YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF THEY COMFORT ME
The second labor camp after my ¡°new birth¡± was the Lixin Camp in Susong County, Anhui Province. Here, there were rice fields, cotton fields and vegetable gardens, with year-round farming activity. There, I had worked for 10 full years. Was it not for the gracious Lord¡¯s personal guidance, I would definitely not have survived these long years of the toughest form of labor, the most trying living conditions and the most alluring temptations.
As soon as I arrived at the Lixin Camp, it was time for autumn harvest. I was assigned to cut grain stalks. As I had spinal deformity by birth, it was painful for me to bend low. I knelt down to cut the stalks when I could not stand; when I could not kneel, I sat on the ground to do it. When it became intolerable, I prayed to the Lord to give me added strength while at the same time recalling a hymn:
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him .
(Psalm 126:5, 6)
Thank God for giving me strength according to my days (Deuteronomy 33:25).
Having completed my task by relying on the One who strengthened me (Philippians 4:11), my heart was full of joy as I carried the sheaves to the threshing site. At the same time I called on the Lord regarding those gospel seeds sown in the past, ¡°Lord! I pray that You¡¯ll watch over them day and night, constantly watering them, that You shall see the labor of Your (His) soul and be satisfied.¡± (Isaiah 53:11)
Having labored in this rush harvest, we were assigned to the routine work of caring for vegetable fields. As we had come from cities, we had no knowledge of farming, and often made funny mistakes such as taking chives for wheat and assuming peanuts grew on trees. Once we even pulled out all the vegetable seedlings and left behind weeds that we mistook for the former. Fortunately, the cadre was quite considerate and only criticized us without punishing us for ¡°sabotaging¡± 1 .
The seedlings in the vegetable fields required plenty of fertilizer. The so-called fertilizer was actually feces. I had to work from morning till night in the seedling plots, weeding and arranging seedlings, with my hands in constant contact with feces. Very soon, I had contracted the toxin in the feces, and my hands became unbearably itchy; during sleep they became hot and itchy inside the warm blanket and I had to leave them outside in the cold. The fecal toxin next attacked my respiratory system, resulting in sore and itchy throat, hoarse voice, and even loss of voice.
Another task I was assigned to was catching insects in vegetable fields. As mentioned earlier, what scared me the most were insects. This time, though, I had to catch them daily with my own hands, filling up a glass bottle before I could finish the work of the day.
Later, I was assigned to labor in the cotton fields for the time-consuming work of weeding, catching bugs, loosening soil, picking up stones, fertilizing and as such. Though these were hard labor, they were spiritually helpful to me. Seeing hard soil and stones, I sometimes felt that my heart was even harder than stone. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to turn my heart of stone into one of flesh, like the loosened soil of the cotton fields, in order that spiritual stems and leaves would flourish and bring forth flowers and fruit. Seeing weeds, thorns and pests, I prayed for the Lord to remove the weeds and pests of my heart and to protect this seedling of mine from destruction and harm.
Towards late summer, it was the season for ¡°double rushes,¡± as it was called after the ¡°Liberation¡± (rushed harvest of growth (early rice) and rushed planting of growth (late rice). We worked as hard as we could, without rest. There was a high calling for ¡°a field of yellow in the morning and of green at night,¡± meaning that, right after the yellow grains (early rice) had been harvested in the morning, the soil would immediately be turned, watered, plotted and planted with seedlings (of late rice), so that the rice fields would appear green before it grew dark. We woke up at 3 a.m. and began pulling out seedlings (from the seedling nursery) before sunrise. I had a larger than average build; my legs sank into the mud as I stepped on the field and I could hardly lift them up and move about!
There was a common saying in the area: rainfall for planting seedlings and wind for late summer. Every time we planted seedlings, it always rained. Even if it rained much heavier, we still had to continue working, having our breakfast, lunch and dinner in the fields. Everyday, I had to work until 10:30 p.m. and walk a mile or so before returning to the living quarters, by which time I was dirty all over like a muddy loach fish and had to bathe and change. By the time I went to bed, it was already midnight, and I was totally exhausted. Worse still, I lay in bed and could not fall asleep because, having stayed in the watery fields all day, my 2 legs were badly bitten by water leeches and the affected areas were unbearably itchy.
