LIFE IN EXILE
The Snare Was Broken and the Bird Escaped (Psalm 124:7)
Something amazing happened soon after I prayed. God really listens to prayers, especially those of us who are suffering for His name. Less than two weeks later, I suddenly received a very large parcel by mail. It had been opened, apparently inspected. To my surprise, it contained nutritious food items such as milk-powder and cod-liver oil. Actually, the mailing of food or health supplements to Labor Camps was prohibited; and if found, the parcel would be confiscated. Surprisingly, at the time my parcel arrived, the authorities changed their policy in view of the high mortality in the Camp. They felt it was not good for so many inmates to die during the reform, since the purpose of the reform was to alter their thinking rather than to take their lives. They thought that since the food parcels had already arrived, they might as well let the addressees have them rather than let them starve to death. It was right at this time that my parcel came.
Actually, the Bible tells us, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evils” (Jer. 13:23). Men cannot be changed by labor reform; God alone can save and deliver a sinner and change him.
I inspected the handwriting on the parcel wrap but had no clue of the sender. It was not until much later that I found out who the sender was. It was a saint I had never met before, namely sister Pearl Dong whom I later called Aunt Dong. It was very risky for her to send me food, as she could be punished by the government for showing sympathy towards a counter-revolutionary. Yet, by following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in obedience to the Lord’s command of “love your brother,” she had sacrificed herself with determination to reach out to save a dying brother. In fact, I was not the only one she had sent food to; for I once found another brother’s name on the back of the parcel wrap. I have no idea how many people she sent food to as she never made mention of it. She was a vessel of God’s love!
Naturally, I was overjoyed to receive the parcel. Yet, right away, I had a problem. For if I shared food with those around me, I could be charged with “bribing others with the intent to form a small counter-revolutionary clique.” Also, if I could not finish the food all at once, I had no safe and secure way to store it. If not well stored, it would all be stolen right away. I remember that, during the first four years when we were each provided with 13.2 ounces of sweet potatoes at night as a substitute for 2.2 ounces of grain, right after getting one’s share, one only had to turn his head and be distracted for a second, and his food would be stolen. There was also the case of a teammate whose poor family had done all they could to send him some toasted bread and biscuits from Shanghai. Owing to the high humidity in northern Fujian, the food had molded; so he spread it out to dry in the sun. Returning after work, he found it was gone. Those sick inmates who did not leave for work had eaten it. The cadres then called a denunciation meeting, forcing Zhi-cheng Li, the lead stealer, to confess. They hung a urinal pail filled with stones around his neck. Since, before the Cultural Revolution cadres were not allowed to hit Labor Camp inmates, they suggested the inmates hit him, and then left the scene. The receipt of a parcel could, therefore, be a problem.
Surprisingly, something incredible again happened to me. Our wonderful and awesome God had caused a cadre, named Rueben Zhou, to say to me, “Yu, put your parcel in my office and come for it once a week.” Do you see his point? He had already given the matter careful consideration. The parcel would be stolen if left unattended; the food, which could not be consumed at once, would last longer and be of greater health benefit if I came for it once a week; also, the food would be safe from theft in his office as entering a cadre’s office without permission was a breach of discipline subject to punishment. Chairman Mao Tse-tung had said, “Compassion for the enemies (such as counter-revolutionaries) equals to cruelty towards our own people.” That was why cadres dared not sympathize with or help us. Yet, thank God, as “the king’s heart in the hand of the Lord” (Prov. 21:1), leader Zhou secretly helped me.
Since then, I received at least one parcel every month from Aunt Dong. It was due to the love and sacrifice of such a member in Christ (Ref. Judges 5:9) that I survived those years of starvation in northern Fujian when more than half the inmates had died. How I thank and praise the Lord!
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones” (Matt. 18:10). Sister Dong, the parcel sender, was the one I had mentioned earlier1 whom two of the four church elders rejected for joining the Communion. Through this incident, the Lord had opened my eyes and let me see that, being all receivers of mercy and grace at the same throne of mercy, none of us has the right to reject another. The Lord also gave me a glimpse into the true meaning of oneness in Christ (see John 17:20-23) – no one should despise another member of the Body, wherever he/she may be.
1. See Part I – The Lord’s Follower Must Truly Deny Himself (last paragraph).