. In order to protect my faith, I had adopted a passive method; for the first 6 years since my arrest, I dared not read newspapers, or study, or inquire. I had not contemplated that we were only the branches while the Lord himself was the vine, and that, apart from Him, we could do nothing (John 15:5); nevertheless, ¡°having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end¡± (John 13:1); ¡°He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day¡± (II Timothy 1:12). Therefore, not only was I ¡°avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge¡± (I Timothy 6:20), but ¡°I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me¡± (Philippians 4:13).
One day, our women¡¯s team went to the main Camp for a meeting. On the way, we passed by the ¡°Cannon Wood.¡± Though it was the first time I took this route, I had a notion that I had traveled it earlier. Immediately, I recalled a strange dream the Lord had given me before my arrest: I was leaning on a well-built person and together we were treading a hilly path. I was empty-handed, without any load, while the well-built person was heavily loaded. Though we did not talk, I felt that we did commune with each other and walked on in sweet intimacy. Several persons were ahead of us, and turning my head, I saw several more behind us.
Then I woke up, and these words popped up from my heart: ¡°Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?¡± (Songs of Solomon 8:5). The next day, I told Mrs. Niu about this strange dream. This present scene was the reality of that earlier dream. I could only lean closely on ¡°the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits¡± (Psalm 68:19). None other than my beloved was able to tread the extremely dangerous path in the wilderness.
Soon, I was transferred to the Huangshan Third Labor Camp in Wangjiawu. My task was the same as that in Shikengkou: making straw sandals.
One day, I came down with a high fever and rested in bed. That afternoon, the discipline cadre came to see me and asked, ¡°Huiduan Zheng, is your fever gone?¡± I replied, ¡°Not yet.¡±
She smiled and crossed her 10 fingers over her chest and said, ¡°Pray for God to bless you.¡±
I sensed that something extraordinary was going to happen.
At one o¡¯clock that night, this cadre and the Labor Camp leader woke me up from my sleep and said, ¡°Huiduan Zheng, get up, pick up your stuff and leave!¡±
I asked, ¡°Am I leaving alone or is everyone leaving as well? ¡±
The reply was, ¡°Only you.¡±
I said, ¡°If they leave, I¡¯ll leave; if they don¡¯t, then I won¡¯t.¡±
The comrade said, ¡°Hurry up, the car is about to leave!¡±
She woke up a fellow-sufferer in my team to hurriedly pack up my stuff. The female cadre and the Labor Camp leader then took me away immediately.
On the way, I silently prayed, ¡°Lord, what¡¯s going to happen? Please let me know.¡± In spirit, I sang this hymn:
His way is the best;
Call me, Lord,
I¡¯ll come and have rest.
My future smooth or stormy,
I leave it all in His hands;
Be it joyful or sorrowful,
All the way, I sang hymns and prayed. Suddenly, some powerful words came to me, ¡°Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life¡± (John 6:68); I held closely to these words. ¡°Lord, I don¡¯t want anything ¨C I want only you!¡±
By the time these 2 cadres had taken me to the vehicular terminal at Tongjia Bridge, 2 Shanghai Public Security Officers were already waiting there for me. The cadre from Huangshan Tea-Grove Camp then handed me over to the Shanghai officers who took me into a car headed for Wuhu. There, we switched to a ship for Shanghai. On the way, I did not need to carry my baggage nor did I need to purchase tickets. Not only was I not inspected, I also received special treatment; I did not have to stand in line to purchase vehicular tickets and was granted priority boarding. I thanked the Lord heartily for letting this cadre of Heaven enjoy special treatment!
1. There were 3 levels in a Labor Camp: Under the main Camp are subsidiary Camps, under which are Labor-Reform Teams. In each of these levels there were: cadres in charge of brainwashing, called ¡°discipline cadres¡±; cadres in charge of labor production, called ¡°production cadres¡±; the head of Labor- Reform Teams, called ¡°political instructor¡±; the head of the subsidiary Camp, called ¡°(battalion) political instructor¡±; and the head of the main Camp, called ¡°Party Secretary.¡±