Even so, I had to get up in the dark the following day to drag my tired body to work. Once, I was so sleepy that I was dozing off as I pulled up the seedlings. They dropped into the water from my hand. The cadre noticed this, and I was criticized at the meeting. On another occasion, I had sunstroke; the cadre gave permission for me to rest for half-day only after learning that I had vomited and had diarrhea. The next day, I had to work in the field again even though I felt totally exhausted.
One day, I had a fever of 38.4 ¡ã C (= 101.12¡ã F ) , but was not allowed to rest. I still had to work in the burning sun, stepping in the hot water of the field and pulling out seedlings without stopping. With lips and tongue dry from thirst and dimming vision, I thought that I was going to faint. However, I was comforted by the Lord¡¯s gracious words, ¡°As your days, so shall your strength be¡± (Deuteronomy 33:25); ¡°My grace is sufficient for you¡± (II Corinthians 12:9). Not only did He stop me from fainting, He was by my right side shading me, preserving my life (see Psalm 121), leading me through the ¡°double rushes¡± of late summer. Lord, I ¡° will praise you forever and ever¡±! (Psalm 45:17)
2. False Accusations
Torturous labor can be tolerable, and hardship of life adaptable; but what is more agonizing than these is moral corruption (of fellow-sufferers). Some people had ¡°deceitfultongues,¡± ¡°love lying¡± (Psalm 52:2, 3), and I became their subject for false accusations. The following was an example.
In the Camp after the expiration of my prison term, I frequently took care of cotton fields, and gradually learned to grow them. Therefore, one day I led a team to cut cotton branches. For the first three days, I taught the teammates how to cut branches; they responded very well and mastered the skill. On the fourth day, the teammates were responsible for cutting branches in a cotton field of over 10 acres. Each person worked on one patch, cutting in the order of north to south. As I set out to work, I found ground-tigers in the soil; so I began catching them and went on to cut branches in the direction of south to north. After cutting for about 2 hours, the team leader suddenly cried out, ¡°Wow, someone is sabotaging!¡±I ran up to take a look: many main stems, each with over 10 cotton balls that should not have been cut had fallen to the ground; it was indeed a pitiful sight. For this kind of extremely serious destruction, the reasonable course of action would be to cordon off the site in order to track down the destroyer and to pass punishment accordingly (such an offender could be sentenced to 3 or even 5 years). Nevertheless, the team leader (also a fellow-sufferer) just quickly picked up the cut stems and put them into the basket.
One day after this incident, the instructor met me on the street and warned me seriously, ¡°Huiduan Zheng, you need to thoroughly think it over!¡±
Surprised, I thought: I wasn¡¯t the destroyer, why do I have to think it over? It turned out that, because the suspect had sworn that I had coached her to act that way, I was to think over how I ended up being a ¡°criminal coach¡±! For this reason, a two-hour team meeting was held every night in which the cadre stressed the seriousness of the matter, compelling me to confess.
My sympathizers were anxious. Some persuaded me to declare my innocence to the cadre; some thought I should have written to report to the cadre in black and white.
My heart, however, was like a still lake and very calm, for the Lord had said to me, ¡°Vengeance is Mine¡± (Romans 12:19), ¡°Do not fret because of evildoers¡± (Proverbs 4:19). I merely had to rely on the Lord, look up to Him and offer thanks and praises for His mercy. A week later, the person responsible, Qiufeng Fan, finally confessed that she was the actual destroyer of the cotton field with the intent of putting the blame on me. Thank God for the trustworthiness of His Word!
