YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF THEY COMFORT ME
South Lake Camp
On completion of the month-long visitation, I returned to labor in Lixin Camp. In the beginning of 1975, I was transferred to South Lake Camp in Xuancheng County, which belonged to the Wuhu (Special) District. In this undulating land, we had to cross over many knolls in order to go from our living quarters by Gonglin Bridge to the main Camp headquarters. Though the land was impoverished and barren, these knolls were said to harbor many minerals, and were therefore permanently stationed with geological exploration teams. Our task was to develop the land and to grow tea plantations, employing a semi-mechanical method to process tea.
1. The New Residence
Since there were no living quarters when we first arrived at the tea groves, we had to live temporarily in the teahouse, which was very inconvenient. To solve the accommodation problem, we all began to build. It took just a few months for us to finish building a brick-walled and tile-roofed structure with a central courtyard, and an iron gate was installed to prevent escape.
We happily enjoyed the fruit of our own labor and became the first batch of occupants in this new brick-and-tile house. This was the first time that I lived in a brick- and-tile house since my labor reform in Anhui Province in 1960 - a far cry from the straw huts and pig-shacks previously resided in.
I thank the Lord with all my heart for the lessons learned in connection with accommodation; that, be it straw hut or brick house, it is paradise as long as I have the presence of the Lord.
2. Picking Tea
Our women＊s team was responsible for picking tea. This was different from picking cotton. Whereas cotton fields were on flat land, tea groves were on slopes, and picked leaves had to be carried from the hills to the tea factory. Walking on hilly and slippery paths with heavy baskets of tea, falling was inevitable. There was a common saying that tea was ※precious in the morning but like weed at night.§ Whereas there was no picking of cotton on rainy days, tea had to be picked. Even if the rain was heavy, we still had to leave for work early in the morning.
The Lord＊s grace was sufficient for me! In the tea-picking season, the Lord had given me strength according to my days (Deuteronomy 33:25). I made numerous swift trips on slopes, mounds and valleys and had never fallen; at times when I slipped, the Lord used His mighty right hand to steady me to save me from falling (Psalm 18:35-36).
3. ※Old Shaky Head§
There was in the women＊s team an old woman, aged over 70, who was arrested for engaging in human trafficking. She was not only morally corrupt but had an illness that caused her to shake her head, earning her the nickname ※Old Shaky Head.§ A verse was composed for her: ※Seeing her, 9 out of 10 shake their heads; seeing her, even the King of Hell has to stick out his tongue.§
The team had arranged for this unpopular person to sleep by my side. We slept on a common mattress, each allotted a width of only three-and-a-half bricks. This old woman was best at reviling, freely lashing out offensive words from the time she opened her eyes in the morning till she closed her eyes at night, which was most disgusting. Being right next to her, I was the object of her abuse. Today she would say that I had stolen her money; tomorrow that I had stolen her clothes; and the day after tomorrow that I had stolen her noodles, making it sound like I was a thief who particularly stole things from her. Moreover, she held me
liable to replace her bamboo-covered thermo flask that she herself had broken with a metal-covered one; she had me compensate her for the wash-pan that she had accidentally broken; she even made me replace her mosquito net with a new one when she discovered mosquito bloodstain on it.
It was extremely frustrating and painful for me to live, labor and study with such a hooligan. I said to the Lord, ※Lord! Why place such a person next to me and make me suffer her abuse day and night?§ The Lord wanted me to know that He did not say a word when He was reviled (Matthew 27:14; Mark 15:5; Luke 23:9; I Peter 2:23), and to learn to be like Him. I pleaded to the Lord, ※Lord, Your child is in great pain! Please increase my strength!§ Since then, even though she reviled me, she did not hurt my feelings; some time later, I did not even seem to hear her abusive voice.
What I have gleaned from this experience is: it is very hard for the ※old self§ to die. It is only by dying with Christ that the ※old self§ could be truly buried and be replaced with the life of Christ.
4. Keeping Watch
There were some Christians in the Labor Camp, though we could not communicate with each other. To do so would earn them the accusation of ※forming small groups§ and ※engaging in conspiracy.§ Brothers and sisters did not even greet each other when they met, which saddened me greatly.
One time, I had a serious relapse of pneumonia; despite their concern, they did not dare come to see me. My bed space happened to be right next to the window. A sister came by the window and quickly left after saying, ※Sister Zheng, Emmanuel!§
Hearing this brief sentence, my heart was filled with delight and comfort. I recounted that, in the many days and years prior to imprisonment, fellowship was not treasured; whereas, in the present dangerous circumstances, fellowship in Christ was particularly sweet and precious!
To prevent local peasants from stealing tea during the tea-picking season, we were assigned to take turns in the team to watch tea groves. One day, I was on duty with a sister, and it afforded us a great opportunity to fully taste the sweetness of ※how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1) . The 2 of us stood amidst the tea plants and prayed in a peculiar way: while I prayed aloud with eyes closed, the sister kept watch with eyes opened to ensure we were not discovered; while she prayed aloud with eyes closed, I then was the watchman with eyes opened.
In my team, there was an education-propaganda group that was responsible for wall posters and blackboard posters. One day the leader of the education-propaganda group had someone deliver an article to me. I opened it and found that the contents were anti-God and critical of religion. At the bottom of the article were names of 2 writers, the group leader＊s and mine. After reading it, my heart burned with anxiety. Even though the Cultural Revolution was at its final stage, some of the movements were still going on vigorously; if I declined to sign, I would surely get myself into trouble. ※Lord! You＊re so faithful to me, how can I let You down?§ I committed this matter to the Lord, praying throughout the night.
The next day, I found the top team leader and asked her, ※Instructor, if I collected 20 pounds of tea in a day, is it alright to report 40 pounds?§
She replied, ※Certainly not! That is a false report of production, and is also a crime.§
I took the article out of my pocket and showed it to her. I said, ※This article is not my true thinking; my thoughts have not yet arrived at this political level. If I sign my name, isn＊t it like giving a false report of production?§
※If it＊s not your own thought, then it should not bear your name,§ she said.
I then told the education promotion group leader of the instructor＊s opinion, and the storm was calmed. ※The Lord
sat enthroned at the Flood＃§ (Psalm 29:10) . God had mercy on my weakness and had consideration that I was only dust; He used His staff and His rod to lead me away from all dangerous situations.