LIFE IN EXILE
Inability to Acclimatize; Burial
The mountain forests of northern Fujian were very humid. Many inmates who were unable to acclimatize were stricken with edema. Contagious diseases were rampant. Insects such as mosquitoes, flies, white ticks, bedbugs and gadflies "worked shifts" day and night; especially so with flies and mosquitoes that attacked our faces at night. For the 4 years in northern Fujian, we did not have a toilet. Instead, we used a simple latrine made of a large clay container lowered into the ground, with 4 bricks as footrests and a cone-shaped straw cover as a rain-shelter. Users of the latrine at night were inevitably bombarded by mosquitoes.
The main task of our Labor Camp was to provide Shanghai with bamboos for use as scaffolds in construction work. One summer day, our squad was sent out to cut fir trees for making raft helms1. The cadre told us to bring along as little belongings as possible as we were expected to return in just three or four days. Not doubting his words, we did not even bring our mosquito nets, only to find out later that we had to stay there for three months. We slept inside a spacious, dilapidated temple and were badly attacked by thousands of mosquitoes. Thank the Lord! Even though I had not brought a mosquito net, I had brought a bed-sheet with which I covered myself up. Even though the air was stuffy under a bed-sheet and the big mosquitoes could still pierce their needles through the sheet to draw blood, it was far better than to be openly attacked. After the day's exhaustive labor, we quickly fell asleep despite empty stomachs and rampant mosquito bites.
On the 4 th day of my arrival in Jiang Creek, on July 10 th 1958, a cadre suddenly died of meningitis B (conveyed by mosquitoes). Ten members of my squad were ordered to carry his coffin halfway up the mountain for burial. Unable to make a coffin for the rushed burial, the Camp purchased one from a native.
Oh, how pitiful it is for a man to live in the world "without hope and without God" and to have to prepare, even while still alive and years before his death, his own coffin for his anticipated departure without the hope of return. History records that the powerful and awesome Emperor Qin (259-210 B.C.) ordered the building of his tomb while he was only 19 years of age. Today, his tomb has been excavated and provides nothing more than a tourist attraction. If one does not believe in the Lord Jesus, life is but vanity of vanities!
There was little wood-crafting skill in such remote mountain areas. The coffin was very simple and crudely made; only the bottom plank was flat while the other sides were simply split trunks. That was also why the coffin itself weighed as much as 330-440 pounds; together with the dead and his belongings, the total weight came to 550-660 pounds. With the 10 of us divided into 2 teams taking turns, each of us had to carry a weight of roughly 165 pounds. There was no level land to walk on. At first we had to wade in the paddy fields as the field ridges were too narrow to walk on. Once on the mountain slope, there was but one narrow and winding path that was extremely difficult to tread. Such a chore was surely too much for a man with heart problem, so I naturally turned to the Lord for help. Bravely, I asked the cadre for special consideration. Thank God for causing the supervising cadre to let me carry only the coffin-bearers" water-bottles and the clothes they shed because of heat; so my load was much lighter.
Fleas were rampant in the winter while bedbugs and mosquitoes were rampant in the summer. We were quite helpless at first. A man named Boucher Feng once caught more than 200 fleas on the sweater that he took off. Already hunger-stricken even in the winter, how could we let these fleas suck up so much of our blood? The cadre then obtained a huge metal pot, around 6 feet in diameter, filled it with water, brought it to a boil and ordered us to drop our clothes into the boiling water. There were clothes of all colors; even the white ones came out multi-colored afterwards. For a while, the number of fleas decreased but rapidly increased again. It was not until the cadres brought in some "666"-brand insecticide that they finally disappeared.
Soon after arrival in this semi-virgin forest, there was a terrible outbreak of dysentery. Having no antibiotics, we simply cooked some leaves of phoenix-tail fern in hope of cure. They were, however, ineffective and many died. As it was summertime, we drank from the stream. Since the inmates living upstream and downstream all washed their clothes and utensils in the same waterway, the disease was easily spread. Also, because those who fell sick and died had not received proper care and were buried and handled without proper hygiene, they soon became the source of infections.
Besides mosquitoes at night, white fleas in the winter and bedbugs in the summer, there were the very annoying small, black, winged worms only half the size of an ant. Since we had never seen them before and did not know what they were, we simply called them "little black worms". They appeared in swarms of several hundreds at dusk and at dawn, and disappeared before sunrise and after sunset. Just one sting from a little black worm was enough to cause rash and terrible itch. There were also gadflies in the daytime. They were swift fliers and blood-suckers; by the time you noticed their attack, it was already too late for you to slap it.
Dear brothers and sisters, the foregoing true accounts were written especially for those who are willing to answer the Lord's call to preach the gospel in remote areas with unfavorable living conditions, such as some under-developed and poverty-stricken areas of Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. Quite a number of missionaries of the China Inland Mission had also experienced such hardship. I recall that Brother David Brainard, at age 24, served as a pioneer missionary among the American Indians, enduring language problems, environmental problems and awful living conditions. The first two years were fruitless. Everyday he prayed very earnestly for two hours, so hard that his clothes were often wet from perspiration. Two years later, the Holy Spirit did mighty works and there was a breakthrough with the Lord's blessings pouring down. He was very young when he went to be with the Lord (only 29 years old), finishing the good race. May the Lord's grace be with us, that we may be determined to endure persistent hardship for the Lord and for the gospel (I Pet. 4:1,2; Mark 8:35).
The helm of a raft was simple to make: Pick a straight stem or trunk of 1.3 feet in diameter and chop it down. Then trim about 6.6 feet of the lower segment to make it look like a long blade. Affix it to the rear of the big raft, allowing some room for movement. It could then function as a helm.