3. Stolen Possessions
Owing to material shortage and human corruption, stealing was rampant within the Camp. I was the one whose belongings were frequently stolen for two reasons: I did not report to the cadre after things had been stolen, neither did I curse2 . Therefore, more and more of my belongings were stolen. One day after work, I took off my work shoes and put them under my bed. Returning to retrieve them after washing my feet, I found my pair of new Beijing
shoes3 were stolen. I had 2 pairs of black silky pants that I dared not dry outdoors for fear of theft; so I hung them up to dry on the pole of my mosquito net in the daytime. When I returned after work to bathe and to change my pants, they had vanished. Once I had lost 3 face towels in 3 successive days. I hung the towel to dry after washing my face in the morning, and it was stolen the same day. I used a new towel the next day; it, too, was stolen that day. On the third day, without fail, the thief stole again! One day I claimed my parcel from the office after dinner, and not having opened it as it was getting dark, I placed it in my bed; the next day, the whole parcel was gone!
One day, the person who slept next to me said that she had lost her key and asked to borrow mine to try to open her locker. Not suspecting anything, I lent her my keys, not knowing that she was going to make a duplicate of it. Since then, my cash, wages, vegetable tickets, and rice tickets were all stolen successively. Since every time not all the things were stolen and the thefts continually occurred, the teammates blamed me instead for carelessness and poor memory when I told them of the thefts. Once I was robbed of $10, a rather considerable sum4 at the time.
I then reported to the team leader, who said, ¡°How can that be? There¡¯s never been any theft in our team. Besides, your box is locked.¡± Apparently, the team leader did not take the matter seriously, so I just had to put the money in a different spot inside the box. Yet, no matter which spot I used, left or right, front or rear, my money was always stolen. I told the teammates about it and they said, ¡°You¡¯ve bumped into a ¡®fox spirit¡¯ (meaning: demon); how supernatural!¡±
For the last time, I was robbed of $20, and that was all the money I had. There was a stir among the teammates, especially the one nicknamed ¡°Active Hoodlum¡± who had borrowed my key earlier.
She shouted, ¡°This matter must be thoroughly investigated! Otherwise, since Huiduan Zheng sleeps next to me, I¡¯ll most likely be the suspect.¡±
The team then held a meeting. In light of facts and reasoning, together with public pressure, ¡°Active Hoodlum¡± had no alternative but to confess that she had stolen $30 from me, denying, though, the various other thefts over the year.
Rationally speaking, stealing money from someone¡¯s locked box was a serious act and should have been denounced. On the contrary, the cadre praised ¡°Active Hoodlum¡± for her ¡°splendid frankness¡± (confession) and criticized me for ¡°senseless carelessness¡± (being off my guard), creating ¡°opportunity for crime.¡±
This was hard for me to yield to. However, as I recalled the Lord¡¯s words: ¡°Do not fret because of evildoers¡± (Proverbs 24:19); ¡°be submissive¡also to the harsh¡± (I Peter 2:18), and thought about John the Baptist, who neither eating bread nor drinking wine, was said to have ¡°a demon¡± whereas the Son of Man, eating and drinking, was said to be a ¡°glutton and a winebibber¡± (Luke 7: 33-34), I truly understood that this was a normal sign of the present world.
There was no need for us to complain; we just had to ¡°become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life¡± (Philippians 2: 14-16).
4. The ¡°Cultural Revolution¡± Class
During the unprecedented ¡°Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Movement¡±5 (also called the ¡°Cultural Revolution¡±), the Labor Camp, being one of the significant components of the Proletarian structure, was inevitably involved in this episode of brutal denunciations. For some time, team denunciation meetings were held every night. Persons targeted for denunciation were made to wear tall hats, carry signs, or ¡°ride airplanes¡±6 . This atmosphere of terror instilled into everyone a sense of insecurity ¨C not focusing on work in the daytime and worrying about imminent perils at night; because, in this melting pot of so-called ¡°The Black Five¡± (consisting of landowners, rich farmers, anti-revolutionists, evildoers, and right-wing elements), there was no lack of reason for punishment.
