YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF THEY COMFORT ME
Cattle Farm Camp
Time flew by, and the seven-year sentence at last came to an end. However, in this country, the completion of a sentence did not necessarily mean release. The cadre announced that I was to ※stay in the Camp and work.§ I was transferred to the Cattle Farm Camp Career Team and became a ※farm worker§ in name (not yet a citizen).
No wages were paid for labor during the prison term. One month after I assumed my new career status, I received wages of $17. This was about half the monthly wage of the lowest-paid industrial worker in a city, sufficient though for a village dweller＊s monthly living expenses.
My brother learned that my prison term had expired and sent me a letter with $20. It read, ※Sister, congratulations on your new birth!§
I wrote back: ※I receive wages now and have more than enough for personal expenses. There is no need to send me money from now on.§
The next month I was informed by the comrade: ※Your wage is changed to living allowance 1 , which is $9.20 monthly. The reason for this change was unknown. I did not want to write to my brother about this. My former neighbors, too, no longer sent me packages because of my ※new birth.§ The $9.20 only barely sufficed. The clothes that I had worn over the 7 years of labor reform were almost all torn. The outfit for all four seasons was the coat that was patched all over and thicker than quilt, its torn long sleeves turned into short sleeves, and the short sleeves into a vest. Long pants, too, were turned into short pants and short pants into underpants. The small living allowance did not allow me to renew my wardrobe.
Despite shortage in material provision, I was greatly comforted whenever I recalled the presence of the Lord that had safely led me through all 7 years of calamity, though He Himself was born in a manger and wrapped only in cloth.
The Cattle Farm Camp cadre assigned me to care for 0.9 acres of tea seedling plots and said, ※Tea seeds have just been sown; seedlings haven＊t emerged yet.§ I went to take a look at the land and found it all covered with weeds. It was more like a field of weeds than seedling plots; so, the first thing that needed to be done was to pull out the weeds. However, being tall and deeply rooted, they had to be handpicked one by one in order not to pull out the seedlings as well. Besides, as the right hand pulls the weed, the left thumb had to press down on the seedling root to keep the seedling intact. Before I could finish the whole area, however, weeds grew back after the rain where I had already weeded. Therefore, I had to weed over and over again until the whole piece of land was cleared. As a result, the skin on all my 10 fingers had ruptured. The next step of action after weeding was digging, picking up stones of all sizes and loosening the soil with the hoe to make 27 patches out of this 0.9 acre of land.
In May, green tea seedlings sprang up from the ground, looking neat and beautiful. I continued to loosen and fertilize the soil, strengthening the seedlings. Just as my efforts began to pay back, rows upon rows of tea seedlings surprisingly fell as though they had been trimmed with shears. I was extremely upset, and lacking in agricultural knowledge and experience, simply suspected this was a malicious human act. I hurried to report this matter to the cadre.
Hearing this, he laughed and said, ※The damage was not an act of wicked people but that of tigers.§
※Why would tigers eat tea seedlings?§ I asked.
He replied, ※Not mountain tigers but a kind of pest called ground-tigers. You have to get up early in the morning to catch them.§
I asked, ※How do I know if they＊re in the ground? How can I catch them?§
The cadre then took a small hoe and went to the site to demonstrate to me. Digging the ground with the hoe, the ground-tigers were found sleeping on the seedling roots. They were picked up and smashed.
After the cadre had left, I stayed behind, pondering as I was catching the insects. I had always been afraid of insects; now, not only did I see insects daily but had to catch them with my hands. This was a very hard lesson for me. I said, ※Lord! I＊m the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8; Ehpesians 2:10). How great is your work on me! You cultivated and molded me; you dug into my heart, picked out the stones, planted a superior grapevine with the hope of reaping good grapes; yet, I＊ve produced wild grapes (Isaiah 5:2). Have mercy on me, Lord, and catch the foxes for me, for the vine is now in bloom! (Song of Solomon 2;15).§
1. Prisoners were not paid wages during their prison terms, and fed on whatever was given to them. They were paid only after they had completed their terms. From then on, they had to pay for their own meals. Even though sister Zheng＊s term had expired, her ※anti-revolutionary§ hat had not yet been removed. For this reason, she was paid the minimal amount of living allowance for her to barely survive. This clearly indicated that her living condition had not improved from the time she was a prisoner.