LIFE IN EXILE
“It is Good for Me that I Have Been Afflicted” (Psalm 119:71)
Before harvesting sweet potatoes in the autumn, we cooked their leaves and ate them as vegetable. In those days of starvation, the tender leaves tasted unusually delicious and we all wanted more of them. But as the people assigned to collect them were weak from starvation, they were unable to bring in more. When the sweet potatoes were being pulled out during harvest, pupae could be found right beneath the tubers. It suddenly struck me that during my childhood my young neighbors used to eat deep-fried silkworm pupae. In my hometown, New Prosperity ( Zejiang Province), many people, including my uncle and grandmother, reared silkworms, though I had never tasted the pupae because they looked so repulsive. In the circumstances though, I was no longer mindful. I thought that just as silkworm pupae were edible, so must be these pupae which fed on edible sweet potato leaves. I then quietly picked them up, put them into my pockets and brought them back to my quarters. I dared not eat uncooked pupae that would wiggle in my mouth and cause itching and vomiting. I happened to have a small piece of salted fish in the parcel sent by Aunt Dong, so I placed it on top of the pupae in a bamboo tube. The kitchen worker agreed to steam the tube for me when he steamed the rice. I hesitated before eating the cooked pupae. Then, with eyes closed, I took a bite. To my surprise, the pupae tasted extremely delicious, like droplets of cream. Thank God that for quite some time afterwards, I ate plenty of them.
I recall what brother T.E. Li told me after his release from the Labor Camp. Though he was not in my Camp, he, too, had experienced starvation. One day, assigned to pull large rocks with a cart, he became so hungry and exhausted after 10 a.m. that he felt he could not endure any longer. He pleaded for the Lord to either receive his spirit or to give him something to eat. Right at that moment, a swarm of locusts fell around him. Instantly, he remembered that John the Baptist fed on locusts and wild honey, so he quickly picked up the locusts and filled his pockets with them. After pulling out their legs, wings and heads, he feasted on them. I asked him how they tasted and was told that they tasted just like peanuts.
I remember that when the Lord’s disciples were hungry, they also plucked and ate heads of grain; also, during the days of famine in Elisha’s time, people ate wild herbs, wild melons, donkey heads and dove droppings (II Kings 6:25 – according to some scholars, dove droppings were tiny beans used as coarse grain at the time).
According to the ancient Chinese sages, such trials and sufferings are Mother Nature’s way of cultivating and training a great man – through the strengthening of willpower and the drilling of the body for the endurance of hardship. Our Heavenly Father, however, had allowed such trials and sufferings to befall us with the purpose of cultivating in us the spirit of Jesus Christ the Lamb – a “meek and lowly” spirit that is persistent and undaunted, firm and unyielding, yet totally submissive, focused entirely on the will of God.