During this period, the team arranged a two-week ¡°study class on thoughts of Mao Tse-tung.¡± More than 30 people were released from work for the two-week study. Activists in the class were used as ¡°pistols and cannons¡± while the rest were ¡°targets¡± for denunciations. I, of course, belonged to the latter group.
After studying the related materials, those regarded as having problems had to confess thoroughly. A Catholic, named Chengqing Gu, wrote a long article on denunciation. She stated, ¡°I have not seen God and only learned about him from my grandfather, grandmother, father and mother. Through this long period of reform, I¡¯ve finally come to the conclusion that God was actually created by men.¡± After her speech, many people applauded her for her thorough denunciation. I felt like my heart had been stabbed with a knife.
Following this, I was ordered to speak. I said, ¡°The lesson on Mao Tse-tung¡¯s thoughts is a lesson on politics, in which there should be no mention of religion. If I speak on religion, I will be judged for spreading poisonous ideas. Therefore, I¡¯m not going to speak.¡±
They said, ¡°This is a topic designed by the cadre. You will not be regarded as spreading poisonous ideas.¡± I was pressured to speak.
Under such circumstances, I could only say, ¡°The God that I believe in is not the same one this former Catholic believes in. If my God were created by men, I would have presented my denunciation ahead of her. My God is not founded on idealism and metaphysics but, rather, is objective, subjectively experienced, and eternal. He lives in my heart and can never be taken out of me.¡±
These words had, all of a sudden, caused a stir in the class. A person named Bin Lin, who was educated in a middle school run by the Huaiyuan Presbyterian Church, lashed out with her limited knowledge, blaspheming God for a while.
I cut her short, ¡°Bin Lin, don¡¯t blaspheme my God. Actually, you, too, believe there¡¯s a God.¡±
She grew mad and shouted, ¡°You¡¯re insulting me!¡± while at the same time dashing towards me, almost slapping my face with her hand.
I told her flatly, ¡°Bin Lin, I never said anything without grounds. I didn¡¯t say anything wrong. Right now, you still believe God exists.¡±
In a great fury, she slapped her chest and shouted, ¡°I object to God; why do you say I believe God exists?¡±
I responded, ¡°If there weren¡¯t any God, then you needn¡¯t have raised objection; your objection is an acknowledgement of His existence.¡±
At that moment, several intellectuals with higher academic backgrounds joined in, ¡°This is a philosophical matter, which we do not understand. Let us seek the instructor¡¯s advice.¡± They then left to look for the instructor. After they had left the scene, I silently prayed to God, ¡°My Abba God! Your child is in great trouble today. Please strengthen me that I may be able to withstand whatever punishment that may lie ahead.¡±
It was said that, after those intellectuals had related the whole matter to the instructor, he said, ¡°This person, Huiduan Zheng, is too deeply rooted in poison, and her problem can¡¯t be solved in just one course. This type of person needs to be taught daily, monthly and yearly.7 Right now, her religious sentiments ave reached the summit, and it¡¯s best to end today¡¯s meeting right here; to carry on will be like dragging hay in the rain - the more you drag, the heavier the load.¡± Thus ended the day¡¯s meeting,and this serious matter was eventually settled.
God knew my weakness and had consideration that I was only dust; He had not allowed such heavy burden to befall me. ¡°I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yes, I will praise Him among the multitude¡± (Psalm 109:30); ¡°Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing works?¡± (Exodus 15:11)
5. Oneness in Christ
Before my arrest, I was biased against Catholics and did not want to establish contact with them. Since my imprisonment, however, I noticed that there were some Catholics who actually loved the Lord. There was one such in Lixin Camp with whom I had good fellowship.
One day when we met, I noticed that she was not looking well. I asked, ¡°Haven¡¯t seen you for over a month; how come you¡¯ve lost so much weight ¨C are you sick?¡±
Pointing at her heart with her index finger, she replied, ¡°Not physically; just sick here.¡±
¡°What¡¯s the matter?¡± I asked again, and she answered, ¡°Haven¡¯t slept well the whole month.¡±
¡°What exactly is the matter?¡± I pressed on.
She said seriously, ¡°Huiduan Zheng, I¡¯m really afraid!¡±
¡°What are you afraid of?¡± I asked.
She replied, ¡°Under the present circumstance, I¡¯m afraid that one day I¡¯ll not love the Lord and will rebel against Him. If that should happen, what should I do?¡±
I comforted her, ¡°You do love the Lord, even more than I do; if you don¡¯t, you won¡¯t be worried that you¡¯ll leave Him.¡±
¡°You say I love the Lord?¡± she asked.
I replied, ¡°Yes, and you¡¯ve loved Him. Not that you loved the Lord first; but He loved you first. As the originator and the finisher, He¡¯ll love you to the end. The trunk is not supporting the roots; the roots are supporting the trunk.8 The Lord will use His almighty hand to preserve you to the end. For His name¡¯s sake, He¡¯ll lead you in the path of righteousness therefore, be not afraid. Being afraid is not having faith in the Lord but opening the door for Satan. Totally believe in the Lord and He¡¯ll preserve you until you
come face to face with Him.¡±
Since that day¡¯s fellowship, her spirit was liberated, and she was filled with the peace and joy of the Lord.
Later on, I used the opportunity of visiting relatives to bring back several spiritual books. One day, as she was tending ducks in the rice fields, I silently signaled her to come over. I gave her a New Testament and a book entitled ¡°Spring in the Wilderness.¡± She was so happy that she kissed them again and again. I was deeply touched at this sight. Indeed, for we ¡°are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus¡ There is neither Jew nor Greek ¡ you are all one in Christ Jesus¡± (Galatians 3:26-29).
6. Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
Lixin Camp was built by reclaiming land from the lake. An epidemic outbreak of blood-flukes had claimed many lives. This place was, therefore, called ¡°The Gate to Hades.¡± Together with rampant rat-transmitted diseases (plagues) in the winter and frequent flooding in the summer, this was indeed a land of many plagues and famines.
In the slack winter season of 1968, when the Cultural Revolution reached its peak, there was an outbreak of plague caused by rats, which was commonly called by the locals as ¡°blood-heat disease¡± and carried a high death rate. Hospitals were filled with peasants and Labor Camp inmates; some were healed while others died. At the plague¡¯s peak, the Lord gave me this assurance: ¡°A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you¡± (Psalm 91:7). His promises never failed. Despite my fragility, I had gone through 10 years in this ¡°Gate of Hades¡± without being harmed by the plagues.
The floods that occurred between 1968 and 1970 were most disastrous. It rained daily in July 1969. Preparing for relocation to a place of safety in an emergency, we packed up our belongings. One day, a salesman came. Usually, I did not carry cash and did not buy anything. This day, however, the Lord moved me to take a look at the exhibits. I saw 2 batteries with the high asking price of $0.97, enough to buy 2.7 pounds of pork at the time! The Lord moved me to buy the batteries, but having little money, I did not feel like doing so. It was only after repeated urging of the Holy Spirit that I finally gave in and bought them. Unexpectedly, the flood broke the dam the following day. Everyone in the Farm had to depart at night in an emergency, walking 37 miles from Songsu County to a place of safety in Taiwu County. In the darkness of night, the two batteries enabled my flashlight to light up the way, a great help to me as well as to many others.
When morning came, we checked our luggage. The person responsible for safekeeping valuables in my team told me that the small bag that I entrusted to him was lost. The several dollar bills inside were all I had; I now became penniless.
Heated by the July summer sun, the streets were scorching and steaming with hot air. With inadequate body fluid and subsequent saliva depletion, my throat was dry, my eyes dazed and my feet had difficulty walking. The drinks on the roadside cost 10 cents each. Without a cent, I naturally refrained from ordering. When I could hardly bear the
discomfort, a cellmate suddenly cried out, ¡°Zheng, come quickly! How can you bear such heat; drink some water quickly!¡± She handed me a cup of tea. Treasuring it, I took just one mouthful, and my eyes immediately lit up.
It was not until then that I could fully envision the scene of the rich man begging Lazarus to dip his finger in water and to cool his tongue (Luke 16: 19-31). I thanked the Lord heartily for saving me from sin and its penalty. I was also reminded of the Lord Jesus asking the Samaritan women for drinking water (John 4: 7-26) and the scene of Jesus on the Cross saying ¡° I thirst ¡± (John 19:28) . I was going through what my Lord had gone through. I recalled what Paul had said, ¡° And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh¡¡± (I Timothy 3:16). The Lord Jesus had come down in flesh to suffer all kinds of affliction for my sake: in comparison, what is this brief thirst of mine?
With renewed strength, I finally arrived on foot at the Dasu Camp. One of the male fellow-sufferers ordered by the cadres to carry luggage, brother Jun Guan, discovered the name ¡°Huiduan Zheng¡± amid the luggage and exclaimed, ¡°So, sister Zheng is also here!¡± Since then, we had fellowship in the Lord, encouraging each other.
7. Spiritual Thirst
Between 1968 and 1971, the Camp was enveloped in a strong atmosphere of class struggles and laden with mental stress. Communication with the outside world was intercepted.9 Even brothers and sisters on the same team dared not greet each other, and there was spiritual
loneliness, emptiness and weariness.
At times of great sorrow, I could not even pray but simply sighed silently, ¡°Lord! Where are You? I can¡¯t see You or touch You; why have You deserted me?¡± I recounted that Noah had a window to the sky in his ark (Genesis 8:6); but this ark of mine was windowless.
I also thought of Madame Guyon¡¯s10 painful experience of spiritual dryness during her imprisonment; yet, having to labor, study and live together with a group, I did not even have the chance for spiritual devotion. Even though the Lord had not deserted me, I did not personally feel His presence, and therefore lived my days ¡° heavily laden ¡± (Matthew 11:28) , as sung in a hymn:
Oppressed so hard, I cannot stand;
Oppressed so hard, I cannot withstand.
These days have helped me realize that without the Lord¡¯s presence, a Christian is more pitiful than anyone else.
Our living quarters were about 2.3 miles (3.5-4.0 Kilometers) from the workplace. Everyday, we got up before sunrise and walked to work, starting the day¡¯s labor at daybreak. Early one morning, with a straw hat on my head and a hoe on my shoulder, I was on my way to work with the teammates, when halfway through, this hymn sprang out from my heart:
Let me like Mary thro¡¯ the gloom,
Come with a gift to Thee;
Show to me now the empty tomb,
Lead me to Calvary.
[Refrain] Lest I forget Gethsemane;
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.
May I be willing, Lord, to bear daily my cross for Thee; Even Thy cup of grief to share, Thou hast borne all for me . - Jeanie Evelyn Hussey
I sang out loud. I could hear myself singing, and I began to worry that if someone heard and reported on me, I would have to endure denunciation that night. However, the Lord had great mercy on me and continued to inspire me to sing. I then slowed down my footsteps to stay behind the team, singing and singing, shedding tears, with a heart of consecration and in spiritual accord with the Holy Spirit. All of a sudden, these words sprang out very distinctly from my heart, ¡°Why do you seek the living among the dead? He ¡¡ is risen!¡± (Luke 24:5, 6) . Right at that moment, the risen Lord revealed Himself to me, and my spirit was immediately freed. All sorrow and despondency vanished like dark clouds chased away by the sun, and the Lord¡¯s resurrected power once again revived in my spirit, illumined my heart and filled me with hope.
8. The First Visitation to My Homeland
According to regulation, after the expiration of prison term, one was entitled to one family visitation a year. However, with a monthly wage of only $9.20 that eventually increased to $15, I could not afford the traveling expenses. With no provision from the Lord, I could only commit the
fulfillment of this matter to Him.
Praise the loving Father for listening to His child¡¯s request. At the right time, He had prepared sufficient traveling expenses in an extremely amazing way. Eight years after the expiration of my prison term (15 years after my arrest), in the autumn of 1973, I emerged from the Camp on visitation.
Like an idle bird accustomed to the mechanical life-style inside a cage that was released into the strange wide world, I was extremely nervous. At the same time, I felt heavily indebted to the Lord for His immeasurable grace.
On the first night of my trip, I stayed in the China Sun Inn. At midnight a Public Security officer, accompanied by the innkeeper, came to question me. Like a bird frightened by a flying arrow, I was at a loss to know what to do, wondering if the Camp had called the Public Security Bureau to come to take me back.
At the weakest point of my faith, I could only look up to the Lord: ¡°Lord! Since you¡¯ve let Your sheep out, please go before me and lead me on.¡± As I wholeheartedly trusted in the Lord, I calmed down. The Public Security officer checked my identifying documents and left without a word.
The next day, I reached Jiujiang by waterway, took a train to return to Fujian via Nanchang, and after a few more stopovers, arrived at the Gukou train terminal in Minqing County on the fourth day.
Alighting from the train, I looked around and saw a young man walking towards me. He took a hard look at me and asked, ¡°Are you the Aunt who is a refugee returning from Anhui Province?¡±
Having been away from home for more than 20 years, I naturally did not recognize my nephew. How regrettable! His words reminded me of my own looks ¨C dressed in old fashioned clothes, with a strap over my shoulders tied with 4 bundles of old cloth, 2 hanging over my back and 2 over my chest. No wonder I was thought to be a refugee rather than a worker enjoying her visitation vacation.
I returned by bus to the home that I had left for so long. Many family members had since been added; my brother had 5 children by now, with the youngest son already in college. However, without a Bible for 15 years, the adults were empty in spirit, the children had no knowledge of God whatsoever, and friends and relatives had departed from God. I was extremely dismayed and grieved over this situation. Much as I tried to preach, I could sense strong spiritual impediment. As a gardener watching the bleakness of his own vineyard, I earnestly pleaded for the Lord to destroy the evil principality of the air. ¡°O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years!¡± (Habakkuk 3:2)
After a month¡¯s stay in my hometown, I returned to the Camp via Shanghai. To avoid being a burden to brothers and sisters in Shanghai, I decided to stay at an inn11 .
Lixin Camp was formerly under the control of the Anhui Province Public Security Bureau. Since the Bureau had come under the command of the military in 1970, the Camp was placed under the Nanjing (Army) Construction Corps. My visitation certificate, therefore, bore a big red stamp that read ¡° People¡¯s Liberation Army of China, Nanjing Military Region, Anhui Construction Corps, 5 th Battalion, 2nd Company.¡± In view of my military status, the Shanghai Accommodation Service arranged for me to stay in the ¡°Red Flag Reception House.¡± This reception house provided good accommodation, but its guests were either Liberation Army personnel or cadres on duty. I was so scared that I dared not stay there in the daytime and waited until 8 or 9 at night before returning to sleep12 . One day, one of the guests asked me, ¡°Senior Comrade, where do you work?¡±
¡°I work in the fields in a village,¡± I replied.
She said, ¡°You¡¯re so humble! I guess you must be a doctor or a professor.¡±
It was hard for me to explain myself, and so I simply prayed silently, ¡°Lord! I pray that you¡¯ll cover me with the shadow of Your hand¡± (Isaiah 51:16).
Because of my little faith and numerous concerns, I did not dare look up brothers and sisters. One day, as I was waiting at the tram station at the junction of Yuyuan Road and Yananxi Road, a sudden call came from behind, ¡°Aunt Zheng!¡±
It took a long while before I recognized brother Daohui Qiu, son of Shaolin Qiu. By this time, Mrs. Qiu had come over and, happily shaking my hand, said, ¡°Never thought I¡¯d meet you here; we were praying for you only this morning!¡± She added warmly, ¡°It¡¯s truly by God¡¯s
amazing arrangement that I bumped into you here, otherwise I wouldn¡¯t have known you¡¯re in Shanghai.¡±
I was deeply touched; for, in this big city of millions of people, the Lord had not only amazingly arranged for me to meet with my dear brother and sister but had also made me aware that many members had been praying for me just as the church had prayed for Peter during his imprisonment (Acts 12:5). Mrs. Qiu then took me to see many brothers and sisters there. We encouraged each other and were comforted.
In these days of thick, black clouds, churches were closeddown; Bibles were confiscated and even burned; Gospel workers were arrested, locked up, killed or sent to Reform Camps; the sheep scattered as if there was no shepherd. The Lord used this visitation as an opportunity to bring me out to see His own Church, as the prophet had stated:
For your waste and desolate places, and the land of your destruction, will even now be too small for the inhabitants; and those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children you will have, after you have lost the others, will say again in your ears, ¡®The place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell.¡¯ Then you will say in your heart, ¡®Who has begotten these for me, since I have lost my children and am desolate, a captive, and wandering to and fro? And who has brought these up? There I was, left alone; but these, where were they?¡¯¡± (Isaiah 49: 19-21)
The Lord had shown me that, though I had suffered loss because of my own unfaithfulness, the Holy Spirit had done numerous good works and had raised up children to Abraham from stones (Matthew 3:9), adding multitudes of Christians, witnessing ¡° the Lord is my shepherd ¡± and His personal caring for His sheep.
1. On Labor Camps this kind of punishment was quite common.
2. ¡°Now, therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?¡± (I Corinthians 6:7); ¡°who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously¡± (I Peter 2:23).
3. Simple, plain kind of shoes made of cotton cloth, first made in Beijing .
4. In those days, the monthly payment for a female prisoner was about $2.5 to be used for toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.
5. ¡°The Cultural Revolution¡± was also called the ten-year ¡°Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution¡± (1966-1976). In the aftermath, it was known throughout the nation as the ¡°Ten-Year Calamity.¡± The resulting number of unnatural deaths was unaccounted for (estimated to be around 20 million, according to a newspaper report). At the time, all those Christians who held on to their faith (including some pastors of the Three-Self Church¡±) were regarded as ¡°anti-revolutionists.¡± They were denounced at public meetings or in parades, imprisoned or subject to labor reforms. Countless had died or become disabled.
The Red Guards were the ¡°Young Daring Generals¡± in the society (with the exclusion of Labor Camps) who criticized and denounced ¡°evildoers.¡± Mainly comprised of middle school students, these youth were exploited in the toppling of ¡°capitalistic command¡± in the early stage of the Cultural Revolution. In its middle stage (beginning 1969), they were deployed to villages and outlying regions to receive the so-called ¡°Re-education of The Poor & The Lower-Middle Peasants (Herdsmen).¡± This episode destroyed one whole generation while seriously injuring two or three.
6. ¡°Airplane Ride¡± means being taken up on stage to be denounced. During this time, the 2 persons (cadres or prisoners) on the left and right sides each held one arm of the person to be denounced and lifted it up backwards by force, at the same time pressing his head down so that his posture resembled the shape of a jet airplane. This was an extremely brutal act.
7. Famous saying of Mao Tse-tung: ¡°Class Struggles must be addressed yearly, monthly and daily.¡±
8. Romans 11:18 - ¡°¡ do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.¡±
9. Throughout the nation, from the president of The People¡¯s Republic of China down to the common folk, no one had any assurance of security but merely lived in the moment, rarely contacting anyone for fear of harmful consequences..
10. An outstanding spiritual saint (1648-1717). Her abridged autobiography ( The Sweet Smelling Myrrh ) had been very popular among Chinese Christians since 1938 ¨C translated by Dr. Chenhua Yu.
11. According to Communist policy in China, everyone must have a clear break with anti-revolutionists even after their prison terms had expired. As it was crucial to be cautious, Sister Zheng had to be considerate.
12. There was a great difference between a released prisoner and a military cadre, but here sister Zheng was mistaken for the latter.